Christ the King (November 24, 2019)

Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. St. Francis de Sales encourages us to place ourselves under the Kingship of Christ:

Bees are restless while they are without a queen. But when their queen is born, they gather round her and follow her desires. In the same way our senses ceaselessly wander about, drawing our interior self after them, wasting time and creating restlessness and anxiety in us. All shatter the peace that is so necessary for our human spirit.  Our senses and our mind and will are like mystical bees. Until they have a ruler, that is, until they have chosen our Lord for their king, they are restless.

 Yet, when we have chosen our Lord for our king, we ought to place ourselves under Him. Our Majesty is sovereignly good in exercising both mercy and justice. God’s mercy makes us embrace what is good while God’s justice makes us shun evil. Our Lord uses mercy and justice to uproot whatever prevents us from experiencing the effects of His goodness. Our Majesty’s justice may sting our conscience with insights. Yet they create movements that lead to our well being. Letting go of our old self may cause us to suffer as our new self in Christ is formed. But Our Lord’s unrivaled mercy opens our hearts, and restores our health through the Holy Spirit, who floods our heart with sacred love.

Wherever Our Lord is the Master, there is peace. To preserve our peace let us have a pure intention of willing God’s glory in all things. Let us do the little we can for that end, and leave to God the care of all the rest. May we have the fidelity to keep ourselves submissive to our King’s desires as the bees do with their queen, so we might begin in this life what, with the help of God’s love, we shall do eternally in Heaven. Live Jesus!

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

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 17, 2019)

In today’s Gospel, we experience Jesus telling us that regardless of the situation that surrounds us, we must persevere in following Him. Francis de Sales speaks similarly:

Will there exist a society, a religion, an institution, or manner of living so secure that it is exempt from evil? Since this danger affects all, it is perilous to live in a world with those who do evil. In confronting evil, we must distinguish between actual events and imaginary fears. While God does not give strength for an imaginary conflict, God will certainly give us strength when the need arises. Many of God’s servants were frightened and almost lost courage in the face of imaginary danger. Yet, when the actual danger came they conducted themselves with courage.

If left to our own imaginary fears, we would perhaps lose courage and do nothing at all to overcome evil. Alas, we must work. Our Lord desires combatants and conquerors of evil. If we feel we lack courage, let us cry out in a voice full of confidence, “Lord, save me!”  If we have good desires to serve God, but not sufficient strength to put them into practice, let us offer them to God, who will make us capable of accomplishing them. God will renew our desires as often as is necessary to make us persevere. It is enough that we have a desire to fight valiantly with perfect confidence for the Spirit will help us.

So long as we persevere in doing God’s will, God will make us victorious in perilous times. Let us lay our good will before Our Lord, who will renew it so that we may have enough courage for our whole mortal life. Little children feel secure when they are in their mother’s arms. They feel that nothing can harm them provided they are holding her hand. Although times of conflict may frighten us, we too must hold the hand of our “God Almighty,” who protects us and makes us secure.

(Adapted from the writings of Saint Francis de Sales)

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 10, 2019)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals that the children of God will rise again. We will rise because our God is not a God of the dead but of the living. St. Francis de Sales notes:

 We must not look for surpassingly perfect love in this mortal life. Our hearts havea thirst that cannot be quenched by the pleasures of this mortal life. If they are moderate, our most cherished and sought-after pleasures do not satisfy us. If they are extreme, they stifle us and become harmful. Only the fresh waters of undying life that God’s love offers us can quench our thirst and quiet our desires.

Since God’s love is so superior to ours, God willed to become like one of us to show us what we needed to do in order to live eternally. When we place our love in Jesus Christ, we place our life in Him. A spray of grapes united and joined to the stock brings forth fruit by virtue of the stock onto which it is grafted. So likewise, our life in Christ vivifies and animates us with heavenly love. Through the sacred love that the Holy Spirit steeps in our hearts, we produce sacred actions that carry us toward immortal glory.

However, in this mortal life, the example of Jesus tells us that our salvation is a journey toward wholeness in Christ. Enduring injuries, contradictions and discomforts as peacefully as Jesus did are moments that fashion eternity. One ounce of patience acquired during a season of trials is worth more then ten pounds gained in any other season. In your daily meditation, reflect on patience so as to make yourself practice faithfully patience. If you find your heart agitated during this season, delicately take your heart with the tips of your fingers and put it back in its place. Then say, “Be cheerful, dear heart.” Great designs are effected through patience and duration of time. Courage, for our God who is God of the living is always with us, so that we may rise again in Christ.

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

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 3, 2019)

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus desiring to enter the home of the lost even before they are penitent. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Our Savior helps us to find His Heart full of pity and kind mercy toward us even when our hearts are most hardened. Like Zaccheus, we need only the desire to see who Jesus is. Our Redeemer constantly bestows His holy love upon us. He continually pardons our daily faults against Him. He rewards our slightest services with great favors. He continues to recreate humanity through His merciful love for the whole human family.

How does the greatness of God’s mercy shine forth? God’s mercy makes us embrace what is good. While we truly belong to God, God has no slaves, only friends who choose to love freely. Conversion, on our part, depends on our free response to God’s love. We are ready to respond wholeheartedly to God’s love when we begin to purify our affections and works by forming them according to the Gospel. If we let go of our willful pursuit of self-serving things, we delightfully find that our spirit is liberated. Then we are free to choose the true and good life that God desires for us in Christ.

This practice of letting go of all that is not of God in us is a continual life-long struggle. For certainly as long as we live we shall have need of renewing ourselves, and of beginning over. This restoration is needed inasmuch as our changeable nature easily grows cold and begins to fail. There is no clock so perfect that it does not need repair. Like the clock that needs to be oiled so that it will be less subject to rust, you need to anoint your heart with the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist to restore your strength, and warm up your heart. In this way you consecrate yourself again to God’s love. If we really take care of our heart, each day we will renew it for God’s service.

 

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

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 27, 2019)

Today’s readings remind us that God responds without delay to the cry of those who repent of their wrongdoing. St. Francis de Sales notes:

With unrivaled mercy God opens the door of the penitent’s heart. This soul would have remained lost if God had not come to its assistance. To be truly sorry for not living up to the image of God in us, we must empty our heart of all things in order to enable our Lord to fill it with Himself. Alas, all the nooks and corners of our hearts are cluttered with thousands of things unworthy to be seen in the presence of our Savior. It seems that we thus tie His hands in order to prevent Him from giving us the gifts and graces that He is ever ready to shower on us if He finds us prepared.

Yet in repentance, the wonderful humility of our dear Savior enters our heart. Humility of the heart makes us aware of God’s goodness that is worthy of supreme love. Humility of the heart also gives us knowledge of our inability to love perfectly, and thus the need for our Savior who will raise us up from our lowliness until He makes us one with His greatness.

The value of the virtue of penitence is that it leads us to wholeness. We must be like the archer who in discharging a large arrow draws the string of his bow lower, the higher he wants it to go. We aim at the highest, to be united to God. Thus we must lower ourselves much by letting go of our self-sufficiency, and open ourselves to God’s help. Let us pour out all our tribulations before our ever-caring Savior so as to submit our whole being completely to Him. When we give our consent to let God love us the way God desires to love us, God will receive us in mercy, as well as reinvigorate and restore us completely to our true spiritual health, that is, sacred love.

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

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 20, 2019)

Today’s readings encourage us to persevere in our faith in God’s goodness by being attentive to God’s Word. St. Francis de Sales also stresses the value of perseverance:

It is perseverance that wins us the crown. Yet it is the most difficult of all the virtues because of the weakness and inconstancy of the human spirit. One minute we desire to do one thing, but soon after we change our mind. We must keep constant watch over ourselves. The nectar of divine love cannot be distilled into a heart where the old self reigns. To grow in God’s love we have to work diligently at letting go of our self-centeredness, and live according to reason, not according to worldly tendencies.

Have courage. The teacher does not always demand that the pupil know the lesson without mistakes. It is enough that the pupil takes care to do its best to learn the lesson. Have you ever seen those who learn to ride a horse? They often fall off. Yet they do not think they are defeated. For it is one thing to be beaten sometimes, and quite another thing to be vanquished.

We do not always have to feel courageous and strong. It is enough to hope that God will give us the strength and courage when and where we need them. Surely Our Lord would never exhort the faithful to persevere if he were not ready to give them the power to do so. If we are faithful we will make great progress. Perseverance is the most desirable gift that we can hope for in this life. For this reason we must continually ask for perseverance by using the means God gives us in order to obtain it: prayer, helping others, frequenting the sacraments, associating with good companions, and hearing and reading Holy Scripture.

We must be like those sailing on the sea. Always looking to the pole star, they make headway because they know they are going in the right direction. Let us follow this beautiful star and this divine compass fearlessly, for it is our Lord who never fails us.

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

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 13, 2019)

Today’s readings emphasize gratitude. Gratitude is so much at the heart of Salesian Spirituality that St. Francis de Sales even makes it a part of his method of meditation. The following are some contemporary Salesian prayers of thankfulness:

Thank you, God, for making haste slowly with my soul lest it stumble, for replacing my anxiety and preoccupation with care and solicitude, and for reminding me that only one thing is necessary, trust in you.

Thank you, God, for all the gifts of this day. In my impatience to do it my way, you alone know how many times today I have stumbled over you without ever recognizing you. Thank you for your patience with me. May I let you do your part.

Thank you, God, for blessing my efforts, not caring whether they were great or small, done well or badly. It mattered only that I tried to do Your Will. That always is enough.

Thank you for responding to my anger with your gentleness, for answering my petty lies with your truth, for healing my wounds and those I have wounded.

Thank you for taking me by the hand this day. Thank you for a day filled with a thousand trivial trials and little opportunities, and for the strength I borrowed from you in those scattered moments when I recognized your presence and responded to it as best I could.

Thank you for planting, in all the corners of this day, tiny reminders of your presence, that is, gentle inspirations meant to blossom into love. Cultivate these inspirations in me all the days to come. Please don’t stop now!

Thank you for walking with me, chatting with me and leading me gently through the garden of your love. Thank you for placing me in this garden where alone I will find you.

(Adapted from John Kirvan, Set Your Heart Free, Ave Maria Press, 1997)

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 6, 2019)

Today’s readings remind us that it is not enough to be a part of a believing community. For our faith to be alive we must share it through service. St. Francis de Sales notes:

A living faith produces the fruit of good works in all seasons. When we are open to the truths of God’s word, we live according to God’s love and not nature. Thus, our faith in divine love raises us up to unite our spirit with God, and it brings us to love the image of God in our neighbor.

An attentive servant must show unconquerable faith in our Savior especially in the midst of interior and exterior troubles. We must never lose courage in helping those who refuse God’s love, but pray and help them as far as their misfortune permits. Let us use all possible remedies to prevent the birth, growth and domination of evilness. In this let us imitate our Lord, who never ceases to exhort, promise, prohibit, command and inspire us in order to turn our will away from evilness, without depriving our will of its liberty.

Yet, we must not look for surpassingly perfect love in this life. Our progress in holy love is like the mythical bird called the phoenix. When newly hatched from ashes, it has little, tender feathers, and can only leap rather than fly. As it grows strong it soars freely in the air but not enough to remain long on the wing and often comes down to earth to rest. When it is perfectly renewed in spirit and strength, it remains on the mountaintop. In heaven, we shall indeed have a heart and spirit entirely free from contradictions and conflicts. As yet we have neither the spirit nor strength of the blessed. It is enough for us to love with all our heart, which means simply to love with a good heart and without reservation. Courage then! Let us rouse our faith again, and give it life through using the gifts God gave us to perform good works with holy love, since this is in our power.

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

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)