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)

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 12, 2017)

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that those who experience the kingdom of heaven are wise and prudent. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Good Christians who live in a worldly culture must be prudent to improve their situation. They have to give great care to the needs of their families. By acting otherwise, they would be failing in their responsibilities. Yet, good Christians also trust in God’s wisdom more than in their own proficiency. They work faithfully, but let God take concern for their work. The things they do are insignificant when they consider only the dignity their work has in being willed by God’s will, arranged by Providence, and planned according to His wisdom. God’s wisdom is God’s love for us.

Now the problem with our human spirit is that it never follows the middle course, but usually runs to extremes. We can be too concerned about our personal welfare or not concerned enough. In always trying to follow a straight path it is only natural that at times we tilt to one extreme or the other. We can recover our balance by choosing God’s wisdom and prudence, for they unite us to God’s love by rejecting what is harmful to us.

Let us not let our worldly desires get in the way of God’s loving wisdom. To the extent that we reorder our lives through prayer and virtuous living, we find God’s love empowering us to balance our actions so that they are effective in living wisely. We must be like little children who with one hand hold fast to their father while with the other they gather blackberries from the hedges. So too if you handle the goods of this world with one hand, you must always hold fast with the other to the hand of your heavenly Father, whose loving wisdom gives us an abundance of means to enter the kingdom of heaven.

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

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (November 9, 2017)

Today we give special attention to the Lateran Basilica in Rome. This basilica is the official seat of the Holy Father as Bishop of Rome. The Roman emperor Constantine (274-337 AD), who converted to Christianity, built this church. To show our unity with Rome, we have celebrated the dedication of the Lateran Basilica since the 12th century.

Today’s readings stress how a church building must be dedicated to serving God. St. Francis de Sales notes:

While God is everywhere and in all time, why would God, at certain times, not want to have certain consecrated places, where Our Savior can be honored? It is the place where the Body of Christ is reserved. We are indeed able to say, “Truly the Lord is here.”

As the people of God, we are ‘living stones’ that make up the Church and become ‘God’s building’. We are temples of God, and the Spirit of God lives in us. Our good works are highly valued because they come from the Holy Spirit. Through divine love, the Spirit does these works in us, for us, and with us. We co-work with the Spirit. The works of good Christians are of such great worth that heaven is given in return for them.

Let us unceasingly work to prepare the Church on earth for its heavenly glory. The fervor of our sacred love for one another is the bond that unites us in the ‘House of God’. All that is not of God weakens the human spirit, and stands in the way of dedicating our hearts to God with the holiness of our lives. The Church is a house strewn with flowers of martyrs and holy people, invincible in their constancy and love.

Like these Christians who came before us, let us dedicate our hearts to serving God. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to flood our hearts with divine love, so that the Spirit may work in and through us, and make us ‘living stones’ of God’s work on earth.

(Adapted from Salesian writings, especially St. Francis de Sales, Oeuvre: Sermons.)

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 5, 2017)

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that we must be good and faithful servants who care for God’s law and people. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Our Lord desires only that we be totally open to God's will for us. When we embrace God’s will we consecrate our hearts to God’s love. We desire to serve God faithfully in both great and small tasks. Flies bother us not because of their strength, but because of their numbers. So it is that many trifling tasks give us more trouble than important ones. While we must be attentive to the tasks God has committed to our care, we must not be worried about them. Worry hinders our ability to reason and clouds our good judgment. So, without hurry, try to calmly do your tasks in order one after the other. Order carefully what is at hand today with a calm mind. Tomorrow you will order something else.

Anxiety is a desire to escape a present evil or acquire a hoped for good. When we do not succeed in the way we want, we grow anxious and impatient. Nothing impedes our progress in holy love more than anxiety. That is why we must take great care to have our heart pliant and open to God’s love. When we allow divine love to govern our tasks, we have no less love than when we pray. Our work and our rest joyously praise and serve God. Then our daily tasks gild as it were a work of holiness. For a single cup of water, our Savior has promised a sea of perfect bliss to his faithful.

We are open to God’s will when we perform with love our little daily acts of charity and accept all the little trials throughout the day. Such opportunities present themselves from moment to moment. To do little actions with a great purity of intention to please God is to do them excellently. Then our daily tasks increase divine love, for we live Jesus who teaches us how to be good and faithful servants of God.

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

All Souls (November 2, 2017)

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Souls. In today’s Gospel, we experience Jesus revealing that we are made for eternal life. St. Francis de Sales notes:

From the heights of heaven, Jesus Christ mercifully looks down upon you and graciously invites you there. He says, “Come, dear soul, and find everlasting rest in my bountiful arms. I have prepared undying delight for you in the abundance of my love.”

Consider the nobility and excellence of your soul. Our soul is spiritual and immortal. It resides in the whole body. It understands; it wills freely. It is capable of knowing, of reasoning, of judging, and of having virtue. In all this it resembles God, who placed you in this world to give you grace and glory. You ask, “How shall my soul, from now on, be wholly subject to God who has effected so many wonders and graces in me?”

As bees remain only among living flowers, so also our hearts find rest solely in God. God does not will that our heart find a place of rest. Just like the dove that went out from Noah’s ark only to return to him, so we must return to God, who has ordered us to acquire holy virtues. True virtue goes ever forward to God. Yet, we ought not be troubled at finding ourselves always beginners in the exercise of virtue. The greatest boon for our souls is that in this fleeting life, they can still grow without limit in their love of God.

Let us do everything to acquire holy virtues, but if we find our progress in holiness wanting, let us remain in peace, and diligently strive to do better in the future. It is for us to cultivate our souls well, and we must faithfully attend to them. But as for plentiful crops, that is for God to give. Go forward then to eternity. Put away anything that leads you astray or delays you on the journey. Remind your soul that it is worthy of eternity. Fill your soul with courage, and thank God who made you for so exalted an end.

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

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 29, 2017)

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us to love God and neighbor. These two commandments are the foundation of Christian Spirituality and permeate the writings of St. Francis de Sales:

To show us more vividly how ardent God’s desire is for our love, God demands that love from us in wonderful terms: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all of your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” We often think that God is so great and we are so little that we are incapable of loving God. So as not to be discouraged and turn away from God’s love, we are told that we are highly capable of loving God with all our strength, even after sin.

To love God above all else means we need to place God above all our idols, for our heart runs after many material things and spiritual consolations. As soon as we have obtained them, it seems that we have to do it all over again. Nothing can ever satisfy our heart. God wills that our heart not find a place of permanent rest in our idols. Then our heart is free to return to God from whom it comes. Bees can only rest upon flowers in bloom. So it is with our heart. Our heart finds rest solely in God’s love. Why then do we detain our heart’s desire for God’s love, and pursue other loves?

The Commandment to love God is higher than the Commandment to love the neighbor. But our nature offers greater resistance to the love of neighbor. Yet, when we trust in our Savior’s love, we can be more courageous in loving the image of God that is frequently veiled from us in our neighbor. We come to recognize the resemblance of the Creator in each other. For, the pure love of God is to love what is of God in all creatures. Let us then imitate Jesus, who taught us more through His works than His words, how to love our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as we do our own self.

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

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 22, 2017)

Today’s Gospel tells us to give to God what belongs to God and to give to the state what belongs to the state. St. Francis de Sales notes that in order to enjoy a just state we must obey those to whom God gives authority to govern. Yet he stresses more “what belongs to God” in light of “obedience of love”:

We have a natural desire to love God that tells us we belong to God. We are like deer marked with the initials of their owner who lets them free to roam in the forest. Yet, all know to whom the deer belong. We too are free, and our natural inclination to love God lets our friends and enemies know that we still belong to God, who desires us to be united through “obedience of love.”

This obedience of love consecrates our heart to God’s love and service. Jesus is the model. Allowing God to shape and form us, we place all our desires in God’s hands. Such obedience has no need to be roused up by threats or rewards, by commandment or law. It goes ahead of all such things when it gives itself to God. It begins to do with love all that leads to the union of our heart with God. It undertakes this journey in simplicity.

Sometimes our Lord urges us to run with full speed in the tasks required of us. Then God makes us stop in mid career, when strongest in our course. While we must do everything to bring God’s work to a successful end, we must peacefully embrace the outcome. It is our part to plant and water carefully, but the increase belongs only to God.

Nonetheless, as a tender mother leads her little children, and helps and holds them up as long as she sees a need for it, so also our Savior carries us and holds our hand in unbearable hardships. Let us then enjoy a serenity of heart by embracing this obedience of love that unites us to God to whom we belong.

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

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 15, 2017)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that those who respond to God’s abundance of graces will enter the Kingdom of God. St Francis de Sales expands on our response:

God’s supreme goodness poured forth an abundance of graces over the entire human family. God wills that all be saved through the knowledge of the truth that our Savior came to give us the fire of holy love, and desired that it be kindled in our hearts.

How ardently God desires our love! God does so by filling us with divine love. God, the sun of justice, sends abundant beams of inspirations upon us, warms our hearts with blessings, and touches each of us with the allurements of holy love. It is God’s inspiration that warms our will, helps and reinforces our will, and moves it so gently that the will desires to turn and glide freely toward the good found in God’s inspiration.

God cast into your heart holy inspirations, and you received them. You cooperated with God’s inspirations by giving your consent to them. The movement of your will freely followed upon that of heavenly grace. God continued to strengthen your heart by various movements, until at length God infused into it holy love as your living and perfect health. Yet, you were free to accept or reject this divine goodness.

It was said that a little fish had the power to stop a ship sailing over the high seas. Yet, this fish had no power to make the ship set sail. So it is with our free will. When the favorable wind of God’s grace fills our soul, we can freely choose to refuse or consent to it. Yet, when our spirit sails along and makes a prosperous voyage, it is not we who cause the wind of inspiration to come to us. It is God who gives movement to the ship, our heart. We merely receive and consent to the wind coming from heaven. Blessed are they who respond to God’s word in the depths of their hearts, the Kingdom of God is theirs!

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

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 8, 2017)

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God will be given to those who live the Lord’s way of truth and sacred love. St. Francis de Sales expands on this:

How happy we shall be if we love this divine Goodness that has prepared such favors and blessings for us! God became one of us so that we might become like God. Our Savior gave us His life not only to heal the sick, work miracles, and teach us what we must do to have a life-giving, healthy life. He also used his entire life choosing to shape His cross by enduring insults from those for whom He was doing so much good. He chose to give up His life for His people who rejected Him.

To live in our world, and live contrary to the cultural values that stress material things, selfish ambition and power is to go against the current of the river of this life. Yet, we can let go of these disordered passions by practicing interior gentleness, simplicity, humility, and above all, sacred love. To let go of all that is not of God in us is to strive to live an authentic human life of truth and holy love. As no human can live this way without God’s help, such a life is a continual going out of ourselves to embrace God’s goodness for us. The person who chooses God’s divine love lives beyond his or her selfish desires: They no longer live for themselves, but in and for their Savior.

Bees are first larvae but forsake this stage to become flying bees. We do the same. If we live a graced life, we live a new loftier human life than the life we lived before we accepted God’s love. Our new life is in God with Jesus Christ who gives it. This new life of heavenly love vivifies and animates our soul. With God’s help then, we are capable of using our life to walk in the way of this divine love. As God’s most dear children, we are able to generously produce the fruit of truth and holy love found in God’s Kingdom.

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