Spirituality Matters 2018: July 26th - August 1st
(July 26, 2018: Joachim and Anne, Parents BVM )
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“To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away…”
William Barclay made the following observation about this Gospel passage:
“Many a person in childhood and schooldays had a smattering of Latin or
French or of some other language, and in later life lose every word because
he never made any attempt to develop or use them. Many a person had some
skill in a craft or game and lost it because he neglected it. The diligent
and hard-working person is in a position to be given more and more; the
lazy person may well lose even what he has. Any gift can be developed; and
since nothing in life stands still, if a gift is not developed, it is
“So it is with goodness. Every temptation we conquer makes us more able to conquer the next and every temptation to which we fall makes us less able to withstand the next attack. Every good thing we do, every act of self-discipline and of service, makes us better prepared for the next opportunity, and every time we fail to use such an opportunity we make ourselves less able to seize the next when it comes. Life is always a process of gaining more or losing more. Jesus laid down the truth that the nearer a person lives to Him, the nearer to the Christian ideal that person will grow. By contrast, the more a person drifts away from Christ, the less he or she is able to grow in goodness; for weakness, like strength, is an increasing practice.” (Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2, p. 67)
St. Francis de Sales put it this way: if we are not moving forward in the practice of virtue, we are falling behind. So it is with a life of devotion: making the effort to do good produces its own reward by expanding our experience of life, whereas neglecting to do good is its own punishment by diminishing our experience of life.
Today, take an inventory of the gifts - and the life - that God has given you. What do you find - growth or decline?
(July 27, 2018: Friday, Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time )
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“Hear the parable of the sower….”
In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales wrote:
“Ostriches never fly; hens fly in a clumsy fashion, near the ground, and only once in a while, but eagles, doves and swallows fly aloft, swiftly and frequently. In like manner, sinners in no way fly up towards God, but make their whole course upon the earth and for the earth. Good people who have not as yet attained to devotion fly toward God by their good works but do so infrequently, slowly and awkwardly. Devout souls ascend to him more frequently, promptly and with lofty flights.” (IDL, Part I, Chapter 1, p. 40)
There is something of the ostrich, something of the hen and something of the eagle in all of us. We crawl in God’s paths; we stumble in God’s path; we fall in God’s paths; we walk and sometimes run in God’s paths, and on occasion, we even manage to fly in God’s paths. So, too, there is something of each of the scenarios of the seed in today’s Gospel that applies to us. Sometimes God’s word is stolen from our hearts before it has a chance to grow. Sometimes God’s word springs up quickly in us but withers even more quickly because of our shallowness or hardness of heart. Sometimes God’s word falls to the wayside because we lose heart in the midst of trials and difficulties. Sometimes God’s word is simply overwhelmed by our fears, doubts, anxieties and second-guesses.
But sometimes – just sometimes – God’s word finds a home deep in our hearts – deep in our souls, deep in our lives – and bears a harvest beyond our wildest dreams: thirty, sixty or even a hundredfold.
And so we don’t just hear the parable of the sower, but also – more importantly – we live the parable of the sower! Consider the ways in which the seeds of God’s love might have trouble taking root in your life. More importantly, focus your attention and energy on the ways in which the seeds of God’s love have made a deep, abiding and fruitful home in your mind, heart, attitude and actions!
And do it today!
(July 28, 2018: Saturday, Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time )
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“Let them grow together until harvest…”
In the garden of our lives all of us can find both wheat and weeds. It’s really tempting to focus our energy and attention on identifying and removing the weeds, but we do this at the risk of unintentionally removing the wheat as well. Jesus suggests that it is far better to be comfortable with the fact that we have both wheat and weeds in our lives and to allow God to sort them out over time.
Francis de Sales clearly grasped the wisdom of Jesus’ advice. In a letter to Madame de la Flechere, he wrote:
“Don’t be examining yourself to see if what you are doing is little or great, good or bad, provided that it is not sinful and that, in all good faith, you are trying to do it for God. As much as possible do well what you have to do, and once it is done, think no more about it but turn your attention to what has to be done next. Walk very simply along the way our Lord shows you and don’t worry. We must hate our faults, but we should do so calmly and peacefully, without fuss or anxiety. We must be patient at the sight of these faults and learn from the humiliation that they bring about. Unless you do this, your imperfections, of which you are acutely conscious, will disturb you even more and thus grow stronger, for nothing is more favorable to the growth of these ‘weeds’ than our anxiety and overeagerness to get rid of them.” (Letters of Spiritual Direction, pp. 161-162)
What’s the bottom line? God loves us just the way we are - weeds and all. Who are we to suggest that God will love us more without them?
(July 29, 2018: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time)<
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“Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:
As living plants of the Church, the call that each of us has received is to bear fruit – fruit that will last. Of course, insofar as devotion adapts itself to the strengths, situations and circumstances of each person, we bear fruit in ways particular to the state and stage of life in which we find ourselves. In short, we are all called to live a life of virtue.
In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales wrote:
“The king of bees never goes out into the fields without being surrounded by his little subjects. In like manner, charity never enters a heart without lodging both itself and its train of all the other virtues which it exercises and disciplines as a captain does his soldiers. It does not put them to work all at once, nor at all times and in all places. The just man is ‘like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season’, for charity waters the soul and produces in it virtuous deeds, each in its proper time.”
“A great fault in many who undertake the exercise of some particular virtue is thinking they must practice it in every situation. Like certain philosophers, they wish either always to weep or always to laugh. What is still worse, they condemn and censure others who do not practice the same virtues they do. The Apostle says, ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep’, and ‘charity is patient, is kind’, generous, prudent discreet and considerate.”
To sum it up, to live a life worthy of our calling requires that we live lives of virtue. But, from a Salesian perspective, there’s more to it than that – we also need to know when and how to practice a particular virtue (or virtues) in any given relationship, situation or circumstance.
In other words, it isn’t enough to have all the tools – we need to know when and how to use them. Put another way, when it comes to the practice of virtue, we always need to know when it is time to practice it.
(July 30, 2018: Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church )
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Today’s Gospel helps us to keep things in perspective. Make no mistake – we
are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. We are charged with
a tremendous duty - advancing the kingdom of God. The most effective means
to accomplish this great calling is to pay attention to detail – that is,
by doing little things with great love.
In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales made the following exhortation:
“Put your hand to strong things, by training yourself in prayer and meditation, receiving the sacraments, bringing souls to love God, infusing good inspirations into their hearts and, in fine, by performing big, important works according to your vocation. But never forget…those little, humble virtues that grow like flowers at the foot of the cross: helping the poor, visiting the sick, taking care of your family, with all the responsibilities that accompany such things and with all the useful diligence which prompts you to not stand idle.”
“Great opportunities to serve God rarely present themselves, but little ones are frequent…you will profit greatly in God’s sight by doing all these things because God wishes you to do the.” (III, 35, pp. 214 – 215)
God gives us a rich abundance of means proper for our salvation. By a wondrous infusion of God’s grace into our minds, hearts, attitudes and actions, the Spirit makes our works become God’s work. Our good works - like planting miniscule mustard seeds here or like scattering small seeds there - have vigor and virtue enough to produce a great good, because they proceed from the Spirit of Jesus.
Many a day, we may feel that our attempts at growing in the ways of the kingdom of God are small and insignificant. However, if we all did just a little bit each and every day to build up that Kingdom, it will add up to become quite a lot!
(July 31, 2018: Ignatius of Loyola, Founder and Priest)
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“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field…”
Within the last week or so, we touched upon the image of wheat and weeds. There is something of both wheat and weeds inside each and every one of us. Careful examination of the interior gardens of our thoughts, feelings and attitudes reveals things which promote life. Likewise, in those same gardens we can identify things that can compromise life.
In a letter to Madame de la Flechere, Francis de Sales wrote:
“Don’t be examining yourself to see if what you are doing is little or much, good or bad, provided that it is not sinful and that, in all good faith, you are trying to do it for God. As much as possible, do well that you have to do, and once it is done, think no more about it but turn your attention to what has to be done next. Walk simply along the way our Lord shows you and don’t worry. We must hate our faults, but we should do so calmly and peacefully, without fuss or anxiety. We must be patient at the sight of these faults and learn from the humiliation which they bring about. Unless you do this, your imperfections – of which you are acutely conscious – will disturb you even more and thus grow stronger, for nothing is more favorable to the growth of these ‘weeds’ than our anxiety and over eagerness to rid ourselves of them.” (Letters of Spiritual Direction , pp. 161-162)
In each of us we find a mixture of both wheat and weeds. In each of us we find a mixed bag of both good and bad. Essentially, the Salesian tradition challenges us to deal with this reality in three ways:
- First, detest the weeds within us.
- Second, don’t dwell on those weeds within us.
- Third, focus on – and nourish – the wheat within us.
(August 1, 2018: Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church )
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“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure; like searching for fine pearls.”
A traditional way of explaining these images in today’s Gospel is to place the emphasis on us. This perspective considers this Gospel as a challenge to the hearer to “trade up”, that is, to give up those things we most value in order to obtain that which has the greatest value - the Kingdom of God.
A non-traditional way of explaining these images – and, apparently, the more accurate one – is to place the emphasis on God. It is God who is “trading up” for something better; it is God who is – as it were – cashing in all his chips for something even more valuable. What is that “treasure”? What are those “fine pearls”? We are the treasure that God pursues at any price and we are the pearls that God leaves no stone unturned to possess.
God “traded up” his only Son because He wanted to reclaim us. God “cashed in\” his only Son, because He wanted to redeem us. God gave away everything He had in order to make us his own. In these acts God clearly displayed that it’s people, not things – like possessions, power or privilege – that God values the most.
We are God-given treasures! We are pearls bought at the highest of prices! Do we treat ourselves – and one another – accordingly?
Today and every day!