Spirituality Matters 2017: June 1st - June 7th
(June 1, 2017: Justin, Martyr)
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In a letter to Soeur de Soulfour, Francis de Sales offered this advice:
“Be like a little child who, while it knows that its mother is holding its sleeve, walks boldly and runs all around without being distressed at a stumble or fall; after all, it is as yet unsteady on its legs. In the same way, as long as you realize that God is holding on to you by your will and resolution to serve him go on boldly and do not be upset by your setbacks and falls. Continue on joyfully and with your heart as open and widely trustful as possible. If you cannot always be joyful, at least be brave and confident.” (Stopp, Selected Letters, pp. 45-46)
Be brave; be confident; be courageous.
Being courageous is not about being foolhardy. Being courageous (as we learn from the Italian word, coragio) is about being a person of heart. We all have issues in life; we all have difficulties in life; we all have setbacks in life; we all have heartaches in life. Frequently, what distinguishes triumph from tragedy in our attempts to deal with life’s challenges is whether we end up encouraged or discouraged, that is, whether we manage to maintain our hearts or whether we lose our hearts.
Consider the stumbles and falls that you have experienced in life. How have they left you? Encouraged or discouraged? Are you managing to keep your heart or are you losing it?
(June 2, 2017: Easter Week Day)
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“Do you love me…?”
In the context of a post-Resurrection appearance, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” not once, not twice but three times. With all the sincerity that he can muster, Peter responds each time with, “You know I love you.” The Scripture passage also includes an interesting - and not unsurprising - observation: by the time that Jesus asks his question the third time, Peter has become distressed and agitated. It’s not a stretch to suggest that Peter may have been having a flashback of his threefold promise to stand by Jesus – even to the point of death – shortly before Jesus’ arrest, only to have Peter’s resolve fold like a five-dollar suitcase.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but perhaps Jesus is simply reminding Peter that when it comes to love, talk is cheap.
In his Treatise on the Love of God, Francis de sales wrote:
“Just as the dawn of day may be termed day, so complacence of the heart may be called love because it is the first step of love. However, just as the day’s true heart extends from the beginning of dawn to the end of sunset, so the true essence of love consists in movement…Let us state it thus: by complacence, the good takes, grasps and binds the heart, but by love it draws, conducts and leads the heart to itself. Complacence causes the heart to begin the journey, but love keeps it on the road and enables it to finish the journey. Complacence is an awakening of the heart, but love is the heart in action. Complacence makes the heart rise up, but love makes the heart move forward. Complacence may help us to spread our winds, but only love actually enables us to take flight.” (TLG, Book I, Chapter 7. p. 6)
Saying, “I love you” is easy. Showing, “I love you” is something else entirely. Is it any wonder, then that as this interchange between Jesus and Peter comes to some kind of resolution, Jesus’ final words to Peter are, “Follow me”? In other words, Jesus is saying: don’t just tell me you love me – show me you love me.”
Love begins with words – love ripens and matures with action.
Toady, how can we show Jesus that we love him?
(June 3, 2017: Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs)
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“Who is the one who will betray you…?”
Well, the easy answer is Judas. We know that he betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Later he regretted his betrayal and hanged himself.
Then again, Peter betrayed Jesus by denying that he even knew him - not once, not twice but three times. He regretted his denial almost immediately, but eventually went on to become “the rock” on which Jesus would build his Church. How about James and John? Didn’t they betray Jesus – in a way – by asking for places of honor at his left and at his right? In subsequent years they gave their lives for their faith.
It might make a lot more sense – and requires a lot less time – to ask this question - who is the one who has not betrayed Jesus? The answer would produce a much smaller number. After all, each of us betrays Jesus when we are focused upon our own benefit at the expense of others. Each of us betrays Jesus when we turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to the needs of others. Each of us betrays Jesus when we decide that we are not up to the challenges that come with being his disciple.
Each of us betrays Jesus when we sin.
Thanks be to God that Jesus doesn’t hold grudges. Thanks be to God that Jesus doesn’t settle old scores. Thanks be to God that Jesus doesn’t hold on to old hurts or betrayals. Imperfect as we are, Jesus continues to say to us, day in and day out: “Follow me”.
Thanks be to God!
(June 4, 2017: Pentecost)
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“Each of us hears them speaking in our own tongue about the marvels that God has accomplished.”
Despite the fact that they were speaking to many people from many languages and many cultures, the apostles were understood by all of their listeners as they proclaimed the marvels that God had accomplished.
How was this possible?
Enflamed by the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostles were speaking the language of the heart. They were speaking with enthusiasm. They were speaking with gratitude. They were speaking with praise and thanksgiving. They were speaking from the core. They were speaking from the soul.
In short, they were speaking the universal language - the language of the heart.
We are most human - we are most divine - when we speak the language of the heart, when we speak the language of love, when we speak and listen from the soul, when we are grounded in the Word-Made-Flesh.
As we know all too well from our own experience, there is more to communication than meets the eye, or for that matter, even the tongue or the ear. Communicating is often a lot easier said than done. We frequently misunderstand one another. We frequently presume to know what others are thinking or feeling. We frequently use the same words for which there are different meanings. We frequently have different ways of saying the same thing. We frequently hear, but we frequently fail to listen. We are always talking, but talking is not the same as communicating or speaking from one heart to another.
St. Francis de Sales tells us that the Holy Spirit comes to inflame the hearts of believers. When we speak and listen from hearts enflamed with joy, truth and gratitude, conflict gives way to understanding, confusion gives way to clarity, estrangement gives way to intimacy, hurt gives way to healing, frustration gives way to forgiveness, violence gives way to peace and sin gives way to salvation.
Francis de Sales offers this observation:
“Speak always of God as God, that is, reverently and devoutly, not with ostentation or affectation, but with a spirit of meekness, charity, and humility. Distill as much as you can of the delicious honey of devotion and of divine things imperceptibly into the ears of now one person and then of another. Pray to God in your soul that it may please God to make this holy dew sink deep into the hearts of those who hear you. It is wonderful how powerfully a sweet and amiable proposal of good things attracts to hearts of hearers.”
Today, how might we need to speak, to listen and to practice the language of love?
(June 5, 2017: Boniface, Bishop and Martyr)
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“I…have walked all the days of my life on the paths of truth and righteousness.”
“Saint Boniface (Latin: Bonifatius) (c. 675? – 5 June 754), born Winfrid, Wynfrith, or Wynfryth in the kingdom of Wessex in Anglo-Saxon England, was a leading figure in the Anglo-Saxon mission to the German parts of the Frankish Empire during the 8th century. He established the first organized Christianity in many parts of Germany. He is the patron saint of Germany, the first archbishop of Mainz and the ‘Apostle of the Germans’. He was martyred in Frisia in 754, along with 52 others. His remains were returned to Fulda, where they rest in a sarcophagus which became a site of pilgrimage. Facts about Boniface's life and death - as well as his work - became widely known, since there is a wealth of material available - a number of vitae, especially the near-contemporary Vita Bonifatii auctore Willibaldi, and assorted legal documents, possibly some sermons, and above all, his correspondence.”
“Norman F. Cantor notes the three roles Boniface played that made him ‘one of the truly outstanding creators of the first Europe, as the apostle of Germany, the reformer of the Frankish church, and the chief fomenter of the alliance between the papacy and the Carolingian family.’ Through his efforts to reorganize and regulate the church of the Franks, he helped shape Western Christianity, and many of the dioceses he proposed remain today. After his martyrdom, he was quickly hailed as a saint in Fulda and other areas in Germany and in England. His cult is still notably strong today. Boniface is celebrated as a zealous missionary; he is regarded as a unifier of Europe, and he is seen (mainly by Catholics) as a German national figure.” ( http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=29 )
Boniface did spend his life - and ultimately, gave his life - walking in the paths of truth and righteousness.
How might we follow his example in our own lives just this day?
(June 6, 2017: Tuesday, Ninth Week in Ordinary Time)
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“The heart of the just one is firm, trusting in the Lord.”
In a conference given to the Sisters of the Visitation on ‘Hope’ (July 1620), Francis de Sales remarked:
“O my God, how happy should we be if we can accustom ourselves to make this reply to our hearts when they are anxious and troubled about anything: ‘The Lord will provide,’ and after saying that, to have no more care, anxiety or disturbance…Great indeed is the confidence that God requires us to have in His paternal care and in His divine Providence. Why should we not have it, seeing that no one has ever been deceived in it? No one ever trusts in God without reaping the fruits of His confidence…Continue to trust in God. Do you think that the God who takes care to provide food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth – which neither sow nor reap – will ever forget to provide all that is necessary for the one who trusts wholly in His Providence, seeing that we are capable of being united to God, our sovereign good?” (Conferences, Conference VI, pp. 89-90)
Today, is your heart anxious or troubled about anything? Then, speak with God. Pray to God. Walk with God. And most importantly, trust in God and reap “the fruits of His confidence.”
(June 7, 2017: Wednesday, Ninth Week in Ordinary Time)
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“To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.”
In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales wrote:
“Consider the nobility and excellence of your soul. It is endowed with understanding, which knows not only this visible world but also that there are angels and a paradise. It knows that there is a God, most sovereign, most good and most ineffable. It knows that there is an eternity and knows also what manner is best designed for living well in this visible world so that our soul may be joined with the angels in paradise and enjoy God for all eternity. Moreover, your soul has a most noble will and that same will is capable of loving God...”
“‘O beauteous soul!’ you must acclaim, ‘Since you can know and desire God, why would you beguile yourself with any lesser thing? Since you can advance your claim to eternity, why should you beguile yourself with passing things? One of the prodigal son’s regrets was that he might have lived in plenty at his father’s table whereas he had eaten among the beasts. O my soul, you are made for God! Woe to you if you are satisfied with anything less that God! Raise your soul aloft on this consideration. Remind it that it is eternal and worthy of eternity. Fill it with courage for this project.” (IDL, Pat V, Chapter 10, pp. 282-283)
In the midst of all the things that you may experience and the people that you may encounter today, remember to lift up and to raise your soul aloft by reminding yourself of the respect and reverence with which you must treat yourself, worthy, as you might be, of eternity right here – right now – in this visible world. For that matter, remember to lift and raise up the souls of other people by also treating them with respect and reverence.
Worthy, as they also might be, of eternity in this visible world, too!