Spirituality Matters 2019: March 14th - March 20th

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(March 14, 2019: Thursday, First Week of Lent)
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“Ask and it will be given to you…”

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 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, Part IX, Chapter 10, p. 122)

If Jesus invites us to ask for things in prayer, who are we to refuse him? However, we need to be open to the fact that God may not always give us what we want in ways that we want. God indeed answers our prayers, but not always in ways to our liking.

For his part, Francis de Sales asks us for something. When it comes to prayer, he asks us to be less concerned about the things for which we ask and more focused upon the person to whom we bring our requests. After all, what could be better than any one thing that God might give us when compared with what God has already given us in the person of his Son?


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(March 15, 2019: Friday, First Week of Lent)
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“If the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die…”

In his Treatise on the Love of God, St. Francis de Sales observed:

“Our Savior’s redemption touches our miseries and makes them more beneficial and worthy of love than original innocence could ever have been. The angels, says our Savior, have ‘more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just that have no need for repentance.’ So, too, the state of redemption is a hundred times better than that of innocence. Truly, by the watering of our Savior’s blood, made with the hyssop of the cross, we have been restored to a white incomparably better than that possessed by the snows of innocence. Like Naaman, we come out of the stream of salvation more pure and clean that if we had never had leprosy. This is to the end that God’s majesty, as he has ordained for us as well, should not be ‘overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good’… (TLG, Book II, Chapter 5, pp. 115 – 116)

This display of God’s generosity is nothing if not breathtaking. God loves us so much that not only does God not hold our sins against us if we should repent from our evil ways - God goes even further by applying his grace to our repentance in ways that can transform us into something more beautiful than if we had never committed sin in the first place! How generous is God? God can even turn our sins into a means of our salvation if we but trust in his unconditional and abiding love for us. But should this really surprise us? After all, have you ever noticed that some of the greatest of saints started out by being the greatest of sinners?

Are there any ways in which you are disfigured by the leprosy of sin? Don’t be ashamed. Rather, be assured that God can transform your spiritual disfigurement into something – actually, someone – far more beautiful than you could ever have believed possible.

And God will affect something of this transformation even today!

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(March 16, 2019: Saturday, First Week of Lent)
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"Be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul..."

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

“Genuine, living devotion presupposes love of God, and hence it is simply true love of God. Yet it is not always love as such. Inasmuch as divine love adorns the soul it is called grace, which makes us pleasing to the Divine Majesty. Inasmuch as it strengthens us to do good, it is called charity. When it has reached a degree of perfection at which it not only makes us do good but also do this carefully, frequently and promptly, it is called devotion.” (IDL, Part III, Chapter 30, p. 206)

Indeed, “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!”

Carefully, frequently and promptly!

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(March 17, 2019: Second Sunday in Lent)<
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“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

Those who recognize Jesus Christ as Lord and Messiah certainly do their level best to “listen to him.” Of course, disciples of Jesus can’t limit discipleship to merely listening to him. They have to put into action what Jesus says to them. They have to imitate him; they have to follow his example.

We certainly hear an example of this in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He encourages this community of Christians – followers of Jesus – to not only listen to what Paul has to say, but also to imitate his example of how to put the Good News of Jesus Christ into action. The specific advice that Paul offers to the Philippians includes:

  • Conducting themselves in accord with the example that Paul and others have attempted to provide
  • Avoiding any temptation to participate in shameful activities
  • Eschewing the practice of filling their minds with earthly things
  • Acting as citizens of heaven
  • Conforming their earthly bodies to Jesus’ glorified body
  • Standing firm in the Lord.
By all means let us listen to the Lord today. But remember this: just as talk can be cheap, so, too, can listening be if it fails to lead to a change of mind, heart soul and spirit…in ways that can be experienced by others.

Are you listening?

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(March 18, 2019: Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church)
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“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful…”

What does it mean to be merciful as the Father is merciful? As the reading from the Book of the Prophet Daniel suggests, it is about being generous – by being loyal. Daniel wrote: “Lord, great and awesome, you who keep your merciful covenant toward those people who love you and observe your commandments!” Daniel then proceeds to remind his audience that the Lord also keeps his merciful covenant with those people who rebel against God’s commandments and laws through sin, evil and wickedness. Of course – as we know from our own experience - there is something of both within each one of us – we who both obey and disobey God’s commandments. And still, for all that, God remains loyal to us in good times, in bad times and in all the times in between. God stands by us in all things. God loves us no matter what. God is, after all, “compassion and forgiveness.”

Of course, God’s mercy, generosity and fidelity come with some pretty high expectations. God’s forgiveness should lead us to practice compassion, not complacence. As God doesn’t judge us, so we should not judge others! As God doesn’t condemn us, so we should not condemn others! As God forgives us, so we should forgive others! As God gives to us, so we should give to others! The measure with which we measure to others should measure up to how generously God measures to us…in all kinds of times, places and situations!

Would you like to be “great and awesome” in the eyes of God? Then try to do your level best to be merciful to others today as God is clearly merciful to you!

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(March 19, 2019: Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
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“Joseph her husband was a righteous man…”

In a conference (The Virtues of St. Joseph) he gave to the Sisters of the Visitation, St. Francis de Sales remarked:

“Now, our glorious St. Joseph was endowed with four great virtues (constancy, perseverance, strength and valor) and practiced them marvelously well. As regards his constancy, did he not display it wonderfully when seeing Our Lady with child, and, not knowing how that could be, his mind was tossed with distress, perplexity and trouble? Yet, despite all, he never complained, he was never harsh or ungracious towards his holy Spouse, but remained just as gentle and respectful in his demeanor as he had ever been…” (Living Jesus, p.184)

Joseph experienced more than a little turmoil in his role as husband and father of the Holy Family. However, being the just and righteous man that he was, Joseph never took out his frustrations on his wife or on his son. Rather, he accepted life’s ups and downs as expressions of God’s will for him.

And so, we pray: God grant us the grace to imitate the example of St. Joseph. Help us to take whatever comes in life without taking it out on others – especially on those we love the most.

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(March 20, 2019: Wednesday, Second Week of Lent)
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“What do you wish…?”

“What’s in it for me?” On some level that’s essentially what the mother of James and John is asking Jesus in today’s Gospel story. Whether her sons put her up to it or she came up with it all by herself, she is basically asking, “Why should my sons follow you? What’s the pay-off?” On the face of it, her request is perhaps reasonable, given Jesus’ prediction of his own falling out with the chief priests and the scribes that will lead to his being condemned, mocked, scourged and crucified. She wants some guarantee that her boys will have something to show for their trouble that she intuits will invariably come.

Really – what mother wouldn’t be concerned?

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

We must often recall that our Lord has saved us by his suffering and endurance and that we must work out our salvation by sufferings and afflictions, enduring with all possible meekness the injuries, denials and discomforts we meet.” (IDL, Part III, Chapter 3, p. 128)

There is no way around it – the experience of enduring injuries, denials and discomforts is part-and-parcel of the life that comes with drinking the chalice from which Jesus drinks. Following Jesus – he who is the Way, the Truth and the Life – isn’t all smiles and sunshine. And somewhere deep down inside the mother of James and John whispers to us variations of her question to Jesus: “Why are you following Him? What’s in it for you? What do you hope to get out of this?”

“Must good be repaid with evil?” Some days it sure feels that way! Be that as it may, why do we continue to follow Jesus? Why do we drink from the chalice from which He drank?

Today ask yourself the question: “What’s in it for me?”