Spirituality Matters 2017: March 30th - April 5th

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(March 30, 2017: Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent)
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Ex 32:7-14   Ps 106:19-20, 21-22, 23    Jn 5:31-47

“Moses, his chosen one, withstood him in the breach…”

Moses and Jesus have at least one thing in common: they were willing to go the wall for the people they cared about.

In Moses’ case, he dissuades God from punishing the Israelites out of anger for their infidelity. Moses puts his own life on the line in order to convince God to exercise mercy rather than justice. Moses is an advocate for his people.

In Jesus’ case, he continues to reach out to the poor and marginalized despite the growing hostility of the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus puts His own life on the line in order to convince his religious peers to seek mercy rather than justice. Jesus is an advocate for his people.

How about us? Today, how far are we willing to go to be an advocate for others, especially for those most in need?

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(March 31, 2017: Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent)
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Wis 2:1a, 12-22    Ps 34:17-18, 19-20, 21 and 23    Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted…”

Even a cursory reading of both the Old Testament and the New Testament demonstrates that Yahweh has a special place in His heart for the weak, the poor, the lonely, the disadvantaged, the marginalized, the exploited, the vanquished and the down-and-out. But there’s more to Yahweh. God also has plenty of room in His heart for the strong, the wealthy, the powerful, the streamlined, the victorious and the up-and-comers.

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales remarked: “The Apostle (St. Paul) says, ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” (Part III, Chapter 1, p. 121) God finds room in his heart for all kinds of people and for all kinds of occasions. God’s heart knows that it takes all kinds, all types and all times to promote His kingdom on this earth.

God makes so much room in his heart for us. How generous are wee in attempting to make room in our hearts for others?

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(April 1, 2017: Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent)
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Jer 11:18-20    Ps 7:2-3, 9bc-10, 11-12    Jn 7:40-53

"Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing…”

It’s very tempting to judge others by their appearance. It’s very tempting to judge others by what others say about them. It’s very tempting to judge others by first impressions.

Not only is it very tempting, but it is also very wrong. At least, in the eyes of God it is!

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales wrote:

“How offensive to God are rash judgments. When the children of men pass judgment on others they usurp the office of our Lord. They are rash because every man has enough on which to judge himself without taking it upon himself to judge his neighbor. By judging our neighbor on every occasion, we never stop doing what is forbidden and we never do what is expected of us, that is, the challenge to judge ourselves.”

In another place, Scripture tells us this about God: “Not by appearance does He judge.”

Today, as people made in God’s image and likeness, can the same be said about us?

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(April 2, 2017: Fifth Sunday of Lent)
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Ez 37:12-14     Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8     Rom 8:8-11     Jn 11:1-45    

“You are in the spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.”

Rather than talk about what Francis de Sales has to say about living in the Spirit of God, we shall allow him to speak – or, in this case – to write for himself.

“To live according to the spirit means to think, speak and act according to the virtues which reside in the spirit and not according to the senses and feelings which reside in the flesh. We must use and master the latter and not live according to them; but the spiritual virtues must be nurtured and all the rest made subject to them.”

“What are the virtues of the spirit? There is faith, which shows us the truths that are not accessible to the senses; hope, which makes us strive for things unseen; charity, which makes us love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves, not with a sensual, natural or selfish love but with a love that is pure, firm and changeless, being grounded in God.”

“The spirit, which relies on faith, grows in courage when it is hemmed in by difficulties, for it knows well that God loves supports and helps those who are needy, provided they fix their hope in God. Human reason, by contrast, wants to know everything that is going on because it imagines that nothing in which it cannot have its say is any good; the spirit, on the other hand, cleaves to God and often says that whatever is not of God does not really matter…”

“Living according to the spirit means doing the actions which the spirit of God asks of us, saying the words and thinking the thoughts that God wants. And when I say saying the words and thinking the thoughts that God wants, I am referring to your willed thoughts. I am miserable and so I don’t feel like talking: parrots do as much. I feel miserable, but since charity demands that I should talk I will do it. That is what people who live in the spirit do. I have been slighted so I grow cross: peacocks and monkeys do as much. I have been slighted and rejoice: that what the apostles did. So to live according to the spirit is to do what faith, hope and charity teach us to do, whether in things temporal or things spiritual.”

“Live wholly to the Spirit; live gently and in peace. Be quite confident that God will help you, and in all that happens, rest in the arms of God’s mercy and goodness. May God be your all forever.”

The Spirit is alive and well in us, active in our lives, shaping our attitudes and impacting our actions. This activity is obvious to those people we encounter every day.

Well, isn’t it? And if not, why not?

(These quotes are taken entirely from a letter written in April or May 1616, to Sister Marie-Aimee de Bloney, Mistress of Novices at the Visitation at Lyons, France. It is found in Selected Letters of St. Francis de Sales. Translated with an Introduction by Elisabeth Stopp. Published in 1960 by Harper & Brothers)

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(April 3, 2017: Monday of Fifth Week of Lent)
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Dn 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62     Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6     Jn 8:1-11

“It’s not the crime; it’s the cover-up.”

“After the Watergate break-in, ‘quick action, resolution on the spot,’ could have saved President Nixon, said Prof. Michael Useem, an expert in business ethics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

‘It was the inaction, the cover-up, that absolutely ruined his reputation in history forever,’ he said. Since the Nixon administration, a mantra repeated during many scandals has been, ‘It's not the crime, it's the cover-up.’”


In today’s reading from the Book of the Prophet Daniel, we are presented with what might be considered as the Watergate scandal of the Old Testament: the story of Susanna. In short, two elders of the people attempted to have their way with her – the crime. When she resisted, they accused her of adultery – the cover-up. In effect, they sinned against Susanna twice by (1) attempting to physically assault her, and (2) by falsely assaulting her reputation. In the end, their crime – and perhaps even more so, the cover-up – results in their paying the ultimate price – death.

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales wrote:

“A soul that has consented to sin must have horror for itself and be washed clean as soon as possible out of the respect it must have for the eyes of God’s Divine Majesty who sees it. Why should we die a spiritual death when we have this sovereign remedy at hand?” (IDL, Part II, Chapter 19, p. 111)

Anyone can make a mistake. Don’t make it even worse for yourself or others by covering it up!

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(April 4, 2017: Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent)
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Nm 21:4-9     Ps 102:2-3, 16-18, 19-21     Jn 8:21-30

“We have sinned in complaining against the Lord…”

How quickly we forget.

In the first reading today from the Book of Numbers, we witness the complaining, whining and moaning of the Israelites as they continued their journey toward the Promised Land. Sure, the trek had been laborious; sure, the conditions were challenging; sure, the food and drink was less than desirable. But despite the fact that God had liberated them from the yolk of Egyptian slavery and oppression, the Israelites’ gratitude had clearly waned. Not only had they forgotten what God had done for them, but they also appear to have presumed that the pathway to freedom would be easy.

Dr. M. Scott Peck will probably be best remembered for the opening statement in his book The Road Less Travelled. The first chapter begins with these words: “Life is difficult.” Throughout much of his book the author maintains that a significant amount of human pain and grief is not the result of difficulties, but rather, much of the suffering and frustration that we experience is the direct result of our tendency to complain about life’s difficulties and our attempts to avoid them altogether. Such complaining and avoidance can lead to – among other maladies – a case of chronic ingratitude.

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales wrote:

“Complain as little as possible about the wrongs you suffer. Undoubtedly a person who complains commits a sin by doing so, since self-love always feels that injuries are worse than they really are…In the opinion of many – and it is true – constant complaining is a clear proof of lack of strength and generosity.” (IDL, Part III, Chapter 3, p. 130)

On some level, we can all relate to the Israelites. We’ve all experienced tough times. We’ve all gotten bad breaks. We’ve all had our share of difficulties and disappointments. We’ve all had moments when we felt that the road to happiness shouldn’t take so much time, effort and energy. But we also know from our own experience that chronic complaining is toxic. It poisons our perceptions and perspectives, and it ultimately does nothing to address or reduce whatever difficulties we may be facing, be they real and/or imagined. In fact, chronic complaining simply makes things worse – for us, as well as for those around us.

Do you suffer from chronic complaining? Try applying the surest remedy of all.


And why not begin today?

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(April 5, 2017: Wednesday of the Fourth Week of lent)
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Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95     Dn 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56     Jn 8:31-42

“The truth will set you free…”

In his Treatise on the Love of God, Francis de Sales wrote:

“Our free will is never as free as when it is a slave to God’s will, just as it is never as servile as when it serves our own will. It never has so much life as when it dies to self, and never so much death as when it lives to itself. We have the liberty to do good and evil, but to choose evil is not to use but to abuse this liberty. Let us renounce such wretched liberty and subject forever our free will to the rule of heavenly love. Let us become slaves to dilection, whose serfs are happier than kings. If our souls should ever will to use their liberty against our resolutions to serve God eternally and without reserve, Oh, then, for love of God, let us sacrifice our free will and make it die to itself so that it may live in God! A man who out of self-love wishes to keep his freedom in this world shall lose it in the next world, and he who shall lose it in this world for the love of God shall keep it for that same love in the next world. He who keeps his liberty in this world shall find it a serf and a slave in the other world, whereas he who makes it serve the cross in this world shall have it free in the other world. For there, when he is absorbed in enjoyment of God’s goodness, his liberty will be converted into love and love into liberty, a liberty infinitely sweet. Without effort, without pain, and without any struggle we shall unchangingly and forever love the Creator and Savior of our souls.” (Treatise 12: 10, pp- 277-278)

The Salesian tradition holds this truth about human freedom. It is not about being able to do whatever we want – that isn’t freedom, that’s license. True human freedom is about being able to do whatever it is that God wants us to do.

How might this truth set you free today?

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