Spirituality Matters 2019: September 5th - September 11th
“Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…”
In a letter to Madame de la Flechere, Francis de Sales wrote:
“Don’t be examining yourself to see if what you are doing is a little or much, good or bad, provided that it is not sinful and that – in all good faith – you are trying to do it for God. As much as possible, do well what you have to do, and once it is done, think no more about it but turn your attention to what has to be done next. Walk very simply along the way our Lord shows you and don’t worry. We must hate our faults, but we should do so calmly and peacefully, without fuss or anxiety…” (Letters of Spiritual Direction, p. 161)
To walk in a manner worthy of the Lord – to follow Christ, to “Live + Jesus” – is a daunting task. But what makes it more doable – and enjoyable – is to walk the Lord’s ways calmly and peacefully, without fuss or anxiety.
Godspeed during your walk today!
“Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation...”
The Incarnation is one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith: the Word became flesh – the invisible God become all-so-visible – in the person of Jesus Christ. (Creation is the other!)
In his Treatise on the Love of God, Francis de Sales wrote:
“Just as God created ‘man in his image and likeness,’ so also he ordained for man a love in the image and likeness of the love due to his divinity. He says: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with your whole soul, and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Why do we love God? ‘The reason we love God is God himself,’ says St. Bernard, as if to say that we love God because he is the most supreme and infinite goodness. Why do we love ourselves in charity? Surely, it is because we are God’s image and likeness. Since all men have this same dignity, we also love them as ourselves, that is, in their character is most holy and living images of the divinity.” (TLG, Book X, Chapter 11, pp. 170-171)
Insofar as we are sons and daughters of God – brothers and sisters of Jesus – temples of the Holy Spirit – we, too, are images of the invisible God. How do we make the invisible God visible?
By – and through – our love for ourselves and one another.
“God has now reconciled you…”
In a letter to Sr. Anne-Marie Rosset, Assistant and Novice Mistress at Dijon, St. Jane de Chantal wrote:
“God knows the pain I feel in my heart over the misunderstanding that exists in your house. I ask the Lord to take it in hand. In the end, if a reconciliation doesn’t occur, you will have to find a way of sending away the sister who is the cause of it all. No good ever comes from the sisters wanting to control the superior; if they were humble and submissive, all would go well. Indeed, my very dear Sister, the one who governs there has done so very successfully elsewhere, and this ought to keep the sisters in peace. Help them to understand this as far as you can so that there may be humble and cordial submission in the house. Help the sister in question to unite herself to her superior and to be sincerely open with her. Oh, is this the behavior the way to honor the memory of him who so often recommended peace to us and union? What a dangerous temptation! May God, in His goodness, straighten this out! And we shall do what we can – with God’s help – to remedy the situation.” (LSD, p. 247)
Every family – every community – every organization or group – has its share of difficulties and divisions, and as this letter clearly shows, even cloistered, contemplative women. But note some of the ingredients that St. Jane identifies as critical in any attempts to bring about resolution and reconciliation. These include:
• Being humble
• Being submissive
• Being peaceful/peaceable
• Being understanding
• Being sincere
• Being open
And most important of all:
• Asking for God’s help
Is there anyone in your life with whom you need to be reconciled? While there are few - if any - guarantees in life, following the suggestions given above might go a long way in helping you to experience the peace and union that Jesus won for us at the price of his own life.
Why wait for tomorrow to pursue a path toward reconciliation that you could begin today…with God’s help?
"If one of you decides to build a tower, will you not first sit down and calculate the outlay to see if you can accomplish the project?"
Life can be frustrating enough at times without making it worse by failing to look ahead. How many times have we had to go back to the grocery store because we didn't first make a list of what we needed to buy? How often have we run to Lowe’s or Home Depot three, four, five times or more on the same day because we simply didn't take the time to first consider all the materials that we would need in order to accomplish a project? How many vacations or trips have been soured because we failed first to sit down and consider all the things we should bring?
Anything worth doing - no matter how simple or complex - is worth doing well. And the first step in doing something well is to plan ahead.
We clearly hear echoes of this truth in the parable from Luke's Gospel. Jesus admonishes his audience to determine first what it is they will need to complete an important task before embarking on the task itself. For his part, St. Francis de Sales recommends:"Be careful and attentive to all the matters that God has committed to your care. Since God has confided them to you, God wishes you to have great care for them."
Of course, we know that the Salesian tradition cautions us not to become so obsessed with advanced planning that we become anxious or compulsive. However, this same tradition cautions us against performing tasks or projects in a careless or haphazard manner. Our own experience clearly demonstrates that when we fail to plan we are frequently planning to fail.
Take a page from the life of Jesus himself. Before undertaking his public ministry, he went into the desert where he no doubt took stock of all that he would need to accomplish God's great project for him: the salvation of the human family. Jesus didn't begin his ministry in a haphazard fashion; he didn't make it up as he went along. He was deliberate; he was prudent. Before he began his ministry in earnest, he first considered all that he would need - with the Father's love - to redeem all creation through his life, love, passion, death and resurrection.
God has entrusted to us the most important of all projects: to continue Christ's work on earth and to be sources of God's peace, justice, reconciliation, truth, hope, care, concern and love for one another. Like the tower in today's Gospel parable, accomplishing this task can sometimes be a tall order indeed. Few of us, however, have the luxury of setting aside forty days in the desert to determine what we need in order to follow God's will - to be the kind of people that God calls us to be. When are we supposed to calculate what we'll need to be successful - to be faithful - in pursuing this greatest of all projects?
How about starting with the first few minutes of every new day?
“It is he whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.”
“A contemporary of St. Francis de Sales, St. Peter Claver was born at Verdu, Catalonia, Spain, in 1580, of impoverished parents descended from ancient and distinguished families. He studied at the Jesuit college of Barcelona, entered the Jesuit novitiate at Tarragona in 1602 and took his final vows on August 8th, 1604. While studying philosophy at Majorca, the young religious was influenced by St. Alphonsus Rodriguez to go to the Indies and save ‘millions of perishing souls.’”
“In 1610, he landed at Cartagena (modern Colombia), the principal slave market of the New World, where a thousand slaves were landed every month. After his ordination in 1616, he dedicated himself by special vow to the service of the Negro slaves - a work that was to last for thirty-three years. He labored unceasingly for the salvation of the African slaves and the abolition of the Negro slave trade, and the love he lavished on them was something that transcended the natural order.”
“Boarding the slave ships as they entered the harbor, he would hurry to the revolting inferno of the hold, and offer whatever poor refreshments he could afford; he would care for the sick and dying, and instruct the slaves through Negro catechists before administering the Sacraments. Through his efforts three hundred thousand souls entered the Church. Furthermore, he did not lose sight of his converts when they left the ships, but followed them to the plantations to which they were sent, encouraged them to live as Christians, and prevailed on their masters to treat them humanely. He died in 1654.” (http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=94)
Peter Claver seems to have taken Paul’s admonition to ‘teach everyone’ quite literally by traveling to a different hemisphere and spending over thirty years of his life ministering to African slaves.
How can we model his example of dedicated service to those with whom we live and work close to home today?
“Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all.”
Tomorrow we will commemorate the twelfth anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
In preparation for that commemoration, we might do well to pray for all those people in need of healing in the wake of such horrific injury, pain and loss by asking God to comfort, sustain and heal them.
For that matter, we also might also ask ourselves how we might be instruments of that same comforting, sustaining and healing Jesus in the lives of others we know who have sustained injury, pain and loss closer to home.
“Think of what is above…”
People around the world – and especially in the United States – observe this day as a day of remembrance for the victims of the terror attack of September 11, 2001.
“In October 2001, the United States Congress passed a joint resolution designating that every September 11th be observed as "Patriot Day." The resolution requests that U.S. government entities and interested organizations and individuals display the flag of the United States at half staff and that the people of the United States observe a moment of silence in honor of the individuals who lost their lives. In 2009, a presidential proclamation declared that Patriot Day is also a ‘National Day of Service.’ The proclamation calls on Americans to ‘participate in community service in honor of those our Nation lost, to observe this day with other ceremonies and activities, including remembrance services ... to honor the innocent victims who perished as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.’” (http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/september-11/)
On th**is day of remembrance and service, listen to the words of Jesus from today’s Gospel:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
or the Kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
or you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.”
As we spend this day thinking of “what is above,” let us recommit ourselves to living our earthly lives here below in a heavenly way by being a source of beatitude – that is, a blessing – in the lives of others.