Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 16, 2011

Today’s gospel reading:

John 1:29-34

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

Reflections on the gospel reading: In all four gospels, John the Baptist plays a role in Jesus’ identification as the Son of God. In the three synoptic accounts, that identification is part of John’s baptizing of Jesus, but here in John’s account, there is no mention of John baptizing Jesus. In the three synoptic accounts, the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God appears to be an experience that Jesus has, and the texts are ambiguous about whether anyone else perceives the revelation. Here, the text clearly suggests the Baptist has an insight into Jesus’ identity that dawns upon him in a flash of recognition. Whether the identification of Jesus as the Son of God is part of Jesus’ baptism, occurs in this second context, or occurs for different persons at different time, the text does not make clear to us. But the scriptures here and elsewhere bring up a common experience among people who encountered Jesus. In Luke’s gospel, for instance, we read of Simeon and Anna looking on the infant Jesus and knowing the child was the promised one of Israel. Here, John looks upon Jesus and instantly understands there is something astonishing in this man. Indeed, over and over again in the gospel accounts, we find evidence that people who encounter Jesus are incredibly impressed by him, that some characteristic or characteristics in him set him apart, that something about him made people sit up and take notice.

In our own lives, I suspect, if we are available to the experience, we too have had encounters with the Lord that make us sit bolt upright, that suddenly strike us and rivet our attention, that inspire within us a sense of wonder and awe. Our faith tells us that Jesus is near us today: let us prepare ourselves, yes: paradoxically prepare ourselves, to be surprised today by the wonder of him. If we trust that we shall encounter him, he will not disappoint us. We only need to look if we are to see and recognize him.

Spiritual reading of the day: White smoke rising up the valley, against the light, slowly taking animal forms, with a dark background of wooded hills behind. Menacing and peaceful, probably brush fires, maybe a house, probably not a house. Cold, quiet morning, watch ticks on the desk. Produce nothing. Perhaps I am stronger than I think. Perhaps I am afraid of my own strength and turn it against myself to make myself weak. Perhaps I am most afraid of the strength of God in me. It is simply time that I must pray intently for the needs of the whole world and not be concerned with other, seemingly ‘more effective’ forms of action. For me, prayer comes first, the other forms of action follow, if they have their place. And they no doubt do to some extent. (Daily Meditations from His Journals by Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 15, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 12:13-17

Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent to Jesus to ensnare him in his speech. They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?”

Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.” They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.” So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s gospel passage points to a preoccupation of Jesus, his concern with hearts that are true. A consistent theme in the gospels tells us that Jesus sees the hypocrisy of the people around him. There are lots of things that the gospel could have told us interested Jesus: whether people wore nice clothes, were attractive, were tall or short. None of these things apparently concerned Jesus. What concerned him was whether people meant what they said and said what they meant, whether they said, “Yes,” when they meant, “Yes,” and, “No,” when they meant, “No.” There are other lessens we can draw from this passage, like Jesus’ position on our relationship to government or Jesus’ sharp and probing intelligence, but what preoccupied our Lord in the exchange was his questioners’ fidelity to their hearts, that their outsides and insides matched in some way. If we wish to make a home for Jesus in our hearts, let them be true and sharp places that reflect on our faces and in our words the good that we nurture inside us.

Saint of the day: We celebrate today in the United States the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., a person recognized in the calendar of the Episcopal Church as a human being of heroic virtue. Born on January 15, 1929, King was an African American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the American civil rights movement. His main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States and he is frequently referenced as a human rights icon today.

A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president.

King’s efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. There, he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history.

In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. By the time of his death in 1968, he had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and opposing the Vietnam War, both from a religious perspective.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. national holiday in 1986.

Spiritual reading of the day: We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 14, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 2:1-12

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them. They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth” –he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s passage, Jesus uses the healing of a paralytic to demonstrate his authority to forgive sins. There is an analogy here: sin is compared to a physical paralysis and forgiveness is compared to being made whole. Sin makes us unable to move freely through our lives, but Jesus forgives us our sins as a kind of healing that makes us able to move. If we allow ourselves to tap into that forgiveness, we can grow free of the debilitating nature of our brokenness. It is Jesus who saves us in every way that a man and a woman can be saved.

Saint of the day: Felix was the son of Hermias, a Syrian who had been a Roman soldier. He was born on his father’s estate at Nola near Naples, Italy. On the death of his father, Felix distributed his inheritance to the poor, was ordained by Bishop St. Maximus of Nola, and became his assistant. When Maximus fled to the desert at the beginning of Decius’ persecution of the Christians in 250, Felix was seized in his stead and imprisoned. He was reputedly released from prison by an angel, who directed him to the ailing Maximus, whom he brought back to Nola. Even after Decius’ death in 251, Felix was a hunted man but kept well hidden until the persecution ended. When Maximus died, the people unanimously selected Felix as their Bishop, but he declined the honor in favor of Quintus, a senior priest. Felix spent the rest of his life on a small piece of land sharing what he had with the poor, and died there on January 14. His tomb soon became famous for the miracles reported there, and when St. Paulinus became bishop of Nola almost a century later (410), he wrote about his predecessor, the source of our information about him, adding legendary material that had grown up about Felix in the intervening century. His feast day is January 14th.

Spiritual reading: Spin a little every day; thread by thread weave your design until it is finished and you will infallibly succeed. But be careful not to hurry, because you will tangle the thread with knots and confuse the spindle. Therefore advance always, and even if your progress is at a slow pace, you will still travel far. (Letter by Padre Pio, 1917)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 13, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

Reflection on the gospel: In the culture that Jesus occupied, leprosy was a fearful thing for both an individual and the individual’s community. The law of Moses demanded that the individual move out of normal society and proscribed contacts by unaffected persons with the affected person.

Yet in today’s gospel, Jesus touches the leper, an action that in the law of his people, made him unclean. Jesus touches the leper not merely as an action of healing but as an action of compassion: Mark tells us Jesus was “moved with pity.”

Who are the lepers in our own age? Who are we prescribed from touching? I think if we probe our memories and emotions, we will find various classes of people we consider untouchable. Perhaps they are homeless people whose clothes smell of urine. Perhaps they are people with HIV. Perhaps they are persons who occupy a particular rung in the ladder of social classes. Perhaps they are gay men or lesbians. Perhaps they are members of other groups of minority persons, defined racially or ethnically.

Whoever they are, whatever repels us about them, if we are to imitate Christ, we are to seek them out and touch them. Touch them, yes, metaphorically, but even touch them, yes, if it is appropriate, physically. It is in human touch that we manifest many forms of compassion, and if the metaphorical dimensions of touch are included, it is in human touch that we manifest every form of compassion.

Our journey to be like Jesus is to move beyond the confines of our proscriptions about who is touchable and who is untouchable to embrace every person with compassion and acceptance. Our journey to be like Jesus is to touch the leper God places today in our path.

Saint of the day: Hilary was born in 315 at Poitiers, France of wealthy polytheistic, pagan nobility. His early life was uneventful as he married, had children (including Saint Abra), and studied on his own. Through his studies he came to believe in salvation through good works, and then monotheism. As he studied the Bible for the first time, he literally read himself into the faith and was converted by the end of the New Testament. Hilary lived the faith so well he was made bishop of Poitiers from 353 to 368. Hilary opposed the emperor’s attempt to run Church matters, and was exiled; he used the time to write works explaining the faith. His teaching and writings converted many, and in an attempt to reduce his notoriety, he was returned to the small town of Poitiers where his enemies hoped he would fade into obscurity. His writings continued to convert pagans. He introduced Eastern theology to the Western Church. He fought Arianism with the help of Saint Viventius. He died in 368 of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: {God speaking to Symeon the New Theologian in a vision:} … according to the nature which is Mine, I am altogether invisible, uncircumscribed, formless, intangible, impalpable, immoveable, ever-moving, filling all things while altogether nowhere at all, not in you, not in any of the angels or prophets who have approached Me of old or who now draw near, by whom I have never been seen at all, nor am seen now. (On the Mystical Life by Symeon the New Theologian)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 12, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

Reflection on the gospel: On Sunday, we celebrated the baptism of the Lord, and on each of the following days, passages of Mark’s gospel have described what Jesus understood to be the consequences of his baptism. He seeks places where he is needed, heals the sick, vanquishes unclean spirits, and teaches. But in the midst of all his activities, he still finds time, even if it requires that he rise early in the morning to do so, to go to a deserted place to pray. So it is in Jesus’ pattern of life that we discover the consequences of our baptism: that we should find there a mandate to seek places of need; heal the sick in whatever way sickness manifests itself to us; oppose the unclean spirits that present themselves to us in addiction, homelessness, hunger, disturbance; and teach with whatever tongue God graces us to possess. And always mindful of our mission, following the Lord’s example, find time for prayer to be renewed in the Lord’s presence.

Saint of the day: Anthony Marie Pucci was born in Tuscany in 1819 as Eustacchio Pucci. He was the second of seven children from a peasant family. His father was sacristan of the local church, but he opposed his son’s interest in religious life. At age 18, Eustacchio joined the Servites, taking the religious names of Antony Mary. He studied the classics and theology. Ordained in 1843, he was assigned at age 28 as a parish priest in the seaside town of Viareggio where he spent the rest of his life, working 45 years in service to his flock. Called il curatino, “the little parish priest” by his parishioners, he had special devotion to the sick, the aged, and the poor, serving with distinction during two epidemics in the town. He founded a seaside nursing home for children and served as Servite provincial from 1883 to 1890. He died January 12, 1892 at Viareggio, Italy.

Spiritual reading: I saw God in a point–that is to say, I saw him in my understanding. In seeing this, I saw that he is in all things. I watched with attention, seeing and knowing in that sight that he does all that is done. I wondered at that sight with quiet doubt, and thought, “What is sin?” For I saw in truth that God does everything, no matter how little it is. (Revelations of Divine Love by Dame Juliana of Norwich)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 11, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 1:21-28

Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.

All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Mark’s gospel portrays Jesus as a man of action who moves swiftly from one event to another in the days that follow his baptism by John in the Jordan. He quickly reveals himself as a man of power, one who has real authority. In the reading, the people who encounter him are amazed at his presence, its ability to move people and change lives. Jesus teaches with authority and even has power over unclean spirits. In an indirect way, the gospel passage calls on us to submit ourselves to Jesus by meditating on his teaching and letting his healing enter into our lives.

Saint of the day: William Carter was born in London in about 1548. He was a Roman Catholic English printer and martyr. The son of John Carter, a draper, and Agnes, his wife, he was apprenticed to John Cawood, the queen’s printer, on Candlemas Day, 1563, for ten years, and afterwards acted as secretary to Nicholas Harpsfield, last Catholic archdeacon of Canterbury and later a prisoner.

On the latter’s death he married and set up a press on Tower Hill. Among other Catholic books he printed a new edition (1000 copies) of Dr. Gregory Martin’s “A Treatise of Schism,” in 1580, for which he was at once arrested and imprisoned in the Gatehouse. Before this he had been in the Poultry Compter–a small prison run by a Sheriff in the City of London–from September 23 to October 28, 1578. He was transferred to the Tower in1582 and paid for his own food there to midsummer 1583. Having been tortured on the rack, he was indicted at the Old Bailey, the central criminal court in England, on January 10, 1584, for having printed Dr. Martin’s book, which contained a paragraph that expressed confidence that the Catholicism would triumph, and pious Judith would slay Holofernes. This was interpreted as an incitement to slay the queen, though it obviously had no such meaning. While William calmly placed his trust in God, the jury met for only 15 minutes before reaching a verdict of “guilty.” William, who made his final confession to a priest who was being tried alongside him, was hanged, drawn, and quartered the following day, January 11, 1584.

Spiritual reading: If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. (Soren Kierkegaard)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 10, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 1:14-20

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they left their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.

They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: This is Monday of the first week in Ordinary Time, and we begin today a weekday journey through the Gospel of Mark, a journey that will take us up to the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday, which falls this year on March 9.

The passage of the gospel which we receive today has two parts. One of the parts is a synopsis of Jesus’ teaching: time is being fulfilled as God breaks into human history, a fact that demands a twofold response of ethical life and faith. The second part of the gospel is the reaction of four men to Jesus’ teaching: giving everything up in total trust to follow Jesus. Said another way, the gospel passage provides an account that Jesus speaks efficacious words from the very beginning. The history of the gospel is its power to change lives and redirect the course of events. It is a history that begins with Peter, Andrew, John, and James, and it is a history that continues to this very moment as each of us in our own turn opens ourselves to understand the implications of Jesus’ teaching in our lives.

Saint of the day: Though St. Adrian turned down a papal request to become Archbishop of Canterbury, England, the bishop of Rome accepted the rejection on the condition that Adrian serve as his assistant and adviser. Adrian accepted but ended up spending most of his life and doing most of his work in Canterbury.

Born in Africa, Adrian was serving as an abbot in Italy when the new Archbishop of Canterbury appointed him abbot of the monastery of Sts. Peter and Paul in Canterbury. Thanks to his leadership skills, the facility became one of the most important centers of learning. The school attracted many outstanding scholars from far and wide and produced numerous future bishops and archbishops. Students reportedly learned Greek and Latin and spoke Latin as well as their own native languages.

Adrian taught at the school for 40 years. He died there, probably in the year 710, and was buried in the monastery. Several hundred years later, when reconstruction was being done, Adrian’s body was discovered in an incorrupt state. As word spread, people flocked to his tomb, which became famous for miracles. Rumor had it that young schoolboys in trouble with their masters made regular visits there.

Spiritual reading: It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible. If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer…. Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. (Vincent de Paul)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 9, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We celebrate this Sunday the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan. Matthew make clear that John baptizes Jesus, something that Luke leaves ambiguous. There has been some effort by scholars to deduce where John got his idea for baptism. Some have seen in it hints of Jewish purification rituals, but modern scholarship seems to suggest that John probably invented the practice as an original religious rite of his own.

The gospel of Matthew, like the gospels of Mark and Luke, tells us that Jesus received baptism in the Jordan and that Jesus’ baptism commenced his ministry. Scripture scholars generally concur that John indeed did baptize Jesus. Since John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, and the early church would have proposed Jesus had nothing to repent, it makes no sense that the gospel writers would have made up the event. Making up the event would have required them to have to explain why someone who was sinless underwent a ritual of repentance and why Jesus, who is Lord, would have required something from John, who was his precursor. Even today, theologians struggle to explain the meaning of Jesus’ baptism. The evangelists reported it because it happened. In fact, this embarrassment by the early Church is quite evident in the passage from Matthew that we read today since Matthew says that John was reluctant and Jesus required him to do it.

Each of the synoptic gospels suggests that the baptism represented a signal event in Jesus’ life. First of all, there was some form of recognition. A voice from the heavens says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Either Jesus came to an awareness of who he was and what his relationship was to God, or people around him arrived at this awareness. Perhaps there was some combination of the two alternatives.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke report that Jesus commenced his ministry, including teaching, healing, loving, prophesying, suffering, dying, and rising, as a result of the experience he had in the Jordan. In other words, it appears that baptism represented a line in Jesus’ life that demarcated the end of one pattern of life from the beginning of a subsequent pattern of life.

Although the pattern of our own baptism is present in the baptism of the Lord, it seems unlikely that our baptism is the same baptism that John preached and Jesus experienced. (In fact, Luke reports in the Acts of the Apostles that John’s disciples required a new baptism to become Christians.) Even so, we can learn the meaning and implications of our baptism by meditating on the Lord’s experience of his baptism. Our baptism is a recognition and a statement of our relationships to God, to the Church, and to every other baptized person: We are consecrated to an end and a purpose with unbreakable bonds. Moreover, we are baptized for a purpose, to teach, heal, love, prophesy, suffer, die, and rise. These ends are the unmistakable implications of what it means to be a baptized person, and they are the implications of our baptism that we learn from an appreciation of what Jesus’ baptism meant to him.

Spiritual reading: The gospel can be summed up by saying that it is the tremendous, tender, compassionate, gentle, extraordinary, explosive, revolutionary law of Christ’s love. (Catherine Doherty)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 8, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 3:22-30

Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing. John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there, and people came to be baptized, for John had not yet been imprisoned. Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew about ceremonial washings. So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” John answered and said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: John the Baptist in today’s gospel reading speaks to the heart of the Christian spiritual life: We stand for the Lord and listen for him. When we live the life to which God calls us, Christ makes our joy complete. In the spiritual life, we must decrease if we are to allow the Lord to increase: the more I am of Christ, the more present at the core Christ becomes for me and the less concerned I become with my own desires, wants, and needs.

Saint of the day: Some saints show marks of holiness very early. Not Angela of Foligno! Born in 1248 of a leading family in Foligno, she became immersed in the quest for wealth and social position. As a wife and mother, she continued this life of distraction.

Around the age of 40 she recognized the emptiness of her life and sought God’s help in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Her Franciscan confessor helped Angela to seek God’s pardon for her previous life and to dedicate herself to prayer and the works of charity.

Shortly after her conversion, her husband and children died. Selling most of her possessions, she entered the Secular Franciscan Order. She was alternately absorbed by meditating on the crucified Christ and by serving the poor of Foligno as a nurse and beggar for their needs. Other women joined her in a religious community.

At her confessor’s advice, Angela wrote her Book of Visions and Instructions. In it she recalls some of the temptations she suffered after her conversion; she also expresses her thanks to God for the Incarnation of Jesus. This book and her life earned for Angela the title “Teacher of Theologians.” She died in 1309 and was beatified in 1693.

Spiritual reading: It is a murderous crime to despise the poor on our own judgment, for no act of God has set them apart from us. (Letter by Paulinus of Nola)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 7, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 5:12-16

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the leprosy left him immediately. Then he ordered him not to tell anyone, but “Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Ignatius of Loyola sought to fashion the members of the Society of Jesus into contemplatives in action. Today’s gospel depicts various elements of Jesus’ ministry. In just a few sentences, Jesus shows compassion, heals, remonstrates, and teaches. But perhaps most basic of all, he withdraws from the crowd to find a quiet place and pray and reflect on the meaning of what he does. Each one of us lives a busy life, and we sometimes neglect to create space for meditation. I have long turned Socrates’s advice on its head: I believe the unlived life isn’t worth reflecting on. So do as our Lord does: Show compassion, heal, cajole, and teach! But Socrates’s real advice remains as useful today as it was more than two millenniums ago, “The unreflected life isn’t worth living.” Prayer and action are two sides of the coin as we strive to become contemplatives in action.

Saint of the day: Born in Spain in 1175, Raymond of Penyafort was of Aragonian nobility. Educated at the cathedral school in Barcelona, he became a teacher of philosophy around age 20. Ordained a priest, he graduated law school in Bologna, Italy. He joined the Dominicans in 1218. Summoned to Rome in 1230, Raymond gather all the letters written by the bishop of Rome from 1150, gathering and publishing five volumes, and helping write Church law.

The Master General of the Dominicans in 1238, he reviewed the Order’s Rule, made sure everything was legally correct, then resigned his position in 1240 to dedicate himself to parish work. He returned to Spain and the parish work he loved. His compassion helped many people return to God through Reconciliation.

During his years in Rome, Raymond heard of the difficulties missionaries faced trying to reach non-Christians of Northern Africa and Spain. Raymond started a school to teach the language and culture of the people to be evangelized. With Saint Thomas Aquinas, he wrote a booklet to explain the truths of faith in a way nonbelievers could understand. His great influence on Church law led to his patronage of lawyers. He died on January 6, 1275 in 1275.

Spiritual reading: My own personal task is not simply that of poet and writer (still less commentator, pseudo-prophet); it is basically to praise God out of an inner center of silence, gratitude, and ‘awareness.’ This can be realized in a life that apparently accomplishes nothing. Without centering on accomplishment or nonaccomplishment, my task is simply the breathing of this gratitude from day to day, in simplicity, and for the rest turning my hand to whatever comes, work being part of praise, whether splitting logs or writing poems, or best of all simple notes. (From The Intimate Merton by Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 6, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 4:14-22

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.

Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel reading, Jesus provides a concise description of his mission, that is, to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. At the core of our vocation as Christians is the imitation of the Lord. Just how do we follow his example? When the poor ask us for some change on the street, do we walk by as though we didn’t hear, or do we reach into our pockets to find something? When we encounter captives, do our hearts close them out or let them in? When we encounter spiritual blindness, do we say a kind word that invites understanding, or do we proffer a curt word that closes down dialogue? Do we seek to free the oppressed, whether their oppression is religious, political, or economic? In our cumulative actions, do we proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord, or do we live the way we always have lived and hope that mediocre is just good enough? Are we for each other the Christ, or are we for each other yet one more stumbling block?

Saint of the day: Raphaela Maria Porras was born March 1, 1850 in Pedro Abad, Spain. The daughter of the mayor of Pedro Abad, Raphaela’s father died when she was four years old. She and her sister Dolores (Pilar) joined the Sisters of Marie Reparatrice in Cordova in 1873. When Bishop Ceferino Gonzalez asked the community to leave his diocese, Raphaela and 15 novices stayed to form a new community. When they were ready to take their vows in 1877, Bishop Gonzalez presented them with a new rule; instead of taking vows, they left Cordova for Madrid. Raphaela and Dolores finally made their vows in 1877, forming the basis for the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart, a congregation devoted to teaching children and helping at retreats. Raphaela served as the congregation’s mother general, and the sisters soon had houses throughout Spain, and began to spread abroad. Mother Raphaela resigned in 1893, spending her remaining 32 years in quiet prayer at her congregation’s house in Rome. She died on January 6, 1925 at Rome, Italy of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: Let the sickness of pride be far from those who love Christ; and instead let us think our companions to be better then we are, and be anxious to put on our minds the clothes of humility, which pleases God much. For being humble this way, which is holy, we shall be with Christ, who honors simplicity. (Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke by St. Cyril of Alexandria)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 5, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 6:45-52

After the five thousand had eaten and were satisfied, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray. When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore. Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The narrative that the Church offers us today for our reflection is layered with meaning. On the one hand, God manifests God’s glory through a sign of God’s presence in Jesus’ action of walking on water. We certainly are called to be grateful for the wonderful manifestations of God’s power in Jesus and God’s power in our lives. But there is more. Another meaning in the narrative is that we as believers are tossed about on the waves of life, waves that threaten to engulf us and pull us under. We may be afraid of what is going to happen to us, but we need to open our eye to see Jesus walking by. Our prayer, our crying out, as the gospel passage describes it, draws the Lord to come, to come and still the waters. Ultimately, the meaning of this passage and the meaning of the miracle of the loaves is that God loves us and comes to feed us with God’s plenty and set us on a steady course to that far distant shore.

Saint of the day: Because the United States got a later start in the history of the world, it has relatively few canonized saints, but their number is increasing. We celebrated Mother Seton yesterday, and we celebrate John Neumann today.

John Neumann was born in what is now the Czech Republic. After studying in Prague, he came to New York at 25 and was ordained a priest. He did missionary work in New York until he was 29, when he joined the Redemptorists and became its first member to profess vows in the United States. He continued missionary work in Maryland, Virginia and Ohio, where he became popular with the Germans.

At 41, as bishop of Philadelphia, he organized the parochial school system into a diocesan one, increasing the number of pupils almost twentyfold within a short time.

Gifted with outstanding organizing ability, he drew into the city many teaching communities of sisters and the Christian Brothers. During his brief assignment as vice provincial for the Redemptorists, he placed them in the forefront of the parochial movement.

Well-known for his holiness and learning, spiritual writing and preaching, on October 13, 1963, John Neumann became the first American bishop to be beatified. Canonized in 1977, he is buried in St. Peter the Apostle Church in Philadelphia.

Spiritual reading: Since every man of whatever race is endowed with the dignity of a person, he has an inalienable right to an education corresponding to his proper destiny and suited to his native talents, his cultural background, and his ancestral heritage. At the same time, this education should pave the way to brotherly association with other peoples, so that genuine unity and peace on earth may be promoted. For a true education aims at the formation of the human person with respect to the good of those societies of which, as a man, he is a member, and in whose responsibilities, as an adult, he will share. (John Neumann)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 4, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 6:34-44

When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” He said to them in reply, “Give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out they said, “Five loaves and two fish.” So he gave orders to have them sit down in groups on the green grass. The people took their places in rows by hundreds and by fifties. Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up twelve wicker baskets full of fragments and what was left of the fish. Those who ate of the loaves were five thousand men.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Uniquely among all of Jesus miracles, the story of the feeding of the multitudes appears in all four gospels; in Mark and Matthew, such an account appears twice, and in Luke and John, it occurs one time. The story seems to have a strong Eucharistic overtone since Jesus’ action, that is, taking the bread, looking up to heaven, blessing, breaking, and giving it to his disciples mirrors the actions Jesus took at the Last Supper. Moreover, prior to the blessing and then the feeding, there is teaching of the Word. We also see in this account that Jesus lets the disciples carry the food to the people, suggesting how Jesus enters people’s lives through dedicated followers in the community.

We can interpret this story on lots of levels, but when we interpret it in light of the Eucharist, everyone eating and being satisfied seems to speak to an experience that draws many of us back over and over again to the celebration of the Lord’s supper and the entry into the mystery that the Eucharist remains in Christian faith. The story tells of people of who care for each others’ needs and ensure that all receive everything they require to sustain their journey. Let us remain a Eucharistic people and pray that we may enter ever more deeply into the mystery we celebrate when we gather around the Lord’s table, not just in our ritual actions but also in our service of one another.

Saint of the day: Elizabeth Bayley Seton was the first native born American to be canonized by the Catholic Church.

Born two years before the American Revolution, Elizabeth grew up in the “cream” of New York society. She was a prolific reader, and read everything from the Bible to contemporary novels.

In spite of her high society background, Elizabeth’s early life was quiet, simple, and often lonely. As she grew a little older, the Bible was to become her continual instruction, support and comfort; she would continue to love the Scriptures for the rest of her life.

In 1794, Elizabeth married the wealthy young William Seton, with whom she was deeply in love. The first years of their marriage were happy and prosperous. Elizabeth wrote in her diary at first autumn, “My own home at twenty-the world-that and heaven too-quite impossible.”

This time of Elizabeth’s life was to be a brief moment of earthly happiness before the many deaths and partings she was to suffer. Within four years, Will’s father died, leaving the young couple in charge of Will’s seven half brothers and sisters, as well as the family’s importing business. Now events began to move fast – and with devastating effect. Both Will’s business and his health failed. He was finally forced to file a petition of bankruptcy. In a final attempt to save Will’s health, the Setons sailed for Italy, where Will had business friends. Will died of tuberculosis while in Italy. Elizabeth’s one consolation was that Will had recently awakened to the things of God.

The many enforced separations from dear ones by death and distance, served to draw Elizabeth’s heart to God and eternity. The accepting and embracing of God’s will – “The Will,” as she called it – would be a keynote in her spiritual life.

Spiritual reading: We must pray without ceasing, in every occurrence and employment of our lives – that prayer which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant communication with Him. (Elizabeth Ann Seton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 3, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled:

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
the people who sit in darkness
have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people. His fame spread to all of Syria, and they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Scripture scholars concur that at the core of Jesus’ message as he went about curing diseases of every kind was the proclamation of the coming of the kingdom of God. In this passage from Matthew’s gospel, we reflect on Jesus’ announcement of the good news of a change at the core of our beings, “Repent”: Jesus asks us to see life in a fundamentally new and radical way. The latter part of the gospel passage for today tells us what the meaning of the this repentance is: it is the power of love and healing. We are called to heal and be healed; we are called to live in our deepest self the truth that the meaning of life is in the giving and receiving of love.

Saint of the day: Born in 1805 in India, Kuriakose Elias Chavara entered the seminary in 1818 and was ordained in 1829. He was a co-founder and first prior-general of the Congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. The main work of the Congregation is the intellectual, social, economic, moral and spiritual education of people, especially women and children; it works today in eight countries with almost 5,000 members. He made his religious profession in the Congregation in 1855. Vicar-general for the Syro-Malabar church in 1861, he defended ecclesial unity against the threat of schism by the consecration of Nestorian bishops in his area. He worked to renew the faith in Malabar. He co-founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Mother of Carmel in 1866. A man of prayer, he had special devotion to the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary. He died January 3, 1871 at Koonammuva, India of natural causes.

Spiritual reading of the day: Make few resolutions. Make them definite.–And fulfill them with the help of God. (The Way by Josemaria Escriva)

Carr the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 2, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 2:1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

Reflection on the gospel reading: In ancient Christianity in the east, many of the events that we remember on their own festal days were celebrated on just one day. The nativity of the Lord, the Lord’s baptism, the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, and the visit of the magi were all celebrated on the Feast of the Epiphany.

The word Epiphany comes to us from the Greek for “shining upon,” for on this day, “God shines upon us,” “God manifests God’s glory.” Epiphany in the very ancient church of the near east was all those events where God revealed Godself in Jesus. The Nativity of the Lord where the “bird that built the nest is hatched therein” and the “old of years an hour hath not outrun.” The baptism of the Lord where a voice shatters the heavens to declare that “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” The Transfiguration of the Lord where Peter, Andrew, and John see Jesus shimmering in light in a prefigurement of his resurrected body. And the visit of the magi, when the revelation of Israel’s God through Jesus to the Gentiles commenced.

With the passing of the years, this great holiday of God manifesting God’s glory through Jesus began to break apart and its elements fell into their own festal days, but the memory of how the Epiphany began illuminates what we should make this day of the coming of the magi. Epiphany is so special because it represents the commencement of the illumination of the whole human mind, Jewish and Gentile alike. As Isaiah the Prophet tells us, “Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” We are made radiant by what we see. Our hearts throb and overflow, for upon us, our Lord shines.

May all the joy in this Feast be yours today as God reveals Godself to you in Jesus.

Spiritual reading: The Wise Men were in a sense the first missionaries. Their encounter with Christ did not keep them in Bethlehem, but made them set out anew on the paths of the world. (John Paul II)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 1, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 2:16-21

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus’ name in the language of his people was Yeshua. The rendering, “Jesus,” is the Greek form of his name. Since Greek was the universal language at the time of the Lord’s birth much as French was in the 19th century and English is now, most of those who came to know the name of the Lord came to know it in its Greek form, and the rendering stuck as the universal usage that has come down to us to this day. The English equivalent of Yeshua (or Jesus) is a fairly common name among us, Joshua. The name means, “Yahweh saves.” The promise of Jesus’ coming, the promise of each new year, and the promise of this new year is that God is faithful, and God will come and save God’s people. Let us then be trusting, as we saw that Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, eventually Zechariah, and even the shepherds trusted what they saw with their own eyes, heard with their own ears, and touched with their own hands: God comes to save God’s people.

Saint of the day: Today is the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. Mary’s divine motherhood broadens the Christmas spotlight. Mary has an important role to play in the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. She consents to God’s invitation conveyed by the angel (Luke 1:26-38). Elizabeth proclaims: “Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43, emphasis added). Mary’s role as mother of God places her in a unique position in God’s redemptive plan.

Without naming Mary, Paul asserts that “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). Paul’s further statement that “God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out ‘Abba, Father!’“ helps us realize that Mary is mother to all the brothers and sisters of Jesus.

Some theologians also insist that Mary’s motherhood of Jesus is an important element in God’s creative plan. God’s “first” thought in creating was Jesus. Jesus, the incarnate Word, is the one who could give God perfect love and worship on behalf of all creation. As Jesus was “first” in God’s mind, Mary was “second” insofar as she was chosen from all eternity to be his mother.

The precise title “Mother of God” goes back at least to the third or fourth century. In the Greek form Theotokos (God-bearer), it became the touchstone of the Church’s teaching about the Incarnation. The Council of Ephesus in 431 insisted that the holy Fathers were right in calling the holy virgin Theotokos. At the end of this particular session, crowds of people marched through the street shouting: “Praised be the Theotokos!” The tradition reaches to our own day. In its chapter on Mary’s role in the Church, Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church calls Mary “Mother of God” 12 times.

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)