Second Sunday of Easter

Second Sunday of Easter
(Or Sunday of Divine Mercy)
Lectionary: 45

A Reading from the Gospel according to John
Jn 20:19-31
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, "Peace be with you."
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained."

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord."
But he said to them,
"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you."
Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe."
Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Salesian Sunday Reflection

Second Sunday of Easter

In today’s Gospel we see the steadfast love of God active in the risen Jesus as He appears to His disciples. St. Francis de Sales notes that the purpose of this appearance is to affirm their faith in the God of Jesus Christ:

When the disciples were assembled in the cenacle with the doors closed, our Savior stood in their midst and greeted them: Peace be with you. He showed them his hands and his side. Why does He do this? To bolster their faith that was shaken by the crucifixion of Jesus, to whom they were attached. Without the presence of Our Savior, they felt timid and lacked strength. Such is the case when one is without God. They were afraid. Like a ship tossed in a storm without a pilot, such was this poor boat. Our Lord appeared to his disciples to bring relief to their fear. His power gently gives us power.

 In Jesus, death was swallowed up in victory. He takes our miseries and ennobles them. Do you have need of strength? Here are my hands. Do you have need of a heart? Here is mine. He shows us his wounds through love. Jesus came into this world to teach us what we need to do to preserve in ourselves the beauty and the divine resemblance that He has so completely repaired and embellished in us. When we recognize the likeness of the Creator in us, then we are able to see the image of God in others. Let us walk as Jesus who chose to give his life for those who would take it from Him.

What a joy it is to reflect on how the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts the first rays and perceptions of divine light and warmth. O good Jesus, may we be open to the peace that you offer us. May we be rooted in faith, joyful in hope and fervent in holy love, as we await your future coming!

(Adapted from Saint Francis de Sales, Oeuvres)

Easter Sunday

Sunday April 21, 2019
Easter Sunday
The Resurrection of the Lord
Lectionary: 42 

The Mass of Easter Day

A Reading from the Gospel according to John
Jn 20:1-9
On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.

Salesian Sunday Reflection

Easter Sunday

Happy Easter! Today we celebrate the most unique moment in the history of humankind: The Resurrection of Jesus who triumphs over death. We welcome our newly baptized whose new life in Christ prepares them for eternal glory. St. Francis de Sales speaks of our need to renew each year our desire to serve God in order to live Jesus. 

Jesus, surviving death, lives on in His works. A day will come when we shall rise from the dead. Our mortal bodies, now subject to corruption, will be immortal. Jesus took on our likeness and gave us His so that we might have a new life in abundance. Our God has so lovingly inspired and urged you to conversion. In baptism you became a child of God, forming your self according to the Law of the Gospel. Letting go of your old self, you rose anew in Christ. 

Yet, as long as we live we shall need to renew ourselves and begin over. Like some clocks that need to be cleaned and repaired, so it is with our heart. We must straighten out bent parts and repair those parts worn out. Each year such an exercise will warm up your heart, bring new life to your good resolutions to serve God and make you flourish with fresh vigor.

In winter the earth relaxes, rests and does not produce. When spring comes it renews itself with flowers that bring us joy.  Because our nature grows cold easily, we need to renew our promise to love God above all, and love all other things because they are agreeable to God, profitable to God’s honor, and destined for God’s glory. Before we enter eternal glory, the Gardener wishes to plant in our garden many flowers. Let us serve God as God wishes and we will see that one day God will do all we wish, and more than we know how to wish. When we are raised to a life of divine love, we live for our Savior who has risen. It is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice. Alleluia!

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

Sunday April 14, 2019
Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion
Lectionary: 37/38

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 22:14 – 23:56
When the hour came,
Jesus took his place at table with the apostles.
He said to them,
"I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,
for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again
until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God."
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said,
"Take this and share it among yourselves;
for I tell you that from this time on
I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine
until the kingdom of God comes."
Then he took the bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them, saying,
"This is my body, which will be given for you;
do this in memory of me."
And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying,
"This cup is the new covenant in my blood,
which will be shed for you.

"And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray me
is with me on the table;
for the Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined;
but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed."
And they began to debate among themselves
who among them would do such a deed.

Then an argument broke out among them
about which of them should be regarded as the greatest.
He said to them,
"The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them
and those in authority over them are addressed as 'Benefactors';
but among you it shall not be so.
Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest,
and the leader as the servant.
For who is greater:
the one seated at table or the one who serves?
Is it not the one seated at table?
I am among you as the one who serves.
It is you who have stood by me in my trials;
and I confer a kingdom on you,
just as my Father has conferred one on me,
that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom;
and you will sit on thrones
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

"Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded
to sift all of you like wheat,
but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail;
and once you have turned back,
you must strengthen your brothers."
He said to him,
"Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you."
But he replied,
"I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day,
you will deny three times that you know me."

He said to them,
"When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals,
were you in need of anything?"
"No, nothing, " they replied.
He said to them,
"But now one who has a money bag should take it,
and likewise a sack,
and one who does not have a sword
should sell his cloak and buy one.
For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me,
namely, He was counted among the wicked;
and indeed what is written about me is coming to fulfillment."
Then they said,
"Lord, look, there are two swords here."
But he replied, "It is enough!"

Then going out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives,
and the disciples followed him.
When he arrived at the place he said to them,
"Pray that you may not undergo the test."
After withdrawing about a stone's throw from them and kneeling,
he prayed, saying, "Father, if you are willing,
take this cup away from me;
still, not my will but yours be done."
And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him.
He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently
that his sweat became like drops of blood
falling on the ground.
When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples,
he found them sleeping from grief.
He said to them, "Why are you sleeping?
Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test."

While he was still speaking, a crowd approached
and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas.
He went up to Jesus to kiss him.
Jesus said to him,
"Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"
His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked,
"Lord, shall we strike with a sword?"
And one of them struck the high priest's servant
and cut off his right ear.
But Jesus said in reply,
"Stop, no more of this!"
Then he touched the servant's ear and healed him.
And Jesus said to the chief priests and temple guards
and elders who had come for him,
"Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?
Day after day I was with you in the temple area,
and you did not seize me;
but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness."

After arresting him they led him away
and took him into the house of the high priest;
Peter was following at a distance.
They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it,
and Peter sat down with them.
When a maid saw him seated in the light,
she looked intently at him and said,
"This man too was with him."
But he denied it saying,
"Woman, I do not know him."
A short while later someone else saw him and said,
"You too are one of them";
but Peter answered, "My friend, I am not."
About an hour later, still another insisted,
"Assuredly, this man too was with him,
for he also is a Galilean."
But Peter said,
"My friend, I do not know what you are talking about."
Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed,
and the Lord turned and looked at Peter;
and Peter remembered the word of the Lord,
how he had said to him,
"Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times."
He went out and began to weep bitterly.
The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating him.
They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying,
"Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?"
And they reviled him in saying many other things against him.

When day came the council of elders of the people met,
both chief priests and scribes,
and they brought him before their Sanhedrin.
They said, "If you are the Christ, tell us, "
but he replied to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe,
and if I question, you will not respond.
But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated
at the right hand of the power of God."
They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?"
He replied to them, "You say that I am."
Then they said, "What further need have we for testimony?
We have heard it from his own mouth."

Then the whole assembly of them arose and brought him before Pilate.
They brought charges against him, saying,
"We found this man misleading our people;
he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar
and maintains that he is the Christ, a king."
Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
He said to him in reply, "You say so."
Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds,
"I find this man not guilty."
But they were adamant and said,
"He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea,
from Galilee where he began even to here."

On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean;
and upon learning that he was under Herod's jurisdiction,
he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time.
Herod was very glad to see Jesus;
he had been wanting to see him for a long time,
for he had heard about him
and had been hoping to see him perform some sign.
He questioned him at length,
but he gave him no answer.
The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile,
stood by accusing him harshly.
Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him,
and after clothing him in resplendent garb,
he sent him back to Pilate.
Herod and Pilate became friends that very day,
even though they had been enemies formerly.
Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people
and said to them, "You brought this man to me
and accused him of inciting the people to revolt.
I have conducted my investigation in your presence
and have not found this man guilty
of the charges you have brought against him,
nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us.
So no capital crime has been committed by him.
Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him."

But all together they shouted out,
"Away with this man!
Release Barabbas to us."
— Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion
that had taken place in the city and for murder. —
Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus,
but they continued their shouting,
"Crucify him! Crucify him!"
Pilate addressed them a third time,
"What evil has this man done?
I found him guilty of no capital crime.
Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him."
With loud shouts, however,
they persisted in calling for his crucifixion,
and their voices prevailed.
The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted.
So he released the man who had been imprisoned
for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked,
and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.

As they led him away
they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian,
who was coming in from the country;
and after laying the cross on him,
they made him carry it behind Jesus.
A large crowd of people followed Jesus,
including many women who mourned and lamented him.
Jesus turned to them and said,
"Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me;
weep instead for yourselves and for your children
for indeed, the days are coming when people will say,
'Blessed are the barren,
the wombs that never bore
and the breasts that never nursed.'
At that time people will say to the mountains,
'Fall upon us!'
and to the hills, 'Cover us!'
for if these things are done when the wood is green
what will happen when it is dry?"
Now two others, both criminals,
were led away with him to be executed.

When they came to the place called the Skull,
they crucified him and the criminals there,
one on his right, the other on his left.
Then Jesus said,
"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
They divided his garments by casting lots.
The people stood by and watched;
the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said,
"He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God."
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
"If you are King of the Jews, save yourself."
Above him there was an inscription that read,
"This is the King of the Jews."

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
"Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us."
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
"Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal."
Then he said,
"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
He replied to him,
"Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise."

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon
because of an eclipse of the sun.
Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.
Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit";
and when he had said this he breathed his last.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said,
"This man was innocent beyond doubt."
When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened,
they returned home beating their breasts;
but all his acquaintances stood at a distance,
including the women who had followed him from Galilee
and saw these events.

Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who,
though he was a member of the council,
had not consented to their plan of action.
He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea
and was awaiting the kingdom of God.
He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
After he had taken the body down,
he wrapped it in a linen cloth
and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb
in which no one had yet been buried.
It was the day of preparation,
and the sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind,
and when they had seen the tomb
and the way in which his body was laid in it,
they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils.
Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.

Or

Lk 23:1-49
The elders of the people, chief priests and scribes,
arose and brought Jesus before Pilate.
They brought charges against him, saying,
"We found this man misleading our people;
he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar
and maintains that he is the Christ, a king."
Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
He said to him in reply, "You say so."
Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds,
"I find this man not guilty."
But they were adamant and said,
"He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea,
from Galilee where he began even to here."

On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean;
and upon learning that he was under Herod's jurisdiction,
he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time.
Herod was very glad to see Jesus;
he had been wanting to see him for a long time,
for he had heard about him
and had been hoping to see him perform some sign.
He questioned him at length,
but he gave him no answer.
The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile,
stood by accusing him harshly.
Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him,
and after clothing him in resplendent garb,
he sent him back to Pilate.
Herod and Pilate became friends that very day,
even though they had been enemies formerly.
Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people
and said to them, "You brought this man to me
and accused him of inciting the people to revolt.
I have conducted my investigation in your presence
and have not found this man guilty
of the charges you have brought against him,
nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us.
So no capital crime has been committed by him.
Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him."

But all together they shouted out,
"Away with this man!
Release Barabbas to us."
— Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion
that had taken place in the city and for murder. —
Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus,
but they continued their shouting,
"Crucify him! Crucify him!"
Pilate addressed them a third time,
"What evil has this man done?
I found him guilty of no capital crime.
Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him."
With loud shouts, however,
they persisted in calling for his crucifixion,
and their voices prevailed.
The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted.
So he released the man who had been imprisoned
for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked,
and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.

As they led him away
they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian,
who was coming in from the country;
and after laying the cross on him,
they made him carry it behind Jesus.
A large crowd of people followed Jesus,
including many women who mourned and lamented him.
Jesus turned to them and said,
"Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me;
weep instead for yourselves and for your children
for indeed, the days are coming when people will say,
'Blessed are the barren,
the wombs that never bore
and the breasts that never nursed.'
At that time people will say to the mountains,
'Fall upon us!'
and to the hills, 'Cover us!'
for if these things are done when the wood is green
what will happen when it is dry?"
Now two others, both criminals,
were led away with him to be executed.

When they came to the place called the Skull,
they crucified him and the criminals there,
one on his right, the other on his left.
Then Jesus said,
"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
They divided his garments by casting lots.
The people stood by and watched;
the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said,
"He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God."
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
"If you are King of the Jews, save yourself."
Above him there was an inscription that read,
"This is the King of the Jews."

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
"Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us."
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
"Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal."
Then he said,
"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
He replied to him,
"Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise."

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon
because of an eclipse of the sun.
Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.
Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit";
and when he had said this he breathed his last.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said,
"This man was innocent beyond doubt."
When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle
saw what had happened,
they returned home beating their breasts;
but all his acquaintances stood at a distance,
including the women who had followed him from Galilee
and saw these events.

Salesian Sunday Reflection

Palm/Passion Sunday

In today’s Gospel, we experience Jesus as the ‘suffering servant’. His suffering unto death brings eternal life to the human family. St. Francis de Sales reflects on this event: “The most powerful reason for Jesus’ death is to fill the human spirit with God’s love. Out of death has come life, the wondrous paradox, which the world does not understand. He not only died a cruel death to bring God’s love to us, but he also suffered fear, terror, abandonment, and inner depression such as never had and never shall have an equal. He did this so that we too may persevere in pursuing divine love.”

Jesus’ human feelings left his entire heart exposed to sorrow and anguish. For this reason he cries out: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Mount Calvary is the mount of lovers. On Calvary death, life and love intermingle. Out of love Jesus chose death on a cross so that we might live as a child of God and possess eternal love.  Christian wisdom consists in choosing rightly. Let us choose to empty ourselves of our selfish desires and loves, so that we may be filled with God’s love, which gives rise to new life in us.

We ought to consecrate every moment of our lives to the divine love of Our Savior’s death. If injured by others, look often on Christ Jesus, crucified, forsaken and overwhelmed, by every kind of anguish. Then think of the many people who are incomparably more afflicted than you are and say: Are not my hardships roses in comparison with those, who without help, assistance, or relief live a continual death, burdened by afflictions infinitely greater than mine? When all things fail us, when our distress is at its height, say the final words of Jesus on the cross: “Into Your hands I commend my spirit.”  How happy we will be when we entrust ourselves totally into God’s hands! In doing all things for the glory of God, we will do all things well.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Sunday April 7, 2019
Fifth Sunday of Lent – Year C Readings
Lectionary: 36

A Reading from the Gospel according to John
Jn 8:1-11
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area,
and all the people started coming to him,
and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle.
They said to him,
“Teacher, this woman was caught
in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

Salesian Sunday Reflection

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Today’s readings promise us a life that never dies if we live and believe in the Spirit of Jesus Christ who dwells in us. St. Francis de Sales reflects on these promises: “When the falconer removes the hood from his bird, the bird sights its prey and spreads its wings, ready to fly and capture its prey. Held back by the falconer, the bird struggles to free itself from him. So too when faith removes the veil of ignorance from us, we see that our supreme good is in God. We then desire to fly to God but the conditions of this mortal life hold us back. Our ardor may subsequently turn to sadness.

However, we must not lose courage and reduce ourselves to despair. Through a thousand promises made in Scripture and the holy inspirations placed in our heart, God strongly assures us that we can attain a life of infinite goodness. Yet, we must be willing to use the means God offers us. If you live under the Crucified Lord, progressively your desire for God’s goodness turns into hope animated by God’s love. Our Savior will never let you go if you choose Him. When you are completely restored to health by divine love that the Spirit of Jesus pours into your heart, you can go forward and stand by yourself in virtue of your new health and holy love.

While our human nature will always produce self-centered desires and thoughts, they need not delay us on our journey toward loving God’s goodness and doing God’s work. Happy are they whose self-giving love is in the service of God. God will never let them remain barren and unfruitful! Even though they give up only a little for God, God will shower abundant blessings on them in this life and in the next. God’s assurance through many promises of paradise infinitely strengthens our desire to pursue the enjoyment of God’s goodness in Jesus Christ whose Spirit dwells in us.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Sunday March 31, 2019
Fourth Sunday of Lent – Year C Readings
Lectionary: 33

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 15: 1-3, 11-32
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them Jesus addressed this parable:
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’

So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.

Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.

But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”

Salesian Sunday Reflection

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Today’s readings urge us to live as children of light. It is the God of Jesus Christ who leads us out of blindness into the light of God’s love. St. Francis de Sales notes similarly: “When we experience the rays of the noonday sun, we scarcely see its light before we quickly feel its heat. So it is with the light of faith. It no sooner casts its light on us and we feel the warmth of God’s love that gives us hope in God’s goodness. When we are extremely careful to do all that we can to open ourselves to divine love, then our faith comes alive and strengthens our hope. Faith brings us to love the beauty of the truths of the mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ.”

As we accept in faith the teachings of Jesus, our hearts are invigorated with holy love. In Christ, God brings us into the light of faith. When God gives us faith, God enters into our soul and speaks to us by way of inspiration. Only God can enlighten and open our blind eyes. It is a sign of interior conversion when God gives us light to see the source of our blindness. We free ourselves from our selfish desires and come to truly know and accept ourselves as children of the Light. While we naturally experience a deep desire within us for happiness, faith reveals to us the infinite marvels of eternal happiness.

Faith is the best friend of our spirit. It is the foundation of our hope and love. It gives us the certitude of God’s continual offer of grace to us. So let us not be afraid of Our Savior who treats us as a good father and mother treat their child. As long as the child walks on soft grass, the child is allowed to walk alone for that would not do much harm. However, on dangerous paths they carry the child tenderly in their arms. Let us offer ourselves to God, walking the way of love for one another as very dear children of God. It is then that we will live as children of light.  

(Adapted from the writings of Saint Francis de Sales)

Third Sunday of Lent

Sunday March 24, 2019
Third Sunday of Lent – Year C Readings
Lectionary: 30

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 13:1-9
Some people told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
Jesus said to them in reply,
"Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way
they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!
Or those eighteen people who were killed
when the tower at Siloam fell on them—
do you think they were more guilty
than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!"

And he told them this parable:
"There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
'For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?'
He said to him in reply,
'Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.'"

Salesian Sunday Reflection

Third Sunday of Lent

Today’s readings speak to the catechumens who are preparing for baptism. The Scriptures reveal how God cares for those who, like Moses and the Samaritan women, have faith and hope in the Word of God and live it. St. Francis de Sales notes: “Moses’ faith in God’s Word allowed him to use his rod to make water flow from the rock. Attentiveness to God’s Word is necessary to sustain us in our responsibilities in this world. Our entire good lies in accepting the truth of God’s Word and persevering in it. In the Eucharist we are nourished by the Divine Word made flesh.”

We need to grow in God’s Word. Even outside of your prayer, keep yourself as if you were in prayer. Renew yourself throughout the day with thoughts of God’s infinite goodness. Good reading, too, helps the heart come alive and gain new strength and vigor.

Yet, we also ought to nourish and strengthen the divine word by opening our hearts. We must remain attentive and reflect on what God has to say to us in the depths of our hearts. We must digest the divine word so that it becomes a part of us in such a way that we are nourished and strengthened by it. Then, like Jesus, we will put our words into action. We will carry out what we are taught, discerning carefully the needs at hand.

Our Savior desires that we have great confidence in Divine Providence. All who trust in God always reap the fruits of this confidence. Our Savior takes tender care of those who have a great willingness to abandon to Him their weariness and anxious care of advancing in holiness.

We may question whether we will always have the will to please God during our entire life.  Alas! There is nothing so weak and changeable as we are. So let us frequently place our good intention before the Lord, who will strengthen our willingness as often as is necessary, so that we have sufficient determination to live God’s Word in this life. 

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Second Sunday of Lent

Sunday March 17, 2019
Second Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 27

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 9:28B-36

Jesus took Peter, John, and James
and went up the mountain to pray.
While he was praying his face changed in appearance
and his clothing became dazzling white.
And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah,
who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus
that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.
Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep,
but becoming fully awake,
they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus,
"Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
But he did not know what he was saying.
While he was still speaking,
a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
"This is my chosen Son; listen to him."
After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
They fell silent and did not at that time
tell anyone what they had seen.

Salesian Sunday Reflection

Second Sunday of Lent

In today’s readings, the Covenant of Abraham and the Transfiguration reveal to us how much God desires our love, so as to give us eternal glory. St. Francis de Sales notes: “When God spoke to and promised Abraham that he would have descendents as numerous as the stars in the sky, Abraham had only God’s Word to assure him. God also speaks to us in inspirations that propose the mysteries of faith.”

Through faith we know God’s Word. In hearts that give their consent to God’s inspirations, God, little by little, gently strengthens these hearts with divine love. These first perceptions of God’s love are poured into us through the Holy Spirit. Still, these first movements of love are just the dawn of faith.  They are like the green buds of springtime. Faith begins with a love for things of God.  Faith shows us that we have implanted in us, a holy natural inclination to love God above all things. No other love can satisfy this desire.

While we have the power to reject divine inspiration, we can not prevent God from inspiring us. Inspirations are favors that God does before we have thought of them. God awakens us when we are asleep. Still, it is in our power to rise or not to rise. Whereas God has awakened us without our help, God will not raise us up without our cooperation. We must consent to God’s call, for God always respects our freedom. God has no slaves, only friends. So it is that Our Savior never abandons us. It is we who abandon Him.

Our confession of faith is an act of choosing to love and serve God as faithful servants. Walk simply and faithfully along the path that God has marked out for you, and you will walk confidently. Be at peace, for Our Savior, who has shown His glory, has taken you by the hand and set you on the way to eternal glory.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

First Sunday of Lent

Sunday March 10, 2019
First Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 24

Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 4:1-13

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing during those days,
and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him,
"If you are the Son of God,
command this stone to become bread."
Jesus answered him,
"It is written, One does not live on bread alone."
Then he took him up and showed him
all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.
The devil said to him,
"I shall give to you all this power and glory;
for it has been handed over to me,
and I may give it to whomever I wish.
All this will be yours, if you worship me."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"It is written:
You shall worship the Lord, your God,
and him alone shall you serve."
Then he led him to Jerusalem,
made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him,
"If you are the Son of God,
throw yourself down from here, for it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,
and:
With their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"It also says,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test."
When the devil had finished every temptation,
he departed from him for a time.

Salesian Sunday Reflection

First Sunday of Lent

The Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent reminds us that when we are tempted with selfish desires we must keep focused on God’s way of love as exemplified in Jesus. Here are a few of St. Francis de Sales’ thoughts on loving God first, then doing what we desire.

Jesus was tempted in order to teach us that we will always have to choose between good and evil during our entire life. While Jesus tells us that the life of a Christian is a continual rejecting of evilness, and a constant choosing of God’s truth and goodness, He also urges us to walk in the way of love as God’s most dear children. When we live to do God’s will nothing can harm us, for we are armed with faith in God. God’s love becomes the source of all of our desires.  

Yet even in our desire to do God’s will, our selfish motives can infect our thinking. Many people who counted on their own strength to work marvels for God failed when under fire, while those who found their strength in God’s help accomplished wonders. We may feel that we do not have the strength to resist our selfish desires.  We ought not to be afraid of our weaknesses.  Since we desire to belong entirely to God, we must rely on the strength of God, who never fails us in the midst of our weaknesses.  

 While we must have a firm and habitual resolution never to willfully commit any imperfection, we must not be astonished if we do. At such times we must confide ourselves to the goodness of God, who does not love us less. Very gently place your heart back into the hands of Our Lord, asking God to heal your heart. Then set yourself once again on the path of virtue, practicing the virtue that opposes your selfish desire.

As we grow in holiness, knowledge of our faults disturbs us more. When we find ourselves not the saints we hoped to be, we are very discouraged in the pursuit of real virtue. Do not hurry on so fast. Begin to live well your life in light of your duties of state. Perfection consists in doing the little we do in our vocation, in love, by love, and for love. Trust God. When it pleases God to do so, God will make all your desires holy.

(Adapted from J. Power & W. Wright, Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal; L. Fiorelli, ed. Sermons)

 

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday March 3, 2019
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 84

Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 6:39-45

Jesus told his disciples a parable,
"Can a blind person guide a blind person?
Will not both fall into a pit?
No disciple is superior to the teacher;
but when fully trained,
every disciple will be like his teacher.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother,
'Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,'
when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?
You hypocrite!  Remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter in your brother's eye.

"A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,
nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.
For every tree is known by its own fruit.
For people do not pick figs from thornbushes,
nor do they gather grapes from brambles.
A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,
but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil;
for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Salesian Sunday Reflection

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the midst of our daily concerns Jesus challenges us in today’s Gospel to do our level best to produce good fruit. Jesus invites us to have complete trust and confidence in him in the midst of the ups and downs, the losses and gains of everyday life. While we may not always be able to avoid producing bad fruit, we should focus on the times that we manage to produce good fruit.

St. Francis de Sales offers his understanding of the basis for our having childlike trust in God:

The visible sun touches all things with its life-giving warmth, and like a universal lover, it gives them the vigor needed to grow. In the same way God’s love animates the human heart. There is no person who can hide from God’s love. God desires to love us and in turn desires our love.

It is God’s eternal and faithful love that draws us to a faith-filled life. God is at the gate, not merely knocking, but calling to our soul and awakening it: “Come, arise, make haste.” God even goes about crying in the street: “Return to me! Live!” Our divine Savior faithfully shows that his mercy surpasses his justice, and that his redemption is copious. He wishes all to be made whole and that none should perish. “I have loved you with an everlasting love and I will build you again.” These are God’s faithful words and by them God promises that when our Savior came into the world, He established a New Kingdom in his Church.

Yet, the Holy Spirit, a fountain of living water that flows into every part of our heart so as to spread God’s love, has no wish to enter into us, unless it be with our heart’s consent. We are never deprived of God’s love, but we can deprive God’s love of our cooperation. God never takes away our gifts. It is we who turn away our hearts from God. Thus we must be attentive to our advancement in the love we owe God. For the love that God brings to us will never be wanting. Let us respond to this divine love that the Spirit of Jesus desires to flood our hearts with. Then we will experience a new life in the Spirit that helps us to face the realities of life without inordinate worry or overwhelming anxiety.

(Adapted from St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God.)

 

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday February 24, 2019
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 81

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 6:27-38

Jesus said to his disciples:
“To you who hear I say,
love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
To the person who strikes you on one cheek,
offer the other one as well,
and from the person who takes your cloak,
do not withhold even your tunic.
Give to everyone who asks of you,
and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
For if you love those who love you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who do good to you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners do the same.
If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners,
and get back the same amount.
But rather, love your enemies and do good to them,
and lend expecting nothing back;
then your reward will be great
and you will be children of the Most High,
for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give, and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings reveal to us that being made into the image of God we are called to be compassionate and forgiving as Jesus was. St. Francis de Sales notes: “Our Lord came into this world so that all might live a more abundant life and receive a better life. When we see the excessive evils that our loved ones endure, they arouse great compassion and love in us. Yet, we ought to help and express our love to all those who have great need of us. Frequently it is those who bring us more pain than comfort.”

Console the sick and visit the poor. Have compassion for their infirmities, letting these acts touch your heart. It is here that we show that we love from holy love. Pray for them as you help them. Yet, be careful that you do not neglect your responsibilities to your own family household while you care for others. We must ask God to help us love others, especially those for whom we have no inclination to love. They will have a more abundant life by the example you give them.

Since God wants us to love and cherish others, we must see God’s love in our neighbor. Even though at first we seem reluctant to do so, we must not give up practicing this love of neighbor outwardly. But we must not be surprised if we find ourselves not equally kind and gentle. Be patient with everyone’s imperfections but especially your own. Have the courage to pick yourself up after a fall. There’s no better way to grow in God’s love than to always start over again and never think that we have done enough.

Do not worry whether or not your work will bear the fruit you intend to produce, for you will not be asked for the fruit. You will only be asked if you faithfully occupied yourself in cultivating well these barren and arid lands. You will not be asked whether you have gathered in a harvest, but only if you have taken sufficient care to sow the seed.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales.)

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday February 17, 2019
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 78

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 6:17, 20-26

Jesus came down with the twelve
and stood on a stretch of level ground
with a great crowd of his disciples
and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.
And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.”

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings remind us of the life-giving qualities received by those who follow God’s teachings and who trust in God’s goodness. St. Francis de Sales similarly notes: “The greater our trust in God, the more life-giving is our spirit. If we are to allow God’s love to operate in us, we must make room in our heart so that the Holy Spirit may flood our heart with holy love. When our concerns and responsibilities are full of anxiety and fear, we limit our ability to act in the way God desires us to act.”

What are we to do if we have the desire to serve God but lack sufficient strength to put that desire into practice? Offer this desire to God. God renews our desire as often as is necessary to make us persevere in our desire to do God’s Will. Placing our trust in God’s goodness makes us eventually capable of acting on our desire to belong to God.

I am not saying that you must always feel this determination to belong entirely to God. We may always have feelings of reluctance to the events in our life that God does not desire but permits. Do not be troubled by such feelings, for few people are able to get rid of them. Yet, you ought to constantly recognize that you belong to God even though you do not always feel that way. We must deliberately choose to keep ourselves focused on the goal to belong to God alone. As we focus on pursuing our goal, our reluctant feelings will gradually be transformed as we allow God’s love to flood our heart.

Let us frequently place our good will in God’s hands, and God will renew our true willingness as often as is necessary in this mortal life. Those who place themselves peacefully in the hands of God’s Providence let themselves move forward, like a person sleeping in a ship that never stops moving forward on a tranquil sea. Blessed are they who put their trust in God, for confidence in God brings life to their human spirit!

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales.)

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday February 10, 2019
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 75

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 5:1-11

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening
to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
"Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch."
Simon said in reply,
"Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets."
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
"Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man."
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men."
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

In today’s readings we experience Isaiah, Paul and Peter coming to recognize that their past sins did not prevent them from becoming true disciples of God. St. Francis de Sales notes: “No doubt, there is a sense of shame when we have been disloyal to God. These feelings of shame are very good when they are used in a constructive way. Shame is only useful if it leads us to rise to an intimate union of our heart with God.”

We must never remain in shame, or with a sad and unquiet heart. As St. Paul teaches, we “must discard the old nature and put on the new.” We must clothe ourselves with God, and lift up our hearts in holy confidence to God. The foundation of our trust is in God and not in ourselves. Our well being derives from letting ourselves be led and directed absolutely by God’s Spirit, who transforms us through divine love.

While the saints saw in themselves many imperfections, this did not stop them from doing God’s work. God left in several of the dear disciples many marks of their evil inclinations for some time after their conversion, all for their greater good. For example Peter who stumbled many times after his initial calling failed miserably in denying God.

We cannot expect to be a saint in an instant. We must little by little and step by step acquire a self-mastery that the saints took years to acquire. Be patient. Leading us by the hand, God does with us deeds that call for our cooperation Some trees bear fruit every year, others every three years. Let us be content that God will let us bear our fruit sooner or later.

During this long pilgrimage on earth, God’s Goodness is willing to lead us and carry us. Yet, God always wants us to take our little steps alone, doing on our part all that we can in virtue and good works, helped by God’s love.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales.)

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday February 3, 2019
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 72

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
LK 4:21-30

Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying:
"Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."
And all spoke highly of him
and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They also asked, "Isn't this the son of Joseph?"
He said to them, "Surely you will quote me this proverb,
'Physician, cure yourself,' and say,
'Do here in your native place
the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.'"
And he said, "Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you,
there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian."
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built,
to hurl him down headlong.
But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s reading of the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul tells us what it means to love. St. Francis de Sales based his whole life and his teachings on love:

By love we live, feel and move. All our affections follow our love. Love is the life of the heart. As our heart is, so are our actions. Those who open themselves to God’s love in their heart have God’s love in their actions. Divine love can do all things and endure all things when we allow it to reign in our hearts. A heart that has holy love lives a clean, healthy, new life. This new life is both lively and life giving. It is the bond of perfection.

God’s love is always present in us. Unfortunately, we do not see it in ourselves. Because we do not see the presence of God’s love in us, it is easy to forget. We then behave as if God is very distant from us. God’s love is present in a most particular way in your heart and in the very center of your spirit. From time to time, retire into the solitude of your own heart, even while engaged in discussions or transactions. Talk with God. Other people cannot enter this mental solitude since they are not standing around your heart, which remains alone in the presence of God.

Our life on earth is like the perpetual, diverse motions of the waves of the sea. Some days we are buoyed up in hope, and sometimes we are cast down in fear. Even though everything changes within or around us, we must be like the mariner’s needle that always points to the North Star. Our will must remain looking, striving, and aspiring toward the love of God. Nothing can disturb or move us from God’s love, since our resolution never to forsake God’s merciful love keeps us steady amid the various changes brought to us by the conditions of this life. Thus do not lose courage, nor let your spirit sink amid contradictions. God will never abandon the care of your heart, for God’s love is eternal.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales.)

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday January 27, 2019
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 69

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
LK 1:1-4, 4:14-21

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events
that have been fulfilled among us,
just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning
and ministers of the word have handed them down to us,
I too have decided,
after investigating everything accurately anew,
to write it down in an orderly sequence for you,
most excellent Theophilus,
so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings
you have received.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit,
and news of him spread throughout the whole region.
He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
"Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s reading of the Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul describes how members of the Christian community have different functions and gifts that contribute to the unity of the community. St. Francis de Sales speaks of the gifts that unite us in our differences:

As members of the body of the Church, we are so united that we share in the good of one another. Even the sick who practice many admirable virtues in their illness contribute to the well being of the community. Our Savior wishes that holy love unite us. As living members of Jesus Christ and the Church, the fruits of our labor flow down upon those who are united by sacred love. Many grapes are pressed together to make one wine. Many grains of wheat are ground and kneaded together to make one single loaf. The gift of our sharing the Eucharist together is the source of our union, for the Eucharist unites us as children of God.

We must give great value to the gifts received from God and do our best for the welfare of all. This may be difficult at times. We may have many doubts in accepting the responsibilities given to us. However, in simplicity of heart we must say, “I can do anything in God who strengthens me.” We do what we have to do: not troubled by the greatness of the task, the amount of time required or the many delays encountered. For the Holy Spirit dwelling in us makes our frail works display the greatness of God’s love that unites us.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales.)

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday January 20, 2019
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 66

A Reading from the Gospel according to John
JN 2:1-11

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
"They have no wine."
And Jesus said to her,
"Woman, how does your concern affect me?
My hour has not yet come."
His mother said to the servers,
"Do whatever he tells you."
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings,
each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told the them,
"Fill the jars with water."
So they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them,
"Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter."
So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine,
without knowing where it came from
— although the servers who had drawn the water knew —,
the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him,
"Everyone serves good wine first,
and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one;
but you have kept the good wine until now."
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,
and his disciples began to believe in him.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel focuses on God’s presence in Jesus as He transforms water into wine, symbolic of our transformation in Christ. St. Francis de Sales similarly notes:

Jesus came to create a new humanity. He began his ministry to transform the human person by manifesting God’s goodness with a miracle at a joyful banquet. At the Wedding Feast of Cana, Jesus transformed water into wine to meet a need of the newly wedded couple. Then at another banquet before His death, He instituted the Eucharist so that we might be nourished and become like Him.

In the transformation of water into wine, and the institution of the Eucharist, God’s goodness in the Person of Jesus is made present to us. Christ’s presence in our lives turns the water of our tepid love into the wine of God’s love. Divine love invigorates and strengthens us as we journey toward wholeness in living Jesus.

In today’s Gospel, Mary, convinced that Jesus would provide the wine for the wedding couple, presents their need to her Son. We too must confidently ask God for our spiritual and temporal needs. In the Lord’s Prayer we ask daily that God’s Kingdom come and God’s Will be done. But Jesus also told us to ask God to give us our daily bread.

When we are disheartened and feel desolate we must present our needs to God, convinced that God will answer us according to our needs. We can say to God: “It is enough for me to present myself to You as I am. You will provide for my miseries and necessities as You see fit.” While God never gives us an excess of our self-centered wants, God never fails to supply what is necessary for our well-being, if we are open to God’s presence in our life.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales, L. Fiorelli, ed.)

The Baptism of the Lord

Sunday January 13, 2019
The Baptism of the Lord
Lectionary: 21

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
LK 3:15-16, 21-22

The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
"I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."

After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
"You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased."

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Baptism of the Lord

Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, which marks the beginning of his ministry. St. Francis de Sales observes that God also calls us to service that at times is a struggle for us:

Our Savior’s unfathomable ways of calling us to His service are so lovely and varied. When we have a firm and steadfast determination to want to serve God in the way and place where God calls us, we then have a true vocation.

While we are firm in our perseverance to serve God, we still commit faults. We may also hesitate in our resolve to use the means given us to serve God. We are all at the mercy of our feelings and emotions, subject to changes and ups and downs. We are not to worry if we sometimes experience feelings of distaste and discouragement in responding to our call to serve God. It is normal to experience these ups and downs. Even though we are not exceedingly virtuous, we are still fit for God’s service. Yet, we must stand firm in the midst of changing moods. Some virtues can only be practiced amid difficulty. It is not our willful feelings, but our intention to willingly persevere in serving God that determines the firmness and steadfastness of our commitment to love as God desires us to love.

A good string musician has the habit of testing the strings of his instrument from time to time to see if they need tightening or loosening in order to render the tone in perfect harmony. We too at times need to examine and consider all the affections of our heart to see if they are in tune with the wishes and commands of Our Savior. Let us strengthen our fervor, by reaffirming often our commitment to be God’s children who are called to love divinely. Live courageously and faithfully to the original stirring of your heart to serve God, and you will be happy.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales.)

The Epiphany of the Lord

Sunday January 6, 2019
The Epiphany of the Lord
Lectionary: 20

A Reading from the Gospel according to Matthew
MT 2:1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
"Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage."
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel."
Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
"Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage."
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Epiphany of the Lord

In today’s Gospel, on the Feast of the Epiphany, we experience the confidence of the Gentile magi, who seek God’s goodness in the Christ Child. Confidence to trust in God’s goodness is a constant theme in St. Francis de Sales’ writings:

The Magi from the East, confidently following the Star of Bethlehem, seek to render homage to the newborn Infant lying in a manger. They find no pleasure in the beauty of the city of Jerusalem, or in the magnificence of Herod’s court. Their hearts seek the little cave at Bethlehem and its little Child. They rigorously forsake every other pleasure so that they may more strongly find pleasure in God’s presence in the Christ Child.

Let us come close to our Savior in the divine crib and listen to the many inspirations and affections that awaken us to God’s goodness. It may be very difficult at times to trust in God. We may even feel no confidence in God. Yet in these times of difficulties we still have the power to make a simple act of confidence in God. We can say, “While I feel no confidence in You, I know that you are my God, and that I am all yours.”

We must not be distressed if we make these acts without fervor. Our Lord loves them better thus, for our lips speak what our heart wills. In this way we make continual progress in holy love, our journey toward wholeness. Our confidence is in God who is unchangeable and not in ourselves who are constantly changing. No one can ever trust in God without reaping the fruits of this confidence. Like the Magi following the Star of Bethlehem, let us pursue divine love with the confidence that we are continually being made whole in Christ—Who guides all those that choose to walk in His radiant light.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, particularly the Sermons, L. Fiorelli, Ed.)

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

The Octave Day of Christmas
Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God
Lectionary: 18

A Reading for the Gospel according to Luke
LK 2:16-21

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision,
he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Mary, Mother of God

Mary is called the Mother of God because she is the “mother of the divine redeemer.” She conceived, brought forth and nourished the Son of God here on earth. While she is subordinate to her Son, she is greater than all the saints.

Mary has a unique role to play in our history of salvation. Her consent without hesitation to accept God’s Will at the Annunciation has had a salutary influence on the whole human family. She brought Life to the whole human family. Since she is the Mother of the Son of God, Mother of the Church and our Mother who brings us to her Son, it is most fitting that we honor her in a special way.

Today, is an appropriate day to honor Mary as she stands first among all the saints, and brings forth the Great Peacemaker to the human family.

Blessing

Lord, Mary’s child, make us as a human family an instrument of your peace:
  • Where there is hatred, let us sow love.
  • Where there is injury, pardon.
  • Where there is doubt, faith.
  • Where there is darkness, light.
  • Where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, To be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially Oeuvre: Entretiens)

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

December 30, 2018
Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Lectionary: 17

A Reading for the Gospel according to Luke
LK 2:41-52

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast
of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor
before God and man.

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Feast of the Holy Family

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus telling Mary and Joseph that He must be in his ‘Father’s house’, yet he remains obedient to his parents. St. Francis de Sales notes:

God draws us by special attractions. If the attraction comes from God, it leads you to ‘loving obedience’. In doing God’s will, ‘loving obedience’ undertakes a command lovingly, no matter how difficult it may be. We desire that God take all our affections and actions, and shape them. This road will surely lead you to reap a harvest of blessings.

In the Scriptures, Jesus tells us often that He came not to do His own will but the will of His Father. During His mortal life, Jesus also lovingly obeyed His parents and others. Our Savior now asks of us to imitate the loving obedience that He rendered, not only to the Divine good will, but also to His earthly parents. Joseph and Mary received great joy because they helped Him, and remained constantly in His presence.

What causes us to be inconstant and changeable in our moods to love and serve God? It is the diversity of our desires. Constant mood swings come from our inordinate desires. Holy love has only one desire: to love and serve God, who desires we have a tranquil spirit, and experience in this world a slight foretaste of eternal joy.

Evenness of mind and heart is the most necessary virtue for the stability of moods that leads to holiness. One way to achieve evenness and stability of moods in our lives is to have a daily routine of mental prayer and other activities that sustain our well being: eating, sleeping, and exercise. Be faithful to God’s wishes and commands, as the bees do with their queen. Then you will live firm and unwavering in your resolution to love God’s will as Jesus did: constantly, courageously, hardily, and ardently.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially Oeuvre: Entretiens)

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
At the Vigil Mass
Lectionary: 13

A Reading for the Gospel according to Matthew
MT 1:1-25

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah,
whose mother was Tamar.
Perez became the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,
whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,
Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile,
Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.
Abiud became the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok.
Zadok became the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar became the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David
is fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian exile,
fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian exile to the Christ,
fourteen generations.

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
"Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means "God is with us."
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus.

Or

A Reading for the Gospel according to Matthew
MT 1:1-25
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
"Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means "God is with us."
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus.

Vigil of Christmas
December 24, 2018

This evening is the vigil of Christmas and we ponder on the mystery of the birth of Jesus, Our Lord and Savior. St. Francis de Sales offer us some thoughts on the nativity:

If someone intends to build a house or a palace, he must first consider for whom the dwelling is intended. He will obviously use different plans depending upon the social status of the person. So it was with the Divine Builder. God built the world for the Incarnation of the Son. Divine wisdom foresaw from all eternity that the Word would assume our nature in coming to earth. To accomplish this task, God chose a woman, the most holy Virgin Mary, who brought forth Our Savior.

In the Incarnation, God made us see what the human mind could hardly have imagined or understood. So great was God’s love for humanity that in becoming human, God desired to fill us with divinity. God wished to crown us with divine goodness and dignity. God wanted us to be children of God, for we are formed in God’s image.

Our Savior came into this world to teach us what we need to do to preserve in ourselves this divine resemblance of God. Oh, how earnestly we ought to summon up our courage to live according to what we are. Our Savior came so that we may have life to the fullest. He was wholly filled with mercy and kindness for the human family.

Often when the most hardened souls have reached the point of living as if there were no God, Our Savior allows them to find His Heart full of pity and kind mercy toward them. All, who know this, experience some feeling of gratitude for it. Let us let go of all that is not of God in our house. When we open our hearts to God’s love, we bring to birth the Christ Child in our hearts so as to establish God’s kingdom on earth.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)