Saturday, November 30, 2013

Devotion for today: Food for thought

We spent Thursday concentrating on food for the tummy. Now let us partake of some food for thought from Pope Francis I.

Pope Francis: Times of Persecution Mean the Lord Is Near
Pontiff Warns of Worldly Temptation to Keep Religion Private
VATICAN CITY, November 28, 2013 ( - Worldly powers that wish to make religion something private exists in this world. This was the warning Pope Francis gave this morning during Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

The Holy Father reflected on the first reading where Daniel is thrown in the Lion’s den for praying to God, while the Gospel recalled Jesus’ description of the end of days.
Speaking on the final battle described by Jesus, the Pope said that there is an underlying temptation that will be faced by all which he called “the universal temptation”: the desecration of the temple, the desecration of faith.

“What does this mean? It will be like the triumph of the prince of this world: the defeat of God. It seems that in that final moment of calamity, he will take possession of this world, that he will be the master of this world,” he said.
An example of this desecration of faith can be shown in the book of Daniel who is condemned to death for adoring God. This desecration has a specific name: “the prohibition of worship.”

“[There] religion cannot be spoken of, it is something private, no? Publicly it is not spoken about. Te religious signs are taken down. The laws that come from the worldly powers must be obeyed. You can do so many beautiful things except adore God. Worship is prohibited,” the Pope said.

“This is the center of this end. And when this arrives in its fullness - to the ‘kairos’ of this pagan attitude, when this is fulfilled - then yes, He will come: ‘And they will see the Son of man come on a cloud with great power and glory.’ Christians who have suffered in times of persecution, in times of the prohibition of worship are a prophecy of that which will happen to all.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to be loyal and patient. The times of persecution mean that that the victory of Jesus Christ is near.

“This week it will do us well to think of this general apostasy, which is called the prohibition of adoration and ask ourselves: ‘Do I adore the Lord? Do I adore Jesus Christ, the Lord? Or is it half and half, do I play the play the prince of this world,” he said. “To adore till the end, with loyalty and faithfulness: this is the grace that we should ask for this week.” (J.A.E.)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Devotion for today: Give us this day our physical and spiritual bread.

John 6:48-54: I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert, and have died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that if anyone eats of it, he will not die. ... If anyone eats of this bread he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world.” Many disciples grumbled at this, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" "Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of His blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day.”

I am sure that we all understand the meaning of the petition in” The Our Father” which asks God to provide us with our daily physical bread. We are not asking for more physical bread than we need lest we become gluttonous, nor do we ask to be ignored when it is time to pass out the daily allotment of food, lest we become desperate and criminal in our attempt to eat. No, we ask God to provide for us in the best way He can, so that we can care for our bodily needs. In using the pronoun “us” we acknowledge that we belong to the family of God and must do for others what God does for us. It will always be this way. Pay it forward, as the popular expression goes. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us:

 2831 But the presence of those who hunger because they lack bread opens up another profound meaning of this petition. The drama of hunger in the world calls Christians who pray sincerely to exercise responsibility toward their brethren, both in their personal behavior and in their solidarity with the human family. This petition of the Lord's Prayer cannot be isolated from the parables of the poor man Lazarus and of the Last Judgment. (Lk 16:19-31; Mt 25:31-46).

There is more to life, however, than satiating our physical appetites. There is a hunger, a need in each and every one of us to be fed the Bread of Life. Jesus left us the gift of Himself in the Eucharist for this very purpose. Again, we see in the Catechism:

2837 "Daily" (epiousios) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Taken in a temporal sense, this word is a pedagogical repetition of "this day," to confirm us in trust "without reservation." Taken in the qualitative sense, it signifies what is necessary for life, and more broadly every good thing sufficient for subsistence. Taken literally (epi-ousios: "super-essential"), it refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the "medicine of immortality," without which we have no life within us.  Finally in this connection, its heavenly meaning is evident: "this day" is the Day of the Lord, the day of the feast of the kingdom, anticipated in the Eucharist that is already the foretaste of the kingdom to come. For this reason it is fitting for the Eucharistic liturgy to be celebrated each day.

The Eucharist is our daily bread. The power belonging to this divine food makes it a bond of union. Its effect is then understood as unity, so that, gathered into his Body and made members of him, we may become what we receive.... This also is our daily bread: the readings you hear each day in church and the hymns you hear and sing. All these are necessities for our pilgrimage. 
The Father in heaven urges us, as children of heaven, to ask for the bread of heaven. [Christ] himself is the bread who, sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in the oven of the tomb, reserved in churches, brought to altars, furnishes the faithful each day with food from heaven.

When we partake daily of the Bread of Life, we literally touch God with our hands, and consume God into our bodies. We consume Him, and He consumes us. We touch Him, and He touches us. To feed ourselves on the body of Christ is to understand that we daily need to come to the source of true life, to partake of the only food we ever will really need in our lives. At Mass the priest proclaims the words of Christ: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body, which will be given up for you.” To take and eat, of course, also means to take up the cross, as Christ did after the Last Supper.

In the book The Redeemer’s Call to Consecrated Souls (Logus Institute Press), Our Lord speaks to a French nun in the 1930’s. He reveals to her His desire for us to become “hosts” as He is “host”. Here is what He says:

There is no more perfect model of abandonment than my Eucharistic Host. See how, without the least trace of resistance, not even unyieldingness, It lets Itself be touched, carried, given, allowing Itself to be hidden in the back of the Tabernacle as well as exposed in the bright light of the monstrance. And even allowing Itself to be profaned by ungrateful hearts…. Meditate often on this marvelous attitude of abandonment by the Host, that you may imitate it. Renew again and again this return of your soul, for while it requires a courageous abdication of self, its…fruit is an ever deeper divine takeover, a celestial hold on you that transforms you more and more.

Let us pray to become a perfect “host” as Jesus has taught us to be.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Devotion for today: Thank you, God, and let me be generous

As we thank God today for what we have, let us remember that “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Lord, teach me to be generous,

to serve you as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to look for any reward,

save that of knowing that I do your holy will.

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Devotion for today: Give us this day our daily bread, part one

Matthew 5:43-48: You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Ps 104:27-30: These all look to you
    to give them their food in due season;
 when you give to them, they gather it up;
    when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
    when you take away their breath, they die
    and return to their dust.
 When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
    and you renew the face of the earth.

In our meditation on The Lord’s Prayer, today we look at the petition to ‘give us this day our daily bread’. We begin with one of the beautiful explanations found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2828 "Give us": The trust of children who look to their Father for everything is beautiful. "He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." He gives to all the living "their food in due season." Jesus teaches us this petition, because it glorifies our Father by acknowledging how good he is, beyond all goodness.

We need to remember, when we come to this petition in The Lord’s Prayer, that we began this conversation with God by calling Him ABBA, that is, DADDY. We let Him know we honored Him, that we truly recognized His power and might, and that we wanted Him to take away every part of our will and fill it with His, because we know and trust that by giving up our selfish attachments to things of earth, we will be filled with God’s heavenly love. Now we come before Him asking Him to give us something else. Just like kids, right? But the word “give” implies an unspoken and yet confident knowledge that what we ask for, we will receive. None of us ever asks for help from someone we know won’t help us. We avoid people who are selective and stingy in the giving of their time and love. So when we ask God, Daddy, to give us something, we feel pretty sure He is going to do it. And what does Jesus teach us to ask God for? He teaches us to ask for our daily bread.

 Of course, this has many meanings on many levels. Today, however, we will examine one. Our daily bread is what we need for life, not just physical life, but spiritual life. We have already told God we want Him to take out our pride, anger, self-righteousness and attachments to things of this earth and create in us a heavenly spirit. God, as a loving father, knows just what we need to separate us from our personal demons and replace those now empty spaces with His love. Picture a parent of a new born. In the beginning, the parent needs to be sure the baby is clean, fed and rested. He can pretty easily provide that. As the child grows and matures, however, that is not enough. Soon discipline, structure, education, stern lectures, loving hugs, words of encouragement, punishments, and rewards all come into play. The needs of a child, a teenager, a young adult change almost daily. So, too, then does the parent adapt and provide for that daily need.

All the great saints talk about the levels of spirituality one must pass through to come to a full communion with God. Most of us never get to the top level because it requires a complete and total abandonment to God’s will, holding back nothing: not family, not health, not recognition, nothing. Now just as a parent will do what it takes to bring out the best in his child, even if the child doesn’t want to be his best, so, too, God does what it takes to bring us to the full version of ourselves He had planned for us from the beginning of time. And He does it every day. 

The bread we need daily is the work God needs to do in us today, right now. We were not always so angry with a family member; we didn’t always put our job before our family; we were not always so hungry for recognition from the outside world, or attached to our possessions. So God looks at us every single day and decides what we need to pull those weeds out of our soul and replace them with goodness and love. 

When we ask God to daily give us what we need, we must mean it.  He balances justice with mercy, hugs with reprimands, and “yeses” with “no’s”. Let us ask for our daily bread today knowing we will get just what we need for our salvation. It is the greatest gift a loving Daddy can give. 

(Friday we will look at “our daily bread” as the Eucharist.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Devotion for today: Thy will for my life is my will for my life

Today we conclude our look at the petition in The Lord’s Prayer: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Here is what I wrote last Monday:

God’s will for you is the dream He had for you when He placed you in your mother’s womb. Every talent, every ability, every physical feature, where and when you were born, were all part of His plan for you. He embedded in your heart the desire to become what He needs in the world at this time in history. He blessed you with faith and hope and love in order to get yourself and everyone He placed in your life back to Him. Ralph Martin tells us in his book “The Fulfillment of all Desire” that “God’s will for us is our total perfection, our total conformity to love of God and neighbor.” Examine your life, study your gifts and compare your life to that of Jesus’. How are you doing so far?

Mark 14:33-34: he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch”.

Mark 12:36: Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what you will”.

Dear brothers and sisters, every day in the prayer of the Our Father we ask the Lord: “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10). In other words we recognize that there is a will of God with us and for us, a will of God for our life that must become every day, increasingly, the reference of our willing and of our being; we recognize moreover that “heaven” is where God’s will is done and where the “earth” becomes “heaven”, a place where love, goodness, truth and divine beauty are present, only if, on earth, God’s will is done.

In Jesus’ prayer to the Father on that terrible and marvelous night in Gethsemane, the “earth” became “heaven”; the “earth” of his human will, shaken by fear and anguish, was taken up by his divine will in such a way that God’s will was done on earth. And this is also important in our own prayers: we must learn to entrust ourselves more to divine Providence, to ask God for the strength to come out of ourselves to renew our “yes” to him, to say to him “thy will be done”, so as to conform our will to his. It is a prayer we must pray every day because it is not always easy to entrust ourselves to God’s will, repeating the “yes” of Jesus, the “yes” of Mary.

The Gospel accounts of Gethsemane regretfully show that the three disciples, chosen by Jesus to be close to him, were unable to watch with him, sharing in his prayer, in his adherence to the Father and they were overcome by sleep. Dear friends, let us ask the Lord to enable us to keep watch with him in prayer, to follow the will of God every day even if he speaks of the Cross, to live in ever greater intimacy with the Lord, in order to bring a little bit of God’s “heaven” to this “earth”. BENEDICT XVI
Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 1 February 201

Monday, November 25, 2013

Devotion for today: God’s will is love: continuing meditation on The Lord’s Prayer

Resuming our look at God’s will, today we meditate on the third point of last Monday’s outline on several meanings of “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I wrote:

God’s will is love. Heaven is the perfect existence of love. God is love; those in His presence are filled with love of God, those who die filled with love of God and His will die filled with God. Hence they have done God’s will on earth and will now be doing it in heaven. The old expression is true: You die the way you lived. If you die filled with the little demons of loving secular life too much, and loving your own will too much, you cannot enter into pure love. You have too much pride in your own beliefs, and as a result, you have chosen to do your will instead of God’s. As C. S. Lewis so brilliantly states: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in hell choose it. Without that self-choice, there could be no hell.” Doing God’s will is simply choosing God in every thought, word and deed of your life.

Psalm 91:14-16: Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation.

Scripture:  Mark 3:31-35: And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him.  And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you."  And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother."

1 John 4:8:  He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.

Meditation: Who do you love and cherish the most? God did not intend for us to be alone, but to be with others. He gives us many opportunities for developing relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Why did Jesus, on this occasion, seem to ignore his own relatives when they pressed to see him? His love and respect for his mother and his relatives was unquestionable. Jesus never lost an opportunity to teach his disciples a spiritual lesson and truth about the kingdom of God. On this occasion when many gathered to hear Jesus he pointed to another higher reality of relationships, namely our relationship with God and with those who belong to God.

What is the essence of being a Christian? It is certainly more than doctrine, precepts, and commandments. It is first and foremost a relationship – a relationship of trust, affection, commitment, loyalty, faithfulness, kindness, thoughtfulness, compassion, mercy, helpfulness, encouragement, support, strength, protection, and so many other qualities that bind people together in mutual love and unity. God offers us the greatest of relationships – union of heart, mind, and spirit with himself, the very author and source of love (1 John 4:8,16). God's love never fails, never forgets, never compromises, never lies, never lets us down nor disappoints us. His love is consistent, unwavering, unconditional, and unstoppable. We may choose to separate ourselves from him, but nothing will make him ignore us, leave us, or treat us unkindly. He will pursue us, love us, and call us to return to him no matter what might stand in the way. It is his nature to love. That is why he created us – to be united with him and to share in his love and unity of persons (1 John 3:1). God is a trinity of persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and a community of love. That is why Jesus challenged his followers and even his own earthly relatives to recognize that God is the true source of all relationships. God wants all of our relationships to be rooted in his love.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Prayer for the close of the Year of Faith

: The Profession of Faith

Read it carefully and meaningfully:

I believe in one God, the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,

born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,

begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.

For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.

He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins

and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.