12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (June 25, 2017)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to fear those who try to destroy our souls and to place our trust in God who cares for us. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Everyone desires to embrace the good and fly from what is evil. When we experience an evil, we become sad and desire to free ourselves of this sadness. We are right to seek a means to get rid of this sadness. Fear and anxiety can come from an inordinate desire to be freed from a present difficulty or to realize a hoped for goal.

Whenever you urgently hope to realize a certain good or to escape from a certain uneasiness, you must be especially careful to put your mind at rest and be at peace. When you see that you are becoming anxious, place yourself in God’s presence. Resolve to do nothing that your desire insists on until your mind has regained peace. Be careful to make calm judgments based on the authentic values found in Jesus’ teachings. Then try, without hurry, trouble, or anxiety, to accomplish your desire. Perform the action, not according to your desire, but reason.

When we seek to escape from our troubles, we must do so patiently, gently, and calmly. We must look to God for help rather than our own efforts. If we look to ourselves only, we will wear ourselves out. Walk simply in the way our Lord shows you and don’t worry. Sing songs of praise and thanksgiving. Involve yourself in a variety of healthful activities. Also, revealing the cause of your anxiety to your confessor or a reliable person empowers you to find relief. If we always tend toward God’s love, neither tribulation nor fear of future troubles will separate us from this love. Our love is founded on Jesus Christ, who cares for us and never betrays us. Great indeed is the confidence our Savior wants us to have in His care. All who trust in this confidence reap great fruit.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially Introduction to the Devout Life)

Body and Blood of Christ (June 18, 2017)

Today we celebrate the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Here are some of St. Francis de Sales thoughts on the Eucharist.

So that we might intimately be united with God’s goodness, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist. Our Savior desires us to be united to Him by a union so strong and close that we are marked with His features. In receiving the Eucharist our Lord carries us and does in us works altogether performed by Him. Whoever turns to the Eucharist frequently, and in a holy manner, builds up his or her spiritual health. If fruits that are tender and most subject to decay, such as strawberries, can easily be preserved a whole year in sugar and honey, it is no wonder that our hearts, no matter how frail and weak, are preserved by the spiritually real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

After you have received our Lord in the Eucharist, talk with Him about your inmost concerns. Reflect that He is within you and has come there for your happiness. Make Him as welcome as you possibly can. Conduct yourself in such a manner that by your actions all may know that God is with you.

Receive the Eucharist often. Two kinds of people ought to receive the Eucharist often: the strong and the weak. The strong, lest they become weak, and the weak that they may become strong. The sick that they may be cured, those in good health, that they may not fall sick. Persons who are involved in many worldly affairs need it. Those who labor much and are heavily burdened need to eat solid food and often.

In the Eucharist our Savior advances, strengthens and nourishes us with His self-giving love. Since Christ gives Himself totally to us in this Divine Sacrament, ought we not to give ourselves totally to Him, who is at once both Gift and Giver?

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

The Most Holy Trinity (June 11, 2017)

Today we celebrate the Trinity, the three Persons in One God. St. Francis de Sales notes:

The love of the Three Persons in the Trinity overflows into creation and especially the human family. Humanity was united to the person of God the Son so that humanity might eternally enjoy the treasures of His infinite glory. Only in and through Christ are we able to participate in the Trinity’s union of pure love.

Our Savior does not call us to the identical union of the Three Persons, but we ought to be united together as purely and perfectly as possible. When we respond to His call, our Redeemer so completely transforms us into His image. It almost seems as if there is no longer any difference between Him and us. He repairs us all equally. Without exception He makes us like Himself. Through the strength of His sacred love, He succeeded in forgetting Himself but not His creatures. How great was the flame of love that burned in the heart of our gentle Savior! We too are capable of such heart-felt love.

Jesus spoke of our union of hearts in daring terms. The quality of our love for one another must be similar to that of the love of the Three Persons. This seems too good to be true. Yet, it is impossible to love God and not love the image of God in our neighbor. Our Savior loves us so dearly that He makes us His adopted children. We too must show that we are truly His children, by loving one another dearly in all goodness of heart.

The children of this culture, who live only for their material treasures, are all separated from one another because their hearts are in different places. But the children of God, have their hearts ‘where their treasure is’. Having but one treasure that is the same God, they are always joined and united together. How much at peace and free we will be if our love for one another reflects the overflowing love of the Trinity!

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

Pentecost (June 4, 2017)

Today we read of Jesus giving His Spirit to the disciples. They are given the power to continue His saving mission for the whole human family. St. Francis de Sales notes:

The Holy Spirit is like a fountain of living water that flows into our hearts so as to spread divine love in us. Divine love is something infinitely more than all other forms of love. The love that the Spirit gives empowers us to serve God. Our works that flow from the Spirit’s love are vigorous and virtuous, and grow like the mustard seed. It is a wonderful thing that this Divine Spirit does not hesitate to dwell in us.

Still the Holy Spirit has no wish to enter into us unless it is with our free consent. God asks first for our heart. To the extent we open our heart to God’s love, so God continues to increase sacred love in us. Our Savior has promised that if you take the trouble to row your boat, He will lead you to another place full of life. He desires infinitely that you take the oar in hand and row. He makes every effort to make you do it. He commands, excites, and goads us. If we wish to sail on the little boat of the Church amidst the bitter waters of this world, He will lead us to eternal life. Yet, He refuses to lead us there without our help because by nature, we are made to be His cooperators.

It is not enough to feel an inspiration from God. We must give it our consent. Even if we give just a little of our consent to it, what happiness results! The divine inspiration, given to us by the Sprit, catches hold of us, mingles its action with our consent, animates our feeble movements, and enlivens our frail cooperation. God’s loving inspirations leave us complete freedom to follow or reject them. Yet, God’s love makes water flow from rocks, and makes persecutors into preachers. Let us do then what lies in our power to do. Let the Holy Spirit direct our actions and affections to forgiveness, which leads to our spiritual wholeness. Then we may spread the Good News to those we encounter each day.

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

The Ascension of the Lord (May 25/28, 2017)

Today we experience Jesus in His risen body ascending into the fullness of God’s kingdom. St. Francis de Sales notes:

The mystery of the Ascension astounds us. If we understand the Ascension, the most abundant treasure of Jesus’ gifts will be given to us. His body, no longer physical but spiritual, penetrates the heavens and is present in the Eucharist. He gives Himself to all those who wish to receive and embrace Him. In a hidden way, He is transforming all.

God’s love is continually divinizing our humanity. Our life of divine love places an obligation on us to love our bodies properly. They constitute part of us as a human person, and will share in eternal happiness. We as Christians must love our bodies as living images of our incarnate Savior. We must also love this divine image in each other.

When we begin to live a life “hidden in God with Jesus Christ,” we live out of our true interior self. We live a new life of divine love. Our selfish loves are in the service of divine love. How did we achieve this? Strong sunlight causes the light of the stars to disappear. Similarly, when we set up a stronger affection for imperishable, eternal things, we extinguish our inordinate love of ephemeral things. The stronger more powerful fire of God’s love extinguishes our excessive love of lesser things.

Jesus’ Resurrection-Ascension empowers us to live this new life of holy love that is contrary to all the opinions and rules of our materialistically oriented culture. Christ’s love is the wellspring of our love. Nothing urges on a person’s heart so much as love. Let us walk joyously among the difficulties of this passing life, since all is perfected and brought to perfection in the eternal beatitude of Heaven. Then Our Savior will glorify us with His splendor, for we loved all things, not for ourselves, but for the glory of God.

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

Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 21, 2017)

Today's readings remind us that to love Jesus is to keep His word and to think, feel and act in accordance with His word. St. Francis de Sales stresses that we learn to keep His word and live Jesus through a life of prayer and virtue.

Prayer places our mind in the brilliance of God's light and exposes our will to the warmth of God's love. Prayer is a stream of holy water that makes the plants of our good desires grow green and flourish. Each day set aside some time to meditate. If possible meditate early in the morning, when your mind is less distracted and fresher after a night's rest. To live Jesus, ask God to help you to pray from your heart.

When you meditate on Jesus' life, you will learn his ways and form your actions after the pattern of his life. Gradually accustom yourself to pass with ease and tranquility from prayer to your various duties even though your duties appear far different from the affections you received in prayer. The lawyer must be able to pass from prayer to pleading cases, the merchant to commerce, and the parent to the care of children. Out of our meditation experience must flow our daily actions, which involve a life of virtue.

Each person must practice in a special manner the virtues needed for the kind of life he or she is called to. In practicing the virtues we should prefer the one most conformable to our duties rather than the one most agreeable to our taste. As a rule comets seem bigger than stars because comets are closer to us. Hence, comets seem bigger to us. Similarly, we esteem certain virtues merely because they appear greater to us. Yet, we must choose the virtues needed to counteract our habitual failings and weaknesses so as to advance in holy love. For instance, if assaulted by anger practice gentleness, no matter how small this virtuous act may seem. True virtue has no limits. If we act out of reverence for God and in good faith, God will raise us up to heights that are truly great so that we may live Jesus even when we suffer for doing what is good.

Of course, the Good News in today’s Gospel is that we are not on our own – we are not left to our own devices – in our attempts to Live + Jesus. We have Christ’s promise of the help, the guidance and the companionship of the Holy Spirit!

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

Fifth Sunday of Easter (May 14, 2017)

Today Jesus implores us to believe in Him. He is the life-giving Truth who gives us strength to do great works. St. Francis de Sales notes:

There is nothing stronger than truth. To live in truth is to lead a life entirely conformed to simple faith. So great is the strength of faith that it fears nothing. People indeed have this strength of faith. Yet, because we do not always realize that this is in us, we often fear and become weak. The strength of faith consists partly in knowing its power that says we can do everything in God who strengthens us. Our strength of faith has us acknowledge the truth of our goodness and dignity as persons who are capable of being united to God, who is Truth. Our faith in being united to God sustains us amidst so many great weaknesses, and gives us strength to become authentic persons.

The aim of Christian authenticity is to transcend our own self-centered spirit and find our true spirit in Christ. Our Lord came into this world to give us life. Yet, as long as we live, we will have some self-seeking interests that deny us His life-giving way. Little by little, let us leave our affections of these lesser things and aspire to the happiness that God desires for us. The greater fervor we have in letting go of lesser loves, the more God’s love can do great works in us. The more we let go of our selfish desires and yield to God’s desire for us, the more our human spirit will be free from interior restlessness.

Bees are restless while they are without a queen. We too are restless until we give birth to Our Savior in our hearts. Let us remain very near to this sacred Savior who gathers us all around Himself so as to keep us always under His most holy protection. He is like the queen bee that cares so much for her swarm she never leaves her hive without being surrounded by all her little people. Great is the confidence that Our Redeemer wants us to place in His care for us. All who trust in Him always reap the fruits of this confidence. Imitating His truthful, life-giving way has us do great works indeed!

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

Fourth Sunday of Easter (May 7, 2017)

Today we experience Jesus as the Good Shepherd. He invites us to hear His voice so that we “might have life and have it in abundance.” St. Francis de Sales notes:

Our Good Shepherd gathers us all around Himself to keep us always under His protection. He tenderly nourishes us with His love. So loving is God’s hand as it handles our heart, bringing it strength without depriving us of freedom. Those who hear well His voice never lack holy inspirations in order to live life in abundance and to fulfill in a holy way their responsibilities.

To hear well we must listen. To hear the word of God, we must first be attentive to it by having an open heart. To listen to God’s word we must learn it well and carry out what we are taught. When manna fell from Heaven, the Hebrews rose each morning to collect it before sunrise. They ate and swallowed it so as to be nourished and strengthened. We too must digest well God’s word to make it part of our own being.

Thus, each day nourish yourself with a little spiritual reading that affirms God’s word and sends you on your way to your everlasting welfare. Let the word of God that you hear, speak to you throughout the day. Put that into practice and leave the rest to Our Savior, who nurtures your true needs. If we are to have life in abundance eternally, we must hear the voice of Our Shepherd, who guides us if only we let Him.

Since we easily mismanage ourselves, Our Shepherd wants to teach us how to have life in abundance through loving His voice rather than the voice of strangers, who easily lead us astray. True love is when we live in light of Our Savior’s love, rather than the selfish loves that the culture stresses. How happy we will be if we remain in the Shepherd’s presence, faithfully listening to and living His voice!

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

Third Sunday of Easter (April 30, 2017)

Today, two of Jesus’ disciples experience the dawning of faith in the risen Jesus as they meet Him on the road to Emmaus. St Francis de Sales notes:

Jesus, appearing as a pilgrim, encounters two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. He questions them about their conversation on His resurrection but they do not recognize Him. After they confess the doubt they are experiencing concerning His Resurrection, Jesus is able to instruct and enlighten them with His words. Then as Jesus breaks bread with them, they recognize their risen Savior and believe in Him.

It is a very good sign when a person listens willingly to the divine word. We are in continual communication with God, who never ceases to speak to our hearts through inspirations and sacred movements. God gives to each of us the inspirations needed to live, work, and preserve our life in the spirit.

When God gives us faith, God enters into our soul and pleasantly proposes what we must believe through inspiration. Yet our soul amid obscurity and darkness only gets a glimpse of those truths. It is like the earth when covered with fog. We can’t see the sun, but we see a little of the sun’s light. This obscure light of faith enters into our spirit, and step by step brings us to love the beauty of God’s truth in Jesus Christ, and believe in it.

Faith is the best friend of our human spirit. Faith assures us of God’s infinite goodness and thus gives us sufficient reason to love God with all our power. We must nurture well what we hear inwardly and outwardly of the divine word so that it strengthens us. Be devoted then to the word of God whether you hear it in familiar conversation with spiritual friends or in sermons. Be like the disciples. With joy, let the words of Our Savior nourish your heart as a precious hope-filled healing ointment.

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

Second Sunday of Easter (April 23, 2017)

Today as Jesus appears to His Disciples after His resurrection, we experience Him in His glorious immortal body. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Alas how the faith of Jesus’ Apostles is shaken after His crucifixion! Assembled in a room with closed doors, they are filled with fear. Then Jesus enters, stands in their midst, and greets them: Peace be with you. Showing them the signs and marks of the reconciliation of humanity with God, He says see my hands and my side. Why does He do this? To bolster their vacillating faith. 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 appears to his disciples to bring relief to their fear.

What joy and celebration the Apostles experience when hey see their Master in their midst. Jesus affirms their vacillating faith, assures their daunting hope and illumines their sacred love of God. Faith, hope, and holy love are necessary while we remain on earth. In heaven only holy love lives on. Especially with his Disciples during these days after his resurrection, and particularly in the apparition recounted today, Our Savior only does one thing: teach us that it is necessary to believe, to hope and to love.

He comes to bring safety in this place besieged of fear. 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. His power gently gives us power. A living faith knows its power. Vivified by holy love, a living faith serves God as a faithful servant. May we be rooted in faith, joyful hope and fervent in holy love, in which we will rejoice for all eternity.

(Adapted from Saint Francis de Sales Oeuvres: Sermons)

Easter Sunday (April 16, 2017)

Today we experience Jesus’ victory over death. What joy in knowing that God’s love is stronger than death! St. Francis de Sales notes:

The resurrection of Jesus adorns us with a new life of glory. The Heart of our gentle Savior was so aflame with desire for our salvation that He generously shared with us His glory. In His redemption, Our Savior’s love, stronger than death, overflows, melts our hearts, and transforms us. In coming into this world, He raised our nature higher than all the angels, and when transformed, He makes us so like Himself that we may even say we resemble God. In becoming one of us, Our Savior took on our likeness and gave us His.

Consider the nature God has given to you. It is the highest in this visible world. It is capable of eternal life and of being perfectly united to God. How do we nurture this union? We must begin by loving the divine resemblance of the Creator first in ourselves, then in others. When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb she didn’t recognize our Savior because He was dressed as a gardener. She didn’t see Him in the form that she wanted to see Him in. Isn’t it our Lord in gardener’s clothes that we encounter in the ordinary trials that we daily face? Let us open the door of our heart so our Savior may saturate our hearts with divine love. Then we can begin to serve the Gardener as He desires.

Our Savior wishes to plant in our garden many flowers, but to His liking. It is for us to cultivate our souls well, and faithfully attend to them. When spring comes it renews itself with flowers that bring us joy. A day will come when we too will rise to a life of eternal joy. Let us fervently aspire to this most delightful Paradise. Let us travel on to that blessed land that is promised to us, putting away all that leads us astray or delays us on this journey. Let us walk then in the garden of the risen Jesus. It is a day to rejoice!

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially the Introduction to the Devout Life).

Palm/Passion Sunday (April 9, 2017)

Today we walk with Jesus to Mount Calvary. We experience His self-giving love for us as He dies on the Cross. We too are called to imitate Him. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Contrary to the wisdom of the culture, true Christians who are seeking holiness, place all their perfection in the folly of the Cross. All the saints became wise in their folly to follow Jesus. They suffered contempt and humiliations that came from the culturally wise. Yet, they washed their feet and their hands in the sacred waters of forgiveness. We too must cleanse our works and affections so as to give glory to God.

Like the saints, we too must go to Mount Calvary with Our Lord and endure labors and persecutions. When exterior or interior troubles overtake you, take your good resolutions, and like a mother, who rescues her child from danger, put them in our Lord’s wounds, asking Him to protect both you and them. Wait there in the sacred shelter until the storm has passed. With God’s help you will make great progress. As Jesus shows us, to be able to sin is not power, but powerlessness. Even the persecutions of Jesus’ enemies were not powerful enough to destroy Our Savior’s incomparable solid and constant love for all. Such ought to be our love for one another: firm, ardent, solid and persevering.

When we consent to love divinely by letting go of our own willfulness, we are like migrating birds. We migrate from a winter world where one meets cold and icy hearts, to springtime where God’s love is the sun that gives warmth to the human heart. This Sacred Fire fills us with a self-giving love that is infinite. This love never says: “Enough is sufficient.” Our Savior loved us with a love so ardent and persevering, that death could not cool His love. Divine love is stronger than death. May we remain at the foot of Our Savior’s Cross so as to be nourished by His self-giving love that we are called to imitate.

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

Fifth Sunday of Lent (April 2, 2017)

Today Jesus, as He raises Lazarus from the dead, urges us to live and believe in Him. St. Francis de Sales expands on what it means to live in the Spirit of Jesus:

Jesus desires to give life to those who are dead to attest to God’s love for us. He speaks to those who are deadened by sin to affirm that all can hear the voice of God through the Spirit. The Spirit gently awakens us to a new human life. No matter how weakened our hearts may be by sin, the Spirit strengthens them with an invigorating and enlivening holy love. The Holy Spirit is like a fountain of living water that flows into every part of our hearts so as to spread its divine love there.

All our affections follow love. In love we desire, rejoice, hope and despair, fear, hate, avoid things, feel sad, grow angry, and exult. Love is the foundation of our life lived in the Spirit of Jesus. When divine love reigns in our hearts, it transforms all other affections we have chosen so that we may live, walk, and work in the Spirit of Jesus. The Spirit has no wish to enter our hearts without our permission. The Spirit will flood us with divine love only with our cooperation. So what must we do to nourish a spirit where the Spirit of Jesus can dwell? When reason guides our appetites, feelings and emotions, we are then living in the “spirit.” We live in the ‘flesh” when our appetites, feelings and emotions determine our actions. Let us unambiguously choose a life in the spirit.

If a sick man takes only part of his required medicine, it partly heals him. So also with divine love, to the extent we consent to embrace it, the Spirit floods us with sacred love. Thus we must not only receive God’s love at our heart’s door, but also into our heart’s consent. We must nurture this love guided by holy reason and wisdom. When steeped with the love of the Spirit, our hearts produce sacred actions that tend toward immortal glory. Let us consent to a new human life in the Spirit of Jesus who raises us to eternal glory.

(Adapted from the Treatise on the Love of God)

Fourth Sunday of Lent (March 26, 2017)

Today, Jesus reminds us that He is the world’s Light that produces goodness, justice and truth. We are urged to live in His Light. St. Francis de Sales notes:

The human mind finds its entire satisfaction in discovering and knowing the truth of things. The greater the truth, the greater the delight. Yet, our human condition makes us skillful in the pursuit of honors, riches and power. Experience teaches us daily that these useless loves make us prone to turn from the truth, rather than consider the truth of God’s love. God’s love has us think on the truth of a Paradise filled with eternal happiness.

Our hearts are refreshed and energized with holy love as we accept in faith the truth of the teachings of Jesus. It is a sign of interior conversion when God’ goodness gives us light to see our blindness. We come to know ourselves as children of the Light. When we remove the obstacles that stop us from loving God, we become capable of loving one another, as God desires us to love each other. A human flaw discovered is half healed, for we have received an insight that frees us of our blindness. Nonetheless, we must be patient at the sight of our faults. We must learn to acknowledge them calmly and without fuss. Nothing is more favorable to the growth of those “weeds” than our anxiety to get rid of them. Stay always on the road to holiness and these imperfections will grow weak.

Our Savior held us in his hand and guided our life when we did not want to be completely His. Since we now desire ardently only to do God’s will, don’t you think He desires to protect His little lambs that strayed from the gentle Shepherd? Faithfully focus, then, on nourishing God’s gift of conversion with awe and confidence. Let us make God’s grace effective in our lives by persevering in our holy resolutions and good desires. We then will live in the Light of Christ, producing truth, justice and goodness.

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

Third Sunday of Lent (March 19, 2017)

Today’s readings speak to the catechumens. Moses experiences a deeper faith in God’s Word. The Samaritan woman experiences a new life in Christ. St. Francis de Sales notes: There are two different lives represented in us: the “old life” and the “new life.” In the “old life” we live according to the faults and infirmities we have contracted through our human condition and culture. We are like the eagle that drags its old feathers along the ground, unable to take flight. We must let go of the old life, ‘burying it in the waters of holy baptism or penance’ if we wish to enter into the “new life.”

In the “new life” we live according to the love, favors, and will of our Savior. Our new life in Christ is salutary and redeems us. It is living, lively and life giving. It causes us to soar aloft for we are ‘alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord’. Our new life is like the eagle also. Having shed its old feathers, the eagle takes on new ones. Grown young again, it flies off in its new powers. Alas, some tender souls newly born out of penitential ashes may have difficulty soaring about in the open air of sacred love. While they are living, animated and winged by love, they may still have habits that their old life left in them. While we remain in this world, we can be bent either by divine love or useless loves.

When we choose to pursue useless loves, we become hesitant to approach Our Lord. This is normal. If we have offended a friend, we feel shame. But we must never live in shame. Our growth in divine love is such that an opening always remains for sudden assaults of other objects and apparent goods. We experience hesitancy in turning to God in our frailties so that we may cast ourselves even more into God’s merciful arms. Let us have the courage then to discard the old life. Let us grow in confidence to live a new life in Christ Jesus, who desires to deepen our love so that we may be eternally loving.

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

Second Sunday of Lent (March 12, 2017)

This Sunday we climb Mount Tabor with Jesus. Here, we get a glimpse of the glory of Jesus, whose divine love is always transforming us. St. Francis de Sales notes: Jesus, through his Transfiguration, shows us a little spark of the eternal bliss that is awaiting us. Our Lord is transfigured to make us desire eternal happiness in its entirety.

Our gentle Savior wishes to make use of his divine attractions and inspirations to draw us to His most pure love. When God gives us faith, God speaks to our mind through inspirations. These first perceptions of God’s love are poured into us through the Holy Spirit. In hearts that give their consent, God, little by little, gently strengthens the holy love that comes from these inspirations.

The disciples experienced such delight on Mount Tabor that they wanted to stay there. Let us also place all our affections on Our Savior and aspire to the happiness that God has prepared for us. God has given us all the necessary means to attain the happiness of eternal glory. We too are climbing Mount Tabor, since we are firmly resolved to serve Our Savior well, and to love His divine Goodness. Yet, as it often happens when we begin to grow in holiness, we find our affections are still entangled with useless loves. Don’t be upset. It is an opportunity to practice virtue. You have a great desire for holiness. Nourish this desire and let it grow each day. If you stumble, cry out to Our Lord who desires your love, and will hold you by the hand. Without growing weary, let us climb Mount Tabor toward the heavenly vision our Savior gave us.

Walk joyously, then, among the difficulties of this passing life. Embrace all the challenges that you encounter along the path that God has marked out for you, and be at peace. Transformation is the true mark of a divine visitation. May you always desire it!

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

First Sunday of Lent (March 5, 2017)

Today’s Gospel focuses on the temptations of Christ. St. Francis de Sales notes: Our Lord did not seek temptation. Yet, He allowed the Spirit to lead Him into the desert to be tempted to show us how we ought to resist it. No one who comes to serve God can avoid temptations. But no one should seek temptation. Still, if the Spirit leads us to a place where we encounter it, we must have confidence in the Spirit to strengthen us.

As soon as you are conscious of being tempted, be like children when they see a bear out in the country. They immediately run into the arms of their father or mother, or at least call to them for help and protection. Turn in the same way to God, for we must not trust in our own strength or courage to overcome evil. If the temptation continues, turn your thoughts to some good, commendable activities. When good thoughts enter and find a place in your heart, they will drive away evil thoughts.

No matter what temptations may come to you, and no matter what pleasure accompanies them, as long as you refuse consent, they do not offend God. Let the enemies of our salvation stand continually at our heart’s door so as to gain entrance. As long as this act of refusal remains in our heart, we may rest assured that divine love, the life of the soul, remains within us. Through continual prayer, the sacraments, and confidence in God, our strength will return and we will live a healthy and happy life.

Walk confidently, then, and remain in peace. Live well in gentleness, simplicity and humility. If you believe in God and the truth of God's word, nothing can harm you. Resolve not to sin, but do not be astonished or troubled when you do fall into sin. We must confide ourselves to the goodness of God who, for all that, does not love us less.

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

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 26, 2017)

In the midst of our daily concerns Jesus challenges us in today’s Gospel to do our level best to avoid being worried or anxious. 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. 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 (February 19, 2017)

In today’s Gospel Jesus calls us to a higher love. Jesus calls us to forgive and love our enemies! Clearly, this is no small task. St. Francis de Sales stresses that perhaps the best way to be instruments of God’s merciful, forgiving love is to first accept that same divine merciful and forgiving love ourselves.

Truly in no way must we lose heart. For even though we are weak, our weakness is not nearly as great as God’s mercy toward us, who desire to respond to God’s love. All of us are subject to some passion or changes and ups and downs. Do not worry about these feelings. Persevere in your call to holiness. In all good faith, you are trying to do all for God. It is God’s merciful love that constantly transforms us, so let us do what we can.

First thing in the morning, prepare your heart to be at peace. Then take great care throughout the day to frequently call your heart back to that peace. And as it were, take your heart in your hand. If you happen to do something that you regret, do not be astonished or upset. Acknowledge your failing. Quietly place yourself before God, and try to regain your gentle composure. Say to your soul: “There we have made a mistake, but let’s go on now and be more careful.” Each time you fall do the same. No matter how frail and weak you feel, remember that the divine Craftsman delights in putting up magnificent buildings with badly twisted pieces of wood that are good for nothing.

When you are inwardly peaceful, don’t miss an opportunity to perform as many acts of gentleness as you can—and as frequently as you can—no matter how small these acts may seem. For as our Lord says: “To the person who is faithful in little things, greater ones will be given.”

Walk very simply along the way our Lord shows you. Don’t worry. For if little chicks feel perfectly safe when they are under their mother’s wings, how secure should the children of God feel under God’s protection! God’s merciful love is eternal.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, esp. Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction, J. Power, W. Wright, Eds. P).

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 12, 2017)

Today the Responsorial Psalm tells us to “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord.” St. Francis de Sales elaborates on this intention:

How do we “follow the law of the LORD” 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 living as best we can in conformity with God’s ways. 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 follow the law of the Lord, 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 cannot 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 follow the law of the Lord, 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.)