What is interesting during this Easter time is that the first reading each week is from the Acts of the Apostles. What could be a little confusing about this is that the readings from Acts deal with a time in the early church when Christ had already ascended to his Father and had sent his Spirit to continue His church and invigorate His work.
With the Gospels, we have seen all the pronouncements of Christ’s love and peace and of course his new command to “Love one another as I have loved you”. Yet in today’s first reading, we see that Judean Jews and Antiochian Gentiles have their own ideas of what is required of to be Christians.. Dissension, debate, dispute arose in the community and only the Apostles could resolve it. So we see the appeal to Jerusalem. But in the end if we think about it, they have taken the simple and created the complex much as we do today as we seek to see everything spelled out.. Christ’s command and teachings were simple and clear really, but people of the world have their own ideas and interpretations of what is and what is said. Knowledge and science and just the natural evolving of the world has changed the whole outlook of what the world is. The role of men and women in the world is certainly different from it was in Christ’s time. It is certainly not for us to judge the goodness of the wrongness of how things have evolved but to adjust to how it has. Laws and dictates must naturally evolve and change to keep in the reality of what Christ has commanded. Loving one another as Christ loved hasn’t changed. Living in his spirit is possible when we are open to it and live by it not trying to limit the spirit or put it into some predefined box. Love and forgiveness have no limits. With these come Christ’s peace. Judgments are put aside and left for God. We can not forget that our understanding is so limited that we can really err in judging others.
Jesus says today, whoever loves me will keep my word, He promised to send His Spirit, his Advocate who teaches us what we need to know. That is why the elders, the Bishops of the Church, come together and in conjunction with the Spirit and the Church at large decide the course and action of the Church. This is the ultimate gift of peace and understanding given to us to remove the need for dissension and dispute. From this we will truly receive the peace of Christ bestow and given by the Father and Spirit. Through all this we can become one in Christ and with each other.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe. I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me, but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that a good tree bears good fruit. Peace, love, joy, self-control, and faith are each among the fruits of the Holy Spirit which Paul lists in Galatians. The presence of these characteristics described in today’s gospel are signs to us that the Holy Spirit abides in our lives. Jesus left us so that the Spirit of God, which moves where the Spirit wills, could come and abide with us to continue the Master’s work among us.
Saint of the day: Blessed Marie of the Incarnation, O.S.U., was an Ursuline nun who was the leader of the group of nuns sent to establish the Ursuline Order in New France, which founded the oldest educational institution for females in North America. She was beatified in 1980.
She was born Marie Guyart in Tours, France, the fourth of the eight children of Florent Guyart, a master baker, and his wife, Jeanne Michelet, a member of the minor aristocracy. At her father’s direction, she married Claude Martin, a silk merchant, with whom she had a son, also named Claude, before her husband died, leaving her a widow at the age of 19. Martin left behind a struggling business that Marie was able to make profitable before selling it, and returning to her family home. Free to pursue her religious inclinations, she then took a vow of celibacy, while living with her parents and supporting herself and her son with embroidery. She experienced a mystical vision in March 1620, that set her on a new path of devotional intensity.
After a year with her parents, Guyart acceded to a request by her sister and brother-in-law, Paul Buisson, in the running of a major transport company for the colony. This work had her nursing the employees who were sick and injured, as well as running the large stables and warehouse.
In 1631, after working with a spiritual director for many years, Guyart decided to enter the Ursuline Convent in Tours to try her religious vocation, at which time she received the religious name by which she is now known. She left her son in the care of the Buisson family, but the emotional pain of the separation would remain with them both. Later, when her son had became a Benedictine monk, they corresponded candidly about their spiritual and emotional trials.
Not long after her admission to the convent, during Christmastide of 1634, Marie was guided by visions to go to New France in order to help to establish the Catholic faith in the New World, in which vision she saw herself accompanied by a woman unknown to her. In February 1639 she was introduced to Marie-Madeline de Chauvigny de la Peltrie. She was a widow who was also drawn to serve in the new colony and had heard of Marie’s interest in this, being financially able to support such an endeavor. Marie immediately recognized her as the woman from the vision she had experience five years earlier. Marie, along with another Ursuline, Sister Marie-de-Saint-Joseph, aged 22, received permission to undertake this mission. Then they accompanied de la Peltrie to Paris, where they had to sign a contract with the Company of One Hundred Associates who were responsible for the running of the colony, and with the Jesuit Fathers, responsible for its spiritual life. Despite the strong opposition of her family, de la Peltrie signed over the bulk of her estate to the Ursuline Order for the maintenance of the mission in New France. They then traveled to Dieppe, the port of departure for New France, where a member of the local Ursuline community, Sister Cécile de Sainte-Croix, volunteered to join their mission.
The group set sail in May 1639 and landed in Quebec City the following August. The group managed to found the first school in what would become Canada, as well as the Ursuline Monastery of Quebec. Both the French colonists and the local Native people sought the education of their daughters by the nuns, and a monastery was soon opened, with a boarding school. In 1645, Mother Marie developed liver disease which was to trouble her the rest of her life. Nevertheless, she led the school, taught the students, guided the other nuns and worked to find the funds needed to keep the community functioning. Additionally, she soon mastered the local languages and composed dictionaries in Algonquin and Iroquois, a sacred history in Algonquin, and a catechism in Iroquois. Marie died at the monastery she had built on April 30, 1672.
Spiritual reading: “The times are bad! The times are troublesome!” This is what humans say. But we are our times. Let us live well and our times will be good. Such as we are, such are our times. (Augustine of Hippo)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him, “Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.
“I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Pentecost this year falls on May 13, 2013, and we begin now our preparations for the coming of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father sends to us in Jesus’ name. The Holy Spirit still moves among us to reveal truths to us that we are not prepared to hear: if the Holy Spirit has something to say to us, it’s safe to say that whether or not we’re prepared to hear it, the truth the Holy Spirit wants to tell is the only truth worth hearing. This is the same Spirit who led Jesus into the desert to be tempted, the same Spirit that deprived the Son of Man of a place to lay his head for three years, the same Spirit which spoke of suffering and death to Jesus in the Garden, and the same Spirit which led Jesus to the cross.
In an age that has technology that looks into the inner workings of the human brain, in an age that has technology that peers out to the origins of the universe in deepest space, in an age that has uncovered and understood evidence about the migrations of early humans out of Africa into the rest of the world, are we, knowing the truth is frequently unsettling and painful, prepared to understand what the Holy Spirit is teaching us about the mysteries of our humanity and God’s loving creative continuing presence?
Saint of the day: Elisabeth was born on May 25, 1851, in a humble dwelling situated on the Main Rural Road of La Presentation, a town not far from St. Hyacinthe, Quebec. She was the fourth of eleven children born to Théophile Bergeron and Basiliste Petit. Her parents were poor and could not allow her to go to school very long. However, she was not lacking initiative. Thus, at the age of eight, she decided she would ‘walk to catechism classes’ and ‘make her first communion’ like her brother Octave who was eleven years old. She ran away from home, pleaded with the parish priest and, finally, succeeded in convincing her father. Elisabeth got what she wanted : she received communion for the first time on the same day as her brother.
When she was fourteen, she wanted to enter the community of the Sisters of Charity of St. Hyacinthe but the Superior General said she was too young. Consequently, she stayed with her parents. When they became expatriates and settled in the United States because of the economic crisis, she moved with them. First in Brunswick, New Hampshire and then in Salem, Massachusetts, Elisabeth discovered her talents as a catechist. In the evenings, after a long day of work in the cotton mill, she found both the time and the enthusiasm to teach her immigrant compatriots the essential elements of the Catholic faith. In March 1870, the Bergerons were able to return to their own country with some savings that gave them a bit of security. Clarisse, Elisabeth’s younger sister, was by that time an excellent housekeeper. Elisabeth returned to her former dreams.
Confidently, Elisabeth went first of all to the Sisters of Mercy, then to the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, and finally to the Adorers of the Precious Blood; but she failed at every one of her attempts to enter the convent. She was not discouraged and decided instead to put all of this into God’s hands, and God called her to undertake a project way beyond her imagination. For some time, the bishop of St. Hyacinthe was saddened by the plight of the rural schools: the teachers were too few and inadequately educated. He already knew Elisabeth Bergeron and invited her to come and see him. He told her about his wish that she found a congregation of teaching sisters for the poor children living out in the country. Elisabeth immediately exclaimed: ‘But, I’m not educated!’ This did not trouble the bishop. He thought of the ignorance of the apostles who, nevertheless, founded the Church. Elisabeth accepted in faith and surrendered to the will of God.
On September 12, 1877, Elisabeth Bergeron founded, with three companions more educated than herself, the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Saint Hyacinthe. They moved into the abandoned schoolhouse in the town of La Providence (now a part of St. Hyacinthe). Their poverty was extreme, but their joy was great. On September 17, the new school welcomed eighty pupils, boys and girls, who were divided into two groups since there were only two teaching sisters. Elisabeth encouraged the children to learn and talked to them about God. She also saw to the numerous material tasks in order to relieve the teachers.
At the outset named Superior of the new Congregation, she held this responsibility for only two years. On the second anniversary of the founding, Bishop Moreau designated a sister who was more educated to replace her. This, Elisabeth accepted wholeheartedly. From then on, she served either as the Assistant Superior or General Councillor until 1925. By her life totally given for the service of others, Elisabeth was an example for her sisters. Neither retirement, illness, nor death prevented her from radiating God’s peace, joy, and tenderness. She died on April 29, 1936 and was declared venerable in 1996.
Spiritual reading: The sense of futility is one of the greatest evils of the day . . . People say, “What can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?” They cannot see that we can only lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes. (Dorothy Day)
Gospel reading of the day:
John 13:31-33a, 34-35
When Judas had left them, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: St. John of the Cross once wrote that in the evening of our lives, we will be judged on love alone. I think most of us when we think about perfection are tempted to a little pharisaic hair-splitting–if we can only fulfill the letter of the law perfectly, we shall be perfect. But this isn’t what Jesus asks us to do. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, when he tells us to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect, he quite plainly explains what he means by perfection. We are to love wantonly. We are to love profligately. We are to love dangerously. We are to love with complete abandon. There are no litmus tests. There are no means tests. There are no standards of worthiness we are to use. 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 only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? In Christian life, what makes us perfect is not that we adhere well to a set of rules; it is that we love well and consistently. St. John of the Cross also counseled that where there is no love, put love, and you will find love. It isn’t worthiness that earns the right to be loved; it loving which makes both the giver and the receiver of love worthy–even perfect.
Spiritual reading: The meaning of life is found in the giving and receiving of love. (John Paul II)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his disciples: “If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel of John commences with the proclamation that Jesus is the Word of the Father. In this passage, which comes from Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper, Jesus tells Philip and the rest of his disciples that he and the Father are one. As the Father’s Word to us, Jesus is God communicating God’s self to us. When Jesus speaks, the Father speaks. In our Christian faith, we acknowledge Jesus as the Way to the Father. Jesus leads us to that very end which is the fullness of life itself, life lived in the presence of God.
Saint of the day: Saint Zita was born in 1212 in Tuscany in the village of Monsagrati, not far from Lucca where, at the age of 12, she became a servant in the Faintinelli household. For a long time, she was unjustly despised, overburdened, reviled, and often beaten by her employers and fellow servants for her hard work and obvious goodness. The incessant ill-usage, however, was powerless to deprive her of her inward peace, her love of those who wronged her, and her respect for her employers. By this meek and humble self-restraint, Zita at last succeeded in overcoming the malice of her fellow-servants and her employers, so much so that she was placed in charge of all the affairs of the house. Her faith had enabled her to persevere against their abuse, and her constant piety gradually moved the family to a religious awakening.
Zita often said to others that devotion is false if slothful. She considered her work as an employment assigned her by God, and as part of her penance, and obeyed her master and mistress in all things as being placed over her by God. She always rose several hours before the rest of the family and employed in prayer a considerable part of the time which others gave to sleep. She took care to hear mass every morning with great devotion before she was called upon by the duties of her station, in which she employed the whole day with such diligence and fidelity that she seemed to be carried to them on wings, and studied when possible to anticipate them.
One anecdote relates a story of Zita giving her own food or that of her master to the poor. On one morning, Zita left her chore of baking bread to tend to someone in need. Some of the other servants ensured the Fatinelli family was aware of what happened; when they went to investigate, they claimed to have found angels in the Fatinelli kitchen, baking the bread for her.
Zita died peacefully in the Fatinelli house on April 27, 1272. It is said that a star appeared above the attic where she slept at the moment of her death. She was 60 years old, and had served and edified the family for 48 years. By her death, she was practically venerated by the family. After one hundred and fifty miracles wrought in the behalf of such as had recourse to her intercession were juridically proven, she was canonized in 1696.
Spiritual reading: God who is infinite, all powerful, has become human, the least of human beings. My way is always to seek the lowest place, to be as little as my Master, to walk with him step by step as a faithful disciple. My way is to live with my God who lived this way all his life and who has given me such an example from his very birth. (Charles de Foucauld)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel reading, Jesus asks us not to let our hearts be troubled. This theme, that we not be afraid, arises over and over throughout the pages of scripture. It is an interesting theme given now what we know about the neurological origins of fear and their very useful functions in our lives. Fear serves a very useful function in our lives: it keeps us out of trouble by giving us a proper sense of caution in the face of things that can injure us. It sometimes, however, is inappropriate, since it can impede our full development as human beings. We are not willing to take risks when a given risk might allow us to grow and become better human beings. Moreover, as children of God, we may fail to trust that the Christ already has accomplished the total victory and that all the particularities we encounter are, in fact, simply how God is working out that victory in our lives. So let us not let our hearts be troubled, because all the adversities we face and all the adversities we fear really are not so bad in light of what Jesus already has done to assure the final place of our peace.
Saint of the day: Giovanni Battista Piamarta was born into a poor family in Brescia, Italy on November 26, 1841 and was given a sound Christian upbringing. He entered the seminary in 1860 and was ordained a priest in 1865. Fr. Piamarta focused on young people, work and families, He first worked enthusiastically with youth in rural parishes and later in Brescia. He was distinguished for his zeal and dedication to children, to the sick, and to spiritual direction. The surrounding social scene spurred him to create an institution for workers’ children. Aided by Mons. Pietro Capretti, he founded the Istituto Artigianelli. Its aim was to give boys, especially the destitute, a Christian and professional training with which to face the new industrial society. In spite of many great difficulties, he organized workshops for the different skills and built housing for 100 children. He was like a father to his boys and gave them a deeply religious upbringing. To alleviate the extreme poverty of the peasants who were emigrating to distant America, he founded, with Fr. Bonsignori, an agricultural colony in Remedello to teach and experiment with new farming techniques, which notably increased the productivity of the soil and attracted farmers from Italy and abroad. To ensure the continuity of this work, he founded the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth in 1902. With his mother, he also paved the way for the foundation of a female congregation, the Humble Servants of the Lord. Fr. Piamarta relied on continuous prayer and total trust in divine Providence and always gave priority to the spiritual and material well-being of others. He died in Fr. Bonsignori’s arms in Remedello on April 25, 1913, surrounded by his brothers. He can be considered a father for the young, an example for priests and religious, a model for teachers, an interceder for families and the defender of workers. Along with Kateri Tekakwitha, Marianne Cope, and several others, Fr. Piamarta will be canonized in October 2012.
Spiritual reading: Unless we believe and see Jesus in the appearance of bread on the altar, we will not be able to see him in the distressing disguise of the poor. (Mother Teresa)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his disciples: “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.”
So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Today the Church celebrates the memory of Mark the Evangelist with a resurrection account from Mark’s gospel. The passage is Jesus’ commissioning of his disciples at the time of his ascension. It is a promise of Jesus’ fidelity to his church which, at the moment of his translation to the right of the Father, receives the mission which Jesus had carried out during his life. Like Jesus did, the Church tells the good news, inspires faith, draws people in, heals the sick, soothes the tormented, and carries the wonder of life in God.
Saint of the day: Mark the Evangelist is the traditional author of the Gospel of Mark. He is one of the Seventy Disciples, and the founder of the Church of Alexandria, one of the original four main episcopal sees of Christianity. An unbroken tradition identifies Mark the Evangelist with John Mark, and John Mark as the cousin of Barnabas. An exception is found in Hippolytus of Rome, who in his work On the Seventy Apostles, distinguishes Mark the Evangelist (2 Tim 4:11), John Mark (Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15:37), and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10; Phlm 24). According to Hippolytus, they all belonged to the “Seventy Disciples” who were sent out by Jesus to saturate Judea with the gospel (Luke 10:1ff.). However, when Jesus explained that his flesh was “real food” and his blood was “real drink”, many disciples left him (John 6:44-6:66), presumably including Mark. He was later restored to faith by the apostle Peter; he then became Peter’s interpreter, wrote the Gospel of Mark, founded the church of Africa, and became the bishop of Alexandria.
According to Eusebius of Caesarea (Eccl. Hist. 2.9.1-4), Herod Agrippa I in his first year of reign over the whole Judea (AD 41) killed James, son of Zebedee and arrested Peter, planning to kill him after the Passover. Peter was saved miraculously by angels, and escaped out of the realm of Herod (Acts 12:1-19). Peter went to Antioch, then through Asia Minor (visiting the churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, as mentioned in 1 Pet 1:1), and arrived in Rome in the second year of Emperor Claudius (AD 42; Eusebius, Eccl, Hist. 2.14.6). Somewhere on the way, Peter picked up Mark and took him as travel companion and interpreter. Mark the Evangelist wrote down the sermons of Peter, thus composing the Gospel according to Mark (Eccl. Hist. 15-16), before he left for Alexandria in the third year of Claudius (43).
In AD 49, about 19 years after the Ascension of Jesus, Mark traveled to Alexandria [cf. Acts 15:36-41] and founded the Church of Alexandria, which today is part of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Aspects of the Coptic liturgy can be traced back to Mark himself. He became the first bishop of Alexandria and he is honored as the founder of Christianity in Africa.
According to Eusebius (Eccl. Hist. 2.24.1), Mark was succeeded by Annianus as the bishop of Alexandria in the eighth year of Nero (62/63), probably, but not definitely, due to his coming death. Later Coptic tradition says that he was martyred in 68. It is believed that on the night when Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane Mark had followed him there and the Temple guards saw him, he ran away and dropped his loincloth. His symbol is the Winged lion
Spiritual reading: There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation. (Madeleine L’Engle)
The gospel today is from John’s account of the Last Supper. Jesus knows it is at the end of His time with them and to prepare them for what was to be their future He gives them a new commandment. Everything is contained in this commandment. He commanded: “love one another”. He explained that as he loved them so they should love one another. This he said was to be the way others would know his disciples, that they have love for one another.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? The centuries since have shown how hard it really is. So many things stand in the way of fully carrying out that command. While it sounds easy, it somehow seems like climbing some insurmountable mountain. We can see and acknowledge it but find it hard to practice. Recently, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Emil Kapaun, a priest chaplain in the Army during the Korean war. His award was for his bravery and conduct as a soldier, but his soldiering was different. He had no gun and during world war 2 and Korea he served thousands of soldiers. In 1950, he was sent into the war and as chaplain went straight to the front where his men were, ministering to the wounded, dead and dying. Ultimately, he was captured and even then he continued on ministering, giving his food and all he had to his men until he reached the point that he had physically given all that was possible except his life, when he was taken away and put aside in a hut called a hospital to die. However, in the months that led up to his death, he left a lasting impression on his men as a real man for others and a true chaplain and soldier. Beyond that he is seen as a candidate for sainthood.
I think we can see that this man was one who took and followed Jesus’ command. His years as a priest were spent mostly in the military, yet he never lost sight of loving care of his men. Even in terms of military honor he stood out further as a Christian marked by the love he had for others. We today see this as extraordinary, but really it is so because so often we put roadblocks in our own way that somehow we fail to love in this same way. This I think is our thought for today, love one another, give and forget the “I” or “me”.
Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me. I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness. And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day, because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In John’s gospel, Jesus works seven unmistakable signs to demonstrate his mission comes from the Father. This passage in the gospel concludes the seven signs. In the passage, Jesus tells us that his Father’s commands will lead us to eternal life. God does not desire any of us to perish. God’s whole will is that we live. God is working for the salvation of each and every one of us without exception.
Saint of the day: If a poor man needed some clothing, Fidelis of Sigmaringen would often give the man the clothes right off his back. Complete generosity to others characterized this saint’s life.
Born in 1577, Mark Rey (Fidelis was his religious name) became a lawyer who constantly upheld the causes of the poor and oppressed people. Nicknamed “the poor man’s lawyer,” Fidelis soon grew disgusted with the corruption and injustice he saw among his colleagues. He left his law career to become a priest, joining his brother George as a member of the Capuchin Order. His wealth was divided between needy seminarians and the poor.
As a follower of Francis, Fidelis continued his devotion to the weak and needy. During a severe epidemic in a city where he was guardian of a friary, Fidelis cared for and cured many sick soldiers.
He was appointed head of a group of Capuchins sent to preach against the Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. Almost certain violence threatened. Those who observed the mission felt that success was more attributable to the prayer of Fidelis during the night than to his sermons and instructions.
He was accused of opposing the peasants’ national aspirations for independence from Austria. While he was preaching at Seewis, to which he had gone against the advice of his friends, a gun was fired at him, but he escaped unharmed. A Protestant offered to shelter Fidelis, but he declined, saying his life was in God’s hands. On the road back, he was set upon by a group of armed men and killed.
He was canonized in 1746. Fifteen years later, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which was established in 1622, recognized him as its first martyr.
Spiritual reading: If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark. (John of the Cross)
Gospel reading of the day:
The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter. And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The Feast of the Dedication is Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. It is the celebration of the re-dedication of the second Temple after the revolt of the Maccabees, which at the time of the gospel passage recounted today was the most recent liberation of the Jewish people from foreign oppression. The gospel tells us that it was winter. Winter, of course, is a time of barrenness, when little grows, and life is hard, and we await the renewal of life in the distant spring.
It was into the world’s winter that Jesus came, but his presence in the world, analogous in a sense to the celebration of the Festival of Lights, was the liberation of his people–not just Israel in the strictest sense but all of us, the whole Church. It his presence in the winter of our lives which lights up our worlds and liberates us from the consequences of sin and death. The gospel tells us we can trust in this, because God is faithful.
Saint of the day: Teresa Maria de la Cruz was born March 2, 1846, in Florence, Italy, and baptized with the name Teresa Adelaida Cesina Manetti. Her father died when she was a child. The loss stayed with her all her life and led her to devote her life to helping the poor and disadvantaged, especially orphans, whom she called her greatest treasure. In 1872, she and some girlfriends formed a small circle to educate young people in the Christian doctrine. On July 16, 1876, at the age of 30, she was admitted to the third order of the Carmelites and changed her name to Teresa Maria of the Cross. On July 12, 1888, she was among the first 27 nuns to take the habit of the Discalced Carmelites. The order was approved by on February 27, 1904, with the name Carmelite Tertiaries of Santa Teresa. Teresa Maria was always in poor health, physically and spiritually. She met with much resistance to her work with the poor, much slander about her personal life, and a long period of spiritual dryness, but all who met her commented on the air of joy and peace she brought to her work, and she often prayed to God to make her suffer more, to squeeze her to the last drop. Meanwhile, her caring knew no bounds: she would give anything to anyone, never thinking of herself. Teresa Maria died in Florence on April 3, 1910, while repeating: “Oh, my Jesus, if you want, make me suffer more. . . .” Then she cried ecstatically: “It’s open . . . I’m going!”
Spiritual reading: I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding. (John O’Donohue)