Spirituality Matters 2018: November 8th - November 14th
(November 8, 2018: Thursday, Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time )
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“There will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Whence comes all this rejoicing over repentant sinners? In his Treatise on the Love of God, Francis de Sales wrote:
“God’s favor floats over all life’s difficulties and finds joy in turning all miseries to the greater profit of those who love him. From toil he makes patience spring forth, contempt of this world from inevitable death, and from concupiscence a thousand victories. Just as the rainbow touches the thorn of aspalathus and makes it smell sweeter than the lily, so our Savior’s redemption touches our miseries and makes them more beneficial and worthy of love than original innocence could ever have been. The angels, says our Savior, have ‘more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just who have no need of repentance.’ So, too, the state of redemption is a hundred times better than that of innocence. Truly, by the watering of our Savior’s blood – made with the hyssop of the cross – have been restored to a white incomparably better than that possessed by the snows of innocence. Like Naaman, we come out of the stream of salvation more pure and clean than if we had never had leprosy.” (TLG, Book II Chapter 6, pp. 116 – 177)
“Redemption is a hundred times better than innocence.”
Given the fact that all of us suffer from the leprosy of sin in any number of ways, not only should the power of repentance make for rejoicing among the angels in heaven, but this repentance should also produce even greater rejoicing among us here on earth! Who else but God could have the power to turn our sins into a means of our salvation?
(November 9, 2018: Dedication of the Lateran Basilica)
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“You are God’s building...”
To construct a building is one thing, but to maintain it is another. Prudent builders/owners not only allot resources for the actual construction of whatever it is they build, but they will also earmark resources for the ongoing upkeep of the building.
In a letter to Madame de Chantal (February 11, 1607), Francis de Sales observed:
“It is not necessary to be always and at every moment attentive to all the virtues in order to practice them; that would twist and encumber your thoughts and feelings too much. Humility and charity are the master beams - all the others are attached to them. We need only hold on to these two: one is at the very bottom and the other at the very top. The preservation of the whole building depends on two things: its foundation and its roof. We do not encounter much difficulty in practicing other virtues if we keep our heart bound to the practice of these two...” (LSD, pp. 148-149)
God – the Master Builder – has constructed each of us in his image and likeness. Today, celebrate the building-of-God that you are! Maintain the gift of your divinely-built edifice with the spiritual foundation and roof most readily available for your good - humility and charity!
(November 10, 2018: Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church)
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“The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones…
In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales observed:
“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 your distaff or spindle. In other words, practice those little, humble virtues which grow like flowers at the foot of the cross: helping the poor, visiting the sick and taking care of your family with all the duties and responsibilities that accompany such things.”
“Great opportunities to serve God rarely present themselves, whereas little ones are frequent. Whoever will be ‘faithful in little things’ will be placed ‘over many’, says the savior. (IDL, Part Three, Chapter 35, pp. 214-215)
With what little, ordinary things will God entrust us today? How faithful will we be?
(November 11, 2018: Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time)
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In the first reading today and in the Gospel, we meet two widows who have one thing in common - both put their trust in God rather than in things. In turn, both are rewarded and recognized for their trust and for their faith in God.
In the first reading, the widow is a foreigner to the Hebrews. She is from Zarephath, a coastal city on the Mediterranean. Elijah traveled through this land during a famine. As in all famines, the rich complain and the poor starve. The woman was poor. When Elijah met up with her, she was putting her last scraps together before she and her son would die. Imagine a stranger going up to this woman and asking for food in the name of the Lord. And imagine this woman putting her faith in God and feeding the prophet. Because of her putting her total trust in God, she received enough to eat for a full year.
In the Gospel, the widow puts two small coins into the temple treasury. Jesus said that her donation, although it seemed insignificant, was tremendous because she gave all that she had. Her donation was an act of faith that God would provide for what she needed.
What these two widows did is extremely difficult for most of us to imitate. No matter how great our faith is, it is profoundly difficult to put our total trust in God. There is something within us all that looks for solutions to our problems outside of the realm of faith, or at least, to have a back-up plan ready to go if our prayers don’t pan out.
A great fallacy of our age is that money can solve our problems. It is the job of advertisers to convince us that we can buy happiness. Paradoxically, the happiest of those blessed with material wealth and riches are those who freely share their success with others. Authentic, lasting happiness requires the practice of humility. Only a humble person who recognizes his or her profound need for God is certain that the presence of God in his or her life is fundamental to happiness.
Someday, perhaps we will grow in our ability to acquire the kind of faith that these two widows displayed. But, then again, that is the fundamental reason why we gather together to worship to pray and to celebrate the Sacraments - while we realize that our faith can always be deepened, we also acknowledge that we cannot do that alone. We need God and we need one another.
(November 12, 2018: Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr )
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“I directed you…that a man be blameless…”
The qualities that Paul associates with a “blameless” bishop include: not being arrogant, not being irritable, not being a drunkard, not being aggressive, not being greedy for sordid gain. On the positive side, a bishop should also be hospitable, a lover of goodness, temperate, just, holy and self-controlled.
The adjective “blameless” is defined as: “Free of blame or guilt; innocent.” Synonyms include “clear, clean, upright, stainless, honest, immaculate, impeccable, virtuous, unsullied, unimpeachable, untarnished, above suspicion, irreproachable, guiltless, unoffending and above suspicion.”
You get the idea!
But notice what being blameless does not require: it does not require being a sinless person or being a perfect person. However, being blameless does seem to imply that as imperfect as we are – and as sinful as we are – we should be people of integrity.
Bishop or no bishop, it’s probably a safe bet that Jesus expects all of us who bear the name “Christian” to be blameless. Given the fact that He himself shows us how to be blameless and gives us the means to become blameless, can you (wait for it) blame Him?
(November 13, 2018: Frances Xavier Cabrini, Religious and Founder)
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“You must say what is consistent with sound doctrine…so that the word of God may not be discredited.”
What should we infer from today’s selection from Paul’s Letter to Titus? We can talk all we want about what we believe as Christians, but if we really want to give credible witness to the power and promise of God’s word, we need to be more concerned with how we live what we believe. In other words, we actually need to do what we say!
So, what does it look like when we are talking the talk and walking the walk? Paul tells us that we need to be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, loving, reverent, self-controlled and chaste…among other virtues.
When push comes to shove, what do authentic, credible Christians look like? Paul suggests we look for folks who are “eager to do what is good.”
Today, can the same be said about us?
(November 14, 2018: Wednesday, Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time)
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“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
We all have skeletons in our respective closets. We all have things in our past about which we are embarrassed or ashamed. In his Letter to Titus, Paul remarks: “We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another.”
As we considered on Monday, who of us can claim to be ‘blameless’?
And yet, because of God’s mercy – because of God’s generosity – there’s more to us than our past. We can have a new present; we can have a new future. Paul continues: “When the kindness and generous love of God our Savior appeared - not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy - he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”
The Gospel story of the ten lepers is a powerful illustration of how God’s love can change and transform our past. Jesus cured these men not because of anything that they did to deserve it, but rather Jesus cured them simply because he wished to do so. However, if Jesus did expect anything in return for his pity – for his mercy – for his generosity – he expected some semblance of gratitude.
Today, think about all the good things that God has done for you. Think about how merciful God is. Think about how generous God is. How can we show our gratitude? How can we say “thank you”? Perhaps, Paul says it best.
“Be peaceable, considerate, exercising all graciousness toward everyone.”