CACINA

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 31, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” He went off with him and a large crowd followed him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, Who touched me?” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

Reflection on the gospel: Mark has a particular stylistic approach that he uses over and over throughout his gospel. He starts to tell one story, then he veers off to tell a second but related story. Once he has finished the aside, he goes back and explains the conclusion of the original story. Scripture scholars call this a Markan Sandwich. Over the last several days, we have seen Jesus’ deep commitment to making the wounded whole, and today, the gospel reading continues this theme of Jesus as healer.

A synagogue official approaches Jesus to tell him his daughter is very ill and ask him to heal his daughter. On his way to the official’s home, a woman touches his garment to be healed of a long-standing illness, a hemorrhage that not only was a source of personal embarrassment to her but rendered her ritually impure. Her touch of the Lord heals her. After the encounter, Jesus goes to the little girl, now apparently dead, and commands her to rise. And his command does just that. The little girl is restored.

Both the accounts contain similar elements. Yes, Jesus is so open to healing the brokenness that surrounds him that even when unbidden, the woman’s touch of the Lord’s garment restores her to health. And in the case of Jairus’s daughter, the news that the girl is dead does not stop the Lord’s willingness to go to her. Jesus encourages Jairus to remain confident. Here we also have the other side of the equation: not just Jesus’ willingness to heal but our willingness to believe Jesus will heal. Both Jairus and the hemorrhagic woman place great trust in Jesus’ willingness and ability to heal them. And Jesus places great stock in the faith of both of them.

Both parts of the Markan sandwich point to similar sets of facts: Jesus’ complete readiness to heal, and the trust that the one in need of healing places in the Lord’s ability to heal. Both of these two stories folded into one story speak to Jesus’ willingness to make us whole and his desire that we know this fact about him.

Saint of the day: Today’s example of faithful trust in God’s care, John Bosco, was born in 1815 in Piedmont, Italy. His father died when the boy was 2 years old, and as soon as he was old enough to do odd jobs, he did so for extra
money for his family. Bosco would go to circuses, fairs and carnivals, practice the tricks he saw magicians perform, and then present one-boy shows. After his performance, while he still had an audience of boys, he would repeat the homily he had heard earlier in church. He worked as a tailor, baker, shoemaker, and carpenter while attending college and the seminary. Ordained in 1841, he became a teacher and worked with youth, finding places where they could meet, play, and pray. He would teach catechism to orphans and apprentices. A chaplain in a hospice for girls, he wrote short treatises aimed at explaining the faith to children and then taught children how to print them. He founded the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) in 1859, priests who work with and educate boys, under the protection of Our Lady, Help of Chistians, and Saint Francis de Sales. He founded the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians in 1872, and the Union of Cooperator Salesians in 1875. He died in 1888 at Turin, Italy. Thousands attended his funeral.

Spiritual reading of the day: I must and ought to grant that everything that is done is well done, because our Lord God does it all. (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 30, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 5:1-20

Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, crying out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!” (He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”) He asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “Legion is my name. There are many of us.” And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory.

Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. And they pleaded with him, “Send us into the swine. Let us enter them.” And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned. The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened. As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear. Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine. Then they began to beg him to leave their district. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead, “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.” Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage that the Church gives to us today shows Jesus full of power releasing someone from his madness and restoring him to health. When the townspeople see what Jesus has done, they are afraid and ask him to go elsewhere. Sometimes when the power of God is made manifest in our lives we also become of afraid of what God is doing and draw back. It is important to understand the source of our fear and persevere even when we are afraid of the changes that God is bringing into our lives.

Saint of the day: Louis Wiaux, the third of six children, was born in 1841 in a small village in French-speaking Belgium where almost everyone was a devout practicing Catholic. His father was a blacksmith, while his mother helped to run a small cafe in part of the family home, where no rough language was allowed and where the evening of Belgian beer and card playing always concluded with the recitation of the rosary. Louis proved neither physically nor emotionally suited to his father’s trade; he was convinced that the Lord was calling him to a different kind of forge. No sooner had he met the Brothers in a nearby school than he determined to enter the novitiate at Namur and took the name Mutien. After two years, teaching elementary classes, Brother Mutien was assigned to the boarding school at Malonne where he would spend the next fifty-eight years. He had difficulties at first coping with the demands of both teaching and prefecting. He was rescued by the Brother in charge of the courses in music and art, at the time an important feature of the curriculum. From then on Brother Mutien was not only an effective teacher of those subjects, a vigilant prefect in the school yard, and a catechist in the nearby parish, but a tremendous influence on the students by his patience and evident piety. He was known to spend whatever time he could before the tabernacle or at the grotto of Our Lady. Among the Brothers, it was said that he had never been seen violating even the smallest points in their Rule. After his death on January 30, 1917 at Malonne, his fame began to spread through Belgium, where many miracles were attributed to him

Spiritual reading: The struggle against injustice and the pursuit of truth cannot be separated nor can one work for one independent of the other. (Ignatio Ellacuría, S.J., murdered superior of Jesuit community in El Salvador)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 29, 2012

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: authority to teach and even authority to force unclean spirits to submit. The gospels over and over suggest that Jesus possessed a constellation of characteristics that created a profound impression among the people who encountered him. The Scriptures present much evidence this. We read about people leaving their ordinary lives to join him, the crowds which come to listen to him, people who bring their sick and disabled for him to minister to them. In many passages of the gospel, such as the one read today, we learn of his fame spreading everywhere. Moreover, the historical record suggests that within 14 years of his crucifixion, there was a sizable Christian community in the capital of empire, Rome. There was clearly something about Jesus’ presence while he walked the earth that evoked a response in the people who encountered him. We who are privileged to live in the time after the resurrection of the Lord continue to experience his call to leave behind our ordinary lives to join him, come and listen to him, and bring to him our burdens. When we cultivate his presence through our prayer, meditation, reading, and service, we still experience his power to change us.

Spiritual reading:

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping Thy presence my light.

(Saint Dallan Forghaill)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 28, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Over and over in the gospel, as in today’s reading, Jesus tells us not to fear and asks us to trust. Our vocations as disciples of Jesus, women and men who follow his path, call on us to give our concerns and troubles to the Lord. Let us make no mistake about this passage from the gospel. It was an entirely reasonable emotional reaction to the situation where the apostles found themselves to be afraid of the storm. But Jesus already had shown the apostles his power, and his rebuke of them for their lack of faith also reflected evidence they had from their own lives.

When I imagine the future, it may be that I imagine disasters will engulf me and swallow me whole. In those moments of temptation, why is it with all the evidence of my life that God has followed me at each step that I should imagine a future that does not enjoy the presence of God? We may be buffeted by the strong winds that blow through our lives, and we may fear we will perish because of them, but our faith instructs us to live in the peaceful certainty that the God who cares for us today also will care for us tomorrow. When life roughs us up, let us make our way to the Lord to ask for help just as the apostles made their way to the Lord on the boat to seek his aid. God is faithful, so let us be, too: peace be to you; be not afraid.

Saint of the day: Joseph Freinademetz was born in 1852, the fourth child of Giovanmattia and Anna Maria Freinademetz in Oies a section of the town of Badia in the southern Dolomites, which was then part of Austria and now part of Italy. He studied theology in the diocesan seminary of Brixen and was ordained priest on July 25, 1875. He was assigned to the community of San Martino di Badia, not far from his own home.

During his studies and the three years in San Martino, Freinademetz continually felt a calling to be a missionary. He contacted Arnold Janssen, founder of the mission house Society of the Divine Word in Steyl, a village in the south-east of the Netherlands. With the permission of his parents and his bishop, he moved to Steyl in August 1878, where he received training as a missionary.

In March 1879 he and his confrere John Baptist Anzer boarded a ship to Hong Kong, where they arrived five weeks later. They stayed there for two years. Freinademetz was based in Sai Kung until 1880 and set up a chapel on the island of Yim Tin Tsai in 1879. In 1881 they moved to the province South Shantung that they were assigned to. At the time of their arrival, there were 12 million people living in this province, of which 158 had been baptized.

Freinademetz was very active in the education of Chinese laymen and priests. He wrote a catechetical manual in Chinese, which he considered a crucial part of their missionary effort. In 1898, he was sick with laryngitis and tuberculosis, so Anzer, who had become bishop, and other priests convinced him to go to Japan to recuperate. He returned but was not fully cured. When his bishop had to leave China for a journey to Europe in 1907, the administration of the diocese was assigned to Freinademetz.

There was an outbreak of typhus in this time, and he helped wherever he could, until he himself became infected. He returned to Taikia, South Shandong, where he died on January 28, 1908. He was buried in Taikia, at the twelfth station on the Way of the Cross.

Spiritual reading: Love is the only language everyone understands. (Joseph Freinademetz)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 27, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

He said, “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Scripture scholars agree that the core of Jesus’ teaching was the proclamation of the kingdom of God. Here we have two parables that suggest to us how Jesus understood God’s kingdom arises among us. The first of the two parables talks about the growth of wheat stalks: we may not know how the process occurs, but we believe and behave like it will occur, and it does in fact occur just the way we expected. The second of the two parables describes how the arrival of the kingdom of God starts very small only subsequently to loom as very great. What shall we take away from these two parables? First, God is faithful, and God will act. We may not know how, but we can believe and behave like God will lead us, and God will not disappoint us. Second of all, we can trust that small things will lead to great things (not unlike Jesus’ own ministry to tiny backwater towns in a backwater region of the Roman Empire that has spread to the four corners of the earth.) The coming of the Kingdom of God in our lives, then, is mysterious, reliable to the point of predictability, and immensely productive. You can count on it.

Saint of the day: Born in 1474 in Italy, Angela Merici has the double distinction of founding the first teaching congregation of women in the Church and what is now called a “secular institute” of religious women. As a young woman she became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis (now known as the Secular Franciscan Order), and lived a life of great austerity, wishing, like St. Francis, to own nothing, not even a bed. Early in life she was appalled at the ignorance among poorer children, whose parents could not or would not teach them the elements of religion. Angela’s charming manner and good looks complemented her natural qualities of leadership. Others joined her in giving regular instruction to the little girls of their neighborhood.

She was invited to live with a family in Brescia (where, she had been told in a vision, she would one day found a religious community). Her work continued and became well known. She became the center of a group of people with similar ideals. She eagerly took the opportunity for a trip to the Holy Land. When they had gotten as far as Crete, she was struck with blindness. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going through with the pilgrimage, and visited the sacred shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way back, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost.

At 57, she organized a group of 12 girls to help her in catechetical work. Four years later the group had increased to 28. She formed them into the Company of St. Ursula (patroness of medieval universities and venerated as a leader of women) for the purpose of re-Christianizing family life through solid Christian education of future wives and mothers. The members continued to live at home, had no special habit and took no formal vows, though the early Rule prescribed the practice of virginity, poverty and obedience. The idea of a teaching congregation of women was new and took time to develop. The community thus existed as a “secular institute” until some years after Angela’s death.

Spiritual reading: A church that suffers no persecution but enjoys the privileges and support of the things of the earth – beware! – is not the true church of Jesus Christ. A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they are secured in their sinful state, betrays the gospel’s call. (Oscar Romeo, Martyr)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 26, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lamp stand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.” He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus calls us to be light in the lives of people who surround us. It is not enough that we live good lives; we are called to be people who actively manifest the values of the gospel in the lives of our family, friends, coworkers, associates, and acquaintances. Like light, we are to fill up the spaces we inhabit and illuminate everything (and everyone) in our paths.

Saint of the day: Timothy (d. 97?): What we know from the New Testament of Timothy’s life makes it sound like that of a modern harried bishop. He had the honor of being a fellow apostle with Paul, both sharing the privilege of preaching the gospel and suffering for it.

Timothy had a Greek father and a Jewish mother named Eunice. Being the product of a “mixed” marriage, he was considered illegitimate by the Jews. It was his grandmother, Lois, who first became Christian. Timothy was a convert of Paul around the year 47 and later joined him in his apostolic work. He was with Paul at the founding of the Church in Corinth. During the 15 years he worked with Paul, he became one of his most faithful and trusted friends. He was sent on difficult missions by Paul—often in the face of great disturbance in local Churches which Paul had founded.

Timothy was with Paul in Rome during the latter’s house arrest. At some period Timothy himself was in prison (Hebrews 13:23). Paul installed him as his representative at the Church of Ephesus.

Timothy was comparatively young for the work he was doing. (“Let no one have contempt for your youth,” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:12a.) Several references seem to indicate that he was timid. And one of Paul’s most frequently quoted lines was addressed to him: “Stop drinking only water, but have a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23).

Titus (d. 94?): Titus has the distinction of being a close friend and disciple of Paul as well as a fellow missionary. He was Greek, apparently from Antioch. Even though Titus was a Gentile, Paul would not let him be forced to undergo circumcision at Jerusalem. Titus is seen as a peacemaker, administrator, great friend. Paul’s second letter to Corinth affords an insight into the depth of his friendship with Titus, and the great fellowship they had in preaching the gospel: “When I went to Troas…I had no relief in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia…. For even when we came into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way—external conflicts, internal fears. But God, who encourages the downcast, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus…” (2 Corinthians 2:12a, 13; 7:5-6).

When Paul was having trouble with the community at Corinth, Titus was the bearer of Paul’s severe letter and was successful in smoothing things out. Paul writes he was strengthened not only by the arrival of Titus but also “by the encouragement with which he was encouraged in regard to you, as he told us of your yearning, your lament, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more…. And his heart goes out to you all the more, as he remembers the obedience of all of you, when you received him with fear and trembling” (2 Corinthians 7:7a, 15).

The Letter to Titus addresses him as the administrator of the Christian community on the island of Crete, charged with organizing it, correcting abuses and appointing presbyter-bishops.

Spiritual reading: Not the power to remember, but its very opposite, the power to forget, is a necessary condition for our existence. (Saint Basil)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 25, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 16:15-18

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The passage from Mark’s gospel that we read today is one of the alternative endings to the gospel. Jesus, after his resurrection, appears to the apostles and commissions them to go out and teach the whole world about his coming and his way of life. If we read between the lines, it says to us that if we are willing to trust God, extraordinary things will come to pass in our lives and the lives of people whom we encounter.

Saint of the day: Today is the celebration of the call of Paul the Apostle. Paul likely was born on the early first century. The Acts of the Apostles records that he was a citizen of Tarsus, an important Roman city in what is now modern day Turkey. Part of the Jewish diaspora, Paul himself says that he was a Pharisee, and Acts suggests he studied the rabbinic law in Jerusalem. Both Acts and the Pauline letters suggest that Paul persecuted the sect of Jews who believed that Jesus was the messiah. Likely in the late 30s on the road to Damascus to preach against the new sect, Paul had a profound experience. Acts at three places describes the experience, and though the accounts conflict in their details, we know that Paul himself said that he was the last of the apostles to see the risen Jesus, and that it was on account of this that he called himself an apostle. Christians have termed the experience a conversion, but Paul never ceased seeing himself as a Jew, and conversion may overstate the case. The feast might be better styled, “the call of Paul,” for through it, Paul experienced the need to spread the Gospel to the very ends of the earth, and it is quite possible that his missionary efforts extended even to Spain. Paul likely died in Nero’s persecution, probably either in 63 or 67.

Spiritual reading: I assure you, brothers, the gospel I proclaimed to you is no mere human invention. I did not receive it from any man, not was I schooled in it. It came by revelation from Jesus Christ. You have heard, I know, the story of my former way of life in Judaism. You know that I went to extremes in persecuting the Church of God, and tried to destroy it. But the time came when he who had set me apart before I was born and called me by his favour chose to reveal his Son to me, that I might spread among the Gentiles the good tidings concerning him. Immediately, without seeking human advisers or even going to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, I went off to Arabia; later I returned to Damascus. Three years after that I went up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas, with whom I stayed fifteen days. I did not meet any other apostles except James, the brother of the Lord. The communities of Christ in Judea had no idea what I looked like; they had only heard that “he who was formerly persecuting us is now preaching the faith he tried to destroy,” and they gave glory to God on my account. (Paul in the Letter to the Galatians)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 24, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 3:31-35

The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house. Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.” But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: This passage from the gospel sometimes causes confusion when people read it. Jesus isn’t rejecting his family in this passage. We see over and over again throughout the gospels that Jesus uses the circumstances around him as teachable moments for his listeners. He always looks beyond the basic facts of the situation, such as the arrival of his family of birth, to make a deeper point that reflects the central truth about his mission. Here it is that all of us who strive to understand and do God’s will are the family of Jesus in a way that Jesus teaches is more fundamental to human existence than even the bonds that unite a natural family.

Saint of the day: Born in Savoy in 1567 to a well-placed family, Francis de Sales’s parents intended that he become a lawyer, enter politics, and carry on the family line and power. He studied at La Roche, Annecy, and Clermont College in Paris. He pursued legal studies at the University of Padua and became a Doctor of Law. He returned home and found a position as Senate advocate.

It was at this point that he received a message telling him to “leave all and follow me.” He took this as a call to the priesthood, a move his family fiercely opposed. However, he pursued a devoted prayer life, and his gentle ways won over the family.

Francis became a priest and assumed the position of Provost of the diocese of Geneva, Switzerland, a stronghold of Calvinists. A preacher, writer, and spiritual director in the district of Chablais, his simple, clear explanations of Catholic doctrine, and his gentle way with everyone, brought many back to Catholicism.

He became the Bishop of Geneva at age 35. He traveled and evangelized throughout the Duchy of Savoy, working with children whenever he could. He was friend of Saint Vincent de Paul. He turned down a wealthy French bishopric and helped to found the Order of the Visitation with Saint Jeanne de Chantal. He was a prolific correspondent and has been named a Doctor of the Church. He died on December 28, 1622 at Lyons and is buried at Annecy.

Spiritual reading: If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love. (Juliana of Norwich)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 23, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 3:22-30

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house. Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Reflection on the gospel: In today’s gospel, the scribes from Jerusalem, Jesus’ most determined opponents, accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan. In fact, a grammatical form in the text suggests it was an ongoing line of attack. Jesus, showing himself to be a master rhetorician, argues persuasively that the scribes’ proposition is absurd on its face: if Satan’s house is divided against itself, Satan’s reign is at an end. Jesus goes on to charge the scribes with obstinacy in the face of so much evidence his ministry comes from God and warns them that resistance to such clear evidence represents an ultimate insult against God. Essentially, Jesus is saying that once we we have closed our minds to God’s presence in our lives, God cannot reach us.

Saint of the day: Nikolaus Gross was born on September 30, 1898 in Germany. A miner, he became the father of seven. A member of the Christian miners’ labor union at age 19, he became its secretary at 22. A member of the Zentrum Christian Party at age 20, he worked at age 22 on the West German Workers’ Newspaper, the newspaper of the Catholic Workers’ Movement and became its director at age 24.

A nonviolent opponent of Nazism from its beginnings, Nickolaus worked with distinguished Catholic intellectuals who opposed the regime. From Cologne, he exposed the lies and harmful effects of Nazi propaganda, and he worked for the revolt of consciences against Hitler. Declared an enemy of the state, his newspaper was shut down in 1938, but at great risk, he continued to publish an underground edition.

He tried to organize resistance among Catholic workers in preparation for the assassination attempt on July 20, 1944. Though neither he nor the members of his group were implicated in the assassination attempt, Nikolaus was arrested on August 12, 1944 for treason, and sentenced to death by a People’s Court on January 15, 1945. A martyr, he was executed January 23, 1945 at the Berlin-Plotzensee prison. His body was cremated and the ashes scattered.

Spiritual reading: The majority of great enterprises result from daily fulfillment of one’s duty in small, everyday things. What is valuable in the doing is our special love for the poor and the sick. (Nikolaus Gross)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 22, 2012

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 abandoned 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: In the gospel of the third Sunday in Ordinary Time, the passage at Mark 1:14-20, Jesus calls James and John to come follow him, so they might become, “fishers of men.” From various passages in the gospels, it is clear that Jesus sees his call to follow him as far more important than the ordinary obligations of survival and even the natural affections within families.

The case of the call of James and John is quite to the point. James and John were fishermen who apparently worked in the family trade along with their father Zebedee and his hired men. The ownership of a boat and the employment of men suggest the family business had enjoyed some measure of success, but since the family still worked, their futures apparently were not secure. The gospel records that James and John, upon hearing Jesus’ call, simply walked away from their father, the family business, the boat, and the hired men. To follow Jesus, they abandoned the ordinary obligations of survival and turned their back on the natural affections that tied them to their father.

Elsewhere, when Mark describes the call and provides the names of the 12 apostles, we are told that James and John are the sons of thunder. One well can imagine that Zebedee’s reaction at the departure of his sons from the family business was explosive. Fathers often do not react well when their sons leave their chores to pursue activities they associate with leisure. Jesus in other gospel passages reflects that he has come as a sign of contradiction: “Do you imagine that I have come to bring peace?” No, he tells us but rather a sword that divides mother against daughter and father against son. Our Lord perhaps had in mind a reminiscence of Zebedee’s fiery reaction to his sons’ sudden departures from the family’s trade.

There is a lesson in all of this for us. How are we to understand the purpose of our lives? How are we to cooperate with the adventure? It is in reflection upon the events that fill our lives and the patterns that develop across the years. Jesus clearly came to understand his mission through the events that took place in his life. Jesus recognizes that he stirs opposition and even division in families, but he tells us that his mission is more important than the tensions he creates.

Dorothy Sayers, the Anglican author and humanist who died in 1957, once wrote,

I believe it to be a great mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offense in it . . . We cannot blink at the fact that gentle Jesus meek and mild was so stiff in his opinions and so inflammatory in his language that he was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever his peace was, it was not the peace of an amiable indifference.

Let us never be afraid to stir controversy on behalf of the vision we believe God has given us. The call that each of us received in baptism to become “fishers of men” is not for the feint of heart.

Spiritual reading of the day: What is a faithful man to do in the chaos of events which seem to swallow him up? He must sustain himself calmly by Faith. Faith will make him adore the eternal plan of God .Faith will assure him that to those who love God all things work together for good. (William Joseph Chaminade)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 21, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 3:20-21

Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: All of us want to be understood. Most particularly, we want to be understood by the members of our families. But sometimes the work that we do is so important that it is worth the risk of not being understood. Pursuing our vision of God’s will for our lives strikes me as something sufficiently critical that we can risk not being understood. Doing what God wants us to do is important enough to risk being considered mad. Jesus was willing to take that risk, and he suffered his family’s sense he had lost his mind, but he never gave up on what he knew the Father called him to do. If we will walk in his steps, God will lead us. Let us ever strive to walk in his steps, following faithfully the pattern he left for us.

Saint of the day: Born in about 1580 in England, Alban Bartholomew Roe converted to Catholicism. He studied at the English College at Douai, France, but was dismissed for an infraction of discipline. A Benedictine priest in 1612 at Dieulouard, France, he became a missionary to England. He was arrested and exiled in 1615 for his work. Returning to England in 1618, he was arrested again. He sat in prison until 1623 when the Spanish ambassador obtained his release on condition that Alban leave England. Soon after, Alban returned to his homeland and continued his covert ministry. Arrested again in 1625, he lay in prison for 17 years before being tried and condemned to death for the crime of priesthood. One of the Forty Martyrs
of England and Wales, he died with Blessed Thomas Reynolds. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered on January 21, 1642 at Tyburn, England.

Spiritual reading: Christ made my soul beautiful with the jewels of grace and virtue. I belong to Him whom the angels serve. (Saint Agnes, Martyr)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 20, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 3:13-19

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons: He appointed the Twelve: Simon, whom he named Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus’ appointment of 12 apostles suggests his conscious awareness of the ties between his ministry and the history of his people. At the time of the the Assyrian invasion of the northern Kingdom of Israel in the eighth century, 10 of the 12 tribes were scattered and lost, and the history of God’s chosen people was disrupted. The proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the central message of Jesus’ ministry, suggested to the Lord the need to symbolically reestablish the 12 tribes of Israel. The naming of the 12, therefore, partly testifies to the continuity of God’s action within the lives of his chosen ones. Through our baptism, God has chosen us. We can trust that just as Jesus’ ministry continued and fulfilled the history of Israel, God will continue to remain present in our lives. The same God who cares for us today will care for us tomorrow, so no matter what troubles lie before us, we can be confident that God either will render them harmless or give us the strength to sustain the trials God sends.

Saint of the day: Iwene Tansi was born in Aguleri near Onitsha, Nigeria, in 1903. He was baptised when he was 9 years old with the Christian name, Michael. His baptism affected him deeply even at such a young age and he shocked his non-Christian parents by daring to destroy his own personal idol, traditionally given to every male child at birth.

At the age of 22, after several years of working as catechist and school teacher, he entered the seminary and was ordained a priest for the Onitsha diocese in 1937, when he was 34. As parish priest he worked zealously in Eastern Nigeria for 13 years, selflessly serving the religious and material needs of his people.

He had to travel on foot to visit his widely scattered parishes, would spend whole days hearing confessions and was always available to the people in their needs, day and night. He was particularly eager to give young people a good preparation for marriage and to counteract the tradition of “trial marriages” which prevailed among the pagans at that time. The large Christian populations of many Igbo villages are a present witness to his zeal.

However, in spite of all he was doing, he felt the call to serve God in a more direct way in a life of contemplation and prayer and, if possible to bring the contemplative monastic life to Nigeria. In 1950 his Bishop was able to free him to try his vocation at Mount Saint Bernard Abbey, near Nottingham, England, and to be trained in view of founding a contemplative monastery in the diocese of Onitsha. His new name in the monastery was Father Cyprian. The complete change of lifestyle, particularly living under obedience when he had been a leader of people, the change of climate, food and most of all the culture shock were severe tests, but he was convinced that this is where God wanted him to be. Father Mark Ulogu, who later became Abbot of Bamenda, joined him a year later.

In 1962 Mount Saint Bernard decided to make the foundation in Africa, but for various reasons it was made in the neighboring country of Cameroon, near Bamenda, rather than in Nigeria. Although he was appointed as Novice Master of the foundation, Father Cyprian was too sick to go. He died on January 20, 1964, a few months after the departure of the founders.

Spiritual reading: As for what concerns our relations with our fellow men, the anguish in our neighbor’s soul must break all precept. All that we do is a means to an end, but love is an end in itself, because God is love. (Edith Stein, Martyr)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 19, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 3:7-12

Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples. A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea. Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him. And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, “You are the Son of God.” He warned them sternly not to make him known.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospels over and over again suggest the profound impression that Jesus left on the people who were around him. People so desperately wanted to be near him and even to touch him that Jesus had to take precautions for his physical safety lest the crowds were to “crush him.” We live in the presence of the risen Lord, and the more we permit ourselves to be conscious of his presence, the greater our need to be with him will become. Let us strive today to draw near him, to be available to the profound impression he may leave for us. We certainly do this through prayer, but we also do this in the ways that we minister to one another and make ourselves available to the sufferings of others. If we live lives that strive to imitate Christ, Jesus will reciprocate. As the Letter from James says, “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.”

Saint of the day: Marcello Spínola y Maestre was born on the island of San Fernando (Cadiz province) in Spain on January 14, 1835 from the noble families Spinola y Maestre. In 1855, he obtained a degree in law, which led him to become a lawyer. In this capacity Marcello stood out for his free assistance to the poor. He abandoned the profession, entered the seminary in Seville, and was ordained a priest in 1864. For 15 years, he was chaplain at Sanlucar de Barramela and parish priest of San Lorenzo in Seville. He was also spiritual adviser of some local confraternities. In 1879 he became canon of the cathedral, and in 1881, he was elected Auxiliary Bishop of Seville, ultimately as a bishop in the diocese of Chur. He founded the Congregation of Conceptionists Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1886, the diocese was transferred to the most important of Malaga where people began to call him the “holy bishop.” In 1896, he was archbishop of Seville, where, by sharing the hardships of the poor, he was referred to as ‘the archbishop beggar.’ In 1905, he became a cardinal. He died in Seville in 1906. He was beatified in 1987.

Spiritual reading: I do not fear Satan half so much as I fear those who fear him. (Teresa of Avila)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 18, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 3:1-6

Jesus entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.” Then he said to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The passage from the gospel we read today suggests that Jesus inspired sufficient opposition even early in his ministry that the threat of death was never far from him. Mark in this passage clearly links the opposition of the Pharisees and the Herodians to Jesus’ interpretation of the law, based on the preeminence of loving relationship, and his willingness to challenge conventional understandings of religious duties, which hewed more closely to enforcement of the letter of the law. If we are to imitate Christ, we should never fear pursuing what we perceive to be the right course and the best action even in the face of the opposition of authority.

Saint of the day: Jaime Hilario Barbal was born on January 2,1898 at Enviny in northern Spain as Manuel Barbal. Raised in a pious and hardworking family near the Pyrenees mountains, he entered the seminary at age 12, but when his hearing began to fail in his teens, he was sent home. He joined the Brothers of the Christian Schools at age 19, entering the noviciate on February 24, 1917 at Irun, Spain, taking the name Jaime Hilario. An exceptional teacher and catechist, he believed strongly in the value of universal education, especially for the poor. However, his hearing problems grew worse, and in the early 1930s, he was forced to retire from teaching and began to work in the garden at the LaSalle house at San Jose, Tarragona, Spain.

He was imprisoned in July 1936 at Mollerosa, Spain when the Spanish Civil War broke out and religious were swept from the street. Transferred to Tarragona in December, then confined on a prison ship with some other religious. He was convicted on January 15, 1937 of being a Christian brother. Two rounds of volley fire from a firing squad did not kill him, possibly because some of soldiers intentionally shot wide; their commander then murdered Jaime on January 18, 1937 with five shots at close range. First of the 97 LaSalle Brothers killed in Catalunia, Spain during the Spanish Civil War to be recognized as a martyr.

Spiritual reading: Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. (C.S. Lewis)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 17, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 2:23-28

As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. At this the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions?” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: When we have a “how to” guide to shape our behavior, we don’t have to give it a lot of thought. The less we have to think about it, the less significance we give to it, and the less our behavior is the product of our relationship to the situation where we find ourselves. Our behavior becomes rote and devoid of any deep meaning. When Jesus says that that the human person is not made for the sabbath but the sabbath for the human person, he reassures us that rules are meant to be broken, and our lives are meant to be creative responses to the realities that surround us. As Psalm 8 reminds us, we are called to be little less than gods! Divinity is creativity: let us live our lives creatively that we be images of the creative God.

Saint of the day: Anthony of Egypt, the Father of Cenobites and the Father of Western Monasticism, was born in 251 at Heracleus, Egypt. Following the death of his parents when he was about 20, he insured that his sister completed her education; sold his house, furniture, and the land he owned; gave the proceeds to the poor, joined the anchorites who lived nearby, and moved into an empty sepulcher. At age 35, he moved alone to the desert, living 20 years in an abandoned fort.

Anthony barricaded the place for solitude, but admirers broke in. He agreed to be the spiritual counselor of others. His recommendation was to base life on the Gospel. The word about him spread, and so many disciples arrived that Anthony founded two monasteries on the Nile, one at Pispir and one at Arsinoe. Many of those who lived near him supported themselves by making baskets and brushes.

Anthony briefly left his seclusion in 311, going to Alexandria to fight Arianism, and to comfort the victims of Maximinus’ persecution. At some point in his life, he met with his sister again. She, too, had withdrawn from the world, and directed a community of nuns. Anthony retired to the desert, living in a cave on Mount Colzim.

Descriptions paint him as uniformly modest and courteous. His example led many to take up the monastic life, and to follow his way. Anthony died in 356 at Mount Colzim of natural causes. His friend late in life was Saint Paul the Hermit who buried the aged anchorite. Anthony’s biography was written by his friend Saint Athanasius.

Spiritual reading: Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 15, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

John 1:35-42

John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi,” which translated means Teacher, “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah,” which is translated Christ. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas,” which is translated Peter.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Two men in today’s gospel walk after Jesus in a tentative and non-committal way. Jesus turns around, looks at them, and asks them a question, “What are you looking for?” In the normal course of day to day life, the question within the context has a certain function. I am walking down the street; I sense someone is following me; and I ask, “Are you lost? Can I help you find an address?” It is a practice, a kind of social conceit, where I let other persons know I am aware of their presence, probe their intentions, but suggest their behavior is innocent through an offer of assistance if it’s needed.

The power of the passage we read today is that it appeals to this common human experience, but at the same time, it is layered with a much deeper meaning. The man who asks the question is not taking his morning constitutional and having an incidental encounter. It is the Word of God who looks these two men in the eye and asks them the question, “What are you looking for?” It is a question that goes to the very core of a person’s identity; it is as if Jesus has asked, “Why do you choose to do the things you do? Do you even know? Do you think about your life? What is the meaning of your life? When you lie on your deathbed and look back on your life, what will you wish you had done differently? Just who are you anyway?”

When Jesus asks, “What are you looking for?” the men give a sheepish reply. They don’t have a ready answer because they really don’t know themselves what has possessed them to follow this man. They don’t really have a commitment to following him. Truth be told, they obviously were attracted: the fact they followed him at all testifies to that attraction. But their attraction is so nascent, so unreflected, they perhaps haven’t even formed an awareness yet of their attraction.

But their awkward answer is all the same the correct one. It is the answer that ought to form in every Christian heart which hears the Master ask, “What are you looking for?” The answer they give to Jesus is, “Where are you staying?”

Where is Jesus staying? Where does Jesus live? Where can I encounter Jesus? If know, am I willing to go there? If I am willing to go there, am I willing to stay there? But even before I can answer those questions, How do I get to that place where I can encounter Jesus?

Jesus supplies the answer, Come, and you will see. Jesus is the way; he is the path. We don’t find Jesus once, for all, and forever. We have to walk the way; we have to traverse the path. Come, and you will see. Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Welcome the stranger. Clothe the naked. Comfort the sick. Visit the prisoner. Pray. Pray unceasingly. Do this today. Do this tomorrow. Do this the day after tomorrow. And the day after that. Do this every day you have been given. As Charles de Foucauld once wrote, “Our entire person must breathe Jesus, all our actions. Our whole life must cry out that we belong to Jesus, reflect a Gospel way of living. Our whole being must be a living proclamation, a reflection of Jesus.” Jesus is the way, and walking the way, we come to know the way, and since Jesus is the way, it is in knowing the way that we know Jesus. Come, and you will see.

And you, dear reader, what are you looking for? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Spiritual reading: There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. (Albert Einstein)