Passion/Palm Sunday (March 25, 2018)

In today’s readings we experience Jesus, as the suffering servant who brings God’s love to the human family. St. Francis de Sales reminds us that we are called to be like Jesus:

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. Jesus 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. All love that does not take its origins from the Savior’s passion is foolish and perilous. On Calvary, we can not have life without love. Nor can we have divine love without dying to our false loves. Christian wisdom consists in choosing rightly. Hence we ought to consecrate every moment of our lives to the eternal divine love of Our Savior’s death. This means we need to empty ourselves of all other loves that are destroying us so that we may be filled with God’s eternal love that gives life!

So when injured by others, look often with your inward eyes 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 under the burden of 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.”

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

Fifth Sunday of Lent (March 18, 2018)

In today’s Gospel (option for Cycle A), we experience the confident faith of Martha and Mary in Jesus as He brings back to life their brother Lazarus. St. Francis de Sales notes:

If our faith in the power of Our Savior has the confidence of Mary and Martha, it can bring life to us. It is in Him and from Him we expect all our help.

Our confession of faith is an act to willingly love God and all the things of God. Our hearts find God at the fountain of faith. When God gives us faith, God enters into us and speaks to our minds through inspirations. The first thing God does to our hearts is to arouse them to their own goodness. God sees us in our misery, and if we are willing, God rescues us from that misery. Faith is the best friend of our spirit. It has us love truth.

Faith prompts the beginning of love that the heart feels for the things of God. Faith sees that God is gentle with us, and constantly fills us with goodness. Faith sees that God’s eternal love arouses compassion rather than justice. God, by way of inspiration, leads us from love to love, as from dwelling to dwelling, until we are brought into most holy love. Divine love makes our faith come alive. Faith united to sacred love yields the fruit of good works. By His works, Jesus gives us every kind of proof of His love for us.

In raising Lazarus from the dead, our dear Master shows us that all His works are done through His goodness alone. He also made of Himself our food in the Eucharist. And did He not make the greatest possible act of love by dying on a cross, where He proved that love was stronger than death? Can we not confidently trust our faithful Servant and love the things that He loves? Our Savior’s watch over you is greater than your weaknesses. Live your faith joyously then in holy love as Martha and Mary did. Like Lazarus, God will work wonders in you, and enliven your faith with eternal life.

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

Fourth Sunday of Lent (March 11, 2018)

In today’s Gospel (option from Cycle A) we experience Jesus healing a man born blind. It is God in Jesus Christ who gives us the eyes of faith to see more fully the mystery of divine love. St. Francis de Sales explains how God entices us to on-going conversion:

Only God can enlighten us and open our blind eyes. When God gives us faith, God enters us and incites our mind through inspirations. So pleasantly does God propose the mysteries of faith to us that, without doubt or opposition, we consent to them.

Faith, the best friend of our spirit, brings us to love the beauty of the truths of the mystery of God. When we are exposed to 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. As soon as the light of faith casts its light on us, we feel the heat of heavenly love. Faith makes us know with certitude that God exists and that God is infinite goodness. When temptations against faith start raising questions, we have to answer with our heart, not reason. Reason admits its limitations. It tells us that while the mystery of God transcends our ability to reason, our faith in God is eminently reasonable. Like St. Augustine, let us affirm our faith by crying out, “Lord I do believe, but help me in my unbelief!”

Let us faithfully concentrate on nourishing God’s gift of on-going conversion with awe and confidence. Let us make God’s love effective in our lives by remaining steady and persevering in our good desires and holy resolutions. Without forcing or doing any violence to us, Jesus draws us to Himself by bonds of love and gentleness so that we begin to do all things through holy love. Then let us not be afraid of Our Lord who wants to take full possession of our hearts. Rather, let us surrender ourselves lovingly into the hands of Our Savior, who desires to do great things in us, if we let Him open our eyes.

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

Third Sunday of Lent (March 4, 2018)

Today’s Gospel speaks to the catechumens who are preparing for baptism. Jesus, reaching out to a woman rejected by society, offers her “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” St. Francis de Sales speaks often of how Jesus calls us out of slavery to sin into a life of holiness that leads to eternal happiness:

There are many who aspire to holiness but few attain it because they do not walk as they ought—ardently, yet tranquilly; carefully, but confidently. That is to say, we must rely more on the Divine Goodness and Providence than on ourselves and our good works. We must be very faithful, but without anxiety or eagerness.

Yet God wants us to do all that lies in our power. That is, God wants us to use the ordinary means to attain holiness. We must use the means that are given to us according to our vocation, and then remain in peace concerning all the rest. If these should fail, God will never fail to assist us as long as we are open to the divine will. God, under whose guidance we have embarked, will always be attentive to provide us with whatever is necessary. Therefore, when human aid fails us, God’s special providence takes over and takes care of us. God would sooner work miracles than leave without assistance, either spiritual or temporal, those who trust entirely in Divine Providence.

We say that we do not know whether the will to please God that we now have will remain with us during our whole life. Alas! It is true, for there is nothing so weak and changeable as we are. But nevertheless let us not be troubled. Let us rather frequently lay this good will before Our Lord. Let us place it in His hands and He will renew it as often as is necessary that we may have enough for our whole mortal life. After this mortal life there will be no cause for fear, for we shall be in a safe place.

(L. Fiorelli, ed., Lenten Sermons of St. Francis de Sales.)

Second Sunday of Lent (February 25, 2018)

In today’s Gospel, Peter, James and John experience Jesus being transfigured. St. Francis de Sales notes:

At the Transfiguration God went out of the way to show that Jesus was truly Savior. At that moment, nothing was so desirable for the Apostles as remaining in the presence of Jesus. I assure you that I never stop wishing you countless blessings from heaven, especially that of always being transfigured in Our Lord. Thanks to our Savior, we are climbing Mount Tabor since we are resolved to serve Him and love His divine goodness. We must encourage one another in holy hope. Let us leave our love for lowly things so we can continue faithfully to aspire to the happiness He has prepared for us.

Where could we give better witness to our fidelity to God than in the midst of things going wrong? There is a real temptation to become dissatisfied with the world and depressed about it when we have to be in it. Yet whether we are immersed in the busyness of worldly events or in solitude, we will encounter difficulties. To think that we can be holy without suffering is a delusion. Where there is more difficulty, there is more virtue. However, if you stumble, don’t be upset or ashamed. Instead let us cry out to our Lord and our Lady who will reach out a blessed helping hand to us.

Be like the honeybee. While you are carefully making the honey of holiness, at the same time make the wax of your worldly affairs. For if honey is sweet to the taste of our Lord, wax also honors Him since it is used to make the candles which give light to those around us. Be at peace and walk simply and faithfully along the path that God has marked out for you, and you will walk confidently. Our Savior, who is transfiguring you, has taken you by the hand, and set you on the way to His glory. Let Him be your Guide.

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

First Sunday of Lent (February 18, 2018)

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus being tempted in the desert. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Jesus did not seek temptation. The Holy Spirit led Him into the desert to be tempted. If we encounter temptation in that place where the Spirit of God leads us, we must be firmly confident that God will strengthen us against these temptations no matter how strong they may be. Yet, no matter how holy and generous we may think ourselves to be, we must never trust in our own strength or courage, and go out and seek temptation, thinking we can confound it. Nonetheless, we must prepare ourselves to rise above temptation. Like Jesus, we must arm ourselves with the truth of God. This truth is nothing other than faith, which shields us from temptations. When we say, “I believe” in God the Almighty, we place our trust in God’s power, not in our own strength.

As soon as you are conscious of being tempted, follow the example of children when they see a wolf or bear out in the country. They immediately run to the arms of their parents or call to them for help and protection. If the temptation continues, embrace the Holy Cross and look at our Lord. Then, turn your thoughts to some good constructive activity. Our temptations are like a chained dog. If we do not approach them they will do us no harm, even if they try to frighten us by barking at us.

Sometimes when we are faced with a temptation, in the beginning we feel wounded by some troubled emotion. Alas, we might think that it is almost impossible to serve God in holiness. Don’t trouble yourself with such an idle fear. Armed with the truth of God’s Word, God will strengthen us and give us the grace to persevere to do what is required for God’s glory and our own welfare and happiness.

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

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 11, 2018)

Today St. Paul tells us to “do everything for the glory of God.” St. Francis de Sales elaborates on this intention:

How do we “do all things in the name of God” so as to live well?” First, we must purify all our intentions as far as we can. We must make a firm purpose to use the day well for the intention of giving glory to God and not us. Anticipate what tasks, transactions and occasions for serving God you may meet today. What temptations will you be exposed to, such as anger, self-centered love, or some other irregularities? Carefully prepare yourself to avoid, resist, and overcome whatever might hinder you from authentically living Jesus.

To do all things well, first make a holy resolution to grow in the love Jesus exemplified. To prepare yourself to put this resolution into practice, ask our Savior to help you make the best use of the means available to you to grow in holy love, and serve Him. Admit that you alone can not carry out your decision to avoid evil and do the good that God desires of you. Hold your heart in your hands, and offer it with your good desires to Our Savior. Ask Him to take your heart under His protection and strengthen it so to grow in His authentic love.

To do all for the glory of God, train yourself to pray. Receive the sacraments often. As you perform the important tasks of your vocation, never forget to practice humility, gentleness, patience, and simplicity, virtues that grow like flowers at the foot of the Cross.

As you care for your family with all the diligence required, bring these souls to love God by infusing good inspirations into their hearts. Great opportunities to serve God rarely present themselves but little ones are frequent. As you carry out your responsibilities so that they give glory to God, all your activities, even eating, drinking, sleeping or recreation, will be done in the name of God, who leads you to authentic wholeness through Jesus Christ.

(Adapted from the Writings of St. Francis De Sales.)

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 4, 2018)

Today’s Gospel tells us that in the midst of busyness, even Jesus saw a need to find a quiet place to pray. St. Francis de Sales also stresses the importance of practicing mental prayer in the midst of our worldly activities, and gives us a short simple method:

I especially counsel you to practice the prayer of the heart. Set aside some time each day, if possible early in the morning, when your mind is less distracted and fresher after the night’s rest. Place yourself in God’s presence. Remember that God is present in a most particular way in your heart and in the very center of your spirit. Do not hurry along and say many things but try to speak from your heart. A single Our Father said with feeling has greater value than many said quickly and hurriedly. Don’t be concerned about finishing the vocal prayer you intended to say. By often turning your eyes on Jesus in meditation, your whole being will be filled with him. You will learn his ways and form your actions after the pattern of his.

From your meditation gather a few thoughts that you liked best and are most adapted for your improvement. During the day frequently think of them. Make particular resolutions for your own correction. On that same day, we must try to carefully practice them and to seek occasions, small or great, to do so. Since prayer places our mind in the brilliance of God’s light and exposes our ability to make choices to the warmth of God’s heavenly love, nothing else so effectively purifies our mind of ignorance and our will of disordered affections. Meditation makes the plants of our good desires grow green and flourish, and quenches the disordered passions in our hearts. By keeping close to our Savior in meditation and observing his words, actions and affections, we learn by his grace to speak, act, and will like him.

(St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to a Devout Life.)

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 28, 2018)

St. Paul tells us in today’s reading “to be free of anxiety.” St. Francis de Sales gives us some advice on how to cope with anxiety:

There is a real temptation to become dissatisfied with the world and distressed about it when we have of necessity to be in it. We imagine we would feel better if we were on another ship. That may be, but only if we change ourselves! Solitude has its assaults, the world its busyness. In either place we must be courageous since in either place divine help is available to those who trust in God and who humbly and gently beg for God’s caring assistance.

One of the sources of our anxieties is our self-centered love. Why are we surprised by our imperfections? We want nothing but consolation. When we experience our own misery and weaknesses, let us do three things and we will have peace. Let us have a pure intention of seeking in all things, the honor and glory of God. Let us do the little we can toward this end and leave to God the care of the rest.

These little attacks of anxiety and sadness that are brought on by the multiplicity of our responsibilities permit us to practice the dearest and best virtues that Jesus recommended to us: gentleness and trust in God. True virtue is not produced by outward idleness, anymore than healthy fish are raised in the stagnant waters of swamps.

To protect ourselves from surprise attacks of anxiety, where we become resentful and ready to flare up if any one crosses us, we must often arouse in our hearts patience and courage. But when we do totter and fall, we must not be ashamed of being a little grimy and dusty. It is better to be covered with dust than with sores. If we place ourselves in God’s care and let the heavenly dew of God’s love heal us, all will be well.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 21, 2018)

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus preaching “the kingdom of God is at hand,” as He invites several fishermen to come after him. St. Francis de Sales notes:

God has many ways of calling men and women to service. God uses preaching more than any other form to convert individuals. Through the ministry of preaching God has touched the hearts of many people, and called them to special vocations. Preaching is like a divine seed cast into the ground of our hearts by the words of preachers.

God touches others while they are reading good books. Still others when they hear the holy words of the Gospel while being read. There are others who were disturbed by the misfortunes, troubles and sufferings that befell them in the world. Still, even if God is all-powerful and can do anything, God does not want to take away the gift of freedom given to us. Whenever God calls us to service, He wants us to come willingly and not out of force or compulsion.

Nonetheless, even if some people come to God’s service because they are disgusted with the world or because some sorrows and afflictions trouble them, they can still give themselves to God freely and willingly. Our sufficiency is from our Redeemer who taught us how to be fit ministers and capable of doing God’s will. One who abides in Christ partakes of his divine Spirit, who is in the midst of our hearts as a living fountain. Through the love the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts, the frail reeds of our actions are turned to gold. Our hearts, flooded with the love of the Holy Spirit, produce sacred actions that tend towards immortal glory and carry us to it.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially his Spiritual Conferences, I. Carneiro, Ed.)

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 14, 2018)

This Sunday we begin the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. Our New Year’s resolutions have already gone the route of ordinariness. Yet St. Francis de Sales tells us that we are called to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. One element of this extraordinary way is our good desires to live a holy life. Francis notes:

What other flowers do we have in our heart but good desires? As soon as good desires appear, we need to prune away all the dead and useless obstacles that stop us from living a holy life. Bad habits come galloping on horseback as they enter our heart but leave slowly on foot. In this enterprise we must have courage and patience. After striving to be holy for awhile, we generally recognize that we are still subject to many imperfections. It is easy then to become dissatisfied, disturbed and discouraged. Yet we must not let our heart give in to the temptation of giving up everything and going back to our old way of life.

On the other hand, there are those who think themselves perfect before they have scarcely begun. They try to fly without wings and are in great peril of a relapse on being too soon out of the physician’s care. The work of growing holy ought not to end until God calls us to our eternal home. We must not be disturbed by our imperfections. Unless we see them, how can we transform them? Our victory does not consist in being unconscious of them but in recognizing them. We are always victorious as long as we continue to struggle to overcome them. We are never conquered unless we lose courage. Imperfections and venial sin cannot deprive us of spiritual life. Thus, we must have a good opinion of those we see practicing virtues imperfectly, since we know that the saints themselves have often practiced them in this manner.

(Francis de Sales, Introduction to a Devout Life).

Epiphany of the Lord (January 7, 2018)

Today we experience the infant Jesus being visited by Magi, who carried news of God’s presence in Jesus back to their foreign lands. St. Francis de Sales notes:

The Magi from the East came to find pleasure, not in the city of Jerusalem, but in a small cave where they found God humanized in the Child lying in a manger. Like the Magi, let us come close to the divine crib and listen to our Savior as he speaks to us. Let us follow the many inspirations and affections that arouse us to God’s love.

Some people think that a certain art is needed to grow in holy love. There is no art to loving God. We need only to practice pleasing God in the simplicity of our heart, without trouble or anxiety. Holy simplicity leaves the result of its actions to Divine Providence. The single and only aim of simplicity is the pure love of God. Simplicity, contrary to deceit, requires that our interior self and our exterior actions be in conformity with one another.

We are called to labor faithfully in the exercise of divine love, without shame, sadness or anxiety. Embarked then, in the exercise of our daily tasks, carried along by the wind of our simple and loving confidence in God, we shall make the greatest progress. Without stirring from our place then, we shall draw nearer and nearer to home, as do those who sail the high seas with favorable winds. Every event and variety of accident that may happen will be received calmly and peacefully. Even though our journey through life is full of dangers, let us be confident in following the Star of Bethlehem, who desires to fill us with His love. In this way, we’ll be like the Magi who confidently followed the Star of Bethlehem, Who leads us to eternal glory.

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

Feast of the Holy Family (December 31, 2017)

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. We tend to forget that the First Family of the Christian Church had their trials too, as St. Francis de Sales notes:

We are often upset because things don’t succeed the way we want them to. What we desire was not found even in the family of our Lord. Think of the difficulties and changes, joys and sorrow found in the Holy Family. Mary received news that she would conceive of the Holy Spirit a Son, our Lord and Savior. What joy this was for her! Shortly afterward Joseph, seeing that she was with child and knowing that it was not by him, was plunged into distress! Mary was in grief, seeing her dear Joseph was about to leave her. When this storm passed, they experienced great joy. There was also joy in their hearts when the shepherds and Magi came.

However, a little later, the angel of the Lord said to Joseph in a dream, “Take the child and His mother and flee into Egypt.” Without doubt Mary and Joseph were troubled by this command. But was Joseph’s response: “Why do I have to go at night? Couldn’t this journey wait till the morning? I have neither horse nor money.” If we had been in Joseph’s place, would we not have made a thousand excuses? Whereas he promptly did all that the angel commanded. The peace and serenity of mind of Mary and Joseph shows their constant openness to do God’s will amid all the unexpected events that befell them.

We too, when we meet similar problems in our lives, must repeat over and over again to ourselves, so as the better to impress the truth on our minds, that no disturbance of events must ever carry away our hearts and minds into unevenness of temper. Like the Holy Family, God will guide us on our way no matter how difficult it may be.

(Adapted from St. Francis de Sales, Serenity of Heart: Bearing the Troubles of This Life, Sophia Press)

Vigil of Christmas (December 24, 2017)

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)

Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 24, 2017)

In today’s Gospel we experience Mary’s openness to God’s will for her. St. Francis has many thoughts on being open to God’s love, which is God’s will in our life:

Mary’s greatest gift was her absolute openness to God’s love. God speaks to us through inspirations and the inner stirrings of our heart. We must be open to willingly accept the inspirations it may please God to send us. By inspirations we mean all those interior desires, acts of regret, thoughts and affections God places in our hearts to awaken and attract us to authentic virtues, holy love, and good resolutions. In short everything that sends us on our way to our everlasting welfare. Any thought that causes us anxiety and fear must be let go, as they do not come from God who is Prince of Peace.

When a good inspiration comes, receive it as an ambassador sent by a leader of a nation. Approach it simply and gently. Listen calmly to God’s proposal. Think of the love it inspires in you, and cherish it. Nurture your good desire and keep it alive by sleeping in the arms of God’s providence. That is, give your inspiration complete, loving and permanent consent by peacefully accepting it, and trusting that God will give you the love you need to fulfill it. In this way, God will be pleased with your good will. Sometimes when God asks us to do some good work, all God really wants is our willingness to do the work, and not the accomplishment. While Jesus established the Kingdom on earth, He left work for His Apostles and future generations to help Him bring it to completion.

However, before you consent to and act on inspirations that are important or unusual, always consult your spiritual adviser to affirm whether they are true or false. Once the consent is given, you must hasten to put the inspiration into practice. The fruit of our practice is true virtue that keeps us continually open, like Mary, to God’s infinite love.

(Francis de Sales, Introduction…; Power & Wright, Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal)

Third Sunday of Advent (December 17, 2017)

Today’s Gospel speaks of John the Baptist. St. Francis de Sales unfolds aspects of John’s character that we could all start to develop in our hearts during Advent:

John the Baptist dwelt in the desert like a rock, immovable in the midst of all the waves and tempests of tribulation. We, on the other hand, change according to time and season. When the weather is fine, nothing can equal our joy. But when adversity storms in on us, we become disheartened. We sometimes get upset even for the littlest thing that is contrary to our liking. As a result, our peace of soul cannot be restored until long after we have had to use many “healing ointments.” In short, we are spiritually fickle, not knowing what we want. One minute we are light-hearted. The next minute we are harsh and bitter. We are reeds, tossed about in every direction by every mood and humor.

John the Baptist tells us that we need to even out these ways for Our Savior’s coming, our path to wholeness. All the saints to a degree did this but none perfectly. In each of them something marred the perfection of their equanimity of spirit. This was true even for John the Baptist. Yet, we must become disciples of John the Baptist. We must look into our actions, reforming those that are not of good intentions and perfecting those that are. Our goal is to act with only one intention: conforming ourselves to the true image of God in us. For the reason why Jesus came, was to show us our true self in God.

We must remember God’s grace is never lacking, and if we are faithful in cooperating with the first grace God gives us, we will receive many more. For this reason in Holy Scripture, God recommends us to be faithful in following our good impulses, insights and inspirations. When we do this the greatness of God’s infinite mercy will surely shine through.

(Adapted from L. Fiorelli, ed., Sermons of St. Francis de Sales, V.4)

Second Sunday of Advent (December 10, 2017)

In today’s Gospel we experience “A voice in the desert” crying out to us to make straight God’s paths. St. Francis de Sales tells us how to do this:

Roads that twist and turn only weary and mislead travelers. To make straight God’s path in our hearts, we must have as our only goal to please God. We ought to be like the mariner who, in steering his vessel, always keeps his eye on the needle of the compass. We too must have our eyes fixed on acquiring an even disposition, the most pleasing virtue in the spiritual life. We need to consistently lead our feelings, emotions and inclinations to God’s love, which transforms them so that we possess an even disposition.

When our heart struggles constantly between our love of God and our self-centered love, we find ourselves in a state of fear, anxiety and confusion. The sight of our great faults can bring with it a certain unhealthy fear that unnerves the heart and often leads to discouragement. For this reason, throughout our whole life we must exercise ourselves in trusting God, and confiding ourselves to the goodness of God, who loves us.

Yet, a holy fear leads us to take proper means to avoid trouble. Holy fear and hope ought never to be without one another. Hope encourages us to expect holy enjoyment in God’s supreme goodness. God uses both of these virtues to work spiritual cures in us.

Our life contains many tortuous paths that can be put right only by a change of heart. When we orient our heart towards God’s love, we experience true self-love. When divine love reigns in our hearts, it tames all other loves. Divine love subjects all our natural emotions and affections to God’s plan and service. All one’s movements are at rest in this holy love. Those who have an abundance of sacred love have hearts full of confidence and hope, for they are on the straight path to wholeness in God. (Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially Sermons, L. Fiorelli, Ed.).

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

First Sunday of Advent (December 3, 2017)

Today is the First Sunday of Advent. The readings remind us to be aware of our need for Christ who strengthens us until the end. St. Francis de Sales constantly stress the importance of living Jesus so that we may become fully human. But to live Jesus calls for the spirit of liberty. In a letter to Jane de Chantal he writes:

It is clear what God’s will is regarding the commandments and the duties of our vocation. However, there are many other things I am not obliged to do either by the general commandments of God or by the duties of my own vocation. With these it is necessary to consider carefully in liberty of spirit what would tend to the greatest glory of God. I said “liberty of spirit” because this needs to be done without pressure or anxiety. If it is not a matter of great importance, then we should not invest a great concern in it, but after a little thought decide. And if later the action or decision doesn’t seem good, I must in no way blame or bother myself about it, but rather trust in God and laugh at myself.

Do all through love, nothing through constraint. Love obedience more than you fear disobedience. I want you to have a liberty of spirit that excludes constraints, scruples and anxiety, not the kind that excludes obedience (this is freedom of the flesh). If you really love obedience and docility, I’d like to think that when some legitimate or charitable cause takes you away from your religious exercises, this would be for you another form of obedience. And your love would make up for whatever you have to omit in your religious practice. In all things a holy liberty and freedom must reign and we must have no other law or coercion than that of love. Whether love invites us to make something for the poor or for the rich, it does all things well and is equally pleasing to our Lord.

(Joseph Power, OSFS & Wendy M. Wright, Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal)

Christ the King (November 26, 2017)

Celebrating Christ as King, while popular in the Church, only became part of the liturgical calendar in 1925. St. Francis de Sales speaks of Jesus as King:

Jesus as a king was called to be our Savior. He desired that others should share in the glory of being leaders, especially his blessed Mother. Our Blessed Lady asks us to have her Son as King of our hearts so that He might reign in us. His commandments are good and very useful because they give goodness to those who otherwise would lack it, and increase goodness in those who would be good even if not commanded to be so.

Thus, Jesus made God’s goodness abound more than evilness. Jesus’ reign is truly salutary when it touches our miseries and makes them worthy of divine love. When the Holy Spirit pours divine love into our hearts, we are restored to health and empowered to share in our Savior’s work: to bring God’s love and care to those in our midst.

Since our Lord repaired us all equally, and wants all to share in spreading His Kingdom, we too must love in our neighbor what truly represents to us the sacred Person of our Master. We are not to love in our neighbor what is contrary to this sacred image. Let us walk then as Jesus Christ walked. He gave His life not only to heal the sick, to work miracles and to teach us what we ought to do to be divinely human. He also taught us how to give our life, as He lovingly did, for those who would take it from us.

How happy we are when we choose Jesus as our leader, who gives us unparalleled peace and calm if we follow Him. May we remain faithful to our King’s desires, so we might begin in this life what, with the help of God’s love, we shall do eternally in Heaven: Live in glory with Jesus, who in overcoming evil with good, is the true King.

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

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 19, 2017)

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that it is just as important and useful to serve Him faithfully with one talent or many. Here are some Salesian thoughts on using our talents:

What went wrong with the servant who buried his one talent? He wasted much time examining his ability to do his Master’s work. Focusing on his own lack of talents became an obstacle to faithfully perform the task asked of him. He was clinging to a false sense of security. He feared taking the risk that a spiritual journey demands.

In orienting our talents to serve God, we need to be patient with everyone, but first of all with ourselves. Like most of the saints, it will take us years to free ourselves of our selfish desires, including our desire for false security. Gradually though, we discard our disordered affections, and open ourselves to what God desires for us. We are then free to perform our everyday activities with the confidence that we are doing God’s will. Our true security and happiness is in God—who provides us with all that is necessary to establish the reign of God in the midst of our daily tasks.

Jesus tells us that those with one talent are just as useful and important as those with many talents in doing God’s work. The bees give us a good example. Some gather honey, some watch over the hive and others keep it clean. But they all eat the same honey. We too, the strong and the weak, work together in Christ. Faithful servants do all they know to be pleasing to God, who fills their emptiness. They reveal their divine potential for union with God through their everyday tasks. They recognize that God reigns in the midst of their daily activities. Happy are they who use their talents to establish God’s love in their midst. God will never let them be unfruitful! Even if they do only a little for God, God will shower abundant blessings on them in this life and in the next.

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