Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 30, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

John 14:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel reading, Jesus asks us not to let our hearts be troubled. This theme, that we not be afraid, arises over and over throughout the pages of scripture. It is an interesting theme given now what we know about the neurological origins of fear and their very useful functions in our lives. Fear serves a very useful function in our lives: it keeps us out of trouble by giving us a proper sense of caution in the face of things that can injure us. It sometimes, however, is inappropriate, since it can impede our full development as human beings. We are not willing to take risks when a given risk might allow us to grow and become better human beings. Moreover, as children of God, we may fail to trust that the Christ already has accomplished the total victory and that all the particularities we encounter are, in fact, simply how God is working out that victory in our lives. So let us not let our hearts be troubled, because all the adversities we face and all the adversities we fear really are not so bad in light of what Jesus already has done to assure the final place of our peace.

Saint of the day: William Southerne was an English Roman Catholic priest. He is a martyr, beatified in 1987. An alumnus and priest of the English College at Douai, he worked on the English mission mainly at Baswich, near Stafford, which then belonged to a branch of the Fowler family. He was arrested while saying Mass, and committed by a neighboring justice to Stafford gaol.

He was immediately sentenced to death for being a Catholic priest and refusing to take the oath of allegiance. He remained in prison for six days after condemnation, while a hangman was found. He was executed at Newcastle-under-Lyme on April 30, 1618.

Spiritual reading: Be slow to speak. Be considerate and kind, especially when it comes to deciding on matters under discussion, or about to be discussed in the council. (Ignatius of Loyola)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 29, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

John 13:16-20

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it. I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled, The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me. From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We now begin John’s account of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus explains at the Last Supper what is going to happen to him and sets it forth as an ultimate act of service to his brothers and sisters. It is the greatest love that can be shown. Jesus asks the apostles to look through his brokenness and shame on the cross to see Jesus’ complete identification with the Father. In this passage, Jesus invites the disciples to adopt his attitude of service, yes, even his willingness to sacrifice his life on the behalf of others.

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 christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 27, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

John 10:22-30

The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter. And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In the gospel reading, Jesus says, “The Father and I are one.” The statement does not say without absolute clarity that Jesus claims divinity, because it is quite possible for all of us to say that we are one with another. A husband and a wife, two brothers, two sisters, or two friends, for instance, might say, “We are one person,” and we all understand that this is metaphor for how close the one is to the other. Even so, within the context of the gospel, especially given the shocked reactions of Jesus’ hearers to the Lord’s claim, we must interpret the text to point an elaboration of what the Prologue tells us, that the Word was with God and the Word was God.

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 christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 26, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

John 10:1-10

Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus taught in metaphor and allegory. He used the images and experiences that were accessible to the people with whom he spoke to make points about God, about himself, and about the relationship of people to God and himself. There is much I could write about the points that Jesus makes in this passage about his connection to us, but I would like to make a slightly different point that is implicit in how Jesus taught. The evidence of God’s relationship to us is all around us. It is so woven into the fabric of all the aspects of our lives that all the common things that furnish the ordinariness of our existence tells us something about the deep down things that constitute the presence of God in our lives. We only have to stop, look, and think, and we shall find God there, telling us things that we perhaps take for granted but things which are attention-grabbing and awe-inspiring when we consider them in the brightest light of our consciousness.

Saint of the day: Central America claimed its first saint with the canonization of Pedro de Betancur by John Paul II in Guatemala City. Known as the “St. Francis of the Americas,” Pedro de Betancur is the first saint to have worked and died in Guatemala.

Born in 1626, Pedro very much wanted to become a priest, but God had other plans for the young man born into a poor family on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Pedro was a shepherd until age 24, when he began to make his way to Guatemala, hoping to connect with a relative engaged in government service there. By the time he reached Havana, he was out of money. After working there to earn more, he got to Guatemala City the following year. When he arrived he was so destitute that he joined the bread line which the Franciscans had established.

Soon, Pedro enrolled in the local Jesuit college in hopes of studying for the priesthood. No matter how hard he tried, however, he could not master the material; he withdrew from school. In 1655 he joined the Secular Franciscan Order. Three years later he opened a hospital for the convalescent poor; a shelter for the homeless and a school for the poor soon followed. Not wanting to neglect the rich of Guatemala City, Pedro began walking through their part of town ringing a bell and inviting them to repent. Pedro died in 1667.

Other men came to share in Pedro’s work. Out of this group came the Bethlehemite Congregation, which won papal approval after Pedro’s death. A Bethlehemite sisters’ community, similarly founded after Pedro’s death, was inspired by his life of prayer and compassion.

He is sometimes credited with originating the Christmas Eve posadas procession in which people representing Mary and Joseph seek a night’s lodging from their neighbors. The custom soon spread to Mexico and other Central American countries.

Spiritual reading: We can do no great things, only small things with great love. (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 25, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

John 10:27-30

Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s gospel passage uses the metaphor of sheep who hear, recognize, and follow the shepherd’s voice and by means of that voice, remain safe. Jesus, of course, is the shepherd, and as the shepherd, he is our way, truth, and life. The course he sets for us may not always be evident, but if we listen for his voice and follow it, we will be safe.

Spiritual reading: Everyone who wills can hear the inner voice. It is within everyone. (Mahatma Ghandi)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 24, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:60-69

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We have taken a detour for the last several weeks from our trek through Mark’s gospel as we reflected on John’s account of the feeding of the multitudes and the discourse on the bread of life. Today’s gospel finishes this excursis: we take up next week with where we left off in Mark’s account of Jesus’ ministry.

Throughout the last few weeks, Jesus has spoken about feeding on his body and drinking his blood. Through this uncompromising metaphor, he has called us to radically commit ourselves to his values, vision, and way of life. We who believe in the Eucharist cannot fail to see intimations of the Eucharist in this passage and how it summons us to recognize the Eucharist’s influences on our acceptance of Christ’s call. The Eucharist is at once the possibility of our commitment and its seal. But what I would like to address is the failure to commit, which is the theme of a part of today’s gospel passage.

All of us fail more or less frequently to live as Jesus has called us to live. As today’s gospel account suggests, some of us simply abandon our companionship with Jesus and go our own way no longer to walk with the Lord. Since this is possible for all of us, it is worth some thought about how this choice can occur.

We all know that human beings are capable of things that are so awful that these acts make a radical statement about who we are and how we are in relationship with God. I think such clear cut choices are relatively rare. But the Church long has defined another, less serious kind of sin as venial. The Church has suggested that such sins do not result in a complete separation from God. We all know that venial sin is very common: it’s the stuff of our day-to-day transactions with one another.

Let me make a case why we ought not to be cavalier about such little sins. Imagine, if you will, that two best friends live next door to each other. They love each others’ company and spend many happy hours with one another from day-to-day. They can’t imagine their lives without the other.

One of the friends receives a wonderful job offer in another city, and the friend moves away. For a while, the two friends are on the phone with each other every day. Nothing has changed except that they don’t live next door to one another. Then one day, one of the friends comes home, weary at the end of a day of work: there’s a meal to prepare, laundry to be done, kids to be put in bed. The friend thinks of calling, but says, “To heck with it: I am too tired tonight; I’ll call tomorrow.” There’s nothing fatal in the decision: it’s a small action with little consequence in the great scheme of things.

The relationship continues, but with time, the calls become less frequent. For a while, they are once a week. Then they are once a month. There’s no big decision: no fundamental choice. But the relationship is slowing down as the choices about what is immediate and important less and less include the relationship. Finally, the relationship slips to a Christmas card once a year in December. Then comes a time when the one friend is on a trip elsewhere and the flight lays over in the city of the other friend. The friend who is traveling thinks about making a call but then decides, “Who cares. It isn’t worth the trouble.” Their friendship has ebbed away from hundreds of small decisions. It’s death by a thousand cuts. Not a single one of the cuts of itself is fatal, but their cumulative effect is to destroy the relationship.

It’s important to think about how important things die. It usually happens little bit by little bit. When the disciples walked away from Jesus, as today’s gospel records, it seems unlikely to me that it was a sudden decision that came over them in a wave. It probably was the accumulation of numerous decisions made over a long period of time.

This is why we are called to make a radical commitment. It is why we should pray that we can persevere until the end. It is too easy to let a thousand things come up during the course of a day and ease us away from the kind of commitment that Jesus asks of us, the kind of commitment that will allow us to remain his till the end.

Saint of the day:Born in 1841, Benedetto Menni was the son of Luigi Menni and Luisa Figini, the fifth of fifteen children in the family. He was a brother in the Order of Saint John of God Hospitaler. Benedetto studied philosophy and theology at the Seminary of Lodi and then in the Gregorian Pontifical University of Rome. He was ordained in 1866. In 1867, he began the restoration of the Saint John of God Order in Spain and Portugal. He was the founder of the Congregation of Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in May 1881. A real Samaritan, he made the care of the elderly, abandoned children, polio victims, and the mentally ill the guide of his life. He died in 1914 at Dinan, France of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: You are afraid that your love for God is not true love, that you do not love God at all. Well, I urge you be quite at peace on this point . . . . . If the soul longs for nothing else than to love its God then don’t worry and be quite sure that this heart possesses everything, that it possesses God himself. (Letters by Padre [St.] Pio)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 23, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:52-59

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The Eucharist is entry into the very life and being of Jesus. Just as Jesus humbled himself to enter into all the messiness of the human condition, he renews his commitment to be among us in a very tactile and sensate way every time we celebrate Eucharist. Here the Lord continues to join and renew his presence among Christians in the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup. And it is in this that he extends us his commitment never to leave us orphans.

Saint of the day: If Mary Magdalene was the victim of misunderstanding, Saint George is the object of a vast amount of imagination. There is every reason to believe that he was a real martyr who suffered at Lydda in Palestine, probably before the time of Constantine. The Church adheres to his memory, but not to the legends surrounding his life.

That he was willing to pay the supreme price to follow Christ is what the Church believes. And it is enough.

The story of George’s slaying the dragon, rescuing the king’s daughter and converting Libya is a twelfth-century Italian fable. George was a favorite patron saint of crusaders, as well as of Eastern soldiers in earlier times. He is a patron saint of England, Portugal, Germany, Aragon, Catalonia, Genoa and Venice.

Spiritual reading: For no one can begin anything good unless he begins it from Christ. He is the foundation of all that is good. (Sermon by Aelred of Rievaulx)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 22, 2010

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: 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: The Lord put me on this path, he will remember to sustain me in battle. To His mercy I entrust my frailty. (Maria Gabriella)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 21, 2010

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: Anselm of Canterbury was born of Italian nobility in 1033 at Aosta, Piedmont, Italy. After a childhood devoted to piety and study, Anselm wanted to enter religious life, but his father prevented it, and Anselm became rather worldly for several years. Upon his mother’s death, Anselm argued with his father, fled to France, and became a Benedictine monk in Normandy. He studied under and succeeded Lanfranc as abbot. Anselm became the Archbishop of Canterbury. A theological writer and great scholar, he a counselor to William the Conqueror. He opposed slavery and obtained English legislation prohibiting the sale of men. He fought King William Rufus’s encroachment on ecclesiastical rights and the independence of the Church, and was exiled. He resolved theological doubts of the Italo-Greek bishops at Council of Bari in 1098. He strongly supported celibate clergy. King Henry I invited him to return to England, but they disputed over investitures, and Anselm was exiled again to return in 1106. He is one of the great philosophers and theologians of the middle ages and Catholic students of philosophy and theology continue to study his arguments to this day. He died April 21, 1109 at Canterbury, England; his body is believed to be in the cathedral church at Canterbury.

Spiritual reading: I have never seen you, my Lord God, or known your face. What shall I do, Highest Lord, what shall this exile do, banished far from you as he is? What should your servant do, desperate as he is for your love yet cast away from your face? He longs to see you, and yet your face is too far away from him. He wants to come to you, and yet your dwelling place is unreachable. He yearns to discover you, and he does not know where you are. He craves to seek you, and does not know how to recognize you. Lord, you are my Lord and my God, and I have never seen you. You have made me and nurtured me, given me every good thing I have ever received, and I still do not know you. I was created for the purpose of seeing you, and I still have not done the thing I was made to do. (Proslogion by Anselm)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 20, 2010

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 1818, Conrad of Parzham spent most of his life as porter in Altoetting, Bavaria, letting people into the friary and indirectly encouraging them to let God into their lives.

His parents, Bartholomew and Gertrude Birndorfer, lived near Parzham, Bavaria. In those days this region was recovering from the Napoleonic wars. A lover of solitary prayer and a peacemaker as a young man, Conrad joined the Capuchins as a brother. He made his profession in 1852 and was assigned to the friary in Altoetting. That city’s shrine to Mary was very popular; at the nearby Capuchin friary there was a lot of work for the porter, a job Conrad held for 41 years.

At first some of the other friars were jealous that such a young friar held this important job. Conrad’s patience and holy life overcame their doubts. As porter he dealt with many people, obtaining many of the friary supplies and generously providing for the poor who came to the door. He treated them all with the courtesy Francis expected of his followers.

Conrad’s helpfulness was sometimes unnerving. Once Father Vincent, seeking quiet to prepare a sermon, went up the bell tower of the church. Conrad tracked him down when someone wanting to go to confession specifically requested Father Vincent.

Conrad also developed a special rapport with the children of the area. He enthusiastically promoted the Seraphic Work of Charity, which aided neglected children.

Conrad spent hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He regularly asked the Blessed Mother to intercede for him and for the many people he included in his prayers. The ever-patient Conrad was canonized in 1934.

Spiritual reading:

Love me as I love thee. O double sweet!
But if thou hate me who love thee, albeit
Even thus I have the better of thee:
Thou canst hate not so much as I do love thee.

(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 19, 2010

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: Luchesio and his wife Buonadonna wanted to follow St. Francis as a married couple. Thus they set in motion the Secular Franciscan Order.

Luchesio and Buonadonna lived in Poggibonzi where he was a greedy merchant. Meeting Francis—probably in 1213—changed his life. He began to perform many works of charity.

At first Buonadonna was not as enthusiastic about giving so much away as Luchesio was. One day after complaining that he was giving everything to strangers, Buonadonna answered the door only to find someone else needing help. Luchesio asked her to give the poor man some bread. She frowned but went to the pantry anyway. There she discovered more bread than had been there the last time she looked. She soon became as zealous for a poor and simple life as Luchesio was. They sold the business, farmed enough land to provide for their needs and distributed the rest to the poor.

In the 13th century some couples, by mutual consent and with the Church’s permission, separated so that the husband could join a monastery (or a group such as Francis began) and his wife could go to a cloister. Conrad of Piacenza and his wife did just that. This choice existed for childless couples or for those whose children had already grown up. Luchesio and Buonadonna wanted another alternative, a way of sharing in religious life, but outside the cloister.

To meet this desire, Francis set up the Secular Franciscan Order. Francis wrote a simple Rule for the Third Order (Secular Franciscans) at first; Pope Honorius III approved a more formally worded Rule in 1221.

The charity of Luchesio drew the poor to him, and, like many other saints, he and Buonadonna seemed never to lack the resources to help these people.

One day Luchesio was carrying a crippled man he had found on the road. A frivolous young man came up and asked, “What poor devil is that you are carrying there on your back?” “I am carrying my Lord Jesus Christ,” responded Luchesio. The young man immediately begged Luchesio’s pardon.

Luchesio and Buonadonna both died on April 28, 1260. He was beatified in 1273. Local tradition referred to Buonadonna as “blessed” though the title was not given officially.

Spiritual reading: I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. (C. S. Lewis)

Ending Obligations

Posted in Uncategorized by Rev. Larry Hansen, BCC, CT on April 18, 2010

Our Hopewell House Hospice volunteers have heard the phrases “It’s not your family” and “You can’t fix it” numerous times. As one who repeats this mantra often, I should have it well-transplanted into my MOS (Mental Operating System) by now. But alas, I’m a slow learner, I guess. That’s the only reason I can fathom for my attempt earlier this week to bring two disagreeing significant others to closure on an after-death plan for their loved one. After roughly 90 minutes of back-and-forth listening and trying unsuccessfully to move the discussion, I excused myself to let the parties sort it out on their own–which they did, deciding on the first option we had discussed.

I bring this up not to rehash my human limitations (of which many people are aware), but to admonish those of you who haven’t thought about these issues to do so and to talk with your loved ones about your desires. One’s funeral or memorial service is not only a way “to get the dead (in this case, you) where they need to go,”* but also an opportunity for a person to make an ultimate statement of her or his values, hopes and–most importantly–faith. And when that’s done well, you help the living “get where they need to be.”* This week, I have spent a lot of time with surviving friends and relatives as they sought to come to a decision about what to do during perhaps the most difficult hours of their lives. It’s not a pretty sight, and it robs a family of the chance to embrace fully the precious time they have to begin the heavy work of learning to live into the “new normal” where the deceased person is no longer physically present. Plans should reflect the deceased person’s and family’s wishes and values, but these considerations may get drowned in an emotion-laden rush to “get it over with.” The woulda’s, coulda’s and shoulda’s that come later may hang on for years, complicating one’s recovery.

The Psalmist asks God to “Teach us to number our days aright/that we may gain wisdom of heart” (Ps. 90:12). Our days are indeed numbered, and “wisdom of heart,” not to mention compassion on oneself and one’s family intimates, includes making plans for the celebration of one’s translation into Eternal Mercy.

Fr. Larry Hansen
Cana House

*=From an interview with Thomas Lynch on the PBS Frontline documentary “The Undertaking.”

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 18, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

John 21:1-19

At that time, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way. Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish. When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The passage we have in today’s gospel is my favorite in all the gospels. The Lord is alone on the shore all alone on an early morning, and the apostle recognize him. The passage invites us to enter into the minds and hearts of the apostles in their experience of the resurrection. Religious conviction depends on the state of our hearts. What our hearts feel predisposes us to believe what is probable. The passage gives testimony to love of Peter for the Lord and the excitement of the apostles that the Lord indeed was risen. Through this prism of their love and excitement, they could understand the lone figure of the Lord on the shore as the Lord whom they have followed and loved, and they could accept the evidence of their own senses that he indeed was risen, risen even as he said.

Spiritual reading: We realize that what we are accomplishing is a drop in the ocean. But if that drop were not in the ocean, it would be missed. (Mother Teresa)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 17, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:16-21

When it was evening, the disciples of Jesus went down to the sea, embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum. It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading.

Reflection on the gospel reading: This passage follows immediately after the miracle of the loaves which was yesterday’s gospel passage. In this passage, the apostles have set out by boat for the other shore, and a storm tosses their vessel. Jesus walks on water, and when the apostles see this, naturally, they are afraid. But Jesus tells them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” The words It is I are no mere indication of, “Hey, it’s only me,” but instead, they reflect what God told Moses in the burning bush, “I AM.” Though we may be tossed about on the storm of life, we can count on God’s presence, and in God’s presence, we are safe and need not be afraid.

Saint of the day: Benedict Joseph Labre was truly eccentric, one of God’s special little ones. Born in France and the eldest of 18 children, he studied under his uncle, a parish priest. Because of poor health and a lack of suitable academic preparation he was unsuccessful in his attempts to enter the religious life. Then, at 16 years of age, a profound change took place. Benedict lost his desire to study and gave up all thoughts of the priesthood, much to the consternation of his relatives.

He became a pilgrim, traveling from one great shrine to another, living off alms. He wore the rags of a beggar and shared his food with the poor. Filled with the love of God and neighbor, Benedict had special devotion to the Blessed Mother and to the Blessed Sacrament. In Rome, where he lived in the Colosseum for a time, he was called “the poor man of the Forty Hours Devotion” and “the beggar of Rome.” The people accepted his ragged appearance better than he did. His excuse to himself was that “our comfort is not in this world.”

On the last day of his life, April 16, 1783, Benedict Joseph dragged himself to a church in Rome and prayed there for two hours before he collapsed, dying peacefully in a nearby house. Immediately after his death the people proclaimed him a saint. He was canonized in 1883.

Spiritual reading: We realize that what we are accomplishing is a drop in the ocean. But if that drop were not in the ocean, it would be missed. (Mother Teresa)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 16, 2010

Lambert_Lombard_001Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:1-15

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

Reflection on the gospel reading: John’s account of the multiplication of the loaves begins the Bread of Life Discourse. Several things in John’s account of the multiplication of the loaves are distinctive. Though all four evangelists narrate this event, only John tells us that the feast of Passover was near. Given the institution of the Eucharist and the Lord’s own passion and death at Passover, the reference to Passover is pregnant with meaning, especially in light of the nature of the events.

The narrative of the feeding of the multitudes has many elements analogous to the accounts of the institution of the Eucharist in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul. For instance, we read in John that the crowds are reclining, much as Jesus and his followers reclined as they ate the Passover meal before Jesus instituted the Eucharist. John in today’s gospel says that Jesus took the loaves just as we read elsewhere that Jesus took bread at the Last Supper. John tells us that Jesus gave thanks; of course, the word Eucharist comes from the Greek word that means to give thanks. In John’s gospel, Jesus himself distributes the bread: Jesus himself is the source of the meal.

The narrative concludes with the observation that all ate until they were full, and that when they were done, 12 wicker baskets were necessary to collect all the remains of the meal. In this element of the narrative, John alludes to God’s immense bounty. In the very same way, down through the ages and to our own time, the Eucharist has fed and filled countless millions of believers.

Finally, it is in this feeding the multitude that the crowd recognizes who Jesus is: that is, the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world. And so it is for us in the Eucharist that we receive of the gift of recognizing who Jesus is.

Saint of the day: Born in 1844 in Lourdes, France, Bernadette Soubirous was the oldest of six children in a very poor family headed by Francois and Louise Casterot. She was hired out as a servant from age 12 to 14 and served as a shepherdess. On February 11, 1858, around the time of her first Communion, she received a vision of the Virgin. She received 18 more visions in the next 5 months; in one vision, she was led to a spring of healing waters. She moved into a house with the sisters of Nevers at Lourdes where she lived, worked, and learned to read and write. The sisters cared for the sick and indigent, and Bernadette was both of these, sick and indigent. When Bernadette was age 22, the sisters admitted her into their order. Always sick and often mistreated by her superiors, she died on April 16, 1879 in Nevers, France. A prayer for Mary’s aid was on her lips as she slipped away.

Spiritual reading: Nothing is anything more to me; everything is nothing to me, but Jesus: neither things nor persons, neither ideas nor emotions, neither honor nor sufferings. Jesus is for me honor, delight, heart, and soul. (St. Bernadette of Lourdes)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 15, 2010

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: César de Bus was born in February 1544, at Cavaillon, Comtat Venaissin (now in France). At 18, he joined the king’s army and took part in the war against the Huguenots. After the war, he devoted some time to poetry and painting, but soon made up his mind to join the fleet which was then besieging La Rochelle. Owing to a serious sickness, this design could not be carried out.

Up to this time, de Bus had led a pious and virtuous life, which, however during a sojourn of three years in Paris was changed for one of pleasure and dissipation. From Paris, he went back to Cavaillon. Upon the death of his brother, a canon of Salon, he succeeded in obtaining the vacated benefice, which he sought for the gratification of his worldly ambitions.

Shortly after this, however, he returned to a better life, resumed his studies, and in 1582 was ordained to the priesthood. He distinguished himself by his works of charity and his zeal in preaching and catechizing, and conceived the idea of instituting a congregation of priests who should devote themselves to the preaching of Christian Doctrine. In 1592, the “Prêtres séculiers de la doctrine chrétienne”, or “Doctrinaires”, were founded in the town of L’Isle and in the following year came to Avignon. This congregation was approved in December 1597. Besides the Doctrinaires, de Bus founded an order of women called “Filles de la doctrine chrétienne” and later the Ursulines (not the major congregation of that name); it died out in the 17th century.

Five volumes of his “Instructions familières” were published (Paris, 1666). Fr. de Bus died on April 15, 1607 at Avignon.

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)