Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Beauty of Creation Bears Witness to God

Question the beauty of the earth,
the beauty of the sea,
the beauty of the wide air around you,
the beauty of the sky;

question the order of the stars,
the sun, whose brightness lights the day,
the moon whose splendor softens the gloom of night;

question the living creatures that move in the water,
that roam upon the earth, that fly through the air;
the spirit that lies hidden,
the matter that is manifest;
the visible things that are ruled,
the invisible that rules them;
question all these.

They will answer you:
"Behold and see, we are beautiful."

Their beauty is their confession of God.

Who made these beautiful changing things,
if not one who is beautiful and changeth not?
                                            St. Francis of Assisi

Friday, October 21, 2011

on a mission

Scripture for meditation: James 2:14-17
My brothers, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it? Such faith has no power to save one, has it? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and no food for the day, and you say to them, "Good-bye and good luck! Keep warm and well fed," but do not meet their bodily needs, what good is that? So it is with the faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless.

Christ tells us: Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus came forward and addressed them in these words: "Full authority has been given me, both in heaven and on earth; go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you. And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!"

Pope Leo the Great instructs us:
Let us now extend to the poor and those afflicted in different ways a more open-handed generosity, so that God may be thanked through many voices and the relief of the needy supported by our fasting. No act of devotion on the part of the faithful gives God more pleasure than that which is lavished on His poor. Where He finds charity with its loving concern, there He recognizes the reflection of His own fatherly care. In these acts of giving, do not fear a lack of means. A generous spirit is itself great wealth. There can be no shortage of material for generosity where it is Christ who feeds and Christ who is fed.

Prayer: Prayer for the Poor by Mother Teresa
Who is Jesus to me?Jesus is the Word made Flesh.
Jesus is the Bread of Life. Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the Cross.
Jesus is the Sacrifice at Holy Mass for the sins of the world and mine.
Jesus is the Word - to be spoken. Jesus is the Truth - to be told.
Jesus is the Way - to be walked. Jesus is the Light - to be lit.
Jesus is the Life - to be loved. Jesus is the Joy - to be shared.
Jesus is the Sacrifice - to be given. Jesus is the Bread of Life - to be eaten.
Jesus is the Hungry - to be fed. Jesus is the Thirsty - to be satiated.
Jesus is the Naked - to be clothed. Jesus is the Homeless - to be taken in.
Jesus is the Sick - to be healed. Jesus is the Lonely - to be loved.
Jesus is the Unwanted - to be wanted. Jesus is the Leper - to wash his wounds.
Jesus is the Beggar - to give him a smile. Jesus is the Drunkard - to listen to him.
Jesus is the Little One - to embrace him. Jesus is the Dumb - to speak to him.
Jesus is the Crippled - to walk with him. Jesus is the Drug Addict - to befriend him.
Jesus is the Prostitute - to remove from danger and befriend her. Jesus is the Prisoner - to be visited.
Jesus is the Old - to be served.
To me Jesus is my God, Jesus is my Spouse,
Jesus is my Life, Jesus is my only Love, Jesus is my All in All,
Jesus is my Everything.

My thoughts:  For the last few days, I have centered our devotion on being the hands and voices of God, first by being called to be His disciples, then called to develop a giving heart, and today being called to take care of the poor by proclaiming the Good News of Jesus and by giving to all our brothers and sisters without fear of losing what we have. Sunday is World Mission Sunday, a time for the entire Church to pray and sacrifice for all those in the world who do not know the love of Christ, for all the missionaries who bring this good news to them, for an abundance of generosity so that the poor may be cared for, and for the strength to answer the call to be a missionary in our own lives. The Holy Father asks every parish, in every diocese, in every country of the world to take up a collection for the world-wide mission work of the Church. We are asked to dedicate ourselves to the mission work of the Church, through prayer and sacrifice, word and witness.  May we all be, through the example of our own lives, living witnesses to the generosity and love of Christ.

Your prayer to God: Dear God, I have been so blessed with so many of your gifts.  I am offering myself to you today to use as your will. Help me to bring your mercy and love to everyone I meet.  Help me to open my heart to those in need, both in my immediate life, and those in the world I will never meet. Let me always keep a love for the poor in my heart, and dedicate my life to relieving the suffering of others. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Devotion for today: have a heart

Scripture for today: 1Peter 4:8-11
Above all, let your love for one another be constant, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be mutually hospitable without complaining. As generous distributors of God's manifold grace, put your gifts at the service of one another, each in the measure he has received. The one who speaks is to deliver God's message. The one who serves is to do it with the strength provided by God. Thus, in all of you, God is to be glorified through Jesus Christ; to Him be glory and dominion throughout the ages. Amen.

Christ tells us: Matthew 6:1-4
Be on guard against  performing religious acts for people to see. Otherwise expect no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, for example, do not blow a horn before you in synagogues and streets like hypocrites looking for applause. You can be sure of this much, they are already repaid. In giving alms, you are not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Keep your deeds of mercy secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen instructs us: Footprints in a Darkened Forest
Once I no longer regard myself as a superman, who refuses to share the struggle of others, then when others are weak, I am weak; when they are poor, I am poor; when they are tearful, my cheeks are damp. Then I see not that I am loved because God loves everybody; but, rather that, if God loves me, as miserable as I am, then He must love everybody.  Only when I am as weak and helpless as my neighbor can I help him. Then there is no spirit of judgment, no sense of superiority, no superciliousness, no looking down one's nose at others. I am his companion in repentance. I too am waiting for grace, just as he did.
From the Angel's Blackboard: The Best of Fulton J. Sheen; Ligouri Press, 1995)

Prayer: Prayer of Saint Faustina
O my Jesus, I know that a person's greatness is evidenced by his deeds and not by his words or feelings. It is the works that have come from us that will speak about us. My Jesus, do not allow me to daydream, but give me the courage and strength to fulfill Your holy will. Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 663.(Marians of the Immaculate Conception, 1987).

My thoughts: Our meditation today makes it clear that it is not a question of whether or not we should give to those in need; it is a matter of how and why. The world needs our care and love. It needs to hear the word of God, yet we can never do this for our vainglory.  It must always be to spread the love and word of God.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen reminds us of how humble we must be when we help our neighbor, and Saint Faustina helps us to pray past passivity: don't dream about helping the poor; just do it!

Your prayer to God: It is time for us to ask God whom He wants us to serve. It may not be as fulfilling or noticeable as ministries we have chosen for ourselves, but the merit comes from doing God's will, not ours. Ask Him today to open your eyes to those in need...those right in front of you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Quo Vadis?

Scripture for meditation: Acts 9:1-6
Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the Lord's disciples, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus which would empower him to arrest and bring to Jerusalem anyone he might find, man or woman, living according to the new way. As he traveled along and was approaching Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed about him. He fell to the ground and at the same time heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, sir?" he asked. The voice answered, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Get up and go into the city, where you will be told what to do."

Christ tells us: Matthew 5:18-20
As He was walking along the Sea of Galilee He watched two brothers, Simon now known as Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea. They were fishermen. He said to them, "Come after me and I will make you fishers of men." They immediately abandoned their nets and became His followers.

Pope Benedict XVI teaches us: We are Christians only if we encounter Christ. Of course He does not show Himself to us in that irresistible, luminous way, as He did with Paul to make him Apostle of the Gentiles. However, we can also encounter Christ in the reading of scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch Christ's heart and feel Him touch ours. Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we really become Christians. And in this way, our reason opens, the whole of Christ's wisdom opens and all the richness of the truth. Therefore, let us pray to the Lord to enlighten us, so that, in our world, He will grant us the encounter with His presence, and thus give us a lively faith, an open heart, and great charity for all, capable of renewing the world." Sept.3, 2008

My thoughts:  Isaiah 55:8 tells us that God's ways are not our ways.  That is extremely clear by the different ways He called Peter and Andrew, and Saul. The lesson to us is clear. We can never predict how God will call us into His service, to ask us to be His witnesses to all people. Whether we are knocked off our figurative horses, or called softly in the recesses of our hearts, Pope Benedict XVI makes one thing very clear: once enlightened, we will partake of the richness of God's truth, and be capable of renewing the world, or at least the part we live in. The question, then, is this: will we immediately drop our nets and follow Christ?

Prayer: Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created,
and You shall renew the face of the earth.  Let us pray:
Oh God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful,
Grant that by that same Holy Spirit, we may be truly wise
and ever rejoice in His consolations.
Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Your prayer to God: Fear is what usually stops us from a total commitment to God and His will for our lives, yet once we dismiss the fear, we are free to love God and share that love with others simply by being who we are.  Take the step today to offer your heart to God. Let him know of your fears, and ask Him to replace them with a strong and convicted heart.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Devotion for today: Have a just and reasonable mind

Scripture for meditation: Proverbs 3:27-34
Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim when it is in your power to do it for him. Say not to your neighbor, "Go and come again, tomorrow I will give," when you can give at once. Plot no evil against your neighbor, against him who lives at peace with you. Quarrel not with a man without cause, with one who has done you no harm. Envy not the lawless man and choose none of his ways: to the Lord the perverse man is an abomination, but with the upright is His friendship. The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but the dwelling of the just He blesses; When He is dealing with the arrogant, He is stern, but to the the humble He shows kindness.

Christ tells us: Luke 10: 25-28
On one occasion a lawyer stood up to pose Him this problem: "Teacher what must I do to inherit everlasting life?" Jesus answered him: "What is written in the law? How do you read it?" He replied: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as your self." Jesus said, "You have answered correctly. Do this and you shall live."

St. Francis de Sales tells us:  An Introduction to the Devout Life
Always be impartial and just in your deeds. Put yourself into your neighbor's place, and him in yours, and then you will judge fairly. When you buy, act as though you were the seller, and when you sell act as though you were the buyer, and you will buy and sell with justice. These acts of injustice seem small, because they do not demand restitution, as we only seek our own advantage to the utmost limit of honesty. But, nevertheless, they require correction, for after all they are but cheating tricks, and offend against reason and charity, and no one ever lost anything by generosity, honor and courtesy, which are the fruits of a noble, upright, straightforward heart. Frequently, therefore, examine your heart, whether it is so disposed towards your neighbor, as you would have his disposed towards you, were you to change places; for this is the true test.

Prayer: Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

My thoughts: It is easy to look white when we compare ourselves to black.  It is easy to look white when we compare ourselves to gray.  When we compare ourselves to true white, however, we come out looking pretty dingy. God is the only pure white standard, and it is to Him that we must always draw our comparisons. We justify our behavior toward our fellow man by degrees of evil.  It isn't so bad, it isn't that unreasonable; it isn't really unfair; he'll get over it; I just needed to do what was best for me and my family, and so on.  We say these things, think these things a million times a day, yet Christ tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  How can we, when we seek to find fault in little things, but excuse ourselves in big matters, when we demand justice from others, but find mercy toward our own wrongdoings, when we think so highly of what we do for others, but barely recognize what they do for us. To love God is to love ourselves, and to love ourselves fairly, we must pause and study how we love others.  It must be with one heart bent on reason, justice, mercy and love.

Your prayer to God: Today is the day to stop our "cheating tricks" and come clean with ourselves. How many times do we justify our behavior while condeming the behavior of others?  Ask God for forgiveness for all the times you let your immediate wants and needs block you from fair behavior toward your family, friends and co-workers. Say the St. Francis prayer, remembering that we were placed on the earth to serve, and not to be served. Then remember how much God loves you and forgives you. He will fill you with the grace to begin again on the path of reason and justice.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Devotion for today: what makes you so special?

Scripture Genesis 1:26-27
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground." God created man in His image; in the divine image He created him; male and female He created them."

Christ tells us: Luke 20:21-25
They put to Him this problem: "Teacher, we know that your words and your doctrine are completely forthright, that you are no respecter of persons but teach the way of God in truth. May we pay tax to the emperor or not?" Realizing their duplicity He said, "Show me a coin. Whose head is this? Whose inscription do you read?" "Caesar's," they replied, to which He said, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, but give to God what is God's."

Archbishop (Episcopal) Desmond Tutu tells us: (from the forward to The Vision of Peace by Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Orbis Press)
We often heard people say, "Oh, I'm just an ordinary this or that..." I have frequently had to say there is in our theology no such thing as an "ordinary this or that." We are all quite special since we are each that marvelous creation, a person created in the image of God. For that reason, we are each a God-carrier, God's viceroy, God's representative. That makes each of us truly special.

Prayer: today's prayer is actually a hymn: Let Saints on Earth in Concert Sing
Rejoice, you righteous, in the Lord,
This work belongs to you;
Sing of His name, His ways, His word,
How holy, just and true!

His mercy and His righteousness
Let heav'n and earth proclaim;
His works of nature and of grace
Reveal His wondrous name.

My thoughts: My pastor, Fr. Andrew Fisher, made an interesting point at Mass Sunday.  He said when Christ told the scribes and high priests to give Caesar what belonged to Caesar, and to give God what belonged to God, He was telling us that we are the image of God, just as the picture on the coin was the image of Caesar.  We are the image of God.  We were put here to know, love and serve God in this world in order to be happy with Him in the next. We are valuable, worthy and precious in God's eyes. He chose to make us, and as His image, we must bring God into every aspect of our lives, be it in the workplace, the home, the athletic field, the school, etc.  We never stop being the image of God. As Archbishop Tutu says, "That makes each of us truly special."

Your prayer to God: Take a moment today to look in the mirror, and see not yourself, but the image of God. Allow the power of that realization to take over your mind, heart and soul.  Ask God for the grace to think, say, and do only what He asks of you.  Pray that everyone you meet today finds the peace and comfort of God's love in you.