Monday, February 4, 2019

⛪ "The Man Went Off"

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Set Aside Time for God

Dating God does not require a hermitage any more than taking a spouse on a date requires a special destination. Solitude comes when we create the space and set aside the time to enter more deeply into the mystery that is the very Love that gives us life and meaning. It can be found in the quiet of the morning before the busy day, in the ten minute walk at lunch, or in the restful moments before bed. Just as with creating time and space to be alone with another person, creating time and space for solitude is more about intentionality and the desire to be fully present in the moment than it is about being in this or that location. While solitude may appear scary at first, confronting that fear is perhaps the first step to deepening one's relationship with God. Just as the prospect of learning more about another person or ourselves can be daunting, the reward comes in the connection that is formed when two know each other in the openness of an intimate friendship. Going into the created space and time set aside for solitude is going on a date with God.

—from Dating God: Live and Love in the Way of St. Francis


"When one has nothing more to lose, the heart is inaccessible to fear."

— St. Théodore Guérin

"In the spiritual life there are two great principles which should never be forgotten: Without grace we can do nothing; with it we can do all things. Sometimes it anticipates our desires; ordinarily, God waits till we ask for it. This is a general law thus expressed by Our Lord: 'Ask, and it shall be given to you.' Prayer is, therefore, not only a precept, it is a necessity. God places the treasure of His graces at our disposal, and its key is prayer. You desire more faith, more hope, more love; 'ask, and it shall be given to you.' Your good resolutions remain sterile, resulting always in the same failures: 'ask, and it shall be given to you'. Precepts are numerous, virtue painful, temptation seductive, the enemy ruthless, the will weak: 'ask, and it shall be given to you.'"
— Rev. Dom Vitalis Lehodey p. xv
The Ways of Mental Prayer

"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."
Romans 8:15-17


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Saint Joseph of Leonissa

(January 8, 1556 – February 4, 1612)

Joseph was born at Leonissa in the Kingdom of Naples. As a boy and as a student in early adulthood, Joseph drew attention for his energy and virtue. Offered a nobleman's daughter in marriage, Joseph refused and joined the Capuchins in his hometown in 1573 instead. Avoiding the safe compromises by which people sometimes undercut the gospel, Joseph denied himself hearty meals and comfortable quarters as he prepared for ordination and a life of preaching.

In 1587, he went to Constantinople to take care of the Christian galley slaves working under Turkish masters. Imprisoned for this work, he was warned not to resume it on his release. He did and was again imprisoned and then condemned to death. Miraculously freed, he returned to Italy where he preached to the poor and reconciled feuding families as well as warring cities which had been at odds for years. He was canonized in 1745.

Saints often jar us because they challenge our ideas about what we need for "the good life." "I'll be happy when. . . ," we may say, wasting an incredible amount of time on the periphery of life. People like Joseph of Leonissa challenge us to face life courageously and get to the heart of it: life with God. Joseph was a compelling preacher because his life was as convincing as his words.


Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Heb 11:32-40

Brothers and sisters:
What more shall I say?
I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah,
of David and Samuel and the prophets,
who by faith conquered kingdoms,
did what was righteous, obtained the promises;
they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires,
escaped the devouring sword;
out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle,
and turned back foreign invaders.
Women received back their dead through resurrection.
Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance,
in order to obtain a better resurrection.
Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment.
They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword's point;
they went about in skins of sheep or goats,
needy, afflicted, tormented.
The world was not worthy of them.
They wandered about in deserts and on mountains,
in caves and in crevices in the earth.

Yet all these, though approved because of their faith,
did not receive what had been promised.
God had foreseen something better for us,
so that without us they should not be made perfect.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 31:20, 21, 22, 23, 24
R. (25) Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
How great is the goodness, O LORD,
which you have in store for those who fear you,
And which, toward those who take refuge in you,
you show in the sight of the children of men.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence
from the plottings of men;
You screen them within your abode
from the strife of tongues.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
Blessed be the LORD whose wondrous mercy
he has shown me in a fortified city.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
Once I said in my anguish,
"I am cut off from your sight";
Yet you heard the sound of my pleading
when I cried out to you.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
Love the LORD, all you his faithful ones!
The LORD keeps those who are constant,
but more than requites those who act proudly.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.

Alleluia Lk 7:16
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A great prophet has arisen in our midst
and God has visited his people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 5:1-20

Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea,
to the territory of the Gerasenes.
When he got out of the boat,
at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him.
The man had been dwelling among the tombs,
and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.
In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains,
but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed,
and no one was strong enough to subdue him.
Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides
he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.
Catching sight of Jesus from a distance,
he ran up and prostrated himself before him,
crying out in a loud voice,
"What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?
I adjure you by God, do not torment me!"
(He had been saying to him, "Unclean spirit, come out of the man!")
He asked him, "What is your name?"

He replied, "Legion is my name. There are many of us."
And he pleaded earnestly with him
not to drive them away from that territory.

Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside.
And they pleaded with him,
"Send us into the swine. Let us enter them."
And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine.
The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea,
where they were drowned.
The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town
and throughout the countryside.
And people came out to see what had happened.
As they approached Jesus,
they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion,
sitting there clothed and in his right mind.
And they were seized with fear.
Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened
to the possessed man and to the swine.
Then they began to beg him to leave their district.
As he was getting into the boat,
the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him.
But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead,
"Go home to your family and announce to them
all that the Lord in his pity has done for you."
Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis
what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.


Meditation: Hebrews 11:32-40

I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson. (Hebrews 11:32)

If you're a sports fan, you have probably heard about various halls of fame, places where illustrious athletes are commemorated with statues, stories, and scraps of memorabilia. But have you heard of the Hall of Faith?

That's what some people call this chapter in the Letter to the Hebrews because it reads like a roster of Old Testament heroes: Moses, Sarah, Rahab, Joseph, and many more. Despite setbacks, hardships, and even moral failures, these heroes finished the race. Because they kept the faith, their lives brought glory to God and inspire us to press on in faith. Of course we should celebrate them!

But the author of Hebrews didn't end this chapter by celebrating these heroes. Instead, he shifted his attention to his readers—and to your life. These ancient saints have passed the baton on to you. Now it's your turn to run the race and keep the faith. How does that make you feel?

Maybe you feel like you could never measure up to such lofty figures. You're just a little person in a big world. No one even knows your name. Besides, you don't feel all that holy.

That's okay. God sees you. He sees the work you're doing. He sees your faithfulness. He sees your repentance when you fall. And he wants you to know that you can glorify the Lord just as the ancient ones did. Remember, he loves using little people, even anonymous people. In fact, the last portion of this Hall of Faith is devoted to unnamed heroes (Hebrews 11:35-38). Even the author of Hebrews is never named, and Bible scholars still aren't sure who he might have been.

So take heart. Even if you feel insignificant, God has not forgotten about you. He knows your name, and he wants to make you his representative in the world.

Never doubt that God has prepared a spot in the Hall of Faith just for you. Each and every sacrifice you have made captivates his heart. Each and every minute you carve out for prayer brings joy to his heart. Each and every act of service brings him immense glory.

Keep up the good work! God has greater things in store for you (Hebrews 11:40).

"Lord, thank you for offering me a place in your Hall of Faith!"

Psalm 31:20-24
Mark 5:1-20


In today's first holy Scripture, there were words of war mentioned, and war heroes, and of resurrection. Can I rest knowing full well there is a war? Scriptures said of those engaged: "...out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle, and turned back foreign invaders." Their weakness was God. In modern days they say that simpetons and weaklings have need for a God. I say to that "Amen". God needs a weak heart, softened for Him. 40 years in the desert was geared at softening hearts, to learn to listen and depend on God alone. To forget other gods and desires. And you? How long will it take to weaken to Him? To let Him reign. To let Him be who HE is.

In the Psalms we pray today: "Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord. How great is the goodness, O LORD, which you have in store for those who fear you, And which, toward those who take refuge in you, you show in the sight of the children of men." There is a real need for God in the world, but the world is losing its need for God. Other gods take the place. And the worst one...the god called self. Self sufficient. Auto Sufficiency. Autonomous, meaning "having the freedom to govern itself or control its own affairs." That is to say, the worldly think like this "what I think is the truth". These are lies from the pits of hell. But how do these lies enter? Well, how do evil spirits enter? Remember last week I mentioned how...with our permission, our permissiveness, our laziness, our faithlessness, our selfishness that says "I don't want to bother so I won't bother anybody". So, in comes one evil and then another, and 100 more. Because many evil spirits can come into one person, believe it or not.

In the Holy Gospel, our Lord comes across a man that was ousted, a demoniac, who lived among the tombs. This man had unbelievable strength. This man was tormented day and night and tormented others. He was often chained at the cemetery. Where else do you put a possessed person? And why all this talk about evil? Whoever said he was evil? Right?
The monster eventually prostrates himself before God...Jesus. ""What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!". A possessed person often does not want help. Not all possessed people go to an exorcist. But often a possessed person will be brought to an exorcist by people. And Jesus is found there in the deliverance. Finally evil speaks out to Jesus pleading for mercy, to be left in their territory. They plea to be in the swine. Jesus says fine. The pigs commit an apparent mass suicide. But that does not mean those spirits died. What all does this matter?
The matter is that of war. Spiritual wars. The kind of war that is not fought by the wise, but the simpletons who believe there are evil spirits lurking in every corner. We can't blame everything on the devil, but we can call out evil when it is for what it is. I am encountering people in the world who can not even say the name of Jesus without a sly remark. I am encountering people who do not want anything to do with the whole Jesus thing. I see them being led to the cemetery to be locked in chains with the dead. I see a place of torment for them. Why aren't their friends and loved ones bringing them to Jesus? Because they too have been misled. Why do people living in sin, seem to be happy? Because, it is a facade. They are living an adulterous affair. Unfaithful. Infidelity. It is a high they like, and a peace that the devil offers, if you let it in. "If you silence on the whole God thing, I'll leave you alone". But the devil is the king of lies. Once lured, you are duped, and you are his. What happened to the monster in the Gospel? He was not part of the community. He could not eat with the others, enjoy the others' company, and much less go to Church. How many people do we know that are not able to go to Church? I know lots and lots...and lots. Am I calling them all evil? No. But many I do see living in sin, and in need of deliverance. Some just haven't been properly introduced to Jesus. The others have met Him and turned away. There is a huge difference and evil begins to show its ugly head. The lure to leave God at church, and not welcome in the home of the heart.

My friends, I wish I had an easy solution to the perplexities of this war. But ultimately, it is trials and tribulations, refining for purity, and the pure of heart are the brightest of lights, reflections of God. Holiness. Something not desired much in the world. "Oh I'm not holy...(so why try)" is the sentiment. But God calls us to strive and never give up. 40 years of suffering means 40 years of preparation for God's Kingdom, into the promised land, Heaven.

I've been asked to sing a song in a prison retreat called "Please Come Down to Me". The song says "I'm too unworthy Lord to come to you, could you please come down to Me". The song says about having hit rock bottom. At first, I didn't like the song, because I remember a song in spanish that said "take yourself down from that cross and help me". I just don't see any honor or glory in having God come to serve you when He has served Himself already on the cross. Think Eucharist. Yet we pray "I am unworthy for you to come under my roof".

So, I started liking the song. To the point to where I recorded myself singing it. Because I know what it feels like to be stripped of everything, and to feel you have nothing good. In the end, you will not take anything material to eternity. But maybe...just maybe a soul that you helped save.
An unworthy soul. A soul you deemed worthy, with mercy. A soul you dared to introduce Jesus to and to Jesus. A person you thought didn't deserve it.

And then, you meet an angel in Heaven that said "you were that person I helped".

"I am unworthy" can come in two forms, one humble, the other a turned face.
Perhaps if you come on your knees before the Lord and meet Him, your heart will burn and you will never want to leave His side, just like the Gerasene monster in the Gospel. He asked if He could be with Jesus from here on out. That was the overall sentiment of a grateful soul, they gave their lives to God.

Jesus said "you can't come with Me now...stay here, this is where you are needed and called to be".
Jesus leaves him with a mission. Remember the holy Battle for holiness and the salvation of souls.
You are right where God wants you to be. Now be Holy as our Father is Holy. And bring souls to Jesus...

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