Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Sometimes when I pray, I wonder that the God who is aware of a mote of dust hurdling through space in the furthest most distant galaxy is also paying attention to me. In the scale of things, at the least the way you and I measure things, why would a being who is so big be interested in a being who is so small–like me. Yet the whole tradition testifies to the intense interest God has in me and the intense interest God has in you. When Dame Juliana of Norwich described her mystical visions of God, she observed homeliness and courteousness characterized God’s dealings with her–and with us: God is intimate with us, and God is polite to us. People who have had near death experiences often report they reviewed their lives in the company of a being of light. One man who was clinically dead for nine minutes reported when he returned from an experience where he reviewed his life in the company of a “man made of light,” that, “If I’d suspected before that there was mirth in the Presence beside me, now I was sure of it: the brightness seemed to vibrate and shimmer with a kind of holy laughter – not at me and my silliness, not a mocking laughter, but a mirth that seemed to say that in spite of all error and tragedy, joy was more lasting still. And in the ecstasy of that laughter I realized that it was I who was judging the events around us so harshly.” When we come to the end of our days and enter the review of what we have done, God, who is so big that God is entirely willing to be courteous to us, will respect the great big decision we have made with our lives. And if the decision we have made day-to-day is a cry for mercy, mercy will be ours.
Saint of the day: Daniel Brottier spent most of his life in the trenches—one way or another. Born in France in 1876, Daniel was ordained in 1899 and began a teaching career. That didn’t satisfy him long. He wanted to use his zeal for the gospel far beyond the classroom. He joined the missionary Congregation of the Holy Spirit, which sent him to Senegal, West Africa. After eight years there, his health was suffering. He was forced to return to France, where he helped raise funds for the construction of a new cathedral in Senegal.
At the outbreak of World War I Daniel became a volunteer chaplain and spent four years at the front. He did not shrink from his duties. Indeed, he risked his life time and again in ministering to the suffering and dying. It was miraculous that he did not suffer a single wound during his 52 months in the heart of battle.
After the war he was invited to help establish a project for orphaned and abandoned children in a Paris suburb. He spent the final 13 years of his life there. He died in 1936.
Spiritual reading: God does not desire more of you than that you should go out from yourself, insofar as you are burdened with your nature, and let God be God in you. The slightest image you have of yourself is as big as God; it holds you away from your whole God. To the extent that such an image enters you, God must yield, and to the extent that this image goes out, God enters in. (Meister Eckhart)
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: This gospel passage points to the difference between life lived for personal honor and life lived to magnify the kingdom. In the narrative, the mother of James and John comes to Jesus to ask that her sons sit on his either side. When the other 10 apostles hear about this request, they are indignant. All 13 of them, including James and John, their mother, and the other 10 apostles understand Jesus’ mission as a secular enterprise. In the world, leaders exert power over weaker individuals, using them as objects and manipulating them for their own ambitions. The 13 individuals in this passage who are not Jesus understand their mission as a way to control people for personal aggrandizement. This is not a kingdom understanding; as Augustine of Hippo observed of this attitude, “In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?”
Jesus is clear at this passage’s start, middle, and end, that his mission is about the sacrifice of self. As the author of The Cloud of Unknowing observed, “Make sure you let nothing but God enter your mind or work in your will,” because when “you are perfect in love . . . you’ll neglect yourself to serve the one you love.” Jesus’ call is to follow the example he sets, live justly, and put our entire lives at each others’ disposal so that every single person may realize the fullest possibilities of her or his life.
Saint of the day: Born in Italy in March 1838 into a large family and baptized Francis, St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows lost his mother when he was only four years old. He was educated by the Jesuits and, having been cured twice of serious illnesses, came to believe that God was calling him to the religious life. Young Francis wished to join the Jesuits but was turned down, probably because of his age, not yet 17. Following the death of a sister to cholera, his resolve to enter religious life became even stronger and he was accepted by the Passionists. Upon entering the novitiate he was given the name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Ever popular and cheerful, Gabriel quickly was successful in his effort to be faithful in little things. His spirit of prayer, love for the poor, consideration of the feelings of others, exact observance of the Passionist Rule as well as his bodily penances—always subject to the will of his wise superiors— made a deep impression on everyone.
His superiors had great expectations of Gabriel as he prepared for the priesthood, but after only four years of religious life symptoms of tuberculosis appeared. Ever obedient, he patiently bore the painful effects of the disease and the restrictions it required, seeking no special notice. He died peacefully on February 27, 1862, at age 24, having been an example to both young and old. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was canonized in 1920.
Spiritual reading: More than ever I find myself in the hands of God. This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth. But now there is a difference; the initiative is entirely with God. It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands. (The Servant of God Pedro Arrupe, S.J.)
Today, we meet Moses as he comes upon the burning bush which was not being consumed by the fire. We have heard many times of Moses’ mission to free the Israelites and bring them to a new land that would be theirs. Israel left Egypt and followed the cloud and passed through the sea and received food and water in the desert. Yet in spite of all God did, most of them did not complete the journey for they were not faithful and even grumbled against God in the desert. Paul tells us today, that this happened because we need to be reminded not to desire evil things or grumble about how God shapes our life. It is in feeling too much security that can sometimes lead to falling.
In today’s gospel, Jesus is told of an incident where Pilot killed some Galileans and mixed their blood with the blood of their sacrifices. The mentality of the time was that bad things happened only to sinners, the worst things to the worst people. Jesus doesn’t accept that notion, all of us are sinners and need repentance. Bad things don’t happen to a person because he is better or worse than another. Evil is something which is punished at life’s end and not necessarily in the here and now. Our life, our call to life in Christ is constant and new every day. How we live, what we do is something that is individual and between us and our Lord. Comparison with others to say he or she is better or worse is self-serving and can even be self-defeating as we imagine ourself as better than another. Comfort and laxity can follow such examinations. The true Christian conscience maintains a certain uneasiness that it can in many ways fall short of all that it is called to do.
The final reminder today is the fig tree. Without fruit, it is taking up space and using the resources of the soil around it. As the tree must be worked on if it is to produce fruit, so must we work and prepare ourselves in the Christian life. Each day, each season, each year is a gift in life to be embraced and moved forward. Seize the day and the hour as we march to Easter.
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: We all fail–we all fail in different ways–but all of us fail. Jesus recognized the brokenness of the human condition: powerful people who lay down rules on the people which they themselves cannot follow; people who put a false face to the world to hide their own interior corruption; people who demand honors instead of being willing to take the lowest place. Jesus condemned phoniness, inauthenicity, conceit. He calls us instead to willingness to be counted as of little consequence, a deep honesty about all that is good and bad about ourselves, and a sense of right proportion about our place among the hosts of people who surround us and of whom God is especially fond. On the day of reckoning, it is not our excuses which will save us but our recognition that we need God’s mercy.
Saint of the day: Paula of Saint Joseph of Calasanz was born in 1799 in Spain. A member of a large and pious family in a small seaside village, her father died when Paula was 10 years old. She worked as a seamstress and lace-maker and helped raise her siblings. She also helped in her parish with other children.
At age 30, still single and devoting herself privately to God, she and her friend Inez Busquets opened a school in Gerona to provide a good education mixed with spiritual guidance. The school was such a success that she was able to found a college in May 1842, and another school in 1846. To staff and manage the schools, she founded the Daughters of Mary (Pious School Sisters) in February 1847 and took the name Paula of Saint Joseph of Calasanz. Paula served as its leader. These schools have now spread to four continents. She died in February 1889 of natural causes.
Spiritual reading: These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy…walk by children dressed in rags living in the street, and they think, “Business as usual.” But if they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story. Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words. The degree of their indignation is astonishing. Their resolve is frightening. (Yann Martel)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In this gospel passage, Jesus explains true conversion by way of illustration. Jesus certainly encourages us to engage in acts of mercy, tolerance, acceptance, forgiveness, and generosity. But even more, he invites us to become merciful, tolerant, accepting, forgiving, and generous. Individual acts of goodness are important, but Jesus calls Christians to radiate these attributes from our very being: to become like birds lifted high on the gentle breezes of compassion, encouragement, love, grace, and hospitality or fish who swim in oceans of kindness, patience, pardon, cooperation, and good will.
Saint of the day: Venerable Felix Varela was born in Havana, Cuba in 1788, and died in the United States. The grandson of Spanish Lieutenant Bartolomé Morales, he studied to become a Roman Catholic Priest in San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary in Havana, the only seminary in Cuba. He also studied at the University of Havana. At the age of 23 he was ordained in the Cathedral of Havana.
Joining the seminary faculty within a year of his ordination, he taught philosophy, physics, and chemistry and became an acclaimed teacher of many important figures in Cuban history. Varela joined in a petition to the Spanish Crown for the independence of Latin America and also published an essay which argued for the abolition of slavery in Cuba. For such ideas, the government sentenced him to death. Before the government could arrest him, however, he sought refuge in Gibraltar and later emigrated to the United States, where he spent the rest of his life.
Varela was the founder of the first Spanish-language newspaper in the U.S., publishing many articles about human rights, as well as multiple essays on religious tolerance, cooperation between the English and Spanish-speaking communities, and the importance of education. He published other newspapers in Spanish, including El Habanero and El Mensajero Semanal, and also published The Protestant’s Abridger and Annotator in New York.
In 1837, he was named Vicar General of the Diocese of New York, which then covered all of New York State and the northern half of New Jersey. In this post, he played a major role in the way the American Church dealt with the flood of Irish refugees, that was just beginning at the time. His desire to assist those in need coupled with his gift for languages allowed him to master the Irish language in order to communicate more efficiently with many of the recent Irish arrivals. He was later named a Doctor of Theology by St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland.
Nearly sixty years after his death in St. Augustine, Florida in 1853, his body was disinterred and returned to Cuba to be laid to rest in the University of Havana’s Aula Magna. If canonized, he would be the first Cuban-born person to be honored on the altars of the Catholic church.
The Cuban government has created an award bearing his name, entitled the Orden Félix Varela, which is given to those whom the government deems to have contributed to Cuban and worldwide culture.
His name is currently associated with a project proposed by the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba, named Proyecto Varela, which was announced to the Cuban people on government-owned TV and radio stations in Cuba by United States President Jimmy Carter. In 1997 the United States Postal Service honored Varela by issuing a 32-cent commemorative stamp. Because of his experiences, many in the Cuban American exile community identify with him. He was named Venerable in 2012.
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)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.
Reflection on the gospel reading: On the second Sunday in Lent, we reflect on Luke’s account of the Transfiguration. Jesus takes his inner circle of disciples, Peter, James, and John, up the mountain and becomes transfigured physically before them. God reveals Godself on the mountain in a voice which they hear. In our ordinary life, this voice is always present to us, but it is also hidden. In day-to-day life, the God who is closer to our minds than our own thoughts, is not present to us because we live our lives in a lack of awareness of God’s presence.
Luke tells us the disciples were sleepy when they reached the mountain top and before the transfiguration. Sleep is the sweet balm that soothes and restores us after a long day of work and play, but it is also a state of deep unawareness. In the gospel passage, Peter, James, and John’s sleepiness suggest the lack of awareness of God’s presence which afflicts almost all of us at most moments of our lives.
I have had the experience of approaching a friend who is lost in thought, and only when I am almost on top of him, has the look of recognition stolen across his face. In such moments, the friend inevitably will tell me he had been lost in thought. We can become so preoccupied by the inconsequential that we ignore the real. Sometimes, an event of immense consequence, like a natural calamity, the death of a loved one, a disruption of a friendship, or the collapse of our physical health, will shake us awake, and we have to be present to God in a way that the rest of life does not demand of us.
In today’s gospel, the radiance of the glory of God breaks through to the disciples when they are drowsy and unaware. The account of the transfiguration is then at one level an invitation to shake off our preoccupations and illusions and attend to the presence of God which is always around us but which we often allow to be hidden as we sleepwalk through our lives. The practice of awareness of the presence of God will be our own transfiguration in the one great transfiguration of Jesus.
Spiritual reading: The beauty that emerges from woundedness is a beauty infused with feeling; a beauty different from the beauty of landscape and the cold perfect form. This is a beauty that has suffered its way through the ache of desolation until the words or music emerged to equal the hunger and desperation at its heart. It must also be said that not all woundedness succeeds in finding its way through to beauty of form. Most woundedness remains hidden, lost inside forgotten silence. Indeed, in every life there is some wound that continues to weep secretly, even after years of attempted healing. Where woundedness can be refined into beauty a wonderful transfiguration takes place. (John O’Donohue)
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Perfection is not what we think it is. It is not making a set of rules and then perfectly and unerringly carrying out the letter of those rules. That is pharisaism, an attitude and outlook which Jesus condemns as the worst kind of imperfection.
Perfection consists in boundless, non-judgmental love made real in human affairs by our capacity to love those who do us harm or reject us. The question Jesus will ask us when we come to the end of our lives will not have anything to do with the laws of pious practice or rigid moralism but rather, with the law of love. Jesus will challenge us, not by righteous indignation but through his loving presence, how much have we loved with our lives? Have we loved others as Jesus loves us? Totally? Unconditionally? Have we loved dangerously–profligately, deeply, passionately. Have we loved with every ounce of our strength, tempting ruin and letting life breathe into our hearts of stone to make them hearts of flesh. In loving, have we risked climbing the highest tower and plumbing the depths of the most immense abyss. Have we tempted the terrible angels of annihilation to immolate us with the fires of Love.
If this is the final summative question, let us love dangerously–howling love, savage love, wild love, impetuous love. The more we live our lives as lavish, intemperate, and wasteful love, the more we will become perfect as the Father is perfect.
Saint of the day: Venerable Samuel Mazzuchelli was born in Milan, Italy on November 4, 1806. In 1828 he left Italy for the United States, spending a year in the Cincinnati area. There he was ordained a Dominican priest in 1830. After about five years serving the church in upper Michigan and northern Wisconsin, Mazzuchelli arrived in the Dubuque area. During his time, he faced a number of challenges, such as hostility from other Christian denominations.
Mazzuchelli arrived in the mid-1830s to what would later become Dubuque, Iowa. While there, he reorganized the parish and named it Saint Raphael’s, which later became the Cathedral parish when the Dubuque Diocese was formed in 1837. He assisted Bishop Mathias Loras during the first few years after the founding of the Diocese and worked extensively in what would eventually become the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin. There he founded over 30 parishes and designed and built over 20 church buildings, along with a number of civic buildings. Three of those parishes were named after the three Archangels: Saint Raphael’s in Dubuque, St. Michael’s in Galena, Illinois, and Saint Gabriel’s in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. In 1848, he founded St. Clara Academy (now Dominican University of Illinois), a frontier school for young women. In 1847, he founded the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters.
Unlike many white settlers, Mazzuchelli was a vocal defender of Indian rights. He visited Native families by canoe, on horseback, and on snowshoes and sleds, learning about their cultures and admiring their spirituality, their respect for the aged, and their love of children. He wrote letters to Congress and President Andrew Jackson protesting the treatment of Native Americans and began schools for Native children in which they were taught in their own language by their own people. He published a Winnebago prayer book in 1833 and a liturgical almanac in Chippewa the following year–the first book printed in what would become the state of Wisconsin. He served as the chaplain for the first Wisconsin Territorial Legislature and was a civic, as well as religious, leader for the region.
Many remembered Father Mazzuchelli as a kind and gentlemanly priest. He was able to break down the cultural barriers that existed at the time and appeal to many different ethnic groups. The Irish he ministered to called him “Father Matthew Kelly”. He died on February 23, 1864 after contracting an illness from a sick parishioner.
Spiritual reading: We cannot love God unless we love each other. We know him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet, and life is a banquet too – even with a crust – where there is companionship. We have all known loneliness, and we have learned that the only solution is love, and that love comes with community. (Dorothy Day)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus reminds us that we need to reflect continuously on the question of forgiveness as we walk the spiritual path. In today’s gospel, Jesus insists that we forgive, and later in Matthew, he implies we must forgive an unlimited number of times. In the Beatitudes, Jesus says the Father’s gift to us when we are merciful is mercy, and in the Lord’s prayer, the petition to forgive is linked with a petition for the ability to forgive.
We live in a world where unhinged young people are capable of murdering first graders, where war and the rumor of war is relentless, where the threat of terror always lies around the corner in many places on the earth. Sometimes, our relationships with associates, friends, and even family break down in ways which seem irreconcilable. Yet we cannot withhold forgiveness to anyone, no matter how great their crimes or devastating their slights–at least we cannot withhold forgiveness if we believe what Jesus taught. As his disciples, we are to always work to reconcile with one another, abandon obstacles to unity, and open our hearts to one another.
Saint of the day: Blessed Émilie d’Oultremont van der Linden d’Hooghvorst was born in 1818 in Wegimont, Lieges to a deeply religious noble family. From childhood the sacramental life, especially the Eucharist, was important to her, and she had a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to Mary. In 1837 she married Victor van der Linden, Baron d’Hooghvorst, and they had four children. She looked to the Jesuit Fathers for spiritual guidance, especially during the long illness of her husband, who died in 1847. With great fortitude she lived through this trial and consecrated herself to God with the vow of chastity.
She chose the religious life despite her family’s opposition. In 1885 she was joined by some young women, but it was not until 1887, that the Congregation of Mary Reparatrix was officially founded, in Strasbourg. A year later they made their first vows. Mother Mary of Jesus rejoiced when her own two daughters entered the congregation (although she was later to be criticized for having influenced them). After their deaths, she devoted herself tirelessly to her mission. As her community’s model and inspiration, she proposed Mary as mother associated with the person and saving work of her Son. She sought to teach others about the name of Jesus, his mercy and love, and this inspiration moved her to courageous decisions.
In 1859 she responded to a call from the Jesuit Fathers in Madras, India. Other foundations followed in India and in the islands of Mauritius and La Reunion. In Europe she opened houses in France, Belgium, England, Italy, Ireland, and Spain. In Mother Mary’s last years, she experienced deaths in the family, worries about her sons, difficulties and separations within the institute, and spiritual trials where she felt God had abandoned her. Her health deteriorated, and she died on February 22, 1878 at the home of her son, Adrien, in Florence. She was beatified in 1997.
Spiritual reading: People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway. (Mother Teresa)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.
“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: There is nothing in our lives which has as much capacity to bring forth good as prayer. In God’s very being is the anticipation of every request we shall make of God and God’s responses to those requests, responses which ultimately are of God’s being, love. Prayer can accomplish no evil deed: it is the power to do good–it is bread and fish to those who hunger. It gives life, protects the weak, generates health, eases troubled minds, frees prisoners, and restores justice. Prayer is the only path to forgiveness of our sins and the surest road to put away temptations which bedevil us. Tertullian observes that prayer “strengthens the weak-hearted, delights the high-minded, leads wanderers home, soothes the waves, confounds robbers, feeds the poor, governs the rich, lifts up the fallen, supports the unsteady, holds firm those who stand.” In the past I have observed that God is not a wish factory nor a dream machine: we don’t put our quarter in and get our prize out. But a life lived in prayer creates a relationship with God which conforms our minds to God’s, and as we grow in maturity in this relationship, the good we wish for ourselves becomes the good we wish for others. The more our hearts align with God’s, the readier we become to make prayers that conform our desires to God’s desires, and the ultimate outcome of this is a life lived with the unconditional love which characterizes God’s very self.
Saint of the day: Blessed Didace Pelletier, born Claude Pelletier, was the first child born at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, or at least the first child whose baptismal certificate is inscribed in the parish register; he was also the first Canadian-born lay brother of the first missionaries in New France, the Recollets (French Franciscans), and the first Canadian who left a famous reputation of holiness on Canadian soil after his death.
Brother Didace was born on June 28, 1657; his parents were Georges Pelletier and Catherine Vanier, from Dieppe, France. His life was not eventful in outward activities. As a little boy, he was sent to the apprentices’ school established by Bishop de Laval at Saint Joachim, not far from Sainte Anne de Beaupré. There he learned the carpenter’s trade, in which he excelled. After a childhood and youth spent in labor, prayer, and innocence, he entered the Recollets at Quebec City in the autumn of 1678, at the age of twenty-one. He was clothed with the Franciscan habit in 1679 and received the name Didace in honor of a Spanish Saint, the patron of Lay Brothers; he made his religious vows one year later, in 1680.
Brother Didace lived at Our Lady of the Angels mission in Quebec City for another three or four years. Because of his talent as a carpenter, he had a large part in the construction work which the Recollets of that time were undertaking. He was sent to Ile Percé and Ile Bonaventure in the Gaspesie, or eastern shore of the peninsula (1683-1689), to Plaisance, in Newfoundland (1689-1692), to Montreal (1692-1696), and finally to Three Rivers, Quebec (1696-1699). It was in this last city, while doing carpentry work at the Recollets’ church, that he contracted a fatal case of pleurisy.
Brother Didace was rushed to the Ursulines’ hospital; there he requested the last Sacraments, despite the opinion of a doctor who declared him in no immediate danger. After participating in the prayers for the dying, he expired on the evening of February 21, 1699, a Saturday. He was forty-one years old; his last twenty years had been spent with the Recollets.
Spiritual reading: Pray regularly! Demand from yourself what you have for yourself as your obligation in prayer! Be lord over your emotions and moods! Pray regularly! (The Need and the Blessing of Prayer by Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J.)
Gospel reading of the day:
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel, Jesus implies that many of his listeners are not ready or willing to hear his call. Though they demand signs and Jesus has been giving them an abundance of signs through his teaching and healing work, they are not willing to accept the signs they receive. Jesus teaches that on the judgment day, many people who thought themselves the elect of God will be surprised to see people entering the kingdom of God whom they thought God had rejected. God sees things differently than we do, and openness to God’s presence will allow us to both see where God is at work and free us of the burden of our biases.
Saint of the day: Pierre-Joseph Chaumonot was a Jesuit missionary who worked in New York and Canada. Born near Châtillon-sur-Seine in France, 1611, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Rome at the age of 21 and arrived at Quebec on August 1, 1639. In September he was already at work on the missions of Lake Huron, where Saint Jean de Brebeuf was superior. He remained there until after the death of Brebeuf and his companions and the destruction of the missions.
He was commissioned to conduct 400 Hurons to Quebec, and he established them on a reservation on the Isle of Orléans opposite the city. After Le Moyne had arranged for a mission among the Onondagas of New York, Chaumonot and Dablon were sent to organize it. This mission lasted only two years; the priests and the fifty colonists who joined them subsequently being obliged to escape in the night to avoid a general massacre.
Returning to Canada, he devoted himself for the rest of his life to his Huron converts. He established his famous Christian settlement, known as Lorette, which after shifting several times was located finally on the river St. Charles where it still exists, though it is called “Jeune Lorette” in contradistinction to the “Ancienne Lorette” established by Chaumonot, who died before the last migration. He was the founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family which figures extensively in early Canadian history. He died at Quebec on February 21, 1693, having labored in the missions for 54 years.
Spiritual reading: Those who are not prepared to take up the cross, those who are not prepared to give their life to suffering and rejection by others, lose community with Christ, and are not disciples. Discipleship is commitment to the suffering Christ. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)