2cornucopias

Posts Tagged ‘Grace’

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

In 07 Observations on 2016/07/15 at 12:00 AM

Your neighbor is anyone who has need of you. So, beware of sins of omission for those who mourn particularly those who are not even aware of their loses, but mourn for their loss without even being aware of what ails them. This refers to those we should mourn for because they have not been taught the basics of the faith and now wander in a spiritual wasteland. Or those who have had their beliefs stolen from them by the bad example of others or the rejection of Christian values by modern culture and an atheistic media. Any thing we can do to alleviate those who mourn for whatever reason, we do for God Himself; the object of our charity being Jesus Himself in the person of our neighbor.

If we hurry through life with our needs in first place instead of in second, where they should be, we fail to see the sufferings of others. In order to be compassionate to those who mourn, we must cease to be the center of our own attention; we must forget ourselves and attend to others’ needs. Some who mourn that we might not be aware of include the victims of calumny, defamation and mental persecution.

God often comes to un in unexpected ways, leading us along the path of suffering specifically for our own good. At such times we need to say to ourselves: “If this is your will, Lord, it is mine also.” What we term misfortunes in life (illness, fatigue, pain, financial problems, whatever the source of the evil be) these trials are actually God’s summons to reach out to Him. These calls are for our hearts to detach themselves from ourselves and attache themselves to Christ who visits us at those times with outstretched hands to helps grow interiorly in a union with Him.

Suffering clears the way for grace, for the transforming power of grace to remold our souls as the divine medication of trials rids us of what pollutes our souls. Trials endured with God’s help will result in blessings because it is only through contradictions and obstacles that our souls can be purified. As mourners we cry in our distress to God who views our problems objectively and will come to our aid in a manner suitable to our individual spiritual benefit.

God takes advantage of everyone’s sorrows to bring about good for others. While God permits these trials which purify others, they are for you opportunities for you to be compassionate. Sometimes the destruction the mourners endure are preface to a spiritual revolution; for as they mourn their losses, God re-directs them in unforeseen ways. God ransomed and saves those who mourn, for whatever reason, in ways we cannot image. We must also pray for those who cause evils that they might cease to offend God in our neighbor. Sometimes all we can do for those who mourn is to encourage them to remain steadfast in their trials and give their complete acceptance to God’s permissive will.

Friday is a good day to reflect on the suffering of Christ during His Passion and His suffering today in the thousands of victims of violence, terrorism and the hordes of refugees who mourn the loss of their homeland and way of life. We must ask Our Lady of Sorrows to help us console those who mourn as she would, for she is their mother. We should ask her to strengthen in us the virtue of fortitude to endure our own sufferings. It is at the foot of the Cross that man learns to understand the real nature of the suffering Jesus endured and to unite his suffering to His.

Despite the onslaught of trials, we must remain faithful and prayerful in the supernatural bond of the Communion of the Saints , giving and receiving. As a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, our suffering and those of others are one and the same. Praying for relief and/or endurance for ourselves and others enriches both as we sustain the others and they sustain us in our solidarity of grace.

Advertisements

Gospel of the Annunciation

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2016/03/04 at 12:00 AM

The Pope reflected on the Gospel of this solemnity, the Gospel of the Annunciation.

Benedict XVI began by explaining that the encounter between the angel and Mary, the decisive moment in which God became Man, “was enveloped in a great silence. … That which is truly great often goes unnoticed and calm silence is more fruitful than the frenzy that characterises our cities, and which, in due proportion, was also present in the important cities of those times, such as Jerusalem. All this action prevents us from pausing, allowing ourselves to be calm and listening to the silence in which the Lord makes his discreet voice heard.”

On the day of the Annunciation, Mary was “deep in thought and yet ready to listen to God. There was no obstacle within her, no barrier, nothing that would separate her from God. This is the meaning of her being without original sin. Her relationship with God is free from even the slightest rift; there is no separation, no shadow of selfishness, but rather perfect harmony. Her little human heart was perfectly ‘centred’ in the great heart of God. … Coming here, before this monument to Mary, in the centre of Rome, reminds us first that the voice of God is not recognised amid noise and turmoil; his plan for our life as individuals and as a society are not visible on the surface; we need to descend to a deeper level where the forces at work are not economic or political but moral and spiritual. It is at this deeper level that Mary invites us to enter into harmony with God’s action.”

Secondly, Mary Immaculate teaches us that “the salvation of the world is not the work of man – of science, technology or ideology – but of Grace. … Grace means love in its purity and beauty. It is God Himself as revealed in the salvific narrative of the Bible and fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Mary is called the ‘favoured one’ and this identity recalls to us God’s primacy in our life and in the history of the world. She reminds us that the power of God’s love is stronger than evil, and that it fills the void that selfishness creates in the history of people, families, nations and the world. Such emptiness can become a form of hell, where human life is dragged to its lowest depths and towards emptiness, losing meaning and light. The false remedies the world offers to fill the void … in fact widen the abyss. Only love can save us from falling, but not merely any love. It must have the purity of Grace, which God transforms and renews to fill intoxicated lungs with fresh, clean air and new vital energy. Mary tells us that, however far a man may fall, he never falls beyond the reach of God, who has descended even into hell. However far astray our heart may be led, God is always ‘greater than our heart’. The soft breath of Grace can disperse the darkest clouds, and make life beautiful and rich in meaning even in the most inhumane situations.”

Finally, Mary Immaculate speaks to us of joy, “the true joy that emanates from a heart freed from sin. Sin carries a negative sadness that induces us to close up. Grace brings true joy, which does not depend on possessing things, but is rooted in the innermost, deepest part of the self, and which nothing and no one can take away. Even though some believe that Christianity is an obstacle to joy because they see it as an ensemble of prohibitions and rules, it is essentially a ‘Gospel’, a ‘good tiding’. In fact, Christianity is the proclamation of the victory of Grace over sin, of life over death. Even if it entails sacrifice and a discipline of the mind, heart and behaviour, it is because in man we find the poisonous root of selfishness that causes harm to the self and to others. We must therefore learn to say ‘no’ to the voice of selfishness and ‘yes’ to that of real love. Mary’s joy is complete because in her heart sin casts no shadow. This joy coincides with the presence of Jesus in her life”.

“In this time of Advent”, the Pope concluded, “Mary Immaculate teaches us to listen to the voice of God that speaks to us in silence; to welcome His Grace that frees us from sin and selfishness, so that we may experience true joy”.

VIS 121120

Become Who We Are

In 07 Observations on 2015/08/21 at 12:00 AM

Communion_of_Saints2-255x267

By FATHER DWIGHT LONGENECKER 10/30/2013  

In ministering as a Catholic priest, I sometimes get the impression that Catholics are more interested in the minimum than the maximum.

What I mean is that too many Catholics seem to have heard that what is required to be a good Catholic is to go to Mass once a week and confession once a year. That’s it.

Therefore, they do their duty. They check the boxes. They complete the test. They reckon they’ve done just enough to stay out of hell, that God will forgive them the rest, and they’ll coast into heaven having done what’s required.

They seem, to me, like the high-school kid who was told by his teacher that his term paper needed to be five pages long with footnotes, so he turns in a mediocre effort that is five pages of mush with a few footnotes.

This isn’t what a term paper is for. The term paper is a set part of the coursework so the student will not just learn how to write a five-page paper, but also learn something in the process. The term paper was a means to an end. It was not an end in itself.

So it is with the practice of the Catholic faith. The rules and regulations of the Catholic faith — going to Mass each Sunday and confession once a year, the precepts of the Church and the Ten Commandments — these strictures and structures are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.

They are the rules for the game of sainthood. They are the map for the journey.

The game and the journey are far greater. The destination of the journey and the goal of the game is sanctity. To put it plainly: All of us are supposed to become saints.

Our hearts should burn with the words of St. Thérèse of Lisieux: “You must be a whole saint or no saint at all!”

Once we have entered into the body of Christ through baptism, our destiny is total sanctity. In the Eastern Church, they call this theosis. It means becoming transformed into the full image of Christ.

In St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians, it means “growing up into the full humanity of Jesus.” A saint is not simply a person who is more pious than anyone else. A saint is a person who has become more himself than anyone else.

A saint is an ordinary person who has been made complete and whole and has become the fully alive person God created him to be.

I get the feeling, however, that most Catholics find such an idea to be excessive or extreme. It is as if they are saying to God, “You know, I’m not such a great person. I’m not ambitious. I know you are preparing all those mansions in heaven. Well, I’ll be content with a little shed down in the lower gardens. That’s all right for me. Just as long as I squeeze through the pearly gates, I’ll be fine.”

God has much greater things prepared for us than we can ever dare to hope or imagine. He wants nothing less than our total transformation. He created us to be shining stars in the heavens — brilliant examples of his complete, creative love. He wants us to enjoy the fullness of life in Christ, and many seem content with just getting by.

One of the reasons we celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day one day after the other is a reminder that all souls are called to be saints. We pray for the repose of the souls of our loved ones on All Souls’ Day, but why do we do this?

Saying that we pray “for their repose” makes it sounds passive. Are we simply praying that they will rest in peace? There is more to it than that. We are also praying that God will continue his work of grace in their lives and bring them to the full state of holiness and sanctity for which they were created.

Purgatory is not simply a place of rest. When we die, if we are not in mortal sin, we do not simply go to a retirement home in the sky. Purgatory is not a place of hammocks on the beach, where we can finally put up our feet and have a well-deserved rest.

Purgatory is the place where we finish the work we have left undone on this earth. In purgatory, our remaining weakness, cowardice, lust, greed and selfishness are burned away. Purgatory is a place of progress, not simply a place of peace.

When we pray for our loved ones on All Souls’ Day and throughout the month of November, we should be praying in an active way, not only that they will find peace, but that they will grow up into the full stature of Christ Jesus and rapidly rid themselves of every weight that holds them back — so they might become the radiant images of Christ they were created to be.

As for ourselves, there is a beautiful prayer in the funeral service: “That God might help us to use aright the time that is left to us here on earth.”

The work of becoming a saint is easier here than it is in purgatory. All of us still have plenty of work to do as we cooperate with God’s grace in the great adventure of sanctity. This work requires a courageous and joyful spirit. It requires discipline and the spirit of the warrior.

Again, we hear the call of little St. Thérèse, who said to her novices, “Sanctity: It must be won at the point of a sword!”

Father Dwight Longenecker’s latest book, The Romance of Religion, will be published in February 2014 by Thomas Nelson. Visit his blog, browse his books and be in touch at DwightLongenecker.com.

 Originally appeared in National Catholic Record 10/30/13

“Don’t be afraid to know your real self”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2015/01/09 at 12:00 AM
I have no need of miracles: there are more than enough for me in the Gospel. But I do need to see you fulfilling your duty and responding to grace. (The Way, 362)

Let us say again, in word and in action: “Lord, I trust in you; your ordinary providence, your help each day, is all I need.” We do not have to ask God to perform great miracles. Rather, we have to beg him to increase our faith, to enlighten our intellect and strengthen our will. Jesus always stays by our side and is always himself.

Ever since I began to preach, I have warned people against a certain mistaken sense of holiness. Don’t be afraid to know your real self. That’s right, you are made of clay. Don’t be worried. For you and I are sons of God — and that is the right way of being made divine. We are chosen by a divine calling from all eternity: “The Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” We belong especially to God, we are his instruments in spite of our great personal shortcomings. And we will be effective if we do not lose this awareness of our own weakness. Our temptations give us the measure of our own weakness.

If you feel depressed when you experience, perhaps in a very vivid way, your own pettiness, then is the time to abandon yourself completely and obediently into God’s hands. There is a story about a beggar meeting Alexander the Great and asking him for alms. Alexander stopped and instructed that the man be given the government of five cities. The beggar, totally confused and taken aback, exclaimed: “I didn’t ask for that much.” And Alexander replied: “You asked like the man you are: I give like the man I am.” (Christ is passing by, 160)

Immaculate Conception

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2014/12/05 at 12:00 AM

In the Angelus of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Benedict XVI emphasised that Mary is Immaculate “by a gratuitous gift of the Grace of God, which she accepted, however, with perfect willingness and cooperation. In this respect she is ‘blessed’ because she ‘believed’, because of her firm faith in God”.

The Holy Father continued, “Mary represents that ‘remnant of Israel’, the holy root announced by the prophets. The promises of the Old Covenant are welcomed in her. In Mary the Word of God is listened to, and finds acceptance, a response; the Word finds the ‘yes’ that allows it to take on flesh and to dwell among us. In Mary humanity and history are truly open to God and accept his Grace, in readiness to serve his will. Mary is the genuine expression of Grace. She is the new Israel that the Scriptures of the Old Testament describe with the symbol of the bride. … The Fathers of the Church developed this image and so the doctrine of the Immaculate was born, first with reference to the Church as virgin-mother, and then to Mary”.

“The light that emanates from the figure of Mary helps us also to understand the true meaning of original sin. Indeed, in Mary the relationship with God, that may be destroyed by sin, is completely alive and active. There is no opposition within her between God and her being; rather, there is full communion, full understanding. There is a reciprocal ‘yes’, from God to her and from her to God. … She is full of His Grace and His love.

“In conclusion, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary expresses the certainty of faith that the promises of God are realised: that His covenant does not fail, but has produced a holy root, from which has grown the Fruit most blessed of all the universe, Jesus the Saviour. Mary Immaculate demonstrates that Grace is able to bring about a response, that God’s fidelity can generate a true and good faith”.

VIS 121210

“Practice charity without setting any limits”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2014/11/28 at 12:00 AM
Love and practice charity without setting any limits or discriminating between people, for it is the virtue which marks us out as disciples of the Master. Nevertheless, this charity cannot lead you to dampen your faith — for it would then cease to be a virtue. Nor should it blur the clear outlines that define the faith, nor soften it to the point of changing it, as some people try to do, into something amorphous and lacking the strength and power of God. (The Forge, 456)

It was the Lord who took the initiative by coming out to meet us. He gave us this example so that we might join him in serving others, generously placing our hearts on the ground, as I am fond of saying, so that others may tread softly and find their struggle more pleasant. This is how we should behave because we have been made children of the same Father, that Father who did not hesitate to give us his dearly beloved Son.

Charity is not something we ourselves build up. It invades us along with God’s grace, ‘because he has loved us first’. We would do well to fill, to saturate ourselves with this most beautiful truth: ‘If we are able to love God, it is because we have been loved by God.’ You and I are able to lavish affection upon those around us, because we have been born to the Faith, through the Father’s love for us. Ask God boldly for this treasure, for the supernatural virtue of charity, so that you may practice it even in the smallest details.

Too often we Christians have not known how to correspond to this gift. At times we have debased it, as if it could be confined to a soulless and cold almsgiving; or we have reduced it to more or less stereotyped good works. This distortion of charity was well expressed once by a sick woman when she commented with sad resignation, ‘Yes, they treat me with “charity” here, but my mother used to look after me with affection.’ A love that springs from the Heart of Christ could never countenance such distinctions. (Friends of God, 228-229)

“You will follow Jesus in everything that he asks of you”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2014/07/18 at 12:00 AM
If you really want your heart to respond in a genuine way, I would recommend you to enter one of the Wounds of Our Lord. In this way you will get to know him closely, you will cleave to him, you will feel his Heart beating… and you will follow him in everything that he asks of you. (The Forge, 755)

When people favour a doubtful theology and an easygoing ‘anything goes’ morality, and engage in dubious liturgical practices following their own whims, with a ‘hippie’ discipline which is answerable to no authority; then it comes as no surprise if they spread envy, suspicion, false allegations, insults, ill‑treatment, humiliations, gossip and all kinds of outrage against those who speak only of Jesus Christ.

When we really come to admire and love the most sacred Humanity of Jesus, we will discover each of his Wounds, one by one. When we undergo periods of passive purgation, that we find painful and hard to bear, periods when we shed sweet and bitter tears, which we do our best to hide, we will feel the need to enter into each one of his most Holy Wounds: to be purified and strengthened, rejoicing in his redeeming Blood. We will go there like the doves which, in the words of Scripture, find shelter from the storm in the crevices in the rocks. We hide in this refuge to find the intimacy of Christ. We find his conversation soothing and his countenance comely, because ‘those who know that his voice is gentle and pleasing are those who have welcomed the grace of the Gospel, which makes them say: You have the words of eternal life.’

Let us not think that because we are on this road of contemplation our passions will have calmed down once and for all. We would be mistaken if we thought that our longing to seek Christ, and the fact that we are meeting him and getting to know him and enjoy the sweetness of his love, makes us incapable of sinning. Though your own experience will tell you, let me nevertheless remind you of this truth. Satan, God’s enemy and man’s, does not give up nor does he rest. He maintains his siege, even when the soul is ardently in love with God. The devil knows that it’s more difficult for the soul to fall then, but he also knows that, if he can manage to get it to offend its Lord even in something small, he will be able to cast over its conscience the serious temptation of despair. (Friends of God, 301-303)

What gate?

In Uncategorized on 2014/07/11 at 12:00 AM

The Gospel of the Good Shepherd in which Jesus describes Himself as “the gate for the sheep” was the focus of Pope Francis’ homily Monday morning.

Jesus tells his disciples that whoever does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, is not a shepherd, but a thief and a robber. In short, said Pope Francis, someone who seeks to profit for themselves, who only wants to climb the social ladder. The only gate to the Kingdom of God, to the Church – the Pope said – is Jesus Himself:

“These social climbers exist even in the Christian communities, no? those people who are looking for their own… and consciously or unconsciously pretend to enter but are thieves and robbers. Why? Why steal the glory from Jesus? They want glory for themselves and this is what [Jesus] said to the Pharisees: ‘You seek for each other’s approval.’.

“That’s something of a ‘commercial’ religion, don’t you think? I give glory to you and you give glory to me. But these people did not enter through the true gate. The [true] gate is Jesus and those who do not enter by this gate are mistaken. How do I know that Jesus is the true gate? How do I know that this gate is Jesus’s gate? It’s enough to take the Beatitudes and do what the Beatitudes say. Be humble, poor, gentle, just. “.

Pope Francis continued, noting that Jesus is not only the gate, he is also the way, the path to follow on our journey. He said there are many paths that we can follow, some perhaps more advantageous than others in getting ahead, but they are “misleading, they are not real: they are false. The only path is Jesus “:

“Some of you may say: ‘Father, you’re a fundamentalist!’. No, simply put, this is what Jesus said : ‘I am the gate’, ‘I am the path’ [He] gives life to us. Simple. It is a beautiful gate, a gate of love, it is a gate that does not deceive, it is not false. It always tells the truth. But with tenderness and love.”

“However, we still have [.] the source of original sin within us, is not it so? We still desire to possess the key to interpreting everything, the key and the power to find our own path, whatever it is, to find our own gate, whatever it is.”

“Sometimes” – the Pope said – “we are tempted to be too much our own bosses and not humble children and servants of the Lord”:

“And this is the temptation to look for other gates or other windows to enter the Kingdom of God. We can only enter by the gate whose name is Jesus. We can only enter by that gate which leads to a path and that path is called Jesus and brings to a life whose name is Jesus. All those who do something else – says the Lord – who try to enter through the window, are ‘thieves and robbers’. He is simple, the Lord. His words are not complex: He is simple”.

The Pope concluded by inviting all those present to ask for “the grace to always knock on that gate”:

“Sometimes it’s closed: we are sad, we feel desolation, we have problems with knocking, with knocking at that gate. Do not go looking for other gates that seem easier, more comfortable, more at hand. Always the same one: Jesus. Jesus never disappoints, Jesus does not deceive, Jesus is not a thief, not a robber. He gave his life for me: each of us must say this: ‘And you who gave your life for me, please, open, that I may enter.’ ”

Vatican Radio

“Mother! Call her again and again”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2014/05/08 at 12:00 AM
Mother! Call her again and again. She is listening, she sees you in danger perhaps, and with her Son’s grace she, your holy Mother Mary, offers you the refuge of her arms, the tenderness of her embrace. Call her, and you will find yourself with added strength for the new struggle. (The Way, 516)

If we want to understand Mary’s role in the Christian’s life and to feel attracted to her, to be in her company, we don’t need to go into the theological theory, even though it is an inexhaustible mystery that she is the Mother of God.

We have to love God with the same heart with which we love our parents, our brothers and sisters, the other members of our family, our friends. And we must love Mary with that same heart, too.

How does a normal son or daughter treat his mother? In different ways, of course, but always affectionately and confidently, never coldly. In an intimate way, through small, commonplace customs. And a mother feels hurt if we omit them: a kiss or an embrace when leaving or coming home, a little extra attention, a few warm words. (Christ is passing by, 142)

“People are not born holy. Holiness is forged.”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2014/03/28 at 12:00 AM
Everything in which we poor men have a part–even holiness–is a fabric of small trifles which, depending upon one’s intention, can form a magnificent tapestry of heroism or of degradation, of virtues or of sins. The epic legends always relate extraordinary adventures, but never fail to mix them with homely details about the hero.–May you always attach great importance to the little things. This is the way! (The Way, 826)

The main thing we are asked to do, which is so much in keeping with our nature, is to love: ‘charity is the bond of perfection’ [1]; a charity that is to be practised exactly as Our Lord himself commands: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind’ [2], holding back nothing for ourselves. This is what sanctity is all about.

Certainly our goal is both lofty and difficult to attain. But please do not forget that people are not born holy. Holiness is forged through a constant interplay of God’s grace and the correspondence of man. As one of the early Christian writers says, referring to union with God, ‘Everything that grows begins small. It is by constant and progressive feeding that it gradually grows big.’ So I say to you, if you want to become a thorough‑going Christian — and I know you are willing, even though you often find it difficult to conquer yourself or to keep climbing upwards with this poor body of ours — then you will have to be very attentive to the minutest of details, for the holiness that Our Lord demands of you is to be achieved by carrying out with love of God your work and your daily duties, and these will almost always consist of small realities. (Friends of God, 6-7)

[1] Col 3:14
[2] Matt 22:37