Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 22, 2019)

Today’s Gospel tells us that while persons who focus on self-gratification are very shrewd in their friendships, Christians must focus on being trustworthy, serving One Master. Here are a few of St. Francis de Sales’ thoughts on true friendship:

For true friendship to come into and remain in existence it calls for close communication between friends. When we have a high esteem for those we love, we open our heart to their friendship in a way that their inclinations, good or bad quickly enter into us. While a certain kind of bee seeks nothing but honey, unknowingly it sucks in the poisonous qualities of the plant it draws the honey from. Our Lord said to be good bankers and money changers. Don’t take in bad money along with the good. Hence, do not enter any compromise with a love opposed to love of God.

Certainly we must love our friends in spite of their faults. However, true friendship requires us to share the good, not evil. Those who dig for gold in a stream sift out the sand and leave it on the banks. So also those who share in good friendship ought to remove the sand of its imperfections and not let it get into their souls.

Genuine friendship resides in the heart, where God’s love holds first place. Thus it is grounded in God’s love, and is guaranteed to last eternally. It encourages, assists and leads friends to perform good deeds. Persons walking on a rugged slippery road hold on to one another in order to walk more safely; so too with genuine friendship. It keeps us safe and assists us in many dangerous places we must cross. It does not watch its friends perish in evilness without helping and correcting them, for genuine living friendship survives only on true virtue. It is good, holy and sacred. How good it is to love and cherish one another in this world as we shall do eternally in the next!

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 15, 2019)

Today’s readings remind us of God’s loving desire to seek us out when we go astray. Here are some of St. Francis de Sales thoughts on God’s loving mercy:

Wine that delights and strengthens the heart represents earthly joys and satisfactions. Yet more than all earthly pleasures, God’s love has an incomparable strength and power to restore and refresh the human heart. Only divine love is capable of giving the human heart perfect satisfaction and joy. Our Divine Lover is not content with proclaiming publicly an extreme desire to be loved. Our Savior goes from door to door, knocking and rapping, and crying: Return to me and live! I have loved you with an everlasting love.

When we stray far from the path of God’s love, our Savior never forgets to show that his mercy is above all his works. When our Lord sees a soul plunged into evil, He speeds to its aid. As we consent to God’s love that comes to rescue us from our misery, we are like old plants, once deadened by the winter but now growing green and vigorous. We again take on strength and life in the “wine” of heavenly love that cheers the human heart. God’s infinite mercy desires that all have life eternal and that none perish.

Yet, all of us have some false loves. These loves lead us away from our natural inclination to love God. If we follow this inclination faithfully, God’s divine mercy helps us to progress in holy love. So let us pour out in God’s presence all our disordered loves, and allow God to transform us entirely. Try to keep your will very firm in wanting to seek the good that God shows you, and our merciful Lord will help you progress in loving divinely. God always makes the cure far exceed the disease. Divine Providence often produces beautiful works of art from twisted pieces of wood.

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 8, 2019)

Today’s Gospel reminds us that if we truly value being a disciple of Jesus, we must be single minded and focus only on those things that will lead us to love of God and love of neighbor. St. Francis de Sales notes that this may require us to reorient our loves:

A true lover has almost no pleasure aside from the loved object. Such is the case with our friendships that are good and excellent. They are wholly for God and in God. The love and friendship we have in God last eternally because they are grounded in a solid and permanent foundation of divine love.

In our desire to love God above all things, little by little we let go of all of our affections that are insignificant and worthless before God because they are not guaranteed to last eternally. Moreover, love of things and friendships that are not centered in God’s love lead us down an empty path. Yet, we cannot remain long deprived of every kind of affection. We must take up the affections fitting to the service of divine love. If we have divested our self of our old affection for parents, country, home, friends and things, we must now take on a completely new affection for them. Now our affections for them will no longer be self-serving but rather serve God’s glory.

The kingfisher builds a solid and tight nest in a way that allows it to remain on top of the waves of the sea. In its nest the bird is master of the sea. Similarly, even though transitory things surround your heart, always keep your heart above or superior to them, so that you may be master of them. Your heart must be open to heaven alone. Once we let go of all things for God’s love, we are free to practice virtue according to the will of God, who desires to transform our self-centered loves into divine love. Let us no longer love our dear friends, relations and things except in holy love and friendship that last eternally.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time (September 1, 2019)

Today’s readings inform us that humility and generosity are eternal life-giving values. Here are few of St. Francis de Sales thoughts that permeate his writings on these virtues:

Humility is totally generous and makes us undertake with invincible courage all our tasks that we are called to do. When we are humble we are exceedingly courageous because we place our total confidence in God, rather than ourselves. In turn, confidence in God gives birth to a generous spirit in us.

Our generous heart may be full of doubts about our own capacity to do anything. Yet, we must not dwell on our doubts, but go on doing what we know will be pleasing to God. When we carry out a task, our doubts arise because we value too highly our reputation. We wish to be masters who never make mistakes. Our dear imperfections that force us to acknowledge our deficiencies give us practice in humility, self-giving love, patience and watchfulness. In the end, our trials amidst pain enlarge our heart and increase courage. God always rejoices in raising us up in our weaknesses.

We should not be troubled at finding ourselves always novices in the exercise of virtue. The whole of our life is destined to be an apprenticeship of learning how to love divinely. The obligation of serving God and making progress in God’s love always lasts until death. While God has ordered us to do all we can to acquire holy virtues, it is for us to cultivate our souls well. Therefore, we must faithfully attend to them. But as for plentiful crops and harvests, let us leave care of that to our Lord. The laborer will never be blamed for not having a fine harvest, unless he did not carefully till and sow his fields. Thus let us patiently wait for our advance, and instead of disturbing ourselves because we have made so little progress in the past, let us diligently strive to do better in the future.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time (August 25, 2019)

Today’s Gospel reminds us that to enter the kingdom of God, we will need the strength that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had to trust in God’s goodness. Here are a few of St. Francis de Sales’ thoughts on developing the confidence to trust in God’s goodness:

Trust in God is the life of the soul. To develop trust in God we must learn to love God’s goodness. We can experience God’s goodness if we open up our heart and allow God to enter. We must learn to speak to God and hear God speak to us in the depths of our heart. It is here that we begin to acquire affection for the things of God.

It seems we lack strength and confidence to trust in God in times of trial. When we feel this way, we must say to Our Lord, ‘even though I feel no confidence in you, I know that you are my God, I place myself completely in your hands, and hope in your goodness’. While this is difficult to say it is not impossible. The more we recognize ourselves as lacking strength to trust in God, the greater reason we have to confidently trust in God’s goodness and mercy. In your soul, you are bringing forth Jesus Christ. Until He is born in you, you cannot help suffering from your labor. Yet, God is as gentle and merciful when we are weak and imperfect as when we are strong and perfect.

When our strength and confidence to love the things of God increases, we let go of our lesser loves that are not of God. Seeking only the kingdom of God and desiring to witness our trust in God’s goodness to others become life giving. When we trust in God, we will always reap the fruits of our confidence in God’s goodness. Like mariners, who to arrive at the port they are bound for, look at the sky above them rather than down on the sea on which they sail, so you ought to look to God. God will work with you, in you and for you. As a result, your confidence to trust in God’s goodness will be strengthened.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (August 18, 2019)

Today’s readings remind us of some of the trials we must endure to be sharers in the Lord’s Kingdom. St. Francis de Sales tells us not to be afraid of trials. Our faith in the truth of God’s word will give us victory over our enemies:

All human good arises from persevering in the truth, rather than abandoning it. Our entire good consists in accepting the truth of God’s word, and persevering in it. We may have to suffer to be sharers in the Lord’s Kingdom. Yet, when we are armed with the shield of truth and of faith we will courageously overcome our enemies because our strength is in God and not ourselves.

Fear is the first enemy that comes to us who are resolved to serve God. We think that holiness demands too much of us and we say, “O God, what perfection is needed to live a holy life! It is too high for me. I cannot attain it. I shall never be able to do it.” Let us not entertain the vain hope of wishing to be saints in three months! Think of how fainthearted Peter was at the Crucifixion. Let us keep clearly in mind that everyone is tempted. Let us fear neither the temptation nor the tempter. They will have no power whatsoever over us, if we make use of the shield of faith and the armor of truth. It is our faith in the truth of God’s word that causes us to succeed in our firm and steadfast resolution to serve God as generously and as perfectly as possible in this life.

Do not fear that you are unable to accomplish what God has called you to do. You are armed with God’s truth. God’s Word will strengthen you to persevere and to do what is required for your greater welfare and happiness, providing you walk simply in faithful observance. How happy you are who are armed with the truth of God, for it will be your shield against the arrows of your enemies and will make you victorious!

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (August 11, 2019)

Today’s readings call us to be faithful servants of Our Lord. This is a theme that weaves constantly throughout the writings of St. Francis de Sales:

Scripture tells us to hold fast to what we have. Yet, we are like coral, which in the sea is easily bent. Since we are still in the sea of this world, we are liable to be bent on every side—on one side by divine love, on the other side by empty but seeming goods.

Apparent goods, like little foxes, destroy our vineyard. On the other hand, divine love urges us to make our heart fertile with good works. Thus, we must put our mind to the practice of holy love so those apparent goods will not influence us. God does not will to keep us from being attacked by false goods. Rather, God wills that we practice more fully sacred love through resistance of these false goods. God desires that by combat we may gain victory, and that by victory we may obtain triumph.

There are always some false goods such as wealth and honors that arouse avarice in our eyes. If we keep our faith attentive to God’s Word, it can distinguish between true goods that we must seek and false goods that we must reject. Our vigilant faith will raise alarm at any false good, however attractive it might appear. Divine love will immediately reject the false, for our faith can make us see true eternal things.

Let us all belong to God in the midst of so much busyness brought on by the diversity of worldly things. Where could we give better witness to our fidelity than in the midst of things going wrong? Difficulties give us an opportunity to practice virtue and trust in God who desires to help us, if we but ask for assistance. How happy we shall be if we travel through life and leave the arms of Our Lord only to walk and do what we can in the practice of virtue and good works, always holding to the hand of Our Savior!

(Adapted from the writings of Saint Francis de Sales)

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (August 4, 2019)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us of how unhealthy it is to make our material successes and pleasures the first priority in our life. St. Francis de Sales tells us how to redirect these loves in a way that makes us “rich in what matters to God”:

We never seem to have enough to satiate our desires. Yet we know that the riches and goods of the world are powerful allurements that can dissipate our heart if we have an inordinate attachment to them. Moreover, the care needed to preserve and increase our material possessions can deplete our energy. Yet, I would like to instill in your heart both wealth and poverty together. Take care to increase your wealth and resources, but in a manner that is just, proper and charitable. You ought to have greater and finer care than worldly people do to make your property profitable and fruitful.

Nothing makes us so prosperous in this world as giving alms to the poor. God will repay us, not only in the next world, but even in this one. Our possessions are not our own. They are a gift from God, who desires that we cultivate and make them fruitful and profitable for the reign of God among us.

When we labor for a worldly good out of God’s peaceful love, the care in our labor is calm, amiable, and agreeable. This easy and gentle way leads us to divine love. Divine love never says enough is sufficient. Holy love desires to have the courage always to progress on the way of true happiness. You can possess material riches without being poisoned by them if you merely keep them in your home and purse, and not in your heart. In this way we live a poverty of spirit in the midst of riches. So rather than be captive to earthly goods, let your human spirit that is bound for heaven migrate to the goodness of God, who enlightens and makes whole the human heart that is open to divine love.

(Adapted from the writing of Saint Francis de Sales)

Twenty-six Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 29, 2019)

Today’s readings remind us that we must continually be open to God’s love and persevere in the love we owe God. St. Francis de Sales remarks:

Both the rich and the poor are called to render to God the service due to God. We see in today’s Gospel that Lazarus, though suffering, perseveres in loving God faithfully and dies happily. But the rich man clung so strongly to his wealth that he made it his god.

Like the rich man, we can become obsessed with our possessions. As a result, we pray that God will do our will, instead of praying that we do God’s will. That is, we try to use God as a means to our own ends, which is an illusion. God alone is our true end.

Avarice is not the only disordered inclination. There are others such as selfishness, anger, pride or envy. Yet, if we are open to God’s love, neither our temperament nor our inclinations can hinder us from persevering in a holy way of life. However, abundant as a water source may be, the water enters a garden in full flow only according to the size of the channel that brings the water into the garden. The Holy Spirit is like a fountain of living water that flows into our hearts so as to spread its grace therein, if we give our consent. It is not grace that fails us, but rather it is we who fail grace. God’s enlivening love is never wanting to us if we are willing to receive it.

After his conversion, St. Paul, who was naturally sharp, rude and harsh, became fully open to God’s grace. Taking hold of Paul’s natural harshness, God’s love made him so much more resolute in the good he undertook, and invincible in all kinds of pains and labors. Is not God’s love higher than nature? Persevere, and with God’s help, you will arrange all your natural inclinations according to reason. Then you will become attentive to the love you owe God, and all your works will produce fruit that proceed from God’s Spirit, the wellspring of our spirit.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (July 28, 2019)

Today’s readings entreat us to ask daily for our true needs from God who desires to fulfill them. Here are a few of the many thoughts of St. Francis de Sales on prayer:

Our good Master shows us very clearly in the Our Father that we must first ask that God be acknowledged and adored by all. Then we ask for what is most necessary for us, that God’s Kingdom come. The Kingdom is the beginning and end for which we live. We desire to be inhabitants of heaven. Next, we ask that God’s will be done. After these requests, Our Lord makes it very clear that we must ask for our daily bread every day.

In prayer God comes into the garden of our soul and plants divine love. In time, as we cultivate in prayer what God has planted in our hearts, we gain confidence in our growing friendship with God. So close does our friendship flower that we even ask God to give us what we desire. So, as well as praising God in prayer, we also ask God for all that is good. We can ask God for anything with the condition that what we ask for is in accord with God’s will and is for God’s greater glory.

In prayer God gives us all the good thoughts we need to become whole. Prayer shows us how to perform all our actions well. Every action of those who reverence God is a continual prayer. Those who give alms, visit the sick, and practice other good works, are praying. They are voices praising God with their good actions.

The end of prayer is to desire only God. Our Savior desires to plant in us an abundance of graces and blessings and even His heart, completely enflamed and burning with an incomparable love toward us. Let us pour out in His presence all our desires so that He may transform us entirely into Himself. How can we not open our heart in prayer to allow the Holy Spirit to flood it with divine love?

(Adapted from the Writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (July 21, 2019)

Today’s readings exhort us to listen to the Word of God. St. Francis de Sales has much to say about actively listening to the Word of God. Here are a few of his thoughts:

Martha was anxious and upset about many things while Mary had no care but to listen to Jesus’ words. Our Lord reproved Martha because she was anxious, not because of her care for His needs. She had mixed motives. On the one hand, she desired to serve Our Lord. On the other hand, in busying herself with many tasks, she was anxious to appear as the perfect hostess. Since Jesus wanted Martha to listen to Him as Mary did, one dish well prepared would have sufficed to meet His needs.

Our Lord makes it very clear that we must not only hear His words but also listen to them with the intention of making them profitable to ourselves. To profit from the word of God, we must let ourselves be moved by it in the depths of our heart. It is by listening to God’s word with the heart that we receive good inspirations. The heart comes alive and ever gains new strength and vigor.

However, it is difficult to listen to the Word of God with our hearts when our hearts are filled with anxiety. God is full of care for His creatures, but with peace and tranquility. Yet, our care tends to be anxious. Birds stay caught in nets because they flutter wildly. So it is when we desire to escape an anxiety. Resolve to do nothing that your desire insists on until your mind has regained peace. Gently put yourself in God’s hands. Try calmly to moderate your desire according to reason. Our life consists in the today, this present moment in which we are living. Use with care all that is given you. Be free of all other care and leave the rest to Our Lord, who takes tender care of us and will surely provide sufficiently for your needs when you listen to His words and inspirations.

(Adapted from L. Fiorelli, ed. Sermons of St. Francis de Sales)

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (July 14, 2019)

Today we are reminded that Jesus is the manifestation of God who desires our love so much that we are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. St. Francis de Sales notes:

God has planted in the human heart a special natural inclination to love good in general. Likewise, implanted in us is a desire to love God’s goodness that is better and more lovable than all things. So ardent is God’s desire for our love that we are commanded to love God with all our strength. Thus we have no pretext to turn away from loving God’s infinite goodness that enlivens all souls. When commandments are ordained by love they give goodness to those who lack it and increase goodness in those who have it. God’s law of love takes away our weariness, as it refreshes and restores our hearts. There is no toil in doing what we love, or if there is any, it is beloved toil.

Eagles have strong hearts and great power of flight, yet they have greater powers of sight than of flight. Hence, they extend their vision much more quickly and much farther than their wings. Likewise, our reason knows that God’s goodness is lovable above all things. However, our minds have far more light to see how worthy of love God is than strength of will to love God’s goodness. Consequently, our natural desire to grow in divine love becomes constricted when our selfish desires and feelings stir us up.

Thus, our human heart produces certain beginnings of love for God’s goodness in the most natural way. Yet, to advance as far as loving God above all things belongs only to hearts animated and assisted by divine grace. Still, if we faithfully co-operate with our natural inclination to love God above all things, the gentleness of God’s divine mercy always gives us an abundance of help so as to become divinely loving.

(Adapted from the writing of St. Francis de Sales)

Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (July 7, 2019)

Today’s first readings focus on our need to focus on the providence of God as well as to embrace the cross (our commitments) of Jesus if we wish to partake of our new creation in Christ. Here are a few thoughts of St. Francis on the value of simplicity in becoming Christ-like:

Simplicity is nothing else but a pure and simple act of charity. This act of simple charity has only one aim and one desire: to love God. (Conf. Coneiro, 96-7) Simplicity is a virtue. Truly simple persons spend their time with the Lord. Learn from the dove to love God in the simplicity of your heart. Doves have only one single partner for whom they do everything. They are quite certain of their love and happy to be in each other’s company. That is, obtain in yourselves an increase of divine love through the simplicity of your heart. (Conf. Coneiro, 97)

Simplicity removes from our hearts all the worry and anxiety that we have searching to know the art of loving God. The only way we can experience and grow in the love of God is to start doing the things that please God. Simplicity includes all the means prescribed to each person, according to one’s particular vocation, to acquire God’s love. (Conf. Coneiro, 98)

Simplicity is opposed to all kinds of subtlety, cheating and duplicity, which are ways we deceive our neighbor. Simplicity requires that our interior disposition match our exterior behavior. This does not imply that we ought to necessarily reveal exteriorly all our interior feelings. God’s love requires that we admit our agitated feelings so that we are able with God’s love to transform them so that they serve God’s good and wholesome purpose.. (Conf. Coneiro, 99-100). This is to say that by cooperating with God’s grace through the use of reason and our free will all of our destructive feelings become transformed through virtuous acts of doing God’s will.

On the one hand we are told to take great care of our perfection and progress, and on the other hand not to think about it. The misery of the human spirit is that it never follows the middle course, but usually runs to extremes. It is these extremes that we must avoid. (Conf. Coneiro, p.103). In the end, true simplicity seeks our well-being in letting ourselves be led and directed absolutely by God’s Spirit. (Ibid)

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (June 30, 2019)

In today’s Gospel Jesus corrects his disciples who want to imitate Elijah’s violent way to combat evil. Jesus’ way is one of nonviolence. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Some people think that in order to have great zeal or fervor you need to have great anger. Our Lord made his disciples understand that his spirit and ardor to eliminate evil in the world, was mild and gracious. While we must hate the sin, we must love the sinner. The following story from a 6th C monk illustrates this point.

Once a pagan influenced a Christian to return to idolatry. Angered by this turn of events, Carpus, supposedly a bishop and a man known for his sanctity of life prayed that the two men might no longer live. When this did not happen he became enraged and cursed them. Our Savior appeared to Carpus, and moved by great pity for the two men, stretched out his helping hand to them.

Carpus’ zeal, or ardor to eradicate evil, justly aroused his anger. But once aroused, his anger left reason and zeal behind. His anger transgressed all bounds and limits of holy love and consequently of zeal, which is holy love’s fervor. His anger turned hatred of sin into hatred of the sinner, and gentlest charity into raging cruelty.

The most excellent exercise of zeal consists in enduring difficulties in order to prevent evil as Jesus did in his death on the cross. Holy zeal is especially a quality of divine love that makes so many of God’s servants watch, labor, and die amid those flames of zeal. Whereas false zeal is troubled, choleric, arrogant and unstable, true zeal is ardor or fervor without hatred, and is mild, gracious, diligent, and untiring. Happy are those who know how to control their zeal with the love of Jesus Christ, Who urges us on.

(Adapted from St. Francis De Sales’ Treatise on the Love of God)

Body and Blood of Christ (June 23, 2019)

Today we celebrate the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Here are some thoughts of St. Francis de Sales on the Eucharist.

After the resurrection, Jesus entered into the room where the Apostles gathered, although the doors were locked. H wanted to assure them that He was still alive and present to them. Similarly, Jesus gives us His body and blood under the form of bread and wine to assure us of His real presence among us.

The height of God’s self-giving love for us is the Eucharist. Christ instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist so that the whole human family might be intimately united with Him. United in Christ, this sacrament also calls us and helps us to unite with one another in that spiritual union that Our Savior desires us to have. This union unites many different members and forms them into one body. Thus, this sacrament is also called Communion as it represents to us the common union of holy love that we ought to have together.

In the Eucharist, the perpetual feast of divine grace, we have a pledge of infinite happiness. When we frequently and devoutly receive the Eucharist, we build up our spiritual health so that we may effectively avoid evil. It strengthens our hearts and makes us God-like in this world. Very tender fruits such as strawberries are subject to decay. Yet, they can be easily preserved for a whole year with sugar or honey. How much more so are our frail and weak human hearts preserved from evil in receiving the Eucharist.

Both the perfect and imperfect ought to receive the Eucharist often. The perfect, as they are predisposed to It. The imperfect, so that they may become perfect. We are all loved with the same love by Our Lord who embraces us all in this Sacrament. Let us grow in the gentle and strengthening bonds of holy love through receiving the Eucharist.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Most Holy Trinity (June 16, 2019)

Today is Trinity Sunday. St. Francis de Sales stressed that we must strive toward a loving union with one another that reflects the love of the three divine Persons.

God’s acts of goodness to the human family are actions of all three Persons. Their goodness overflows into the spiritual health of the whole human family, for we are made in the image of God. The Father provided all the means necessary for us to render glory to God’s divine goodness. The Son, who came into this world, made our nature higher than the angels. In becoming human, Our Lord took our likeness and gave us His so that we may enjoy the treasure of eternal life. The Spirit, who came to enliven the Apostles who formed the true Church, continues to give us life through divine love.

No one can possibly imagine or understand the union of the Persons of the Trinity. Thus, Jesus does not call us to the identical union of the Trinity, but we ought to be united together as purely and perfectly as possible in holy love. For through and in Christ we participate in the Trinity’s divine love that makes us children of God.

The children of the world are all separated one from the other, as their hearts are in different places. On the other hand, the children of God, having their hearts ‘where their treasure is’, have but one treasure which is the same God. They are always joined and united together by God’s love. Our Savior has restored us all equally, and without exception made us like to Himself. Therefore, ought we not to have a warm and genuine love for this divine semblance in our neighbor? We are not called to love anything evil in our neighbor, only this image and likeness of God. Let us cherish, then, being God’s children who strive to be united in a similar way as the three Persons of the Trinity, whose overflowing divine love nurtures and transforms the whole human family.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Pentecost Sunday (June 9, 2019)

God’s great love and care again manifests itself on this Feast of Pentecost. The dwelling of Holy Spirit in us is central to the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales.

Love is the life of the heart. The Holy Spirit who has been given to us pours divine love into our hearts. The Spirit is like a fountain of living water that flows into every part of our hearts so as to spread its grace. Grace has the power to entice our hearts. Through the Holy Spirit, God awakens and enlivens our hearts to their own good. We often need to be stirred up and led by the hand to put our strength and skills to proper use.

If we wish to become aware of the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in us, we must wean ourselves from our willfulness and adjust our will to that of God’s will. We must be like clay in the hands of the potter, so that God may shape us and lead us to true spiritual health. While we can not prevent God from inspiring our hearts, we do have the power to reject God’s desire to love us. Also, the Spirit has no wish to work in us without our consent. Yet, even if we give just a little of our consent to God’s inspirations, what happiness results!

The sole fruit of the Holy Spirit, divine love, gives us inward joy and consolation together with great peace of heart, which is preserved in adversity by patience. Holy love makes us kind and gracious in helping our neighbors with a heart-felt goodness toward them. Such goodness from the Holy Spirit is constant and persevering, and gives us an enduring courage that renders us mild, pleasant and considerate of all others. We put up with their moods and imperfections. We live a life of simplicity that testifies to our words and actions. Divine love is the virtue of all virtues. Let us cherish and nurture the indwelling of the Spirit so that God’s love may reign in us.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal).

Seventh Sunday of Easter (June 2, 2019)

In today’s Gospel Jesus prays that those who believe in Him may all be one. St. Francis de Sales uses several images to express the bond of love that must bring us together as one.

It was a fervent, holy love that united the hearts and wills of the first Christians. Many grains of wheat are ground and kneaded together to make a single loaf of bread. In the loaf, the grains of wheat can no longer be separated individually. Many grapes are pressed together to make one wine. It is impossible to distinguish what wine came forth from which cluster of grapes. Similarly, the holy love of the first Christians was made from many hearts, yet their wills and hearts were all blended as one.

Together we constitute the image of one portrait, for we bear the image of God in ourselves. Our Lord came into this world to teach us what we need to do to preserve in ourselves this divine resemblance that unites us as children of God. Out of love, He gave us the means to reach the highest degree of union that He desired for us, namely to be made one with Him, as He and His Father are one.

In this life we may not be able to attain this divine union, but we must do all that lies in our power to strive towards it: the more we are united with God, the more we shall be united to one another. Jesus gave us only precepts that he himself first practiced. He loved us and showed us by his example how we ought to love our neighbor so that we might not have an excuse to think that it is impossible to love one another.

Like the first Christians we must honor God’s image in each of us and be open to one another in holy love, always strengthening this gentle bond of charity among us. Let us summon up the courage to live up to this divine semblance in us. In this way, we may experience and grow more deeply in God’s love, the life of abundance that our Lord came to bring to all, so that we may be one.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales.)

Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 26, 2019)

Today’s readings remind us that to love Jesus is to keep His word. St. Francis de Sales stresses that we learn to keep His word and live Jesus through a life of prayer and virtue.

Prayer places our mind in the brilliance of God’s light and exposes our will to the warmth of God’s love. Prayer is a stream of holy water that makes the plants of our good desires grow green and flourish. Each day set aside some time to meditate. If possible meditate early in the morning, when your mind is less distracted and fresher after a night’s rest. To live Jesus, ask God to help you to pray from your heart.

When you meditate on Jesus’ life, you will learn his ways and form your actions after the pattern of his life. Gradually accustom yourself to pass with ease and tranquility from prayer to your various duties even though your duties appear far different from the affections you received in prayer. The lawyer must be able to pass from prayer to pleading cases, the merchant to commerce, and the parent to the care of children. Out of our meditation experience must flow our daily actions, which involve a life of virtue.

Each person must practice in a special manner the virtues needed for the kind of life he or she is called to. In practicing the virtues we should prefer the one most conformable to our duties rather than the one most agreeable to our taste. As a rule comets seem bigger than stars because comets are closer to us. Hence, comets seem bigger to us. Similarly, we esteem certain virtues merely because they appear greater to us. Yet, we must choose the virtues needed to counteract our habitual failings and weaknesses so as to advance in holy love. For instance, if assaulted by anger practice gentleness, no matter how small this virtuous act may seem. True virtue has no limits. If we act out of reverence for God and in good faith, God will raise us up to heights that are truly great so that we may live Jesus.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales.)

Fifth Sunday of Easter (May 19, 2019)

Today’s readings remind us that to enter the Kingdom of God we must persevere in faith in Jesus Christ. St. Francis de Sales stresses the need to persevere in God’s love.

Perseverance is the most desirable gift we can hope for in this life. All our happiness is grounded in perseverance and that is why I urge you to persevere till the end. Our entire good consists not only in accepting the truth of God’s word, but also in persevering in it. The Spirit of God makes us consider beginnings so as to arrive at the end. The Spirit has us rejoice in the flowers of spring only in expectation of enjoying the fruits of summer and autumn.

The aim of the Christian life is to transform our own self-centered spirit into that of Christ’s. As long as we live we will always have some self-seeking interests that we ought to relinquish. The more we let go of our selfish desires and yield to God’s desire for us, the more our human spirit will be at peace and free from interior restlessness.

True love strives to please those in whom it has found pleasure. The example of those we love has an imperceptible power over us. We can not help conforming ourselves to those we love. By often taking delight in God we become conformed to God, and our will is transformed into that of God‘s divine will. Conformity of our heart with that of God’s love takes place when we place all our affections in God’s hands so that God may shape and direct our spirit. In turn, we respond to God’s love through love of others.

Faith teaches that all that is true and good in us is from God alone. You must have great courage and a very firm confidence in God’s help. God, who holds you by the hand, carries you along in hardships that seem otherwise unbearable to you. If we persevere in responding to God’s love and mercy, God will complete the work of our salvation.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)