Saturday, February 18, 2012

Devotion for Saturday/Sunday: start small

It’s the Little Things in Life
That Determine the Big Things

…Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (Matthew 25:21)

Several centuries ago, the Emperor of Japan commissioned a Japanese artist to paint a particular species of bird for him. Months passed, then years. Finally, the Emperor went personally to the artist’s studio to ask for an explanation.

The artist set a blank canvas on the easel and within fifteen minutes, had completed a painting of a bird. It was a masterpiece! The Emperor, admiring both the painting and the artist’s great skill, asked why there had been such a long delay.

The artist then went from cabinet to cabinet in his studio. He pulled from them armloads of drawings of feathers, tendons, wings, feet, claws, eyes, beaks – virtually every aspect of a bird, from virtually every angle. He placed these silently before the Emperor, who nodded in understanding. The magnificence of any “whole” can never be greater than the magnificence of any singular detail.

To have an excellent life, strive for an excellent year. Within that year, strive for an excellent month, and within that month, strive for an excellent day. Within the day, strive for an excellent hour. An excellent life is the sum of many excellent moments!

(God’s Little Devotional Book, Honor Books, 1995)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Devotion for today: love makes the world go ‘round

Scripture for meditation: Psalm 104:1, 5, 13, 14, 19, 24
Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord, my God, you are great indeed! You fixed the earth upon its foundation, not to be moved forever; you water the mountains from your palace; the earth is replete with the fruit of your works. You raise grass for the cattle, and vegetation for men’s use, you made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows the hour of its setting. How manifold are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you have wrought them all - the earth is full of your creatures.

Christ tells us: Matthew 6:9
“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name….”

Father Oscar Lukefahr, C.M. tells us: Every breath we take contains trillions of atoms. We live on a planet surrounded by trillions of stars. We could spend an eternity trying to grasp the smallness of the atomic building blocks of the universe or the vastness of the whole picture. And we would still be left in awe. If there were no God, all of this would have to come from nothing! All of its organization must be an accident! If we sometimes find it hard to believe in God, then we should try to believe in nothing. Believers in God are sometimes mocked with the notion that they are putting faith in a fairy tale. On the contrary, there is no fairy tale more incredible than that the universe – infinite in its smallness and in its vastness, astonishing in its structure and organization – could come from nothing! The more we know of the magnificence of the universe, the more we are drawn to believe that it must have a Master Architect to design it and a Creator to build it. As we take a good look at ourselves, small creatures on a small planet in a small solar system in a small galaxy in our vast universe, we discover that we have within us a desire to know the One who made us. Doctors and psychologists have learned that our bodies react in a positive or negative way to certain emotions. Fear, self-pity and despair release chemicals into our systems that can poison us. Faith, hope, love and peace can make us healthier. Two people are standing at the grave of a loved one. The first says, “There is no God. I will never see my friend again. Soon I will die and that will be the end of everything.” The second says, “God has brought my friend to eternal life in heaven. When I die, we will be together again. God loves us, and death brings us to eternal life.” The first individual is experiencing feelings likely to cause the release of chemicals harmful to the human body; the second is experiencing feelings that promote health. It is almost as if even our bodies are telling us that we are made for belief in God!(“We Believe…” A Survey of the Catholic Faith, Liguori Press, 1995)

Prayer: 1 John 4:16:  God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God, and God abides in him.
Psalm 8:2, 4-5, 10: O Lord, our Lord, how glorious is your name over all the earth! You have exalted your majesty above the heavens. When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place- what is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him? O Lord, our Lord, how glorious is your name over all the earth!

My thoughts: We end our week on love by considering the overwhelming concept of God, the creator of the universe, having love for us. When we realize that God is love, then we realize that the entire universe was made out of love. And then, when we consider the reality of how tiny we are in the cosmic realm of things, it is phenomenal to conceive that God loves us so much: He watches over us, listens to our prayers, hears our cries, accepts our praise, and guides our lives so that we can be with Him when we die. How amazing! Jesus taught us to pray to Our Father in heaven, the same Father who sent Him into the world to redeem us. Our world is in God’s hands; our lives are in His hands as well. What more can we do to thank God than to be His love in our everyday lives. After all, it is love that makes the world go ‘round!

Our prayer to God:  How about singing this little song many times today!

 “He’s got the whole world, in His hands; He’s got the whole wide world, in His hands; He’s got the whole world, in His hands; He’s got the whole world in His hands. He’s got you and me, brother, in His hands, He’s got you and me, sister, in His hands, he’s got  you and me, brother, in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands!” Now don’t you feel safe and happy?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Devotion for today: Jesus loves me, this I know…

Scripture for meditation: Isaiah 40: 6-8
A voice says, “All mankind is grass, and all their glory like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it….Though the grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it, the word of our God stands forever.”

Christ tells us: John 15:9
"As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Live on in my love.”

Thomas a Kempis tells us: How blessed are those who know how good it is to love Jesus and to despise themselves for His sake. Jesus wills to be loved alone above all other things and we must forsake all other loves but His. The love of creatures deceives and fails, but Jesus’ love is ever faithful and enduring. Those who cling to creatures will fall with them; but those who always cling to Jesus will stand firm forever. Love Him and keep Him for your friend; for when all others forsake you, He will not leave you nor let you perish in the end. Sooner or later you must be separated from all creatures, whether you will it or not. Remain close to Jesus in life and death, committing yourself to His faithful keeping. When all others fail you, He will keep you. However, your Beloved is of such a nature that He will not accept a divided heart; but will have it for Himself alone and will reign there as a king on his throne. If only you could empty your heart of every creature, how gladly would Jesus come and dwell with you. All those other things in which you placed your trust besides Jesus, you can consider as almost a complete loss. Put no trust in, nor lean upon, a hollow reed. If you only observe outward appearances, you will soon be deceived; and if you seek consolation or benefit from others, more often than not you will suffer loss. But if in all things you look to Jesus, you will most certainly find Him. To seek yourself is to find yourself – but to your own destruction. If you do not seek your Lord, you do more harm to yourself than do all worldly temptations and all your enemies (The Imitation of Christ, edited by Clare Fitzpatrick, Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1985).

 Prayer:  O Lord, You who penetrate my whole being and the most secret depths of my soul, You see that I desire you alone and long only for the fulfillment of Your holy will, paying no heed to difficulties or sufferings or humiliations or to what others might think (Diary, 1360 as found in Mercy Minutes, Rev. George Kosicki, CSB, Marian Press, 2008).

My thoughts:  “I can’t believe he did that to me. I can’t believe he betrayed me. I trusted him and look what he did with my trust. I cannot believe he let me down.”  Have any of these statements ever crossed your lips? They have mine, and I can tell you I have been really hurt by my fellow man on several occasions. Does that mean I should build a wall around myself and let no one enter my heart? No, of course it doesn’t. What it does mean, however, is that there is only one true friend in this world, and that is Jesus. He is pure love. He has no selfish motives, nor is He after any personal gain at my expense. He will never betray me or use me. He wants me to be with Him forever. He loved me enough to die for me. He will reign in my heart to the extent that I will let Him, and He asks only one thing: that I love Him above all else. I may have to help Him bear the cross, and I may be asked to suffer some humiliation, since loving Him and following Him is mocked in this world, but I count that as nothing compared to the joy and peace that comes with finding a true friend. St. Thomas a Kempis is right: Jesus’ love is ever faithful and enduring. Let us give Him our hearts, and allow Him to give us His in return.

Our Prayer to God: Today, let us picture ourselves standing in front of Jesus. He is smiling at us, and has extended his arms to receive us as a dear friend. Let us run into those arms, and feel the warmth of true love. Then let us whisper to Him, “I will be faithful to you forever.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Devotion for today: I hunger for your touch

Love does not need to be expressed in words.

Scripture for meditation: Mark 1:30-31
Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and the first thing they did was to tell Him about her. He went over to her and grasped her hand and helped her up, and the fever left her.

Christ tells us: Matthew 25:35
 “For I was hungry and you gave me food”

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta tells us:  Love is not patronizing, and charity isn’t pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same – with charity you give love, so don’t just give money, but reach out your hand instead. When I was in London, I went to see the homeless people where our Sisters have a soup kitchen. One man, who was living in a cardboard box, held my hand and said, “It’s been a long time since I felt the warmth of a human hand.” Nigel describes his experience at our home for the destitute and dying in Calcutta: “When I went to help at Nirmal Hriday I hated the place because of the suffering, and I felt absolutely useless. I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’  Later, when I got back to Britain, I had a long conversation with one of the Sisters about it. I told her I quickly learned sign language so I could sort out the difference between someone asking for a drink of water or for a bedpan, and get it the right way round. But, apart from that, I hadn’t done a lot. I mostly sat on people’s beds and stroked them or fed them. You got some recognition sometimes, but not a lot other times, because they’re on their last legs. So when the Sister asked me how I’d got on I said, ‘I was there.’ And she said to me, “What was St. John or Our Blessed Mother doing at the foot of the cross?” (Mother Teresa, A Simple Path, compiled by Lucinda Vardey, Ballentine Books, 199 

Prayer: The following is the prayer every Missionary of Charity says before leaving for his or her Apostolate. It is also used as the Physician’s prayer in Shishu Bhavan, the Children’s Home in Calcutta (Mother Teresa, A Simple Path, compiled by Lucinda Vardey, Ballentine Books, 1995).

Dear Lord, the Great Healer, I kneel before You, since every perfect gift must come from You. I pray, give skill to my hands, clear vision to my mind, kindness and meekness to my heart. Give me singleness of purpose, strength to lift up a part of the burden of my suffering fellow man, and a true realization of the privilege that is mine. Take from my heart all guile and worldliness, that with the simple faith of a child, I may rely on You.

My thoughts: We all know the power of human touch. As children we clamor for our parents’ hands when we are afraid. As adults we absolutely need a hug of reassurance. Pick up a crying baby and rub his back, and he stops crying. Hold the hand of an elderly person, and a smile as warm as the sun breaks across his or her face. Christ used His touch to heal so many people. The Bishop lays his hands on the men to ordain them.  The priest takes the host in his hands for consecration. Our hands emit power, love and mercy. We cannot deny that Nigel, in the above reflection, was moved by the power of his touch to the forgotten and unwanted in society. Sometimes we remove ourselves from a difficult situation with the excuse, “I wouldn’t know what to say. I’m not good with words.” We don’t need to be good with words. A warm embrace, a loving touch, just being there, sitting next to someone in pain, is enough. Love expressed in touch and presence feeds Christ’s people. After all, “What was St. John or Our Blessed Mother doing at the foot of the cross?”

Our prayer to God: Dear God, help me to give of myself today, through a loving embrace, or though the gift of my presence. Help me to reach out and touch someone in need, to hug my family, friends and those who feel abandoned and forgotten. Let me be You to them. Amen.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Devotion for today: have we loved enough?

Here is a thought for Valentine’s Day!

Scripture for meditation: 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Now I will show you the way which surpasses all the others. If I speak with human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and, with full knowledge, comprehend all mysteries, if I have faith great enough to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give everything I have to feed the poor and hand over my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Christ tells us: Matthew 22:37-40
“You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments the whole law is based, and the prophets as well.”

Johann Christoph Arnold tells us: The best way – the only way – to truly overcome the fear of death is to live life in such a way that its meaning cannot be taken away by death. This sounds grandiose, but it is really very simple. It means fighting the impulse to live for ourselves, instead of for others. It means choosing generosity over greed. It also means living humbly, rather than seeking influence and power. Finally, it means being ready to die again and again – to ourselves, and to every self-serving opinion or agenda. Love is a tangible reality. Sometimes it is born of passion or devotion; sometimes it is a hard-won fruit, requiring work and sacrifice. Its source is unimportant. But unless we live for love, we will not be able to meet death confidently when it comes. I say this because I am certain that when our last breath is drawn and our soul meets God, we will not be asked how much we have accomplished. We will be asked whether we have loved enough. To quote John of the Cross, “In the evening of life you shall be judged on love.” As my great-aunt Else lay dying of tuberculosis, a friend asked her if she had one last wish. She replied, “Only to love more.” If we live our lives in love we will know peace at the hour of death. And we will not be afraid (from Be Not Afraid, taken from A Maryknoll book of Inspiration, Orbis Books, 2010).

Prayer: Nothing Is Outside the Realm of Your Love by Gerard Thomas Straub
O sweet Lord, I want so much to avoid the bitter cross You ask me to carry, the cross of putting aside everything that is outside the realm of Your love. Actually, nothing is outside the realm of Your love, because You so long for us, so thirst for us that You follow us into the darkest corners of our lives looking to embrace us with Your mercy and compassion.  Yet I so often want to embrace things that You find unhealthy and unfitting for a seeker of God. O Lord help me see, feel and know that outside of You there is nothing of any worth, and that with You all is priceless. Help me nail to the cross the secret things in my heart that I must sacrifice in order to follow You more closely and love You more dearly (Hidden in the Rubble: A Haitian Pilgrimage to Compassion and Resurrection, taken from A Maryknoll book of Inspiration, Orbis Books, 2010).

My thoughts: I often wonder what it is like when we die. I like to say that I picture purgatory as sitting on a sofa with St. Peter, watching the complete DVD of my life: the good, the bad and the ugly.  As I watch, I am given the opportunity to see all the times God placed people in my life and asked me to love Him in them. It will be wonderful to see the times I actually did that, and how that fit into God’s plan for my life and theirs. That is the good. Of course, I must also watch the times I turned away, was too busy to listen or care, or just didn’t want to reach out. Now I get to see the result of that action on my life and theirs. That is the bad and the ugly. We can never love enough, for we learn today that, in the end, we are judged on how much we loved. It is time to nail our selfishness to the cross, and face death unafraid. Be it said of you and of me, “They have loved, and loved well.”

Our prayer to God: Since today is Valentine’s Day, and we will be showering our love on those we hold dear to our hearts, let us reach out to someone whom we know is in need of special care and attention: maybe the co-worker who is so hard to take, or the neighbor who is so annoying, or the family member who can turn joyous events into nightmares. Anyway we look at it, we need to be God’s messengers of love in this world. I have it on good authority that our reward will be great in the next!  As the Christian hymn states, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

Monday, February 13, 2012

Devotion for today: is our love for God a patient love?

This week we will look at the topic of love from a few different angles.

Scripture for meditation: 1 Corinthians 13:4
Love is patient.

 Christ tells us: Matthew 18:25-26
“As he had no way of paying it, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that the official prostrated himself in homage and said, ‘My lord, be patient with me and I will pay you back in full.’”

 Richard Ostella tells us: What then does it mean to be patient toward God? It means to wait for God to keep His promises in the way, time, and place that He as Sovereign Lord chooses. That is, it means to wait calmly in obedience without complaining. Thus to be patient is to wait for God, to wait for God to keep covenant, to wait calmly in obedience without complaining about what He sees fit to do…So our question becomes, what is this patience related to waiting, what way of waiting is being described? No doubt some of what is involved is suggested by the gap between promise and fulfillment. What's going on? Why is there a gap? Why doesn't God give what He promises immediately? The time between is school time. It is a time for learning obedience through testing by trials and by suffering….The extreme height of this duty is not a discouragement. It is helpful to have clear goals and to know that this goal and that goal are required of me by the Lord. That He requires it is all the assurance I need to know that He will be my helper and my rock of strength. Very specifically then, it is your duty to cultivate the Christian virtue of patience toward God. We need to have a sense of duty and diligence. It is like pondering a road map very carefully so we can travel in the right direction….Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith cultivates patience. To be patient we must fix our gaze on Him not on the stormy waters surrounding us….No doubt we all have things that we desire deeply and that we thought the Lord would have given to us by now in our lives…. So we pray, work, long, wait, and wait still longer. He is righteous and He is able. He will keep His promises. (

 Prayer: Teach me to love you
O Wound of Mercy, Heart of Jesus, hide me in Your depths as a drop of your own Blood and do not let me out forever! Lock me in Your depths, and do You Yourself teach me to love You! Eternal Love, do You Yourself form my soul that it be made capable of returning Your love. (Diary, 1631) (Mercy Minutes, Marian Press, 2008)

 My thoughts: Being patient with God isn’t easy. We tend to want what we want, when we want it, which is usually right now! It is hard to remember that only one thing is important to God, and that is the salvation of our souls. God wants us in heaven with Him when we die. If the crosses we bear patiently are the means to that end, then we should embrace them and actually thank God for them. Being patient with God means giving Him the time to do His work in us, without complaining or turning our backs on Him in anger and impatience. The man in the parable asked the master to be patient with him. That was a request for time. Let us be patient with God, and give Him all the time He needs to make us saints. The reward for this patience is an eternity of happiness in heaven.

 Our prayer to God: Today let us think of all the people in our own lives with whom we must be patient. Let us turn them over to God, and then ask Him to bless us with wisdom and understanding. Then, maybe we can see where God is “trying our patience” in unanswered prayer. Is there an action God is calling us to perform that maybe isn’t in our personal plan for life? Has He already answered our prayer, and maybe we refuse to accept the answer? Are we really praying to God, and not just wishing and hoping? And finally, are we too busy to sit and listen to God, to be patient with Him, as we ask Him to be patient with us? This is a good day to reflect on the line of our meditation: Love is Patient (with God).