Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 30, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:44-51

Jesus said to the crowds: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets:

They shall all be taught by God.

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The Eucharist stands at the center of our lives and our worship. It is the touch stone at each moment of our lives. It is a part of our entry into the life of the church; it is the means to the end that we seek; it is our entry into the life of the world; and it is our hope of eternal life. Those who eat ordinary bread live for a time that the bread can sustain their lives, but the bread of heaven is sustenance for the journey of endless horizons.

Saint of the day: Joseph Cottolengo was born near Turin, Italy. He was ordained and engaged in pastoral work. When a woman he attended died from lack of medical facilities for the poor in Turin, he opened a small home for the sick poor. When it began to expand, he organized the volunteers who had been manning it into the Brothers of St. Vincent and the Daughters of St. Vincent (Vincentian Sisters).

When cholera broke out in 1831, the hospital was closed, but he moved it just outside the city at Valdocco and continued ministering to the stricken. The hospital grew and he expanded his activities to helping the aged, the deaf, blind, crippled, insane, and wayward girls until his Piccola Casa became a great medical institution. To minister to these unfortunates, he founded the Daughters of Compassion, the Daughters of the Good Shepherd, the Hermits of the Holy Rosary, and the Priests of the Holy Trinity. Weakened by typhoid he had contracted, he died at Chieri, Italy on April 30, 1842.

Spiritual reading: Labor with all your might to gain for yourselves the love of the people.

You will be far better able to help them if they love you than if they fear you. (Letter to Jesuit Missionaries by Francis Xavier)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on April 29, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:35-40

Jesus said to the crowds, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen me, you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.

And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: When we love someone, we wrap our arms around that person. Jesus comes to gather all of us into his arms. He has received a mission from the Father to save us for the Father and himself. We can be confident that God, who can do all things, does not undertake lightly this mission and trust that God is working out our road to Godself. You see, God’s arms exist to wrap themselves around us.

Saint of the day: The 25th child of a wool dyer in northern Italy, Catherine of Siena started having mystical experiences when she was only 6, seeing guardian angels as clearly as the people they protected. She became a Dominican tertiary when she was 16, and continued to have visions of Christ, Mary, and the saints. St. Catherine was one of the most brilliant theological minds of her day, although she never had any formal education.

She persuaded the Pope to go back to Rome from Avignon, in 1377, and when she died she was endeavoring to heal the Great Western Schism. In 1375 Our Lord give her the Stigmata, which was visible only after her death. Her spiritual director was Blessed Raymond of Capua. Catherine’s letters, and a treatise called “a dialogue” are considered among the most brilliant writings in the history of the Catholic Church. She died when she was only 33, and her body was found incorrupt in 1430.

Spiritual reading: Eternal Trinity, Godhead, mystery deep as the sea, you could give me no greater gift than the gift of yourself. For you are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being.

Yes, you are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light, and causes me to know your truth. And I know that you are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, you gave yourself to man in the fire of your love. (On Divine Providence by Saint Catherine of Siena)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 28, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:30-35

The crowd said to Jesus: “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:

He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

So they said to Jesus, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus invites us to feed on him. We do this both figuratively and literally. We feed on him on our hearts for he provides our spirits sustenance to continue on our way. We also feed on him in the Eucharist, that bread which comes down to us and provides us Jesus’ offer of real presence in our lives.

Saint of the day: Born in Milan in 1922, Gianna Beretta Molla was the tenth of thirteen children born to Alberto and Maria Beretta. She was a pious girl raised in a pious family; two brothers became priests, a sister became a nun. While in college, she worked with the poor and elderly, and joined the Saint Vincent de Paul Society. Gianna became a physician and surgeon. Graduating from the University of Pavia in 1949, she started a clinic in Mero, Italy in 1950. She returned to school and studied pediatrics, and after finishing in 1952, she worked especially with mothers, babies, the elderly, and the poor. She was active in Catholic Action and a avid skier. She considered a call to religious life but married Pietro Molla in September 1955 at Magenta.

Mother of three, she continued her medical career, treating it as a mission and gift from God. During her pregnancy with her fourth child, she was diagnosed with a large ovarian cyst. Her surgeon recommended an abortion in order to save Gianna’s life; she refused and died a week after childbirth. Today that child is a physician herself. She died April 28,1962 in Monza Maternity Hospital of complications from an ovarian cyst.

Spiritual reading: O Jesus, I promise You to submit myself to all that You permit to befall me, make me only know Your Will. My most sweet Jesus, infinitely merciful God, most tender Father of souls, and in a particular way of the most weak, most miserable, most infirm which You carry with special tenderness between Your divine arms, I come to You to ask You,

through the love and merits of Your Sacred Heart, the grace to comprehend and to do always Your holy Will, the grace to confide in You, the grace to rest securely through time and eternity in Your loving divine arms. (Gianna Molla)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 27, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:22-29

After Jesus had fed the five thousand men, his disciples saw him walking on the sea. The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in the boat, but only his disciples had left. Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks. When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Today and across the next several days, the church reflects on Jesus’ discourse in the gospel of John concerning the bread of life. This discourse immediately follows Jesus’ use of a few loaves to feed the multitudes. Those of us who believe in Jesus within churches that have strong Eucharistic traditions easily see in the discourse on the bread of life many metaphors and allegories for the Eucharist. Jesus understands that we need food to sustain ourselves, and in his age, food was not always present in abundance. The people look for him because the hunger of their bodies draw them to him, but Jesus hastens to tell the people that the hunger of their spirits should be the reason they seek him. So it is in our lives. God is not unaware that our bodies need sustenance. God is not insensitive to our physical wants and needs. But God is wholly conscious that we often lose sight of the deepest, most permanent things as we strive to satisfy the transient ones. Let us ask God that we may persevere in our pursuit of God and the things that are of God, the bread that endures.

Saint of the day: Born in Italy in 1219, Zita was a member of a poor but holy Christian family. Her older sister became a Cistercian nun and her uncle Graziano was a hermit whom the local people regarded as a saint. Zita herself always tried to do God’s will obediently whenever it was pointed out to her by her mother. At the age of twelve, Zita became a housekeeper in the house of a rich weaver in Lucca, Italy, eight miles from her home at Monte Sagrati. As things turned out, she stayed with that family for the last forty-eight years of her life.

She found time every day to attend Mass and to recite many prayers, as well as to carry out her household duties so perfectly that the other servants were jealous of her. Indeed, her work was part of her religion; she thought being productive was a part of being holy. At first, her employers were upset by her generous gifts of food to the poor, but in time, they were completely won over by her patience and goodness, and she became a very close friend. Zita was given a free reign over her working schedule and busied herself with visits to the sick and those in prison. Word spread rapidly in Lucca of her good deeds and the heavenly visions that appeared to her. She was sought out by the important people, and at her death in 1278 the people acclaimed her as a saint. She is the patroness of domestic workers.

Spiritual reading: I must write about prayer because it is as necessary to life as breathing. It is food and drink. (“On Pilgrimage – July/August 1973” by Dorothy Day)

Sacrifice and Transfiguration

Posted in Uncategorized by fatherjimb on April 26, 2009

Many cultures had stories similar to the Abraham/Isaac sacrifice. In his novel, The Shack,(1) the author Bill Young describes the story of a dad who takes his children on a camping trip just before the school year starts. Part of the ritual of this particular destination was stopping to recall the following story:

“The foursome stopped at Multnomah Falls…Missy loved it here, and she begged her daddy to tell the legend of the beautiful Indian maid, the daughter of a chief of the Multnomah tribe. It took some coaxing, but Mack finally relented and retold the story as they all stared up into the mists shrouding the falling cascade.

“The tale centered on a princess, the only child left to her aging father. The chief loved his daughter dearly and carefully picked out a husband for her; a young warrior chief of the Clatsop tribe, whom he knew she loved. The two tribes came together to celebrate the days of the wedding feast, but before it could begin, a terrible sickness began to spread among the men, killing many.

“The elders and the chiefs met to discuss what they could do about the wasting disease that was quickly decimating their warriors. The oldest medicine man among them spoke of how his own father, when aged and near death, had foretold of a terrible sickness that would kill their men, an illness that could only be stopped if a pure and innocent daughter of a chief would willingly give up her life for her people. In order to fulfill the prophecy, she must voluntarily climb to a cliff above the Big River and from there jump to her death onto the rocks below.

“A dozen young women, all daughters of the various chiefs, were brought before the council. After considerable debate the elders decided that they could not ask for such a precious sacrifice, especially for a legend they weren’t sure was true.

“But the disease continued to spread unabated among the men and eventually the young warrior chief, the husband-to-be, fell ill with the sickness. The princess who loved him knew in her heart that something had to be done, and after cooling his fever and kissing him softly on the forehead, she slipped away.

“It took her all night and the next day to reach the place spoken of in the legend, a towering cliff over looking the Big River and the lands beyond. After praying and giving herself to the Great Spirit, she fulfilled the prophecy by jumping without hesitation to her death on the rocks below.

“Back at the villages the next morning, those who had been sick arose well and strong. There was great joy and celebration until the young warrior discovered that his beloved bride was missing. As the awareness of what had happened spread rapidly among the people, many began the journey to the place where they knew they would find her. As they slightly gathered around her broken body at the base of the cliff, her grief-stricken father cried out to the Great Spirit, asking that her sacrifice would always be remembered. At that moment, the water began to fall from the place where she had jumped, turning into a fine mist that fell at their feet slowly forming a beautiful pool.

The story really does not end there, just as the Abraham and Isaac of Jesus at the Transfiguration. What is revelatory is the conversation the Dad and his youngest have later that evening.. The Dad is tucking his two daughters into bed and hearing their prayers…

“…when it came to Missy’s turn to pray she wanted to talk instead.
“Daddy, how come she had to die?” It took Mack a moment to figure out who it was that Missy was talking about, suddenly realizing that the Multnomah princess must have been on her mind since they had stopped earlier.

“Honey, she didn’t have to die. She chose to die to save her people. They were very sick and she wanted them to be healed.”
There was a silence and Mack knew that another question was forming in the darkness.

“Did it really happen?” This time the question was from Kate, obviously interested in the conversation.

“Did what really happen?”

“Did the Indian princess really die? Is the story true?”

Mack thought before he spoke. “I don’t know, Kate. It’s legend and sometimes legends are stories that teach a lesson.”

“So, it didn’t really happen?” asked Missy.

“It might have sweetie. Sometimes legends are built from real stories, things that really happen.”

Again silence, then, “So is Jesus’ dying a legend?” Mack could hear the wheels turning in Kate’s mind.

“No honey, that’s a true story; and do you know what? I think the Indian princess story is probably true, too.”

Mack waited while his girls processed their thoughts. Missy was next to ask. “Is the Great Spirit another name for God-you know, Jesus’ papa?”

Mack smiled in the dark…”I would suppose so. It’s a good name for God because he is a Spirit and he is Great.”

“Then how come he’s so mean?”

Ah, here was the question that had been brewing. “What do you mean, Missy?”

“Well, the Great Spirit makes the princess jump off the cliff and makes Jesus die on a cross. That seems pretty mean to me.”

Mack was stuck. He wasn’t sure how to answer. At six and a half years old, Missy was asking questions that wise people had wrestled with for centuries.

“Sweetheart, Jesus didn’t think his daddy was mean. He thought his daddy was full of love and loved him very much. His daddy didn’t make he die. Jesus chose to die because he and his daddy love you and me and everyone in the world. He saved us from our sickness, just like the princess.”

Now came the longest silence, and Mack was beginning to wonder if the girls had fallen asleep. Just as he as about to lean over and kiss them good night, a little voice with a noticeable quiver broke into the quiet.


“Yes, honey?”

“Will I ever have to jump off a cliff?”

Mack’s heart broke as he understood what this conversation had really been about. He gathered his little girls into his arms and pulled her close. With his own voice a little huskier thatn usual, he gently replied, “No honey. I will never ask you to jump off a cliff, never, ever, ever.”

“Then will God ever ask me to jump off a cliff?”

“No Missy. He would never ask you to do anything like that.”

She snuggled deeper into his arms. “Okay! Hold me close. G’night Daddy. I love you.” And she was out, drifting deep into a sound sleep with only good and sweet dreams.

You know each time we hear the stories about Abraham and Isaac and then about Jesus’ Transfiguration, we forget an important character in the story. The papa. Just like the Dad in this story when asked if God will ever asks one of his children to jump off a cliff, God responds like a loving and gentle parent. He wants to cradle us in his arms and give us sweet dreams.

In the Abraham and Isaac story, there are two fathers. Abraham plays the part of father and child. He is a father to Isaac, forced as a son of God to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham, the son trusts that when God asks him to jump off the cliff and sacrifice his son that God loves him. He willingly, just like the princess, takes the leap. And God stops him.

In the Transfiguration story, the human side of Jesus knows he is going to die. He is willingly and willfully taking the journey to Jerusalem where the cliff of the cross awaits him. He also realizes that he is divine. He loves his heavenly Father. What do you think his father feels at this moment? We really are not told but as a father, I can imagine that he is dreading any harm which must come to his son, just like Abraham. And yet just like Abraham, he must sacrifice his son. There is no saving angel for Jesus, some might say. Jesus will suffer and die. Yet the Transfiguration tells us a different story. There will be glory and eternal life after the cliff.

Now that we are grown, we know that Mack wanted to protect his daughters and told them they would not have to jump off a cliff. Now that we are mature, we know that each of us has to march up to a precipice and decide what to do…some will need to not question why God took a spouse so early…some will face economic disaster…some will be in an abusive relationship…some will endure sickness.

Whatever our cliff, Easter tell us that God will be there. He is our loving father, always our advocate. His promise is not a world free of pain and suffering and sacrifice. It is a covenant to always be with us. He will march to Calvary with us and he will be waiting for us in his Kingdom. So, we must not ask if God will ever ask us to jump off a cliff, we should ask which one.

(1) The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity. Wm. Paul Young. Copyright 2007

Tagged with: ,

What do you believe? Part 6

Posted in Uncategorized by fatherjimb on April 26, 2009

One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church

One of the arguments posited for a true church is that it be one, holy, catholic and apostolic but what does that mean? Being one is sometimes confused with being in union with the Pope in Rome. Depending on whose side you are on in any division within the church you will get a different perspective.

The church is one in Christ for it is Christ who calls us to himself. It is our sinfulness of pride that separates us from one another believing we each have the whole truth. It is we, not God, who places limits on being one. The church is one because Christ is the church and we as members of the Body of Christ find our oneness in Him alone despite our separateness from each other.

The church is holy? Again, we are often caught up in our own self centeredness when we feel we are the arbiters of what is holy whether we couch this in our interpretation of scripture or tradition. In the Benedictine Rule we are told to treat the pots and pans of the kitchen with the same reverence as the vessels of the altar. Why? All things are made holy not because they are set aside for “holy” purpose but because they instruments we can use for the purpose to which they were intended, the service of others. The church is holy when we act in concert with Christ in service to one another.

Catholic (with a little “c”) means universal but also refers to those who use symbols and signs to plumb the mysteries of who God is. The church is catholic because it transcends individuals and locations for Christ is the church and we are members of the body which is Christ.

To be Apostolic is more than identifying a linear descent from the apostles. The church is also Apostolic in that the individual communities are devolved from the apostolic communities established centuries ago. It can be said that it is Apostolic from the top down and the bottom up. However, for the church to be apostolic it must dare to preach the Word fearlessly. There are many fine examples of individuals and groups who have exemplified this.

(to be continued)

Tagged with: , , ,

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 26, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 24:35-48

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In the gospel reading from the third Sunday of Easter, we have Luke’s account of Easter night. The two disciples who met Jesus on the road of Emmaus have returned to Jerusalem to share their experience. Suddenly, as those disciples narrate their account, Jesus himself appears in their midst. He wishes them peace, but they are unsettled, because like anyone in their day would have interpreted the experience, they believe they are seeing a ghost. But Jesus quickly reassures them that he is no ghost but flesh, bones, and sinews. When Jesus offers the peace to his followers, the Greek narrative omits a verb. In fact, we can interpret the account in one of two ways: Jesus may be offering a wish that his disciples experience peace, or he may be making a statement about who it is that he is. Indeed, the disciples after their initial fear of a ghost come to feel joy and amazement in the presence of the Lord. Just as Jesus did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he explains to the apostles what the scriptures had revealed about why nothing that had occurred was a surprise: the scriptures foretold that his death and resurrection would take place for the reconciliation of God and humanity. The disciples in Jerusalem, as witnesses of these things, were charged with a ministry to tell all nations what they had seen and heard. We then, as the children begotten in spirit by the word they heard that Easter night and preached to the world, also are charged to teach the nations, beginning in our own local communities, what it is that we know through the eyes of faith.

Spiritual reading: God is not only a Father of all good things, as being their First Cause and Creator, but He is also their Mother, since He remains with the creatures which have from Him their being and existence, and maintains them continually in their being. (Meister Eckhart)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on April 24, 2009

Dear Readers:

I apologize that I am going to be away for a couple of days. I have a wedding in Charlottesville, and I won’t be back until Saturday evening. Grace and peace from Jesus Christ!

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on April 23, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 3:31-36

The one who comes from above is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy. For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit. The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: We are called to believe in Jesus, because the Father loves the Son. Our gift for our belief is eternal life. The evangelist seems to connect belief with obedience when he observes that the reward of belief is eternal life and the punishment for disobedience, the failure to see life. This passage of the gospel indicates then that an elemental part of our lives as Christians is belief in the Son whom the Father has sent into the world and belief in Jesus is obedience to the Father’s will for us.

Saint of the day: Adalbert was the Archbishop of Mainz from 1111 to 1137. He was of the family of the Counts of Saarbrücken, and under both Henry IV and Henry V of Germany he held the office of imperial chancellor, discharging his duties with energy and skill. In 1110, as head of an embassy sent to Rome to arrange for the coronation of Henry V as Emperor.

Adalbert was disposed to help Henry in his political intrigues, and Henry named him Archbishop of Mainz. From the day when, as Archbishop elect, he received the insignia of his office, Adalbert become a changed man. Whether this change was due to a realization of his sacred duties or to an awakening to his part in Henry’s shenanigans is not known. At any rate the ex-chancellor, lately so blindly zealous for the Emperor in right or wrong, became henceforth a brave and loyal defender of the Church. In 1112, Henry V was excommunicated, and Adalbert fearlessly promulgated the sentence; whereupon the enraged Emperor cast him into a dark dungeon. After three years of cruel imprisonment had reduced him to a mere skeleton, the people of Mainz forced Henry to release him. The episcopal consecration, delayed by his confinement, was then received at the hands of Otto, Bishop of Bamberg (1115). Later, when Adalbert was made a legate, Henry seized some pretext for attacking Mainz, and Adalbert aroused the Saxon princes to arms. The two armies met, but arbitration prevented a battle. As a result, the Council of Worms (1122) was finally held, bringing to a close the long strife regarding Investitures. In 1125 Henry V was on his deathbed, and being without male issue sent the imperial insignia to his wife Matilda, daughter of Henry I of England. The politic Adalbert, ever on the alert to ward off any danger of a schism, induced Matilda to return the insignia, and called an assembly of princes, who chose as Henry’s successor Lothair II the Saxon, afterward crowned Emperor in Rome in1133. Thus the Empire passed from the house of Franconia to that of Saxony, which had so long proved itself loyal to the Church. Adalbert died in 1137, having atoned for his early injustice by long years of faithful and efficient service in all that touched the interests of truth and the welfare of the Church.

Spiritual reading: Detachment from things does not mean setting up a contradiction between “things” and “God” as if God were another “thing” and as if His creatures were His rivals.

We do not detach ourselves from things in order to attach ourselves to God, but rather we become detached from ourselves, in order to see and use all things in and for God. (Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 22, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 3:16-21

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

Reflection on the gospel reading: I know of a priest who is a rather gruff fellow who when he hears confessions always tells the people who come to him, “God loves you.” In this, we can be confident, that God loves the world so much that God wanted to be a part of creation. Duns Scotus, the renowned medieval Franciscan theologian, once observed that God so loved God’s creation that, if humanity had not fallen and thus needed God to come, God still would have figured out some way to insert Godself into creation.

We all fail, and sometimes we blow it in really astonishing and terrible ways, but no matter what we do, God always is reaching out to us, beckoning us, tugging at us, seducing us. The message of today’s gospel is that God doesn’t give up on us. If God will not abandon us, we hardly should be prepared to give up on ourselves. As Robert Louis Stevenson once observed, “The saints are sinners who keep on trying.”

Saint of the day: Maria Gabriella was born in 1914 in Italy to a family of shepherds. As a child she was described as obstinate, critical, protesting, and rebellious – but loyal, and obedient; she would say no to a request – but act on it at once.

At 18 she became gentler, her temper abated, she became involved in prayer and charity, and joined “Azione Cattolic,” a Catholic youth movement. At 21, she entered the Trappestine monastery of Grottaferrata. When she was accepted, her attitude finally became, “Now do what You will.” When the community’s leader explained a request for prayer and offering for the great cause of Christian Unity, Maria Gabriella felt compelled to offer her young life to the cause. Though she had never been sick before, she suddenly developed tuberculosis. In a mere 15 months spent in prayer for Unity, it took her to her death. She died April 23, 1939 during Vespers of tuberculosis. Her body was found incorrupt in 1957.

Spiritual reading: Those who think themselves wise are rarely humble enough to let others guide them. It is better to be a blockhead and a numskull, and to be humble about it, than to possess encyclopedic knowledge and be filled with self-conceit. Better to have little than much, if much is going to make you proud. (The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis)