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.)

Fourth Sunday of Easter (May 12, 2019)

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus as the Good Shepherd who cares for His flock. St. Francis de Sales reminds us that we too must be good shepherds who tend our flock:

Some say that shepherds represent all those who wish to become holy: but if each of us is a shepherd, who are our sheep? They are our desires, feelings and emotions. We must keep watch over this spiritual flock. Jesus teaches us how to govern and rule over our desires, feelings and emotions, our flock that we must shepherd.

Like a shepherd who cares for his flock, our Good Shepherd gathers us all around Himself in order to makes us His own. He wants us to manage our lives in light of the Will of God, rather than our own willful desires. In Jesus, we learn how to govern our flock and direct our desires, feelings and emotions in a way that leads to spiritual health.

What can be more pleasing to Our Divine Shepherd than to bring to Him the lamb of our love? Love is the first desire of the human spirit. True love is accomplished when we live according to the inspirations and promptings that God places in us.

Our God is the God of the human heart. Our hearts thirst for God. We have a natural inclination to know and love God. No other love can satisfy us as the infinite goodness of God, from whom we gain infinite nourishment.

St. Augustine said: “Love God, then do what you will.” When all of our loves flow out of God’s love, then we can say that we truly love God. How happy we will be if we remain in the presence of Our Good Shepherd and faithfully imitate Him by following His example! We will then serve God as God wills and be a good shepherd to ourselves as well as others.

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

Third Sunday of Easter (May 5, 2019)

Today’s Gospel tells the story of how Peter, in affirming his commitment of love to Jesus, is called to nurture Jesus’ flock. St. Francis de Sales urges us to be disciples like the apostles and bring God's Word to others:

Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Peter’s heart was completely filled with love for His Master. Peter was lifted up again by God’s providence. Love is the universal means of our salvation. God’s love must always hold first place in our hearts. Let us waste no time and place ourselves entirely in the arms of Divine Providence. So loving is God’s hand as it handles our hearts!

What does God expect from you if not what was asked of the Apostles. It was nothing else than what Our Lord himself came to do in this world: to give life to all so that they may live a more abundant life. He did it by giving them His grace. Grace has the power, not to overpower, but to entice our hearts to consent to the movements of God’s love in us.

As much as possible, we must touch the hearts of others like the angels do, delicately and without coercion. While we ought to help and express our love to all equally, we must do it more so to those who have a greater need of us. Lead them to a more perfect life. They will find fullness of life by believing in Jesus’ word that you will explain to them. They will live a more abundant life through the example you are.

Go confidently and courageously, doing what you are entrusted to do. Do not say: “I am not up to the task.” Go ahead without worrying and turning back, for God will give you what you have to say and to do at the proper time. Have only one concern: to grow in your love and fidelity to God’s divine goodness and everything will turn out well for you.

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

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 16, 2016)

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 11, 2016)

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 2, 2016)

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)