Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 26, 2018)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus urges us to remain faithful to Him and to live in the “spirit that gives life.” St. Francis de Sales notes:

Our Savior came to recreate humanity. When we live in the Spirit of Jesus, we transcend our ordinary life in order to live a loftier life. We are so filled with divine love that we are like the stars whose light is totally absorbed in the sunlight. God lives in us, and our only desire is to unite our will to God’s Will.

To progress in living in the Spirit of Jesus, we must first of all accept ourselves as being less than perfect. Don’t lose heart, be patient, wait while joyously carrying out your daily activities. Do everything you are taught in a spirit of gentleness and fidelity. Develop a spirit of compassion. After we have planted and watered, we must realize that it is for God to give the increase to the trees that are our good inclinations and habits. For this reason we must wait to obtain the fruits of our desires and labors from divine Providence.

If we are not progressing, as we desire, let us not be disturbed. In living a holy life our whole life is destined to be a practical testing. Let us remain at peace so that calmness always reigns in our hearts. It is up to us to cultivate our souls well, and we must faithfully attend to them. But as for a plentiful harvest, let us leave the care of that to our Lord. The laborer will never be blamed for not having a fine harvest, unless he or she did not carefully till and sow his or her field. Our unwavering dependence on God assures us that we are solidly planted where God wants us to be.

I have no doubt that our Savior is holding you by the hand. If you stumble, it is only to let you know that if you let go of His hand you would fall rather than stumble. For those of us who love and hope in God, our weakness is not as great as God’s mercy.

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

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 19, 2016)

Today’s readings tell us what we need to remain spiritually healthy on our journey through life: live wisely, address one another in spiritual song, try to understand the will of the Lord, be filled with the Spirit, praise God, give thanks, and feed on the eternal life-giving Bread of Christ. St. Francis de Sales notes that this advice aids us in living God’s Will for us:

Even the heart, where we wish to begin, must be instructed as to how it should model its outward conduct and bearing so that other people can see not only holy love but also great wisdom and prudence. Since God has stamped in us an infinite desire for truth and goodness, our soul wisely sees that nothing in this world gives it perfect contentment until it rests in the things of God.

While God’s overflowing love only gives, our frailty has need of God’s divine abundance. God takes great pleasure in giving us graces that lead to eternal life. Our hearts, no matter how frail and weak, are preserved from the corruption of sin when nourished by the incorruptible flesh and blood of the Son of God. Therefore, whoever turns to the sacrament of the Eucharist builds up their soul’s health.

Our Lord loves with a most tender love those who are so happy as to abandon themselves wholly to His care. They let themselves be governed by His divine Providence. They believe that God sends them only events and things that profit their spiritual well being. God wills that we live a life of truth and goodness and that we be saved. Therefore, when your distress is at its height, very gently put your heart into the hands of our Savior, who will help you be healthier. Let us then give our entire will to God who wisely instructs and enlightens our heart so that we as well as others come to know and live the will of God.

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

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 12, 2018)

In today’s first reading, St. Paul begs us to exchange our life of anger and malice for a life of kindness, compassion and forgiveness that mark us as the children of God. St. Francis de Sales tells us how to move from anger to kindness or gentleness:

One of the best exercises in gentleness that we can perform is with ourselves. To allow gentleness to reign in our hearts we must not fret over our own faults. While reason requires that we be displeased and sorry when we commit a fault, we must not keep our hearts drenched in bitterness and spitefulness that spring from our self-centered love, which is disturbed at seeing that it is imperfect. This constrains our ability to love.

All angry people think their anger just. Believe me a father’s gentle, loving rebuke has far greater power to correct a child than rage and passion. So too when we have committed some fault, if we rebuke our heart with more compassion for it than passion against it, repentance will penetrate more effectively. If we fall into anger let us say: “Alas my poor heart, here we are, fallen into the pit we were so firmly resolved to avoid! Well, we must get up again and leave it forever.” With great courage, confidence and trust in God’s mercy return to the path of virtue. When your mind is tranquil, build up a stock of gentleness. Speak all your words and do all your actions in the mildest way you can. Remain in peace. No one is so holy as not to be subject to imperfections.

However, we are called to practice the freedom of the children of God who know they are loved. They freely choose to follow the known will of their heavenly Father who nourishes them with the Bread of Life, his Son Jesus. We must walk on then, as brothers and sisters united in gentleness, compassion and forgiveness. God always loves us even in our weakest moments. We, too, must do likewise, first with ourselves than others.

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

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 5, 2018)

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus confronting the crowd with the purity of their intention in following Him. While the crowd seeks perishable food, He desires that they seek Him, the ‘Bread of Life’, ‘food that endures for eternal life’. St. Francis de Sales tells us how we can prepare ourselves to have the ‘Bread of Life’ come into our lives:

The greatest intimate union that Our Savior is able to share with us is His divine life. To prepare ourselves for this union we must first clear our memory of our worldly concerns, and all that is not lasting. After we make the decision to put aside our worldly-mindedness, we must adorn our memory with all the gifts that God has given us: creation, divine providence and redemption.

Next, we must purify our will by getting rid of our disordered affections, even for good things. We need to look at what and on whom we are fixing too ardently our affections. Little by little we must order these affections so that we can say to Our Lord with David: “You are the God of my heart and my eternal lot.” The excessive love and affection for children, parents, friends, possessions, and material things become obstacles for the Holy Spirit, who desires to flood our hearts with divine love that is not perishable.

Our Savior comes to us, so that we may be all in him. You have only to be thankful for the simplicity of faith that God has given you. Ask God to continue to give you this very precious and desirable gift. Nourish yourself the whole day long with holy thoughts on the infinite goodness of our God. Rest in the providence of God, for God will never fail to supply what is necessary for your wellbeing. Praise God in this life, and you will glorify God with all the blessed in Heaven.

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

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 29, 2018)

Today St. Paul urges us to love one another with humility, gentleness and patience. St. Francis de Sales refers to these virtues as the “little virtues”:

Let us try to acquire those little virtues such as patience, humility and gentleness toward our neighbor. Know that patience is the one virtue that gives greatest assurance of our reaching holiness. While we must have patience with others, we must also have it with ourselves. Patience helps us to possess our own soul so that we may do the will of God, the source of our greatest happiness. Those who want to aspire to the pure love of God need to be more patient with themselves than with others.

Patience with ourselves leads to humility. Deep interior humility begins with recognizing the multitude of blessings God has bestowed on us. We will enjoy and rejoice in them because we possess them, but we will glorify God because God alone is the author of them. We must use our gifts and talents in the service of God and our neighbors. Those who are humble are all the more courageous because they place their whole trust in God. Turn to our Lord who has given His life for you. Humility perfects us with respect to God and gentleness with respect to our neighbor.

Little by little bring your quick mind around to being patient, gentle, humble, and affable in the midst of pettiness, childishness and the imperfections of others who are weak. These little virtues, ones to be exercised in our daily life, in our household, our place of work, with friends and with strangers, any time and all the time—these are the virtues for us. God, who is infinitely kind, is satisfied with the small achievements of our heart. When we nurture our heart with virtue and good projects that allow us to serve God and our neighbor, our heart performs marvels.

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

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 22, 2018)

Today’s readings remind us that our God is a God of compassion. St. Francis de Sales frequently stresses God’s loving care for us especially in adversity:

Our God is the God of the human heart. When our heart is in danger God alone can save and protect it. Just as God is the maker of all things, so also God takes care of all things, and sustains and embraces the whole of creation. Consequently, God wishes to make all things good and beautiful. Especially then, let us believe that God watches over our affairs, even in adversity. We do not always know the reason for our trials but we must admit that in our own affairs, we are sometimes the source of our afflictions.

While we must be careful and attentive to matters that God has committed to our care, we must not be anxious, uneasy or rash about them. Worry disturbs reason and good judgment, and prevents us from doing well the very things we are worried about. Gentle rains make open fields fruitful in grain, but floods ruin fields and meadows.

Thus, undertake all your affairs with a calm mind and do them in order one after the other. If you try to do them all at once or without order, your spirit will be so overcharged and depressed that it will likely sink under the burden without achieving anything. In all your affairs strive quietly to cooperate with God’s plan for you.

God gives us a rich abundance of means proper for our salvation. By a wondrous infusion of God’s grace into our hearts, the Spirit makes our works become God’s work. Our good works like a little grain of mustard seed have vigor and virtue to produce a great good because they proceed from the Spirit of Jesus. You may be sure that if you have firm trust in God’s compassionate love and care for you, the success that comes to your work will always be that which is most useful for you and the believing community.

(Adapted from St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God, Introduction to a Devout Life).

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 15, 2018)

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus giving authority to carry out His work to the Apostles, and how their faith in Him leads to good works. St. Francis de Sales notes:

A living faith produces many great and good works. However, we see that strong and healthy persons must often be stirred up to put their strength and skill to proper use. The hand must lead them to their work. While a soul that is heavily burdened has the power to believe and hope in God’s love, it does not have the strength to see clearly if it does. Its distress has such a hold on it. Yet, our Savior never lets us go out on the road alone. The Spirit of Jesus is always with us, urging us on and appealing to our hearts and driving them forward so as to use well the holy love He places in us.

A tender mother leads along her little child, helps him and holds him up as long as she sees a need for it. Now she lets him take a few steps by himself in places that are very level and not too difficult. Then she takes him by the hand and holds him steady. At times she takes him up in her arms and carries him. It is also the way that our Savior takes constant care to lead forward His children. He enables them to walk before Him. He holds their hand in difficulties. Therefore when all things fail us, when our distress is at its height, our abandonment into the hands of our Savior cannot fail us. He will carry us along in hardships that He sees as being unbearable to us, if we let Him.

In many ways, God’s care preserves those who have faith in the teachings of Jesus. Our entire good consists not only in accepting the truth of God’s word, but also in persevering in it. Hence, we ought to have great courage and trust that God will assist us in all that we do for God’s glory. Let us rouse our faith. Give it life in believing fully in God’s love and care for us. Then all our works will bear fruit like those of the Apostles.

(St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God; Sermons of St. Francis de Sales, L. Fiorelli, Ed.).

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 8, 2018)

In today’s Gospel we see Jesus experiencing rejection and being amazed at the lack of faith people have in Him. St. Francis de Sales speaks of faith as consenting to God’s love:

There is often a long period between our first awakening from unbelief and the final resolution we make to believe fully in God’s love and care for us. There are many difficulties that occur between the first movement of faith in the God of Jesus Christ and our full consent to believe. St. Augustine delayed for some time before consenting fully to the teachings of Jesus Christ. But St. Ambrose said to him: “If you do not believe, pray in order that you may believe.”

During this period we pray like St. Augustine who cried out: “Lord, I do believe, but help me in my unbelief.” That is to say, “While I am no longer in the dark night of unfaithfulness, for the beams of your faith light up the horizon of my soul, I still do not believe as I ought. The knowledge that comes to me through faith is still weak and mingles with unbelief.”

God continually draws our hearts until we find the teachings of Jesus pleasing. Till we reach this stage, God’s goodness never fails to reach us through inspirations. However, we are free to consent to God’s loving appeals or reject them. Mighty rivers, coming upon open plains, spread out and take up ever more space. Similarly, if we do not reject God’s holy love, it goes on expanding with continual increase in us until we are entirely converted. Holy love guides us through our journey of forgiveness. It consoles us, animates and strengthens us in our difficulties. Hence faith includes a first start of love that the heart feels for the things of God. Let us not reject this gift of faith.

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

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 1, 2018)

Today’s readings remind us of God’s desire for human wholeness as God forms us, not for death, but for eternal life through faith in Christ. Through this life-giving faith, God calls us to share the abundance of our gifts with those in need. Francis speaks similarly:

God’s desire that we be made whole has been shown to us in so many ways. God shows us that we are made for eternal happiness: first by creation and then by Jesus’ coming. In becoming human, He has taken on our likeness and given us His. Is it any wonder that this beloved Lover of us wants us to love one another as He has loved us?

Nothing urges on a man’s heart so much as love. Our Lord suffered death with so much love in order that the whole human family may become divine. The self-giving love of Jesus presses down on us in a special way. He desires that we live in Him. To God’s glory then we must bring home all our works, actions, thoughts and affections.

God wills for all humans to be eternally happy. Our will must correspond to God’s will. Thus we must will our own wholeness just as God wills it. To the extent that God gives us the means to make ourselves whole, we must accept all the graces God has prepared for us and offers to us. How earnestly we ought to summon up our courage to live according to what we are. We ought to imitate as perfectly as possible Him who came into this world to teach us what we need to do to preserve in ourselves this beauty and divine resemblance which He has so completely repaired and embellished in us! It is this divine resemblance that we ought to recognize and help to preserve in our neighbor who is also God’s child. Let us walk then in the way of love as God’s most dear children.

(L. Fiorelli, ed. Sermons; St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God).

Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24, 2018)

Today we celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist. He was noted for his zeal in preparing the way of the Lord. Here are some thoughts of St. Francis de Sales on the value of zeal:

True zeal makes use of anger to help it correct an evil. At the same time, true zeal always honors and respects the dignity of the person being corrected. It never turns the hatred of evil into hatred of the evildoer. Nor does zeal turn charity into raging cruelty.

Anger is used by grace to put into effect the work we are called to do. Yet, if anger makes itself master, it overthrows the authority of reason, and it constricts zeal tempered by holy love. Like a fire that in an instant consumes a solid building, excessive anger destroys the zeal coming from a very good soul. Properly used anger is an aid given by our nature to move us to reason, as well as reflect and make good judgments.

Great saints, who have regulated their emotions through prayer and practicing virtue, can also direct their anger at will and put it out or draw it back as seems good to them. Such was St. John the Baptist who through his zeal suffered a martyrdom of love of God. For the most of us, however, our horse is not so well disciplined that we can make it gallop or come to a stop at will. Thus, we must take care not to needlessly stir up anger within ourselves.

In seeking to develop our spiritual well being, we must not love anything too much, not even virtues, which we can sometimes lose by our misplaced zeal. All God wants is our heart. Zeal is simply ardent love. Yet zeal can be a good or evil love. Since zeal is ardent, impetuous love, it requires prudent direction. True zeal is a child of charity and thus is patient, kind, without hatred and rejoices in the truth. Let us calm our impetuous ardor for truth and goodness by inflaming our zeal with sacred love.

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

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (June 17, 2018)

Today’s readings help us to keep things in perspective. Make no mistake – we are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. While we are charged with a tremendous duty - advancing the kingdom of God - the most effective means to accomplishing this great calling is to pay attention to detail – that is, buy doing little things with great love.

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales made the following exhortation:

“Put your hand to strong things, by training yourself in prayer and meditation, receiving the sacraments, bringing souls to love God, infusing good inspirations into their hearts and, in fine, by performing big, important works according to your vocation. But never forget…those little, humble virtues that grow like flowers at the foot of the cross: helping the poor, visiting the sick, taking care of your family, with all the responsibilities that accompany such things and with all the useful diligence which prompts you to not stand idle.”

“Great opportunities to serve God rarely present themselves, but little ones are frequent…you will profit greatly in God’s sight by doing all these things because God wishes you to do the.” (III, 35, pp. 214 – 215)

God gives us a rich abundance of means proper for our salvation. By a wondrous infusion of God’s grace into our minds, hearts, attitudes and actions the Spirit makes our works become God’s work. Our good works - like planting miniscule mustard seeds here or like scattering small seeds there - have vigor and virtue enough to produce a great good because they proceed from the Spirit of Jesus.

As it turns out, little things do really mean a lot in the eyes of God. In fact, they mean everything!

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

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (June 10, 2018)

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales does not equate happiness with self-centeredness, self-absorption or self-obsession. However, Francis does equate happiness with what he calls self-possession. The Gentleman Saint writes:

“It is man’s great happiness to possess his own soul, and the more perfect our patience the more completely do we possess our souls.”

What happiness it is to know and accept yourself for who you are in the sight of God! What delight it is to be comfortable – without being complacent – in your own skin! What joy it is to be essentially at home – to be at peace – with the person that God made you to be! Why, it’s the next best thing to Paradise.

Tragically enough, the ability to be at home with ourselves became the first – and the most fundamental – casualty of The Fall. No sooner had Adam and Eve eaten from the fruit of the tree of knowledge than their natural state – their nakedness, their transparency – became a reproach. They were embarrassed – they were ashamed – of who they were. Literally, they were no longer comfortable in their own skin. Suddenly sullied by self-alienation and self-loathing, Paradise was lost…and life became a burden.

As we know all-too-well, so much of the misery, sin and sadness that plagues the human family to this very day comes from either (1) the inability to be who we really are, or (2) the fruitless attempt to become someone we’re not.

In his Treatise on the Love of God, Francis de Sales exclaimed:

“God has signified to us in so many ways and by so many means that he wills all of us to be saved that no one should be ignorant of this fact. For this purpose through Creation God made us ‘in his own image and likeness’, whereas through the Incarnation God has made himself in our image and likeness.”

The redemptive grace of the Incarnation makes it possible for us to experience once again the happiness that comes from possessing our own souls. The restorative power of the Incarnation makes it possible for us to experience once again the joy of being essentially at home with who we are in the sight of God. Wounded as we are by sin, our practice of devotion – our quest to possess our own souls – no longer comes effortlessly as it originally did in Paradise. It requires perpetual practice; it demands tremendous patience.

That said, God not only promises us the joy and peace born of this heavenly self-acceptance; God also shows us how to achieve it on this earth in the person of his Son.

Jesus embodies the power of self-possession. Jesus exhibits the joy of self-acceptance. Jesus exudes the peace of self-direction. Who better than Jesus shows us what it looks like to be comfortable in one’s own skin? Who better than Jesus demonstrates what it looks like to invite - and to empower - others to do the same?

Not unlike what he did with our first parents, The Evil One hits us where it hurts. Sometimes Satan tempts us to believe that we can’t possibly be happy by being who we are. Other times, Satan tempts us to believe that we’d be happier if we were someone else – perhaps anybody else – other than who we are. In very deep, dark places within our minds and hearts, each and every one of us is tempted to ask this question:

Sinner as I am, weak as I am, wounded as I am and imperfect as I am, why should I believe that God wants me to be comfortable – at home - in my own skin?

Body and Blood of Christ (June 3, 2018)

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus telling His disciples of His real presence in the Eucharist. St. Francis de Sales notes that the Eucharist strengthens us and the community.

The first Christians had but one heart and one soul and preserved this union among themselves. What built that great union among them was none other than the celebration of the Eucharist. Later on, when reception of the Eucharist was discontinued or rarely received, holy love became cold among Christians, and totally lost both its strength and its alluring delight. In the Eucharist, God is at once both Gift and Giver who strengthens each of us in community.

The height of Our Savior’s self-giving love for us is the Eucharist. Infinite happiness is pledged to us in the Eucharist, the perpetual feast of divine grace. In the Eucharist, God becomes our food. How wonderful to be nourished on the Bread from heaven that Our Lord gave to us.

The more we are united to God, the more we are united to one another. Each time we receive Communion, our union will become more perfect. For being united with Our Lord, we shall also remain united to one another. That is why the holy reception of this heavenly Bread and of this sacrament is called Communion, that is, common union.

The Eucharist is the real and spiritual presence of Christ. When we receive the Eucharist, our Lord carries us and does deeds in us altogether performed by Him. In the Eucharist, all He asks is our co-operation in the practice of virtue and good works. Our Savior gives Himself totally to us in the Divine Sacrament. Ought we not to give ourselves totally to Him who advances, strengthens and nourishes us with His life-giving love in the Eucharist?

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

Trinity Sunday (May 27, 2018)

Today, Trinity Sunday, the Church celebrates the three Divine Persons in God. St. Francis de Sales states that we, as a community, are called to a similar union of pure love:

The pure love of the Trinity overflows into the spiritual health of the whole human family. The Holy Spirit, in us during this mortal life, leads us to Christ, who is the way to the Father. It is the Trinity that has brought about the mystery of God becoming human. Our Savior has taken on our likeness and given us His. Only in and through Christ are we able to participate in the Trinity’s union of pure love.

Our spiritual health is founded on the Incarnation. Our Savior was too great a lover of truth and authentic goodness to be carried away by greed, ambition, and honors that harm us. Our Lord calls us to love one another and be united together as purely and perfectly as possible. It is only God’s image and likeness that we ought to love and honor in all. St. Paul recommends: “Beloved, walk the way of love for one another as very dear children of God.” Paul adds that he wants us to walk with giant strides as Jesus did: loving and forgiving all. We are truly God’s children when we love one another dearly in all goodness of heart.

The union of the three Divine Persons is really impossible to imagine. It would be presumptuous to hope to reach an identical union of love as found in the three Divine Persons. Yet we must be willing to approach this union in a manner consistent with our human condition. We are all called to become holy, but we must rely primarily on God’s grace, not our own human effort, to love divinely. Just as the love of the three Divine Persons overflows into the whole human family, may our love resemble the Trinity, and overflow into the hearts of those we encounter each day.

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

Pentecost Sunday (May 20, 2018)

On the Feast of Pentecost, we experience the Spirit of truth empowering the disciples of Jesus to be authentic witnesses to Jesus’ words and deeds. St. Francis de Sales notes:

The holy love that the Spirit pours into our hearts is infinitely more than all other forms of love. The love the Spirit gives us redeems us and gives us eternal life. On the Feast of Pentecost the Holy Spirit reinvigorated and gave strength and virtue to Jesus’ disciples to carry on our Savior’s work through forming the true Church.

You too exercise an apostolic function by witnessing to your way of life as a Christian. The love of the Spirit empowers you to do our Lord’s work. Our works that flow from the Spirit’s love have vigor and authenticity, and grow like the mustard seed. This Divine Spirit does not hesitate to dwell in us. Hence we must make room in our hearts for the Holy Spirit. Now what must we do to make room? God asks first for our heart. The Spirit, who dwells in us, desires to open our hearts to divine goodness. The Spirit of Jesus wants us to experience the fruits of divine love. The Spirit does this by giving us gifts and blessings inseparable from holy love that leads us to eternal happiness.

Our desire, to attain the fullness of a holy life, is a spark of the divine flame and the work of the Spirit. If we wish to sail on the little boat of the Church amidst the bitter waters of this culture our Savior will glide us to eternal happiness. He makes every effort to encourage you take the oar in hand and sail. He has promised that if you take the trouble to row your boat, He will lead you to another place full of life. To the extent you allow the Spirit to enlarge your heart, the Spirit will increase your ability to love divinely. Happy, indeed, are those who decide to serve God even only a little! God will never let them remain barren and unfruitful!. Who, then, can resist the empowering love of the Spirit?

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

Seventh Sunday of Easter (May 13, 2018)

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus praying that his disciples may be made one, and “consecrated to the truth.” St. Francis de Sales notes:

How good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity! When two or three or more souls share with one another their sacred love and holy affections, and establish a single spirit, they experience true friendship. Friendships that are sacred, speak truthfully, and praise only virtue and God’s love.

For those of us who live in the world and desire to embrace true virtue it is necessary to unite together in holy friendship. The higher the virtue you share with each other, the more perfect your friendship will be. You encourage, assist, and lead one another to perform good deeds. People walking on level ground do not have to lend one another a hand. Yet, those who are on a rugged road hold on to one another in order to walk more safely. The only connection between them is that of sacred love, which St. Paul calls: “the bond of perfection.” This bond of love grows in time and takes on new power. It gives us ease and true liberty. Its force is gentle, yet so solid.

It is the presence of God’s love in us that leads to an authentic love of self, and subsequently, to love others the way God desires us to love them. We cherish all creatures for love of God. To love our neighbor in holiness is to love God in them. Thus, we must not neglect to nurture the friendships with our parents, kindred, neighbors and others. Yet, we live in a world where everyone is not of the same mind and heart. Hence we need particular friendships to support us in the many dangerous places we must pass through. True friendships are sacred because they come from God, lead to God, and will endure eternally in God. How good it is to unite our hearts here on earth, as we will do in eternity!

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

Seventh Sunday of Easter (May 13, 2018)

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus praying that his disciples may be made one, and “consecrated to the truth.” St. Francis de Sales notes:

How good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity! When two or three or more souls share with one another their sacred love and holy affections, and establish a single spirit, they experience true friendship. Friendships that are sacred, speak truthfully, and praise only virtue and God’s love.

For those of us who live in the world and desire to embrace true virtue it is necessary to unite together in holy friendship. The higher the virtue you share with each other, the more perfect your friendship will be. You encourage, assist, and lead one another to perform good deeds. People walking on level ground do not have to lend one another a hand. Yet, those who are on a rugged road hold on to one another in order to walk more safely. The only connection between them is that of sacred love, which St. Paul calls: “the bond of perfection.” This bond of love grows in time and takes on new power. It gives us ease and true liberty. Its force is gentle, yet so solid.

It is the presence of God’s love in us that leads to an authentic love of self, and subsequently, to love others the way God desires us to love them. We cherish all creatures for love of God. To love our neighbor in holiness is to love God in them. Thus, we must not neglect to nurture the friendships with our parents, kindred, neighbors and others. Yet, we live in a world where everyone is not of the same mind and heart. Hence we need particular friendships to support us in the many dangerous places we must pass through. True friendships are sacred because they come from God, lead to God, and will endure eternally in God. How good it is to unite our hearts here on earth, as we will do in eternity!

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

Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 6, 2018)

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus telling us to remain in His love. By remaining in His love we will learn to love one another. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Love causes us to be like what we love. We are given a natural inclination to love God. Moreover, we are commanded to love God and the things of God above all other things. Alas, we are like the eagles that have greater power of sight than flight. While we see how worthy of love God’s goodness is, we have less strength of will for loving it.

Yet, this human heart of ours is capable of producing certain beginnings of love for God. But to advance to the true maturity of love, that is, to love God and all the things of God, we need divine love. Through God’s goodness our spirits are raised up and united with God’s love. Overflowing with divine love, we come back to share this pure love with others.

To love God without loving the neighbor is impossible. God has chosen us as children and thus we must show that we are truly God’s children by our loving one another dearly in all goodness of heart. Our Savior, in coming into the world, raised our nature higher than all the angels and has made us so like Himself, that we can say that we resemble God perfectly. In becoming human, Our Lord has taken on our likeness and has given us His. Oh, how earnestly we ought to summon up our courage to live according to what we are! Imitate as perfectly as possible Him, who came into this world to teach us what we need to do: to preserve in ourselves this divine resemblance.

It is this divine resemblance only that we are called to love and honor in our neighbor. Is this not a powerful motive to have for loving each other? All nations, which have a union of hearts that reflect the image of God, will surely be filled with joy.

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

Fifth Sunday of Easter (April 29, 2018)

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that He is the true vine and we the branches. Thus, we must remain in Him if we wish to bear much fruit. St. Francis de Sales state that we too must live Jesus in order to advance the kingdom of God in our hearts and in the world:

How happy you will be if in the midst of the world you keep Jesus Christ in your heart! I beg Him to live and rule there eternally. Confidently and sincerely keep up this holy pursuit of living Jesus, for all true peace finds its source in His way of truth.

If Our Savior is to reign in our heart so that we may bear much fruit, then there are some things we must observe. The first thing in the morning is to prepare your heart to be at peace. Ask for God’s grace, and offer to God all the good you will do during the day. In this way you will be prepared to bear with peace and serenity all the pain and suffering you will encounter during the day. Then take great care throughout the day to frequently call your heart back to that peace. At every moment give the very heart of your heart to our Savior. You will see that as this divine Lover makes a home in the center of your heart, the world with its emptiness and meaninglessness will leave.

This is a huge undertaking but a generous person can do it with the help of the Creator. Yet it is impossible to have your soul so totally in hand right away. We have to put up with others, but first with ourselves. Good heavens! What makes us think we can enter into a state of interior rest without going through setbacks and struggles? If you ask God for patience, and strive to practice it faithfully, God will give it to you. But most of all don’t lose heart. Be patient. Meanwhile, do all you can to develop a spirit of compassion. What matters most is that we do faithfully all the things we need to do to advance the kingdom of God in our hearts. Then we can bear much fruit in the world.

(Adapted from Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal…. J. Power & W. Wright, Ed; Spiritual Directory, L. Fiorelli, Ed.)

Fourth Sunday of Easter (April 22, 2018)

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus describing Himself as the Good Shepherd and what this means. St. Francis de Sales reminds us that we are all shepherds who must tend our sheep:

Our Good Shepherd gathers us all around Himself in order to keep us always under His most holy protection. But we too are shepherds and have a flock to attend. Our flock is our desires, feelings and emotions. We must keep watch over this spiritual flock, by learning from Jesus how to govern ourselves.

Since we easily mismanage ourselves, Our Good Shepherd wants us to give up such self-management except to consent and follow His Will. He desires what is best for our wholeness. Following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, we learn how to direct, to govern and put our desires, feelings and emotions in order, so that they conform to God’s goodness. What could be more pleasing to this Divine Shepherd than to bring to Him our loves so that He may purify them? Holy love is our first desire. True love is accomplished when we live no more according to our own willful desires, but according to the inspirations and promptings of Our Savior.

Our Shepherd tenderly nourishes us with an incomprehensible love. He died in love, by love, and for love. To bring us life, He suffered death. What remains for us? We ought to consecrate every moment of our life to the divine love of our Savior’s death that opened us up to eternal life. That is, we must bring to fruition all our works, all our actions and all our thoughts so that God’s glory may shine through them. How happy we will be if we remain in the Shepherd’s presence, faithfully bringing His reign in our midst!

(Adapted from St. Francis de Sales, Sermons, L. Fiorelli, Ed.; St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God).