Spirituality Matters 2018: May 31st - June 6th

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(May 31, 2012: Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
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“Anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal…”

No sooner had Mary received the announcement from the Angel Gabriel that she would be the mother of the Messiah than she “set out and traveled to the hill country in haste” where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. (Recall that in the context of the Annunciation, Mary had learned that her cousin was pregnant.) As if Mary didn’t have enough on her plate already, she dropped whatever she was doing in order to offer assistance to Elizabeth for “about three months”. Mary didn’t wait for the request; Mary anticipated the need.

One of the hallmarks of the Salesian tradition (and as embodied in the Sisters of the Visitation, founded by Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal) is this notion of “anticipating the need of our neighbor”. This quality invites us to be “on the lookout” for opportunities to do good for others. Simple things like:

  • holding open a door for another
  • offering to help carry someone’s groceries
  • assisting someone who may have dropped something on the floor
  • checking in on someone who’s under the weather
  • being the first to greet someone or to call someone by name
  • asking how someone is doing today.
These are ordinary, everyday ways of honoring others by simply acknowledging their presence and by recognizing that they exist.

Here is where Paul’s admonition in his Letter to the Romans comes into play. Insofar as each day is loaded with countless opportunities to honor people by anticipating their needs – by “looking out” for their interests – such efforts could understandably become wearisome over time. In the Salesian tradition, we need to approach each new day as yet another God-given gift: the invitation to offer to do good things for others rather than waiting for others to ask us to do good things for them.

Mary embodied the virtue of anticipating the need of another in her decision to offer her cousin Elizabeth assistance without waiting to be asked. In so honoring her cousin, she brought honor to herself.

Today, how might we honor Mary by following her example through our willingness to anticipate the needs of one another?

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(June 1, 2018: Justin, Martyr)
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“Be serious and sober-minded…”

Recall that on Tuesday we considered the issue of sobriety: the importance of being clear minded, of seeing ourselves and others as we really are, and of being grounded in reality. On this day, when we acknowledge the sacrifice made by Justin Martyr, it is appropriate to revisit yet again Francis de Sales’ counsel regarding desires. In his Introduction to the Devout Life, we read:

“Do not desire crosses except in proportion to the way in which you have patiently carried those already sent to you. It is an abuse to desire martyrdom while lacking the courage to put up with an injury. The enemy often supplies us with great desires for absent things that we may never encounter in order to divert our minds from present things which, small as they may be, we might obtain great profit. While in our imaginations we picture ourselves doing battle with great monsters in Africa, for want of vigilance we allow ourselves to be slain by little serpents that actually lie in our path…” (IDL, Part III, Chapter 37, p. 218)

It’s tempting sometimes to engage in “what if’s”, especially when we catch ourselves imagining how we might do heroic things for the sake of the Gospel. What if I were persecuted for my faith? What if I were arrested for being a Christian? What if I were asked to lay down my life for Christ? While such imaginings may be entertaining – and perhaps even noble – what if all these “what if’s” simply prevent us from recognizing the countless opportunities God gives us every day to do simple, ordinary and little good things for others?

Get serious. Be realistic. While we should admire and emulate the martyrs, odds are we won’t be called to give our lives for Christ in the dramatic fashion that they did. Rather we will be called to live our lives for Christ in ways that – while far less dramatic – are no less heroic.

How? By sharing our lives with others each and every day.

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(June 2, 2018: Saturday, Eighth Week in Ordinary Time)
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“By what authority are you doing these things…?”

We see in today’s Gospel a typical tactic employed by those who take umbrage with others. If they can’t refute what others do, they’ll attempt to refute their authority for doing so.

Jesus didn’t ask permission to do good things. He simply did them, regardless of the consequences. Tragic, indeed, that his enemies attempted to use his good deeds as evidence of wrongdoing!

We’ve all heard the expression: “No good deed goes unpunished”. Today’s Gospel reminds us that in a perfect world, doing good should be applauded and rewarded. However, insofar as we do not live in a perfect world, we shouldn’t be shocked that doing good may sometime bring its share of resistance and hostility.

By any means – by all means – do good things. Just be certain that you are doing that good for God’s glory, and not your own glory.

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