Spirituality Matters 2017: October 26th - November 1st

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(October 26, 2017: Thursday, Twenty-ninth Week in ordinary Time)
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“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”

In a film released in 2004, Denzel Washington stars as John Creasy, a despondent former CIA operative/Force Recon Marine officer-turned-bodyguard. Creasy gets a shot at redemption when he is hired to protect the daughter of a wealthy businessman in Mexico City. When the nine-year-old girl is kidnapped and held for ransom, Washington’s character will stop at nothing to get the young girl back, even to the point (spoiler alert!) of giving his life in exchange for hers.

The name of the film is Man on Fire.

Jesus Christ clearly was a man on fire. He tells us so in today’s Gospel selection from Luke. All throughout the three years of his public ministry, Jesus demonstrated again and again to us that he would stop at nothing to proclaim the power and promise of the Kingdom of God – forgiving the sinner, healing the blind, lame and leprous, finding the lost, raising the lowly, humbling the proud and challenging the haughty. His efforts not only won him many friends, but his efforts also made him more than a few enemies. Undaunted by the challenges of his vocation, Jesus remained faithful to the work of redemption, even to the point of giving his very life for others.

Jesus wants us to be men and women on fire with the love of God and neighbor. Jesus wants us – his brothers and sisters – to be unrelenting in demonstrating in our own lives the power and promise of the Kingdom of God.

How can we get “fired up” for the sake of the Gospel - today?

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(October 27, 2017: Friday, Twenty-ninth Week in ordinary Time)
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“For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.”

You can feel the frustration in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Redeemed as he was by Jesus Christ, not only did Paul fail to do many of the things that he knew that he should have done, but he also did many of the things that he knew that he shouldn’t have done. In another place Paul describes this disconnect as if having two men battling inside of him, each wrestling for dominance over the other.

In a letter to Peronne-Marie de Chatel (one of the four original members of the nascent Visitation congregation at Annecy who, notwithstanding her virtues and gifts, nevertheless experienced “discouragement, scruples and even moments of very human impatience and irritation”), Francis de Sales wrote:

“You are right when you say there are two people in you. One person is a bit touchy, resentful and ready to flare up if anyone crosses her; this is the daughter of Eve and therefore bad-tempered. The other person fully intends to belong totally to God and who, in order to be all His, wants to be simply humble and humbly gentle toward everyone…this is the daughter of the glorious Virgin Mary and therefore of good disposition. These two daughters of different mothers fight each other and the good-for-nothing one is so mean that the good one has a hard time defending herself; afterward, the poor dear thinks that she has been beaten and that the wicked one is stronger than she. Not at all! The wicked one is not stronger than you but is more brazen, perverse, unpredictable and stubborn and when you go off crying she is very happy because that’s just so much time wasted, and she is satisfied to make you lose time when she is unable to make you lose eternity.”

“Do not be ashamed of all this, my dear daughter, any more than St. Paul who confesses that there were two men in him – one rebellious toward God, and the other obedient to God. Stir up your courage. Arm yourself with the patience that we should have toward ourselves.” (Letters of Spiritual Direction, p. 164-165)

Of course, there aren’t really two people battling inside of us trying to see who will win out! Thank God for that, because most days we have more than enough in handling our singular personalities! Of course, it is discouraging when we don’t live up to God’s standards or even our own. Of course, it is frustrating to make what often times appears to be little progress in the spiritual life. Of course, there’s more good that we should do and more evil that we should avoid. Rather than drive yourself crazy, gently – and firmly – follow Francis de Sales’ advice: “Stir up your courage. Arm yourself with patience that we should have toward ourselves.”

And - of course - with one another.

Today!

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(October 28, 2017: Simon and Jude, Apostles)
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“He called his disciples to himself…”

Remember the hit TV comedy series Cheers? These are the words from the show’s theme song:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go here everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.
You wanna go where people know, people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

In today’s Gospel we hear that even Jesus knew that “making your way in the world…takes everything you’ve got” and that “taking a break from all your worries sure can help a lot”, so he went up to the top of a mountain by himself to spend time in prayer with his Father. The next day, he calls his disciples to himself and named his Apostles. And to this day – nearly two thousand years later – everybody knows their names.

Just today, how can we make a name for ourselves in the service of God and neighbor? Today, how can we treat others in ways that makes them “glad you came”?

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