Spirituality Matters 2018: February 1st - February 7th

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(February 1, 2018: Thursday, Fourth Week in Ordinary Time)
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“He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two…”

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

“Do you seriously wish to travel the road to devotion? ‘A faithful friend is the medicine of life and immortality, and those who fear the Lord find him.’ As you see, these divine words refer chiefly to immortality, and for this we above all else have this faithful friend who by advice and counsel guides our actions and thus protects us from the snares and deceits of the wicked one. For us such a friend will be a treasure of wisdom in affliction, sorrow and failure. He will serve as a medicine to ease and comfort our hearts. He will guard us from evil and make our good still better. You must have a guide (or companion) on this holy road to devotion.” (IDL, Part I, Chapter 4, p. 46)

When Jesus sent his followers out to preach the Good News, he did not send them out alone. Jesus used the “buddy system,” sending them out together, in pairs. In the mind of God being a disciple of Jesus has nothing to do with being a lone wolf.

Today, what is the lesson for us? The road of life is sometimes lonely enough without trying to travel it alone. Just as in the case of the first disciples we, too, – disciples of Jesus – need to stick together.

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(February 2, 2018: Presentation of the Lord)
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"Since the children are people of blood and flesh, Jesus likewise has a full share in these..."

“God has signified to us in so many ways and by so many means that He wills all of us to be saved that no one can be ignorant of this fact. For this purpose, God made us ‘in his own image and likeness’ by creation, and by the Incarnation God has made himself in our image and likeness, after which he suffered death in order to ransom and save all mankind.” ( Treatise on the Love of God, Book 8, Chapter 4)

We are probably somewhat familiar with the notion that through creation we are made in God’s image and likeness. In contrast, we are probably far less familiar with the notion that God - through the Incarnation - made Himself in our image and likeness. Familiar or not, both are true.

St. Francis de Sales was captivated by the notion that God loved us so much that He not only came among us, but he also became one of us! God took on our very nature! In the person of Jesus, God gained and experienced first-hand knowledge of what it means to sleep, to wake, to work, to rest, to dance, to cry, to mourn, to struggle, to succeed and to dream. In these actions Jesus not only redeems what it means to be human, but Jesus also celebrates what it means to be human - to be human as God dreams.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews likewise believed this truth. He writes that “Jesus had a full share” in blood and flesh...and “had to become like his brothers (and sisters) in every way.” In this way, Jesus could not only redeem us but also he could truly understand us.

This truth is indeed a great mystery and a supreme expression of intimacy. God so loved us that he took on our nature…He made himself into our image and likeness – the truest and best nature as God intended from the beginning of time. In a manner of speaking, through the Incarnation God shows us how to be comfortable in our own skin. How? By showing us that God is comfortable in our skin in the person of his son, Jesus Christ!

Put simply, it is in God’s nature to meet us where – and how – we are.

Today, how can we imitate God’s example through our willingness to meet others where and how they are?

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(February 3, 2018: Blaise, Bishop and Martyr)
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"His heart was moved…for they were like sheep without a shepherd..."

In today’s Gospel we hear that Jesus’ heart was moved by the sight of the crowd who “were like sheep without a shepherd.” In other words, the people were lost.

“Lost” is defined as:

  • not made use of, won, or claimed
  • no longer possessed or no longer known
  • ruined or destroyed physically or morally
  • taken away or beyond reach or attainment
  • unable to find the way
  • no longer visible
  • lacking assurance or self-confidence
  • helpless
  • not appreciated or understood
  • obscured or overlooked during a process or activity
  • hopelessly unattainable
It’s safe to say that we all have the experience of being “lost” from time-to-time. Sometimes, we might experience being “lost” in any number of ways for long periods of time. Fortunately for us, one of the reasons that Jesus became one of us was to find the lost.

Consider yourself found!

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(February 4, 2018: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time)
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“Is not our life on earth drudgery?”

Let's face it. Try as we might to always look at the bright side of life, each and every one of us have times in our lives when we would answer Job's question with a resounding "yes."

The burdens of life are real. Setbacks in life are painful. Headaches - and heartaches - are a part of being human. We need to be honest. We need to name and address those areas of our lives in which we feel weighed down and burdened. However, wallowing in or dwelling upon the negative can be far more dangerous and debilitating to our spiritual, emotional, psychological, social and mental health than the troubles themselves.

Francis de Sales observed that dwelling on the burdens of life “upsets the soul, arouses inordinate fears, creates disgust for prayer, stupefies and oppresses the brain, deprives the mind of prudence, resolution, judgment and courage, and destroys its strength. In a word, such sorrow is like a severe winter that spoils all the beauty of the country and weakens all the animals. It takes away all sweetness from the soul and renders it disabled.”

What is the best remedy for melancholy, for the temptation to focus only on what is wrong, what is broken and what is painful? The combination of prayer, good works, and good friends:

Prayer – “Prayer is a sovereign remedy for it lifts up the soul to God who is our joy and consolation."

Good works – “By means of sorrow the evil one tries to make us weary of doing what is good, but if he sees that we won't give up on doing good, then he will stop troubling us.”

Good friends – “Humbly and sincerely reveal to another all the feelings, affections and suggestions that proceed from your sadness. Try to talk to spiritual friends frequently and spend time with them as much as you possibly can during this period” of dryness.

St. Francis de Sales claimed “the evil one is pleased with sadness and melancholy because he himself is sad and melancholy and will be so for all eternity. Hence, Satan desires that everyone should be like himself.” Hence, the expression “misery loves company”.

In the face of life's burdens and difficulties let's do our level best to deprive the evil one of our company and walk in the company of prayerful, positive and proactive people.

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(February 5, 2018: Monday, Fifth Week in Ordinary Time)
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“They begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.”

People continued to bring the sick – and themselves – to be healed by Jesus. The account in today’s selection from the Gospel of Mark provides an interesting detail: those coming to Jesus for help believed that if they merely touched his clothing they would experience healing power.

It would seem that just a little bit of Jesus – even the smallest touch of Jesus – went a very long way.

In his Treatise on the Love of God, Francis de Sales wrote: “Among sacred lovers there are some who so completely devote themselves to exercises of divine love that its holy fire devours and consumes their life…” (Book VII, Chapter 10, p. 41) Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of this love. His love for others was so intense that even the smallest sampling of it changed forever the lives of those he touched.

Today, can the same be said of our love?

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(February 6, 2018: Tuesday, Fifth Week in Ordinary Time)
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“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!”

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales observed: “Remember that God is not only in the place where you are: God is present in a most particular manner in your heart and in the very center of your spirit.” (Part II, Chapter 2, p. 85)

Each of us is a dwelling place of the Lord. By extension, this reality makes each of us a lovely sight to behold in the eyes of God.

Do we see and treat ourselves – and others – in the same way?

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(February 7, 2018: Wednesday, Fifth Week in Ordinary Time)
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“Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person, but the things that come out from within are what defile…”

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

“Physicians learn a great deal about a person’s health or sickness by looking at the tongue. In the same way, our words are a true indication of the state of our souls. ‘By your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned,’ says the Savior. ‘The mouth of the just man shall meditate on wisdom and his tongue shall speak of judgment.’”

“An evil word falling into a weak heart grows and spreads like a drop of oil on a piece of linen cloth. Sometimes it seizes the heart in such a way as to fill it with a thousand unclean thoughts and temptations. Just as bodily poison enters through the mouth, so what poisons the heart enters through the ear and the tongue that utters it is guilty of murder…” (IDL, p. 193; 195)

Do you want to check the state of your spiritual health? Then start the diagnosis by examining the words that come out of your mouth.