Saturday, September 1, 2012

Devotion for today: Deuteronomy 32:1-12: God's kindness to His people

Continuing with our meditation on the Canticles…

The Song of Moses: Deuteronomy 32:1-12

 “Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak;
and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
“ Let my teaching drop as the rain,
my speech distill as the dew,
as the droplets on the fresh grass
and as the showers on the herb.
 “For I proclaim the name of the Lord;
Ascribe greatness to our God!
 “ The Rock! His work is perfect,
for all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He.
 “They have acted corruptly toward Him,
They are not His children, because of their defect;
But are a perverse and crooked generation.
“Do you thus repay the Lord,
O foolish and unwise people?
Is not He your Father who has bought you?
He has made you and established you.
 “Remember the days of old,
Consider the years of all generations.
Ask your father, and he will inform you,
Your elders, and they will tell you.
 “ When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
When He separated the sons of man,
He set the boundaries of the peoples
According to the number of the sons of Israel.
“ For the Lord’s portion is His people;
Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance.
 “He found him in a desert land,
and in the howling waste of a wilderness;
He encircled him, He cared for him,
He guarded him as the pupil of His eye.
 “ Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
that hovers over its young,
He spread His wings and caught them;
He carried them on His pinions.
 “The Lord alone guided him,
and there was no foreign god with him.

Fidelity is the best response to God's benefits
Canticle of Deuteronomy 32:1-12

Lauds on Saturday of the 2nd Week of the year

1. "Then Moses pronounced the words of this song from beginning to end, for the whole assembly of Israel to hear." This is how the canticle we have just heard begins. It is taken from the last pages of the Book of Deuteronomy, to be precise, from chapter 32. The Liturgy of Lauds took the first 12 verses, recognizing in them a joyful hymn to the Lord who lovingly protects and cares for his people amid the daylong dangers and difficulties.
2. Moses' canticle is longer than the passage used in the office of Lauds, which is only the prelude…The image of God present in the Bible is not at all that of a dark being, an anonymous and brute energy, an incomprehensible fact. Instead, he is a person who experiences sentiments, acts and reacts, loves and condemns, participates in the life of his creatures and is not indifferent to their actions. So, in our case, the Lord convokes a sort of trial, in the presence of witnesses, denounces the crimes of the accused people, exacts a punishment, but lets his verdict be permeated by infinite mercy…. The fundamental event that must not be forgotten is that of the crossing of the desert after the flight from Egypt, major topic of Deuteronomy and of the entire Pentateuch. So the terrible and dramatic journey in the Sinai desert is evoked, "a wasteland of howling desert" (cf. v. 10), as described with an image of strong emotional impact. However, there God bends over his people with amazing tenderness and gentleness. The paternal symbol is intertwined with an allusion to the maternal symbol of the eagle: "He shielded them and cared for them, guarding them as the apple of his eye, as an eagle incites its nestlings forth by hovering over its brood. So he spread his wings to receive them and bore them up on his pinions" (vv. 10-11). Then the way of the desert steppe is transformed into a quiet and serene journey because of the protective mantle of divine love.
The canticle also refers to Sinai, where Israel became the Lord's ally, his "portion" and "hereditary share", namely, the most precious reality (cf. v. 9; Ex 19,5). Thus the canticle of Moses becomes a collective examination of conscience, so that in the end the response to the divine benefits will no longer be sin but fidelity.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Devotion for today: The Canticle of Habakkuk (3:2-19)

We continue with our meditation of Canticles found in the Old Testament.

Habakkuk - Means "embrace" or "one who strongly enfolds." He has been referred to by some as the "doubting Thomas" of the Old Testament, but in reality he is better called "the prophet of faith!" Yes, he had questions for God, but in the end, He trusted God and it caused him to worship God with one of the most magnificent descriptions of the glory of God in all the Bible (In reverential awe be still and know that He is God as you read)(
Habakkuk 3:2-19
Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy. 

 God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His glory covered the heavens
and his praise filled the earth.
His splendor was like the sunrise;
rays flashed from his hand,
where his power was hidden.
Plague went before him;
pestilence followed his steps.
He stood, and shook the earth;
he looked, and made the nations tremble.
The ancient mountains crumbled
and the age-old hills collapsed —
but he marches on forever.
I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,
the dwellings of Midian in anguish.
 Were you angry with the rivers, Lord?
Was your wrath against the streams?
Did you rage against the sea
when you rode your horses
and your chariots to victory?
You uncovered your bow,
you called for many arrows.
You split the earth with rivers;
the mountains saw you and writhed.
Torrents of water swept by;
the deep roared
and lifted its waves on high.
Sun and moon stood still in the heavens
at the glint of your flying arrows,
at the lightning of your flashing spear.
In wrath you strode through the earth
and in anger you threshed the nations.
You came out to deliver your people,
to save your anointed one.
You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,
you stripped him from head to foot.
With his own spear you pierced his head
when his warriors stormed out to scatter us,
gloating as though about to devour
the wretched who were in hiding.
You trampled the sea with your horses,
churning the great waters.
 I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
My thoughts: Things may get tough, but never lose hope in the Lord. He will prevail!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Devotion for today: The Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-18 )

For the next several days, we will be taking a look at some canticles found in the Liturgy of the Hours. These are beautiful and powerful songs of praise. We will begin with the Old Testament Canticles, and conclude with the ones from the New Testament.
Exodus 15:1-19. The children of Israel sing the song of Moses—they extol the Lord as a man of war and rejoice in their deliverance from Egypt and the fact that the Lord promises to free Israel from the diseases of Egypt.
When he had drowned Pharaoh in the deep, Moses said, Let us
sing unto the Lord, for He is gloriously glorified.
"I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.
The LORD is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.
"Pharaoh's chariots and his army he cast into the sea; his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power-- your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries; you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up, the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, 'I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.'
You blew with your wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters.
"Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders?
You stretched out your right hand, the earth swallowed them.
"In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed; you guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
The peoples heard, they trembled; pangs seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed; trembling seized the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away.
Terror and dread fell upon them; by the might of your arm, they became still as a stone,
until your people, O LORD, passed by, until the people whom you acquired passed by.
You brought them in and planted them on the mountain of your own possession, the place, O LORD, that you made your abode, the sanctuary, O LORD, that your hands have established.
The LORD will reign forever and ever."

JOHN PAUL II: GENERAL AUDIENCE: Wednesday 21 November 2001
Sing to the Lord for he is triumphant

1. This hymn of victory (cf. Ex 15,1-18), used at Lauds (morning prayer) on Saturday of the first week, transports us to the key moment in the history of salvation: the event of the Exodus, when God saved Israel from a humanly desperate situation. The facts are well known: following the long time of slavery in Egypt, the Hebrews were on their way to the Promised Land when the army of Pharaoh overtook them and nothing would have saved them from annihilation if the Lord had not intervened with his powerful hand. The hymn delights in describing the arrogance of the plans of the armed enemy: "I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoils" (Ex15:9).

What can the greatest army do against divine omnipotence? God commands the sea to make a passage for the assailed people and then to close the passage to the aggressors: "When your wind blew: the sea covered them, they sank like lead in the mighty waters" (Ex 15:10).

These are vigorous images that attempt to describe the greatness of God, while expressing the wonder of a people who can scarcely believe their eyes, and break out with one voice in a glorious hymn of praise: "The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. This is my God and I will praise him, the God of my father and I will exalt him" (Ex 15:2).

2. The Canticle does not just sing of the liberation obtained; it also indicates the positive objective, none other than entry into the dwelling place of God to live in communion with him: "You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you redeemed, you guided them by your strength to your holy abode" (Ex 15:13). So understood, the event was not only at the base of the covenant between God and his people, but became the "symbol" of the whole history of salvation. On many other occasions, Israel will survive similar situations, and the Exodus will be repeated regularly. In a special way that event prefigures the great redemption that Christ will bring about with his death and resurrection.

For this reason our canticle resounds in a special way in the liturgy of the Easter Vigil to demonstrate with its intense imagery what has taken place in Christ. In Christ we have been saved not from a human oppressor, but from the slavery to Satan and sin, that has weighed on human destiny from the beginning. With Christ humanity takes up the road again on the path that leads us to the house of the Father…. We can contemplate with increased wonder what God has wrought for his people: "You will bring them in, and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O Lord, which your hands have established" (Ex 15:17). The hymn of victory sings the triumph of God, not of man. It is a canticle, not of war, but of love. Allowing our days to be permeated by the ancient Hebrews' thrill of praise, we will walk on the roads of the world, full of threats, risk, and suffering, but with the certainty of being encompassed by the merciful gaze of God. Nothing can resist the power of his love.



Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Devotion for today: feast of the beheading of John the Baptist

Scripture for meditation: Jeremiah 1:8
Do not be afraid to face them, for I am with you, says the Lord.
Scripture for reflection: Mark 6:17-20
For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her; for John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.

St. Ambrose tells us: We must always meditate on God’s wisdom, keeping it in our hearts and on our lips. Your tongue must speak justice; the law of God must be in your heart. Hence Scripture tells you: You shall speak of these commandments when you sit in your house, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down, and when you get up. Let us then speak of the Lord Jesus, for he is wisdom, he is the word, the Word indeed of God. It is also written:  Open your lips, and let God’s work be heard. God’s word is uttered by those who repeat Christ’s teaching and meditate on his sayings. Let us always speak this word. When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we are speaking of truth, and life, and redemption, we are speaking of Christ….When you get up or rise again, speak of Christ, as to fulfill what you are commanded. Listen and learn how Christ is to awaken you from sleep. Your soul says: I hear my brother knocking at the door.  Then Christ says to you: Open the door to me, my sister, my spouse. Listen and learn how you are to awaken Christ. Your soul says: I charge you, daughters of Jerusalem, awaken or reawaken the love of my heart. Christ is that love. (Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours, Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1976)

Prayer: God our Father, you called John the Baptist to be the herald of your Son’s birth and death. As he gave his life in witness to truth and justice, so may we strive to profess our faith in your gospel. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, forever and ever. Amen. (. (Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours, Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1976)

My thoughts: The amazing part of the John the Baptist story is not so much how he wasn’t afraid to preach the truth, I think, but that Herod was fascinated by him. Although he didn’t like what he heard, he still found himself listening to John’s words. He also feared him, knowing him to be a good and holy man. There is our lesson for today. Our actions are worthless; our words mean nothing if we are not known to be good and holy people. John did not earn Herod’s respect by simply standing in the desert calling people to repent. Herod certainly did not fear him because he told Herod he was a sinner. In the end, the truth cost John his life. No, Herod listened to John because he was righteous and holy. No one will listen to us, or respect us, or even listen to us, if our very lives are not testimonies to the truth we have inside of our hearts. St. Ambrose tells us that justice, peace, truth, life and redemption are all Christ. Everything we say and do must be in His name. If we want to bring love into a hurting world, we need to be living that love ourselves. John put the truth before his own needs. It cost him everything. Are we willing to do the same?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Devotion for today: Why not now?

Today is the feast of St. Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church. We learned in yesterday’s account of St. Monica that her son, Augustine, traveled a rocky and twisted path to his conversion. St. Augustine was brilliant, athletic, popular, secular and a seeker of truth. After years of indulging his senses, he finally came to his senses and made the decision to follow Christ. Here we read the struggle which occurred before he finally turned his will over to God. This selection is from his autobiography, Confessions, which is one of the greatest books ever written.

St. Augustine tells us: I probed the hidden depths of my soul and wrung its pitiful secrets from it, and when I mustered them all before the eyes of my heart, a great storm broke within me. Somehow I flung myself down beneath a fig tree and gave way to the tears which now streamed from my eyes. For I felt that I was still the captive of my sins, and in misery I kept crying, “How long shall I go on saying, ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow’? Why not now? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment?”

I was asking myself these questions, weeping all the while with the most bitter sorrow in my heart, when all at once I heard the singing of a child in a nearby house. Whether it was the voice of a boy or girl I cannot say, but again and again it repeated the refrain, “Take it up and read, take it and read.” At this point I looked up, thinking hard whether there was any kind of game in which children used to chant words like these, but I could not remember ever hearing them before.

I stemmed my flood of tears and stood up, telling myself that this could only be a divine command to open my book of Scripture and read the first passage on which my eyes should fall. So I hurried back to the place where I had put down the book containing Paul’s epistles. I seized it and opened it, and in silence I read the first passage on which my eyes fell: Not in reveling and drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ; spend no more thought on nature and nature’s appetites. (Romans 13:13-14)

I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled. I marked the place with my finger and closed the book. You converted me to yourself, so that I no longer placed any hope in this world but stood firmly upon the rule of faith.

Prayer of St. Augustine: Lord, our God, You who create us, when our passions are wretched from love of this world, from the life that was our death, when we adopt the life that makes ‘a living soul’, then Your word will be verified in us, according to the Apostle: “Pattern not your life on this world.” And that which you immediately added will follow, “But take on a new form, based on a new mental pattern.” This is not done according to our kind, as if we were conforming to some neighbor’s example or some higher human authority, as if You said, “Let man come to be, according to his kind.” No, You said, “Let us make man according to Our own will and likeness,” that we may experience Your own will at work. Thus does man become new by knowing the God to whose pattern he was made.

St. Augustine, patron saint of printers, brewers, those with sore eyes and theologians, pray for us. (Interesting saint, isn’t he?)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Devotion for today: St. Monica, role model for mothers

The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism.

Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine, is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan.

In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste.

She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death.
Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his Confessions.(

St. Augustine speaks to God about his mother, Monica, at her funeral, in his book Confessions:
“Peace, then, to her and her husband, for she had none before him and none after, to whom she ministered, ‘bringing about the result of patience’ when she made him your prize. May you call others, … your servants and my brothers, your sons and my lords, whom I serve with heart and voice and writings, that as many of them as read this may remember, at your altar, your servant Monica and him who was her husband, Patrick. Through their flesh, in a way incomprehensible, you ushered my soul into this life. May they cherish in memory those who were my parents in the light of this passing world, and are my siblings under you, the Father, and our mother church, fellow citizens of the eternal Jerusalem, to which all your people on pilgrimage aspire. Thus may my mother’s last request for prayers be more richly answered in the prayer of all those reading this testimony than from my prayers alone.

My thoughts: St. Monica is an inspiration to all of us who have worried about the spiritual lives of our children. They may be brilliant, they may be athletic, they may be the most successful humans on the planet, but they may also reject the greatest gift we gave them: the faith. We need never despair, but instead, we must turn to St. Monica for inspiration and guidance. Her 17 years of persistent prayers for her wayward son led to his eventual conversion. He then became a bishop and went on to become a doctor of the Church. St. Monica, patron saint of mothers, pray for us.




Sunday, August 26, 2012

Devotion for today: we will not be alone on the judgment day

You are not alone…


"When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment,

I've often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God -- and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine.

But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there'll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world -- and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement.

They will say to God, 'Spare him, because he loved us!'"

Congressman Henry Hyde