Spirituality Matters 2018: December 6th - December 12th
(December 6, 2018: Thursday, Advent Weekday)
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“A strong city have we; he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
On this new day on our Advent journey, we reflect on these words from Blessed Louis Brisson:
“Father Chevalier, my moral theology professor, used to say to us, ‘Do you believe that Our Lord became human merely to redeem the world? He became human that we might partake of His life, of His body, of His soul, of His divinity and of His happiness.’ And who is this Model, this life and this Happiness? The Word-Made-Flesh Himself!”
“The Savior, Jesus Christ – the One Whom we attempt to reproduce in ourselves and Who is living in us – accomplishes this divine redemption in us. He gives us the grace to do this. He is our Exemplar, our Model. He walks before us. We have only to put our feet in His footprints. Thus, we will bring about our complete redemption.” (Cor ad Cor, pp. 18, 19)
We have a strong city in the person of Jesus Christ! In Christ we find walls and ramparts in which we find not only protection, but also experience “His life, His body, His soul, His divinity and His happiness.” And perhaps more than ever these days, we could use more than few extra ramparts.
Today, how might Jesus be inviting us to be a “strong city” in the lives of others? How might we become a source of safety, support and protection for others today and help them to experience the life and happiness rooted in a life in and with Jesus?
(December 7, 2018: Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church)
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“Do you believe I can do this for you?”
Today the Church celebrates the life and legacy of St. Ambrose. We read in Thomas Craughwell’s This Saint’s for You!:
“In St. Ambrose’s day, all Roman boys studied the Latin classics. But Ambrose’s mother found him a tutor who also taught him Greek so that he could read Plato, Aristotle and other great author’s of Greece’s golden age. This mastery of both the Latin and Greek schools of philosophy gave Ambrose an intellectual edge over his contemporaries. As bishop of Milan, he tailored his sermons to fit his audience. To worshippers at Sunday Mass, he spoke of the joys of living virtuously. But when addressing the emperor or Roman senators or some other highbrow audience, he drew upon his classical education to present sophisticated arguments that his cultured listeners would appreciate.”
“Around the year 386, a woman named Monica arrived in Milan and began attending Mass at Ambrose’s cathedral. The sorrow of Monica’s life was that her brilliant son Augustine had rejected Christianity in favor of a pagan sect known as the Manicheans. Upon hearing Ambrose preach, Monica knew she had found a man whose learning equaled – perhaps even surpassed – that of her son. Monica dragged Augustine to Ambrose’s Masses, and her instincts proved true. Augustine was impressed by this bishop who was as familiar with Plato’s philosophy as he was with the four Gospels. After listening to several sermons, he sought out Ambrose for private discussions about Christianity. In time, Ambrose convinced Augustine of the truth of the Catholic faith. On the night of April 24/25, 387, at the Mass of the Easter Vigil, Ambrose baptized Augustine. It was a triumph for classical learning and the faith.” (This Saint’s for You!, p. 246)
Monica believed that Ambrose could change the life of her son for the better – to convert him to the faith – through his words. In today’s Gospel, two blind men believed that Jesus could change their lives for the better – specifically, restore their sight – through his words.
Today, might God invite you to change the life of someone else – for the better – by the words you say.
Do you believe?
(December 8, 2012: Immaculate Conception)
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“She became mother of all the living...”
The reading from the Book of Genesis ends with the statement: “The man called his wife Eve because she became the mother of all the living.”
Eve is the mother of us all. We all bear traces of her maternity by virtue of the fact that we are impacted by original sin. Eve’s “yes” to the serpent’s temptation continues to affect our lives even to this day.
Good for us that another woman is likewise “the mother of all the living.” However, she is our mother for an entirely different way; her “yes” affects us in an entirely different way. In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales wrote:
“Honor, venerate and respect with special love the holy and glorious Virgin Mary who, being the Mother of Jesus Christ our Brother, is also in truth our very mother. Let us then have recourse to her, and as her little children cast ourselves into her bosom with perfect confidence, at all times and on all occasions let us invoke her maternal love whilst striving to imitate her virtues…” (Living Jesus, p. 224)
So, we have – in truth – two mothers. One mother is famous for saying “yes” to the temptation of the evil one; the other mother is famous for saying “yes” to the invitation of the Holy One: both with lasting effects!
Today which of our mothers will we imitate today?
(December 9, 2018: Second Sunday of Advent)
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“Prepare the way of the Lord.”
John went throughout the whole region proclaiming a baptism of repentance as it is written using the words of Isaiah: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths."
Just as John the Baptist reminds the people in the region of the Jordan to prepare the way of the Lord, so too we are called to do the same. It started with our Baptism when we became members of the Body of Christ. It happens by our daily words and actions, our call to "Live Jesus" every moment of every day.
Our reading from Baruch reminds us to put on the splendor of the glory of God forever and our Responsorial Psalm reminds us that the Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.
We should ask ourselves - we truly are filled with joy as we prepare the way of the Lord? This joy only happens if we work on our relationship with God and one another. We can not give what we do not have. If God is not the center of our life, we will fail.
In his Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales tells us that devotion must be experienced in different ways: by the gentleman, the worker, the servant, the widow, the young girl and the married woman. Not only that, but its practice must be adapted to the strength, activities and duties of each individual person.
St. Francis de Sales believes that we must start with our interior, that is, with our prayer life. If we work on building a healthy, ongoing relationship with God, it can go a long way in helping us to build, healthy, ongoing relationships with others. It can help us to put into action the prayer of St. Paul: “I pray always with joy in every prayer for all of you”.
If we are deepening our relationship with God on a daily basis, we will be better able to prepare the way of the Lord with joy in our daily encounters with one another. We will be able to “Live Jesus” every moment of every day.
(December 10, 2018: Monday, Advent Weekday)
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“Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak. Say to those whose hearts are frightened: be strong, fear not!”
In today’s Gospel Jesus fulfills the prophetic words from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah through prophetic action. First, Jesus forgives the sins of the paralyzed man; second, he heals the man’s paralysis.
The Season of Advent provides us with a wonderful opportunity to consider the ways – any ways – in which we might be suffering from any form of paralysis: spiritual, emotional, social - and perhaps - even physical. In what ways might our minds be feeble? In what ways might our resolve be weak? In what ways might our hearts be frightened?
Whether on our own – or with the help of others – let us approach the Lord in our neediness. Let us ask for His forgiveness. Let us ask for His strength. May He open our eyes, ears and hearts to the wonders of His power! May our tongues – and lives – give witness to His love!
(December 11, 2018: Tuesday, Advent Weekday)
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“Comfort; give comfort to my people, says your God.”
In a commentary on the necessity to “reprint the Gospel,” Blessed Louis Brisson observed:
“The third evangelical task about which I want to speak is the evangelization of the nations - the preaching of Our Lord. Our Lord has come to earth to give us an example, to instruct us and to redeem us by His sufferings. The preaching of the Gospel was one of the principal reasons for His coming. We, therefore, should reprint the Gospel also by our preaching.”
“All of us should preach. Those who work with their hands as well as those who are occupied with exterior works, those who conduct classes as well as those who teach by example, those who direct souls as well as those who are assigned to the ministry of the pulpit - all of us should preach. We should preach in a practical way. We should teach our neighbor, if not by our words, at least by our actions. If you do so, do you think that you will have no influence on those who see you?” (Cor ad Cor, p. 30)
Today are you looking for a way to “reprint the Gospel?” Are you interested in doing your part to continue “the evangelization of the nations, the preaching of Our Lord?” Then here is one suggestion that comes directly from our God Himself.
“Comfort; give comfort to my people.”
(December 12, 2018: Our Lady of Guadalupe)
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“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
In his book This Saint’s for You! Thomas Craughwell writes:
“On December 9, 1531, Juan Diego – a Nahua Indian who had recently converted to Christianity – was on his way to Mass when he heard singing on the summit of Tepeyac Hill. Curious to discover the source of the music, he followed a trail up the hill and at the summit met a young woman: dark-skinned, beautifully dressed and standing amid dazzling light. Speaking to Juan in Nahuatl (his own language), she introduced herself and instructed him to go to the bishop of Mexico City and tell him to build a church in her honor on the spot. Twice he attempted to persuade the bishop to do as Mary had asked; twice, the bishop turned him away. Juan wasn’t surprised that the bishop didn’t take him seriously: after all, he was a poor peasant. Juan urged Mary to ask someone with more status to deliver her message. Instead, Mary promised to give the bishop a sign that would prove to everyone for all time that what Juan Diego has reported was true. So, she commanded him to return to Tepeyac and gather flowers there. At the top of the hill he discovered gorgeous Castilian roses, growing six months out of season. He picked the flowers until his cloak was full. Them he carried them back to Marty, who took each rose in her hand before replacing it in Juan Diego’s cloak.”
“Tucking the edges of his cloak so that not a single rose would fall out, Juan hurried to the bishop’s palace where he was meeting with some of his chaplains and several servants. Juan entered the room and said, ‘You asked for a sign. Now look.’ He opened his cloak and the magnificent roses cascaded onto the floor. But more astonishing than the roses was the image on his cloak: a perfect portrait of the Virgin Marty as Juan had seen her, beautifully dressed and with the dark complexion of an Indian. The bishop became convinced and built a church on Tepeyac Hill and enshrined the miraculous image over the high altar.” (This Saint’s for You!, pp. 370 – 371)
We can all relate to Juan Diego. After all, haven’t each of us wondered from time to time in our lives how – or why – God has chosen us to be instruments of His will, sources of His hope and bearers of His Good News? Haven’t we ever suggested – perhaps not in so many words – that God would do better in selecting people with “more status” to give voice to God’s will for the people He loves and cherishes so much?
Juan Diego - however reluctantly – became convinced that what was spoken to him by the Lord (through His mother!) would be fulfilled. How much do we need to be convinced that what we speak on behalf of the Lord will be fulfilled?