Saturday, February 4, 2012

Devotion for today: the quality of mercy

This beautiful piece on mercy is from The Merchant of Venice, first performed in 1596 and published in 1600, when Portia speaks to Shylock in Act IV, Scene I.

The Quality of Mercy

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.

His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.

But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute of God himself;
And earthly power doth then show like God's
When mercy seasons justice.

William Shakespeare

Friday, February 3, 2012

Devotion for today: did you hear what I said?

Today we will look at two Old Testament kings who react very differently to the words of chastisement from men of God.
Scriptures for today: 1 Samuel 22, 30-31
But Samuel replied: “Is the pleasure of Yahweh in holocausts and sacrifices or in obedience to the voice of Yahweh? Yes, obedience is better than sacrifice, submissiveness better than the fat of rams. Rebellion is a sin of sorcery, presumption a crime of teraphim (household idols). Since you have rejected the word of Yahweh, he has rejected you as king.” “I have sinned,” Saul said, “but please still show me respect in front of the elders of my people and in front of Israel, and come back with me, so that I can worship Yahweh your God.”

2 Samuel 12:1-7, 13
Yahweh sent Nathan the prophet to David. He came to him and said: “In the same town were two men one rich the other poor. The rich man had flocks and herds in great abundance; the poor man had nothing but a ewe lamb, one only, a small one he had bought. This he fed, and it grew up with him and his children, eating his bread, drinking from his cup, sleeping on his breast; it was like a daughter to him. When there came a traveler to stay, the rich man refused to take one of his own flock or herd to provide for the wayfarer who; had come to him. Instead he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest.” David’s anger flared up against the man. “As Yahweh lives,” he said to Nathan, ‘the man who did this deserves to die! He must make fourfold restitution for the lamb, for doing such a thing and showing no compassion.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man….” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against Yahweh.”

Study By: Bob Deffinbaugh: Saul’s disobedience is not taken seriously enough by Saul. Saul is slow to accept responsibility for his sin, as exposed by Samuel. Even when Saul confesses his sin, he lays some of the blame off on the people and then tries – too quickly for my liking – to “move on” to the blessings of God, hoping to sidestep divine discipline. This is especially apparent in verses 24-33. In a sense, Saul is saying something like: “O.K., O.K., so I messed up. I admit it. Now, can we get on with my life. I want you to stay with me and worship with me, so that my image is not tarnished before the people.” In effect… Saul is more concerned with the people’s opinion of him than of God’s estimation of him. Saul wants to put his sin behind him without hating it, without putting it away from him (

Fr. Stephen Yim, of the Archdiocese of Singapore tells us:
Just to think that one day we will have to stand before the Lord and receive a judgment that will seal our eternity can be rather frightening. So we might think that it is God who will judge us and determine how guilty we are and then send us according to where we should go. Yet, if God is love, then why would He want to judge us and even condemn us? It was not God who pronounced judgment on David but rather it was David who pronounced judgment on himself. Nathan, the prophet, narrated the story, but it was David who made the conclusion. It was Nathan who just held the mirror, and David saw the reflection. Yet, we must also acknowledge that David had the humility to admit that it was his own reflection, that he was that man in the story. We all have that God-given conscience to admit to our faults and sinfulness. Yet, with the same breath, we also must admit that we have this ability to deny guilt and responsibility. (

My thoughts: To end our week’s study of the various ways God speaks to His people, we see before us two men of God who were sent to kings to deliver the same message: God is very, very angry with you, for you have sinned. King Saul had deliberately disobeyed the command God gave him in destroying a nation, and Samuel was sent to call him on it. David had Uriah the Hittite killed in battle so he could marry Bathsheba, and Nathan the prophet was sent to admonish him. Our study shows us two ways we can react to God’s chastisement of us. Saul says he is sorry, but he is not. He is worried about his image, and tries to engage Samuel in damage control. David, on the other hand, is truly sorry and admits his guilt. He goes on to write beautiful Psalms on the sin he has committed, begging for forgiveness. When God sends someone to correct us, and we trust this person to have our souls in their interest, how do we react? Does our pride get in the way of true remorse? Or are we thankful that God has sent someone to hold “the mirror” so we can see our own reflection? God will use many ways to speak to us, yet it is up to us to listen. By throwing away our pride, by giving up our desire for recognition and admiration, and by admitting that we have sinned against God, we will be like David, from whose line Jesus descended. Saul, on the other hand…well, just read the rest of his story (1 Samuel).

Our prayer to God: Psalm 38:17-18, 21-22
And now my fall is upon me, there is no relief from my pain; yes, I admit my guilt, I am sorry for having sinned. Yahweh, do not desert me, do not stand aside, my God! Come quickly to my help, Lord, my savior!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Devotion for today: prepared to recognize the Lord

Today, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, we learn from Simeon and Anna that we must be prepared to recognize the Lord.

Scripture for today: Luke 2:22-38
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel. The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted – and you yourself a sword will pierce – so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” There was a prophetess, Anna…she never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

It is said of Simeon and Anna: Simeon and Anna were two venerable elderly people dedicated to prayer and fasting and so their strong religious spirit rendered them able to recognize the Messiah. On this day, the Church demonstrates its gratitude to all those in the community that dedicate themselves in a privileged way to prayer, to those who have a particular religious vocation to the contemplative life. In the figure of the venerable Simeon, Jesus’ presentation in the temple, also reminds us that prayer and contemplation are not just a waste of time or an obstacle to charity. On the contrary, time could not be better spent than in prayer as true Christian charity is a consequence of a solid interior life. Only those who pray and offer penance, like Simeon and Anna, are open to the breath of the Spirit. They know how to recognize the Lord in the circumstances in which He manifests Himself because they possess an ample interior vision, and they have learned how to love with the heart of the One whose very name is Charity. (

My thoughts: This week we have been looking at various ways that God can speak to His people. Here we see, in Simeon and Anna, what we ourselves must do to be prepared for God to speak to us. Simeon and Anna knew Jesus when they saw Him, because they were dedicated to prayer and fasting. Simeon knew the movement of the Holy Spirit because he allowed himself to be “open to the breath of the Spirit.” If we cannot figure out why we never hear God speaking to us, maybe we need to spend more time in silence, in prayer and fasting, and in contemplating His word. It is impossible to recognize someone you do not know, and difficult to hear the words of someone you seldom encounter.

Our prayer to God: Collect: Almighty ever-living God, we humbly implore your majesty that, just as your Only Begotten Son was presented on this day in the Temple in the substance of our flesh, so, by your grace, we may be presented to you with minds made pure. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Devotion for today: let me whisper in your ear

Sometimes God speaks to us in a tiny whisper.

Scripture for meditation: I Kings 19:11-13
Then the Lord said, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Christ tells us: John 10:27
“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”

Chris Lowney, in his book Heroic Living (Loyola Press) states: Perhaps, if we attune ourselves to hearing that still, small voice, we will find it whispered all around us and, more important, from within us. As the Quaker minister Parker Palmer put it, “Vocation does not come from a voice ‘out there’ calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.” And just how might we recognize the voice “in here”? The Protestant minister Frederick Buechner hears God communicating to us through our profoundest human concerns and interests: “The place that God calls us is that place where the world’s deep hunger and our own deep desire meet.” And one of my friends, asked how God might influence our job choices, said she saw God’s fingerprint on our skills and circumstances: “The gifts and talents God has given us are clues as to God’s plan for us.” Another friend spoke similarly, focusing on the passions and interests that not only motivate us to excellence but also touch all those who see our excellence in action: “What fuels one to perform with excellence has a spiritual quality that inspires, nurtures, and sustains one’s work. . . . I find when I experience extraordinary talent in someone—whether it is playing tennis, singing, preaching, caring for the sick—it reminds me of God’s grace and seems to be a very wonderful way for that person to use his or her time and energy.”

My thoughts: If you ever start to feel sorry for yourself, read 1 Kings and see how tough life was for Elijah the prophet. Called by God to bring the kingdom of Israel back to the Lord, he was ignored, hated and ridiculed for his preaching and prophesying. At the time of the above passage, he has complained to the Lord that he has done all that was asked of him, and now he is alone and everyone wants to kill him. God reminds him that he is never alone, that he can find God in the tiniest little voice, a whisper. We must remember that as well. God is not going to use earthquakes and fire to get our attention when he wants us to do His will. He is quietly going to remind us of who we are, who He created us to be. Did you ever listen to a homily and wonder how the priest knew you needed to hear those words just then? Have you ever read a book and had a line jump off the page and hit you right where you were hurting or confused? I once saw an episode of Fr. Barron’s Catholicism on TV and sat straight up in my seat. Questions that had been plaguing me for months seemed to disappear at that moment. How did he know? He didn’t, of course, but God did, and I don’t believe it was an accident that I was moved to catch that show. Learn to be obedient when you hear a prompting inside your soul to call a friend, send an email to an old acquaintance, stop by and visit a lonely or depressed individual, read the Bible or go to confession. Jesus tells us that He is our shepherd, and He knows us. He says when we hear his voice, we follow him. If we become obedient in little matters, we will be ready to respond to God’s word in the big ones. It is like a military drill. Over and over again the soldiers “play” war. They respond to the commander’s voice. When the call to action is made, they know what to do. Do we?

Our prayer to God: Here I Am Lord -- Music & Lyrics by Dan Schutte Copyright 1981
Here I am, Lord. It is I Lord.
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, where you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Devotion for today: a vision of mercy

We continue today with a look at God’s inspiration through a vision to a simple Polish nun.

Scripture for meditation: John 20:19
On the evening of that first day of the week, even though the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood before them. “Peace be with you,” he said.

Christ tells us: John 20:20-21
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. At the sight of the Lord, the disciples rejoiced. “Peace be with you,” he said again.  “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

St. Faustina’s vision: diary entry Feb. 22, 1931: In the evening, when I was in my cell, I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside at the breast, there were emanating two large rays, one red, the other pale. In silence I kept my gaze fixed on the Lord: my soul was struck with awe, but also with great joy. After awhile, Jesus said to me, “Paint an image according to the image you see, with the signature: Jesus I trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world…. I desire that there be a Feast of Mercy. I want this image, which you will paint with a brush, to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy.” Spiritual Counsel given me by Father Andraz, S.J.:
First: you must not turn away from these interior inspirations, but always tell everything to your confessor…. Second: if these inspirations are not in accord with the faith or the spirit of the Church, they must be rejected immediately…. Third: if these inspirations do not refer to souls in general, nor specifically  to their good, you should not take them too seriously….But you should not make this decision by yourself, either one way or the other, as you can easily be led astray despite great favors from God. Humility, humility, and ever humility, as we can do nothing of ourselves; all is purely and simply God’s grace. You say to me that God demands great trust from souls; you be the first to show this trust. And one more word – accept all this with serenity. (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 47, 49, 55)

 My thoughts: I do not think that many of us are going to hear from the Lord in quite this way. Yet this did happen, and because of Blessed John Paul II we now celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy. St. Faustina met with great opposition to the implementation of this vision, and it did not occur until April 30, 2000, 69 years after the first request from Jesus. Notice that the advice her confessor gives her applies to us today. If we think we hear God calling us in a special way, we need to share our thoughts with a spiritual director or confessor. When Christ appeared to the disciples, he wished them peace, and they were filled with joy. St. Faustina was filled with awe and joy. Why? Because they recognized the Lord. They knew who He was. That is why, in humility, if we feel God is calling us to a specific vocation or action, we must be humble enough to seek advice after great prayer time. Also, no calling is complete without action. St. Faustina did get the portrait painted, and the disciples did go into the world to preach the good news. If we are called, and we know this is from God through confirmation from prayer and counsel, then we must respond. Remember, none of us is too small in the eyes of God to do great things for Him.
 Our prayer to God: The Three O’clock Hour Prayer (to be said every day, preferably before a picture of Divine Mercy):
You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us… O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You (Diary, 1319, 187).

Monday, January 30, 2012

Devotion for today: Beautiful Dreamer

Ever wonder how God can speak to us? Let’s take a look this week at a few different ways.

Scripture for today: Joel 3:1-2
Then afterward I will pour out my spirit upon all Mankind. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; even upon the servants and the handmaids, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

Christ tells us: Matthew 20:13-15
At one point children were brought to him so he could place his hands on them in prayer. The disciples began to scold them, but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Do not hinder them. The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” And he laid his hands on their heads before he left that place.

St. John Bosco, a Man of God: Born in 1815, the youngest son of a Piedmontese farmer, John Bosco had a dream at the age of nine that showed him his life’s mission. Jesus and Mary appeared to him and asked him to devote his life to helping poor boys. He did this with perseverance and zeal admired by all. In the course of time, he established the Salesian Society to continue the work he had begun. One hundred years after the death of the saint, the order ranks as the third largest in the Church, and is active in the foreign missions, trade schools, and hospitals.

St. John Bosco’s Dream:  When he was nine years old he had a dream in which he found himself in a field surrounded by a crowd of boys. Some were laughing and singing and playing games; others were fighting and using bad language.  On hearing the language he lost his temper, dashed in among them and laid about him with his fists. Those who were struck by his flying fists lost their tempers, too, and a battle royal began with everybody fighting and finally everybody pounding him. In the middle of this ruckus appeared a noble-looking Man; they stopped fighting to stare at him. “Come here,” he said. Putting his hand on the boy’s shoulder, the Man drew him closer. “You will never help these boys by beating them. Be kind to them, lead them, teach them that sin is evil and that purity is a precious gift.” But the boy was still too angry and too disturbed to listen. “Who are you to tell me to do all these difficult things?” he demanded. “I am the son of the Woman your mother taught you to salute three times a day. And these things are not difficult. By listening to the Woman I shall send to you, you will do everything with ease.” The Man disappeared and the boys at once changed into dogs, wolves and other wild animals. Trembling with fear, he turned to find a beautiful and gracious Lady at his side. “Don’t be afraid,” she said, taking his hand in hers. “What I shall do for these animals, you must do for all my children. But if you are to succeed in changing them into lambs, you must be humble and strong.” When she had finished speaking, he saw that the wild animals had indeed changed into lambs and were cavorting about her feet. Confused by what he saw, he started to cry. “I don’t understand!” “Don’t worry, my child,” the Lady comforted him. “You will understand everything in good time.” (Peter Lappin, Give me Souls! Life of Don Bosco, Don Bosco Publications, 1977)

My thoughts: St. John (Don) Bosco went on to live the dream. He began at a young age by teaching catechism in his village. Then he became a priest and gathered street gang members into Sunday sessions of Mass, confessions, games and catechism. He eventually founded an order, which is still very active today, the Salesians. What can we do with our “dreams”? Don Bosco began by praying, then sharing his dream with his mother. She encouraged him to find ways to fulfill that dream. We, too, must pray and share those dreams we dare to dream, the ones which never leave us alone. Notice that Don Bosco’s dream has all the earmarks of coming from God: scripture backs it up, and the lessons meant for Don are consistent with the lessons Christ preaches. It was also entrusted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, something we must do with our dreams as well. If we have a dream, a thought, and idea which can help make our world a better place, start by praying about it. Then, why not share it with a trusted friend or spiritual director? God may be calling you to become, or do, something specifically for Him. Don Bosco believed he was worthy of God’s calling. We must believe this about ourselves as well. Don Bosco, pray for us (his feast day is tomorrow).

Our Prayer to God: O Holy Spirit, Spirit of wisdom and divine love, impart Your knowledge, understanding, and counsel to us all that we may know the vocation wherein we can best serve God. Give us courage and strength to follow God's holy will. Guide our uncertain steps, strengthen our resolutions, shield our chastity, fashion our minds, conquer our hearts, and lead us to the vineyards where we will labor in God's holy service.