Spirituality Matters 2018: June 14th - June 20th

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(June 14, 2012: Thursday, Tenth Week in Ordinary Time)
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“Go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift…”

There is no question that Jesus raises the bar in today’s Gospel. Essentially, he says: Don’t even think about offering something to God without first offering the opportunity to be reconciled with another. However, Jesus isn’t exactly blazing a trail with this admonition. After all, in the Book of the Prophet Hosea we read, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (6:6) Indeed, Jesus references this quote four chapters later in Matthew’s Gospel when He states: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’”. (9: 9-13)

The single biggest obstacle to our complying with Jesus’ command is making the mistake of waiting for the “right” time or the “perfect” moment to be reconciled with another person. The longer we wait, the more difficult it may be to muster the strength to give/grant forgiveness. Likewise, the longer we wait the more time our injuries have to fester or deepen, making it all the more difficult to “bury the hatchet.” Francis de Sales’ advice when it comes to forgiveness and reconciliation? “Fresh wounds are quickest healed”.

There is no better way to avoid remembering you have something against someone else than to not allow much time to pass between the injury and the remedy. As sinners, what better way is there to become righteous than through our commitment to give and grant forgiveness? For those called by Jesus, what better offering could we possibly make to God than to be reconciled with one another as quickly – and as deeply - as possible?

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(June 15, 2018: Friday, Tenth Week in Ordinary Time)
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“Be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord…” (Responsorial Psalm)

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

“God has drawn you out of nothingness to make you what you are now and has done so solely out of his goodness. Consider the nature that God has given you. It is the highest in this visible world. It is capable of eternal life and of being perfectly united to his Divine Majesty”. (IDL, Part I, Chapter 9, p. 95)

We know that we don’t always live up to our God-given goodness. We know we fall short. We know we fall down. We know that we even drag others down with us.

Francis de Sales tells us not to give up. Francis de Sales tells us to keep trying. Francis de Sales tells us to keep moving. Be stouthearted (that is, be courageous and determined) and wait for the Lord. In the meantime, try your level best to be the good person that God created you – and redeemed you – to be!

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(June 16, 2018: Saturday, Tenth Week in Ordinary Time)
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“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the Evil One.”

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

“Your language should be restrained, frank, sincere, candid, unaffected and honest. Be on guard against equivocation, ambiguity and dissimulation: such things are dangerous…As the sacred word tells us, the Holy Spirit does not dwell in a deceitful or tricky soul. No artifice is nearly as good or desirable as honest, plain dealing. While worldly prudence and carnal artifice belong to the children of this world, the children of God walk a straight path and their hearts are without guile.” (IDL, Part III, Chapter 30, p. 206)

We are children of God. May our efforts - just this day - to both speak the truth and to also walk in the truth enable us to talk the talk – and to and walk the walk - of Jesus Christ!

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(June 17, 2018: Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time)
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“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed…”

Today’s readings help us to keep things in perspective. Make no mistake – we are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. While we are charged with a tremendous duty - advancing the kingdom of God - the most effective means to accomplish this great calling is to pay attention to detail – that is, by doing little things with great love.

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales made the following exhortation:

“Put your hand to strong things, by training yourself in prayer and meditation, receiving the sacraments, bringing souls to love God, infusing good inspirations into their hearts and, in fine, by performing big, important works according to your vocation. But never forget…those little, humble virtues that grow like flowers at the foot of the cross: helping the poor, visiting the sick, taking care of your family, with all the responsibilities that accompany such things and with all the useful diligence which prompts you to not stand idle.”

“Great opportunities to serve God rarely present themselves, but little ones are frequent…you will profit greatly in God’s sight by doing all these things because God wishes you to do the.” (III, 35, pp. 214 – 215)

God gives each one of us a rich abundance of means proper for our salvation. By a wondrous infusion of God’s grace into our minds, hearts, attitudes and actions, the Spirit makes our works become God’s work. Our good works - like planting miniscule mustard seeds here or like scattering small seeds there - have vigor and virtue enough to produce a great good because they proceed from the Spirit of Jesus.

As it turns out, little things really do mean a lot in the eyes of God. In fact, they mean everything!

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(June 18, 2018: Monday, Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time)
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“He refused to let me have his vineyard…”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines presumptuous as: “Overstepping due bounds (as of propriety or courtesy); taking liberties.”

The story from today’s selection from the First Book of Kings illustrates how one person’s desire can all-too-quickly become an obsession…with disastrous results. Ahab had his heart set of acquiring Naboth’s vineyard. When Ahab’s offer to purchase Naboth’s property was rebuffed, he couldn’t let it go. Undeterred, Ahab and his wife plotted to have Naboth first discredited and subsequently stoned to death. Once dead, Ahab could easily acquire Naboth’s property. Ahab felt entitled to take liberties with others. He believed that other people’s possessions were his for the taking, notwithstanding the fact that other people weren’t offering their possessions! Having little or no sense of boundaries, this presumptuous behavior – as we shall see tomorrow – ended badly for all concerned.

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

“I think you will agree that what I about to describe is both unjust and unreasonable…we want our neighbor to give up his property and take our money for it. Is it not more reasonable that we simply allow him to keep his property while he allows us keep our money?” (Part III, Chapter 36, p. 216)

It’s very tempting to tell other people how they should live their lives. It’s all-too-easy to expect other people to make us the center of their universe. In a letter written to Madame Brulart, Francis de Sales counseled: “Don’t sow your desires in someone else’s garden. Just cultivate your own as best you can.” (Letters of Spiritual Direction, p. 112)

By all means follow your dreams and pursue your plans…just remember to extend the same courtesy to everyone else.

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(June 19, 2018: Romuald, Abbot)
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“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

It’s safe to say that we all have enemies. We all have people in our lives that we do not like. We all have people in our lives whose company we avoid. We all have people in our lives that rub us the wrong way. We all have people in our lives that push our buttons. We all have people in our lives that drive us crazy.

In a conference to the Sisters of the Visitation, Francis de Sales observed:

“Antipathies are certain inclinations which excite in us a certain repugnance toward those about whom we entertain these feelings…If I feel a repugnance to conversing with a person whom I know to be most excellent – and from whom I mighty learn much that would do me good – I must not succumb to the antipathy which prompts me to avoid his company. On the contrary, I must discipline myself to listen to the voice of reason telling me rather to seek his company or at least, if I am already in it, to remain there in quiet, peaceful mind…People who are of a harsh, severe disposition will dislike those who are gentle and mild. They will regard such gentleness as extreme weakness, though indeed it is a quality most universally beloved. What remedy is there for these antipathies, since no one, however perfect, can be exempt from them? The only remedy for this evil – as indeed for all other kinds of temptation – is simply to turn away from it and think no more about it…We should never try to justify our reasons for our antipathies, let alone wishing to nourish them. If you have simply a natural, instinctive dislike for anyone, I beseech you to pay no attention to it; turn away your thoughts from it and so trick your mind. When, however, you find these antipathies going too far you must fight against them and overcome them, for reason will never permit us to foster antipathies and evil inclinations for fear of offending God.” (Conference XVI, pp. 298 - 301)

Francis knows the human heart very well. He acknowledges that “this instinctive tendency to love some more than others is natural.” (Ibid) Likes and dislikes are part-and-parcel of life. That said, Jesus commands us to love our enemies. Jesus commands us to love those whom we dislike. Jesus commands us to love those who get on our nerves. Like it or not!

Beginning today!

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(June 20, 2018: Wednesday, Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time)
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“Take care not to perform righteous deeds…that others might see them.”

In a letter to Madame de la Flechere, Francis de Sales observed:

“Humility is the virtue of virtues, but a humility that is generous and peaceable. Preserve a spirit of holy joy which – modestly spreading over your words and actions – gives consolation to the good people who see you, that thus they may glorify God, which is your only aim.” (Living Jesus, p. 150)

Jesus calls us to “perform righteous deeds.” He calls us to live a life of virtue. That said, Jesus cautions us against doing so to win the applause, praise or adulation of others.

Let’s try our level best this day to do the right thing for others. Let’s try our level best to do it for the right reason: to the praise and glory of God!