Last Sunday a woman came to Mass wearing a T-shirt with the words: “Kindness is my superpower.” It was very fitting given Jesus’ command in Sunday’s Gospel: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” Notice that the command is to love as he has loved us. How did Jesus love? 1. He loved sacrificially. He laid down his life for his friends.
On Easter Sunday, we walk with Mary Magdalene to the tomb where she is the first to witness the risen Lord. She is the “apostle to the apostles” as she is entrusted to take that message to them. The second Sunday of Easter it is Thomas who is our guide. Forever known as the “doubter,” Jesus encounters him in his doubt and leads him to the most profound affirmation of who Jesus is, “My Lord and my God.”
In the wake of Jesus' crucifixion and death, the apostles were locked away together in fear. They were afraid that they might suffer the same fate as their teacher. Despite their anxious seclusion, Jesus breaks into their lives- not merely into the physical space in which they were taking refuge. Jesus also breaks into the core of their minds and hearts. Jesus attempts to calm their fears.
Ninety-two-year-old Sr. Matilda looked up at me and asked: “Do you think the Easter season is celebrated with as much joy and energy in heaven as it is here on this earth?” Before I could reply, she answered with absolute surety, “It sure is!” When we consider Sister’s question, it does contain terrific insight. Why? For Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity has accomplished His mission.
It took me quite a while to let go of the conviction that Easter, not Christmas, was the preeminent event of our Christian faith. For a long time, I clung stubbornly to my fond childhood memories of Christmas: family gatherings, gifts, decorations, special foods and that pervasive atmosphere of good will, joy and peace. I almost forgot: and no school! Christmas, I thought, must be first!
Holy Thursday is next week. Lent ends with the celebration of the Holy Thursday Evening Mass. The Triduum, the Great Three Days, begins, that bridge connecting Lent with the Easter Season. We will hear the Lord’s Passion proclaimed next week, from Luke on “Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion” and from John on Good Friday.
St. Francis de Sales loved what he called the little virtues, and humility and gentleness were his two favorite. Francis says that humility is a vertical virtue because it defines our relationship with God. God is creator and we are creatures. God is God and we are beloved sons and daughters. For those who long for control in life, this can be a hard lesson to learn.
If you ask people the question, “What is the worst thing that can happen to the human heart?”, many folks will almost instinctively respond by answering, “When it breaks.”
However painful a broken heart may be, a heart capable of being broken is nonetheless a heart that is alive, capable of feeling any number of emotions. In the event, there is something much, much worse than a broken heart — that is, a hardened heart.
We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee,
Because by Thy Holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
(Bl. Louis Brisson, OSFS, Cor Ad Cor, March 5-18)
Throughout the season of Lent, this refrain is spoken in churches around the world, from the humblest to the most grandiose, as the faithful gather to celebrate the devotion of the Way of the Cross.
During the forty days of Lent we journey with Jesus as he makes his way to Jerusalem and his saving death on the Cross for each of us. During this holy season, let us heed the advice of St. Francis de Sales never to see this as just another Lent. If we do approach this Lent as just another Lent, we run the risk of not approaching it with the spiritual energy, seriousness and attention that it deserves.
I was recently hospitalized for an abdominal issue. Thanks be to God, I am on the mend. My experience led me to reflect on St. Francis de Sales’ words: “Do not look forward to what might happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day.” My translation is: “Live each “now” to the best of your ability and trust in God.”
Today is a true February day: sunny but cloudy, cool but blustery, bright but the darkness still comes early each evening. I love the winter but not the stronger winds or the shorter days. The gales and darkness can seem to win. Nature is a very good teacher for us. How often in life do the dark moments seem to overwhelm the light or the blowing winds outrun our desire for peace and calm?
In the closing pages of his book entitled American Church, author Russell Shaw describes “New Evangelization”:
“The key to new evangelization as a high priority of a new American Catholic subculture isn’t institutions and programs. Where to begin? It must start with the idea of vocation: with preaching and teaching and writing and broadcasting in every available forum the message that God intends each of us to play a unique, unrepeatable role in his providential, redemptive plan. Every life is a vocation. Today, it is not merely desirable but imperative that we acknowledge the reality of unique, personal vocation as preached and taught by such figures as Saint Francis de Sales…”
As a casual NFL fan, whose attention is drawn to the gridiron only once the playoffs begin, the defensive stalemate that characterized the most recent Super Bowl was thankfully punctuated for me by the regular interlude of this year’s lineup of Super Bowl commercials. While feeling slightly guilty for being so intrigued by such unabashed invitations to American consumerism, I’m always curious to see what the best in current televised marketing can come up with.
January 24 is the feast day of St. Francis de Sales. In honor of his feast day, I would like to reflect upon a few lesser-known aspects of his life.
If we were to ask Francis de Sales for the briefest and best summary of his spirit and doctrine, he would probably answer us with what he wrote at the end of his spiritual masterpiece, Treatise on the Love of God: "Live Jesus whom I love!" (Bk 12, ch. 13)
In his latest book entitled, The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity, New York Times bestselling author Matthew Kelly asserts: "The myriad of lies that have always swirled around Christianity have sown doubt in the hearts and minds and eroded the faith of millions.............…
This weekend, as we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the option is given of a well-known reading from the prophet Isaiah, which the Gospel writers would see as pointing to John the Baptist...........…