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.)

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 5, 2017)

Today’s readings remind us that we are the light of the world. For St. Francis de Sales, this means sharing our life in Christ with others in order to glorify God:

Just as Jesus enlightened the world with the radiance of His life, we too must do likewise with our lives. You ought to feel honored in being chosen for this mission. Consider the nobility and excellence of being human. You are endowed with the gift of understanding that knows this visible world and that there is a God, most good and most indescribable. You know there is an eternity. You also know what manner is best designed for living well in this visible world so that you may enjoy God for all eternity. Moreover, you have a most noble will that can love God and your neighbor. Look into your heart and behold how generous it is. God’s love in you calls you to love others.

We can never love our neighbor too much, provided God’s love holds first place in our heart. The image of God in all of us is our most powerful motive for loving each other. Loving our neighbor gives us the opportunity to do much for God. Do not say I am not virtuous enough or I have no talent to speak well. That does not matter. Go ahead. Do what you have to do. God will tell you what to say and do. If ever you have fear, say to yourself: “The Lord will provide.” Our heart finds rest solely in God, who cares for us.

Do not worry that you are not producing the fruit you intend. You will only be asked if you have faithfully cultivated well these barren and arid lands. Others will have a more abundant life by the example you give them. Go, hence, in simplicity and filled with courage. Our Savior will be with you always as long as you work for God’s glory. Just as the stars are hidden in the sunlight, so ‘Our life is hidden in Christ with God.’ Walking in God’s Light, and sharing our abundance of God’s love in us, we are light of the world.

(Adapted from the writings of Saint Francis de Sales)

Presentation of the Lord (February 2, 2017)

In today’s Gospel we experience Mary and Joseph presenting the infant Jesus, the son of God, in the Temple. St. Francis de Sales notes:

The Eastern Rite calls this feast the “Presentation of the Son of God in the Temple,” because on this day Mary and Joseph went up to Jerusalem to present the only Son of God in the Temple of God. On this occasion, we encounter different types of persons found in the Church of God coming together. In the Temple, with Mary and Joseph, we find Simeon and Anna, a prophetess and widow, both good and faithful servants, and Our Lord, who is God and man. (Sermons 2:172-3)

On this day the Son of God is offered to His Father. This offering is beautifully represented with lighted candles to remind us of when Mary entered the Temple carrying in her arms her Son, who is Light of the world. Today when Christians carry lighted candles in their hands it is to testify that if it were possible they would carry Our Lord in their arms as did Mary and Simeon. (Sermons 2:173)

The glorious St. Simeon was very happy to carry the Savior in his arms. We can bear Him on our shoulders if we willingly endure and suffer with a good heart all that it pleases God to send us, however difficult and heavy be the charge and burden that God places upon our shoulder, like some saints. (Sermons, 2:187)

We can carry Our Savior in our arms as St. Simeon and Mary did. We do this when we endure with love the labors and pains He sends us, that is to say, when the love that we bear makes us find God’s yoke easy and pleasing, so that we love these pains and labors, gather sweetness in the midst of bitterness. If we carry Him this way, He will, without doubt, Himself carry us. (Sermons, 2:188)

Oh, how happy we shall be if we allow ourselves to be carried by this dear Lord, and if we carry Him on our shoulders and in our arms, abandoning ourselves entirely to Him and letting Him lead us where He pleases! Leave yourselves, then, in the arms of His Divine Providence, submitting yourselves in what concerns His Law and disposing yourselves to endure all the pains and suffering that may come to you in this life. When you have done this you will find that the hardest and most painful things will be rendered sweet and agreeable to you, and you will share the happiness experienced by St. Simeon and Anna, the prophetess. Try only to imitate them in this life and you will bless the Savior and be blessed by Him in Heaven, together with these glorious saints. (Sermons, 2:188)

In imitating Simeon and Anna, we will be able to see beyond the vicissitudes of our present life and experience the reign of God in our midst.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 29, 2017)

The Gospel for today focuses on how to be happy by living the beatitudes. If one takes apart the word “beatitudes,” one sees the expression “Be-attitudes.” In other words, beatitude is a positive attitude that permeates our whole interior life in such a way that it comes out in our actions by praising and thanking God. When we are blessed we don’t have all the material comforts we want but all that we need. In our present condition there is joy and peace. Everything that comes into our life advances our love of life and God. The Beatitudes is God’s plan for us right now. Beatitude is a spiritual attitude of recognizing that all that we have is pure gift. Beatitude is the attitude of a loving person who relies totally on God, not worrying about self-interest. People who possess the gift of beatitude entrust all their interests to God.

St. Francis de Sales speaks of beatitude as a gift of love that makes us moldable and willing to listen to God’s commandments, counsels and inspirations. However, he adds that while Our Lord taught us “Blessed are the poor,” we eagerly desire and seek to be so wealthy as to lack nothing. Jesus adds, “Blessed are the meek” but each of us wants to lord it over others. “Blessed are those persecuted for justice sake,” yet we want to be avenged and suffer nothing, for fear of being despised. “Blessed are they who mourn,” nonetheless everybody wants to rejoice in this mortal and passing life as if here were found our true happiness.

The wisdom of the Beatitudes is wholly contrary to that of the worldly wise who cannot embrace this wisdom. Let us submit ourselves to the things that are taught us concerning God’s will for our perfection and spiritual advancement. Let us place ourselves out of danger of being lost in worldly things by persevering in the truth, in living according to it, and making ourselves capable of understanding it. They who keep the Word of God are declared blessed by Our Lord.

(Adapted from L. Fiorelli, ed., Sermons, V.3).

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 22, 2017)

In today’s Gospel Jesus calls several fishermen to come and follow Him. St. Francis de Sales comments on their calling, and also ours, to follow Our Savior:

When Our Savior tells His Apostles that He has chosen them, He makes no exception. Even Judas was called although he misused his freedom, and rejected the means God gave him. We can be sure that when God calls someone to embrace Christianity, to be single or married, to be a religious, priest or bishop, God gives each person all the necessary help to attain sanctity in his or her vocation.

Yet, even after their conversion, some of the Apostles were subject to some imperfections, like St. Peter who failed miserably by denying the Lord. Likewise, we see that it is impossible to overcome in a day all the bad habits acquired by caring poorly for our spiritual health. Nonetheless, Our Savior wants you to serve Him just as you are, both by prayer and by actions suited to your state and stage in life. Once you are convinced that you must serve God where you are, and go on doing what you are doing, have a tender affection for your state in life. Be of good heart; cultivate your vineyard with divine love.

As you set out on your daily tasks, place yourself in the hands of God, who desires to help you succeed in your affairs. Believe that God will do what is best for you, provided that, on your part, you employ a gentle diligence. Do not be surprised if the fruits of your labor are slow to appear. If you do the work of God patiently, your labor will not be in vain. Our Lord, who makes houses for the snails and turtles, will lead you well; let Him do it. We must walk faithfully in the way of our Lord, and remain in peace, as much in the winter of sterility as in the autumn of fruitfulness. Walk joyously, then, in your vocation with confidence in Divine Providence.

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

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 15, 2017)

In today’s Gospel the testimony of John the Baptist proclaims that Jesus, the Son of God, comes to take away the sin of the world. St. Francis de Sales remarks:

John the Baptist accepted and proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God. Others refused to acknowledge Jesus as Savior. John the Baptist had great humility. The first step into humility is not to seek to be held or esteemed for what we are not. John the Baptist rejected the honors and titles offered him. He could have led others to himself but instead he recognized Jesus as the Redeemer and pointed others to Him.

Now success can be an excellent thing: if we enjoy and rejoice in it because it gives glory to God, who is the author of our accomplishments. Yet, success and ambition are both capable of seducing the human heart. Unfortunately, our human nature is all too anxious to attract whatever is to its advantage. People seek ways to erect idols and images that are regarded as gods among them. How many of us are greatly taken with worldly elegance, prestige, superiority, and personages? In this we act quite differently from John the Baptist. His spirit was far from that of our times. Walking in humility, he accepted the greatness of Our Lord, and recognized his dependence on the Son of God to guide him.

John the Baptist refused to be moved by pretense. A lover of truth, he suffered martyrdom. While we may not be called to martyrdom, we ought to have the courage to suffer and fight when small temptations present themselves. If we wish to enter the combat against evil, we must be armed with a humility that recognizes our dependence on God’s greatness and goodness. If we wish to grow in divine love, let us begin by imitating John the Baptist in accepting the Master of truth and goodness into our hearts. And then, let us lead others to Our Savior: Light to all nations.

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

Baptism of the Lord (January 9, 2017)

Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. This event marks the beginning of his ministry. St. Francis de Sales notes that God also calls us to service even with our flawed natures:

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

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

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

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

Epiphany of the Lord (January 8, 2017)

On this feast of the Epiphany, we are reminded that God accepts those who approach God in simplicity of heart. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Many wonders accompanied the birth of the Savior. One was the appearance of the star that brought the Magi. They came with simplicity of heart to adore and render homage to our new King lying in the manger. Let us, likewise, love Our Savior in simplicity of heart, having but one aim and object in all we do. Simplicity is nothing else but a pure and simple act of charity which has only one end in view, and that is to obtain the love of God. The heart full of sacred love has no less love when it turns to external duties than when it prays. In such hearts, their silence and their speech, their action and their contemplation, their work and their rest equally sing God’s praises. They do all their deeds, great or small with great love. Such were the lives of the saints.

We may ask, “How can we acquire God’s love?” Some people think that a certain art is needed in acquiring sacred love. In fact there is no art other than to set ourselves to the work of loving God, which means applying ourselves to the practice of those things that are pleasing to God, in simplicity, without trouble or concern. Imitate the simple love of doves in their having only one mate, for whom alone they do everything, and whom alone they wish to please. Imitate them also in the simplicity with which they express and show their love. They are happy to rest quietly in each other’s presence.

The true means of finding and acquiring holy love is to remain in Christ’s presence. In this Presence, let us delight in the joy of experiencing many inspirations and affections because we belong exclusively to God. Like the Magi, let us come close to the crib of the Christ Child. Let us be rich in love for our Savior who desires to show us how to love.

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

Mary. Mother of God (January 1, 2017)

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

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

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


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