Spirituality Matters 2018: May 10th - May 16th

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(May 10, 2018: Thursday, Sixth Week of Easter
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"A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me."

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales wrote:

“God is in all things and all places. There is no place or thing in this world where God is not truly present. Everyone knows this truth but not everyone brings this truth home. Blind men do not see a prince who is present among them, and therefore do not show him the respect that they do only after being told of his presence. However, because they do not actually see him they easily forget his presence, and having forgotten it, they still more easily lose the reverence and respect owed to him.”

He continued:

“Unfortunately, we do not see God who is present with us. Although faith assures us of his presence, yet because we do not see him with our eyes we often forget about him and behave as if God were far distant from us. We really know that he is present in all things, but because we do not reflect on that fact we act as if we did not know it.” (IDL, Part II, Chapter 2, p. 84)

You know the adage: “Seeing is believing.” As people of faith, we believe that God is fully present within us and among us. Because we do not see God physically, however, it is all-too-easy for us to lose sight of our belief in an all-present God and act in ways that are contrary to our belief.

Today, let us ask God for the vision we need to be ever mindful of his presence. Empowered by this awareness, may the attitudes and actions that others see in us help them also to believe in an all-present God, too.

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(May 11, 2018: Friday, Sixth Week of Easter)
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“You will grieve but your grief will become joy…”

These words spoken by Jesus in today’s Gospel have a familiar ring to those acquainted with the Salesian tradition. They sound like a remarkably simple – but powerful – summarization of St. Francis de Sales’ teaching on what he called “spirit of liberty”:

“The first sign (of this spirit of liberty) is that the heart enjoying this liberty is not at all attached to consolations and accepts afflictions with all the meekness possible to the flesh. I am not saying that the soul does not love consolation and long for it, but without clinging to it. The second sign is that the man enjoying this spirit does not set his heart on spiritual exercises: if illness or some other emergency prevents them he is on no way upset. I am not saying that he does not love them but that he is not attached to them. Thirdly, he does not lose his joy, because no loss or lack can sadden one whose heart is perfectly free. I am not saying that it is impossible for him to lose his joy, but it will not be for long.” (Stopp, Selected Letters, pp. 70 - 71)

What’s the bottom line? Into everyone’s life a little rain must fall. Into everyone’s picnic ants will sometimes intrude. Into everyone’s success some setbacks will eventually surface. But for those who are freed by the spirit of liberty, any grief associated with these (and other hard knocks in life) will – eventually – turn into joy.

Over and over again!

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(May 12, 2018: Saturday, Sixth Week of Easter)
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"Ask and you shall receive…”

In his Treatise on the Love of God, Francis de Sales wrote:

“If a man prays to God and perceives that he is praying, he is not perfectly attentive to his prayer. He diverts his attention from the God to whom he prays in order to think of the prayer by which he prays…A man in fervent prayer does not know whether he prays or not, for he does not think of the prayer he makes but of God to whom he makes it.” (TLG, Book VII, Chapter 6, p. 32)

Today here’s a question for you. When you “ask the Father for anything” in Jesus’ name, upon what do you focus - that for which you ask or the person from whom you ask it?

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(May 13, 2018: Seventh Sunday of Easter)
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“Consecrate them ... I consecrate myself for their sakes now, that they may be consecrated in truth.”

For the past six weeks we have been observing the great Sunday of Easter, which lasts 50 days, culminating in the feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles.

Christ prays to his Father in the Gospel that we may remain one. He prays that God may protect us and guard us from the evil one “Consecrate them ... I consecrate myself for their sakes now, that they may be consecrated in truth.”

The scene to which our minds take us is the Last Supper. We are all in the upper room. Jesus wants us to experience the joy of being one body, upholding one another in love whatever the circumstances.

Jesus prays that his disciples will see through the world’s illusions. By arming themselves with God’s word, they will outwit the evil one who seeks to separate them from the Father’s protection. Our primary responsibility as Christians is to share with others the love of God that is within us. To share this love, we must see beyond the ways of the world and remain faithful to God’s plan and ways.

What we Christians need in our spiritual life is what St. Francis de Sales reduced to two words in a motto he chose for himself as a youth: NON EXCIDET. They are words of determination. A broader translation would be, “I will not fall away from my original purpose” or “I will not fall down on the job; I will not lose courage.” And yes, Francis was faithful to his chosen motto. He stuck to his books and to the practice of virtue. As a result, he became very learned and very close to God or ‘sanctified’, made ‘holy’ as a result of his industry and tenacity.

The entire secret of his sanctity escaped from his great heart when he said: “If I knew that there was a single fiber of my heart that was not completely saturated with the love of God, I would immediately pluck it out.” St. Francis de Sales knew well what a person needs most in life, i.e. firmness of character.

Today, may all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit!


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(May 13, 2018: Ascension of the Lord - Where Observed)
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“Why are you standing there looking at the sky?”

Well, the day in question finally arrived. Jesus was taken up into heaven and returned to the Father. After standing there in silence for what must have seemed like an eternity, one of the eleven eventually broke the silence by asking the question: “Now what?”

The rest – as they say – is history.

In his Treatise on the Love of God, Francis de Sales wrote:

“After Jesus had shown himself for a little while to the disciples, he ascended up to heaven, and at length a cloud surrounded him, took him and hid him from their eyes. Jesus Christ, then, is hidden in heaven in God. Jesus Christ is our love, and our love is the life of the soul. Therefore our ‘life is hidden in God with Christ Jesus, and when Christ who is’ our love and therefore our spiritual life ‘shall reappear’ in the Day of Judgment, we shall also appear ‘with him in glory.’” (TLG, Book VII, Chapter 6, p. 32)

In his Catholic Controversies (p.286) Francis de Sales outlines the activity of the Apostles – especially Peter and Paul – following the Ascension. Simply put, it would appear that once the dust of the Ascension settled, Jesus disciples got to work.

This same work continues for us today. Our task in the wake of the Ascension is to make the “hidden” Christ “reappear” through the quality of our love for others.

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(May 14, 2018: Matthias, Apostle)
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“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete…”

In a sermon entitled “Dedicated Hearts,” Francis de Sales stated:

“We might possibly reach a saturation point when it comes to our quest for wealth and honors, but when it comes to loving God, how can we ever say, “I have enough”? No limits can ever be set to our hunger and thirst for Him...’” (Pulpit and Pew, p. 223)

In other words, no matter how happy and joyful we might be, our happiness and joy will always be incomplete unless it includes the love of God. And in what will we find complete joy? In the opinion of St. Francis de Sales, it is experienced through our willingness to be what he describes as a “servant of God.” He wrote:

“To be a servant of God means to be charitable towards one’s neighbors, to have an unshakeable determination in the superior part of your soul to obey the will of God, to trust in God with a very humble humility and simplicity, and to lift oneself up as often as one falls, to endure with all your abjections and to quietly put up with others in their imperfections. (Selected Letters, Stopp, p. 140)

Jesus embodies the fullness of joy. Jesus shows us what a joyful and joy-filled life looks like.

Today, how can we imitate his example today and share His joy – as well as ours – with others?

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(May 15, 2018: Tuesday, Seventh Week of Easter)
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“This is eternal life: that they should know you, the only true God and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ…”

In his Treatise on the Love of God, Francis de Sales wrote:

“‘Life is in the will of God,’ says the Psalmist, not only because our temporal life depends on the divine will but also because our spiritual life consists in its fulfillment, by which God lives and reigns in us and makes us live and subsist in God…Ah, Lord God, we are in this world not to do our own will but that of your goodness, which has placed us here. It was written of you, O Savior of my soul, that you did the will of your eternal Father. Ah, who will give my soul the grace to have no will but the will of God!” (TLG, Book VIII, Chapter 7, p. 73)

To know God is to know God’s will. To love God is to love God’s will. To know and do God’s will is to experience eternal life. Nowhere do we see this love demonstrated more clearly and convincingly than in Jesus’ knowledge, love and obedience to his Father’s will throughout his entire earthly ministry. Note the impact: not only did following the Father’s will not diminish Jesus, but it also empowered Him to be faithful to and effective in his purpose for living: that “we might have life, and have life to the full”. (John 10:10)

If eternal life is found by knowing and loving God – and, by extension, by knowing, loving and living God’s will in our lives – then the eternal life that Jesus offers us is not limited to the next life; it is available here and now in this life.

Let us pray: God, not our will, but your will be done in us, in order that we might know something already on this earth of the eternal life you offer us in the One whom you sent in order that we might know and love you!

Jesus Christ.

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(May 16, 2018: Wednesday, Seventh Week of Easter)
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“Savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock…So be vigilant…”

There are a number of variations of a Cherokee parable known as “The Two Wolves.” It goes something like this:

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life. The old man said, “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego. The other wolf is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too, as these two wolves struggle for supremacy.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old chief sat in silence for a few moments and then simply replied, “The one you feed.”

It is tempting to look for the “savage wolves” about which Jesus warns in other people, especially in the case of those with whom we find ourselves embroiled in misunderstanding, conflict and perhaps even hostility. However, it might be a better idea to look also inside ourselves for any signs that such “savage wolves” might be living within us. And for what should we be vigilant?

Today, be on the watch for any feeling, thought, opinion or perspective that would pervert the truth of whom we are in our relationship with God, ourselves and one another.