Sunday, June 4, 2017

Living, Leaping Water: The Holy Spirit In Action In Your Life


The wonderful Liturgy of the Hours and Mass readings app iBreviary, includes the hour called the Office of Readings. I love this part of the daily prayer because many times it includes readings from the Early Church Fathers. In preparation for Pentecost, one of the readings this week was from Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop in the 300's. I find it just stunning and thought I would share it with you on this Pentecost.
The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life. This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.

In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of this action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvelous.

The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.

The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden, for he is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console. The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives him, and then, through him, the minds of others as well.

As light strikes the eyes of a man who comes out of darkness into the sunshine and enables him to see clearly things he could not discern before, so light floods the soul of the man counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision, things hitherto undreamed of.
 From a catechetical instruction by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop
(Cat. 16, De Spiritu Sancto 1, 11-12.16: PG 33, 931-935. 939-942)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Not The Sort of King They Wanted


This is the first of an occasional series of meditations.


Meditation on Mark 15:2-15, Jesus Before Pontius Pilate

The crowds before Pilate wanted an earthly leader. One that would bring them power, glory & free them from the Romans.

In the Old Testament (1st Samuel, Chapter 8) the people rejected God as their king. They wanted a king like the other countries had. Even though Samuel warned them the costs of a king: taxes, being servants to the king, etc., they still wanted someone to lead them into battle, someone they could look up to and lead them to glory. They rejected their Creator, who made the universe and everything in it; the God who rescued them from Egypt and gave them a land flowing with milk and honey. How could they have thought that an earthly leader could protect them better than the creator of everything? They did not trust God. They saw the Red Sea part, they saw the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire lead and protect them as they escaped the servitude of Pharaoh, but they still did not trust.

Then, after one thousand years of heartbreak, and longing for the promised Messiah, Jesus enters the world. Could He be the one they had waited for, the one to deliver Israel from the hands of the Romans? The one to make Israel great and powerful? But then they watch and listen to Him. Sure, he heals people and is popular, but his sayings are hard. And confusing. Love your enemies? (Matthew 5:44) Eat his flesh and drink his blood? Many leave following him because they can't accept that (John 6:66.) This is not the guy they were expecting. This is "not the sort of king they wanted.

They wanted power, glory and freedom, but they didn't understand that Jesus is the only one that will bring them true power, true glory, and true freedom - the freedom from sin. It is only because of our hardness of hearts that we don't recognize how awful sin is - how it separates us from God. How sad God must be that His beloved people reject Him.

Our culture today also does not want the sort of king that Jesus is. We continue to reject God in every part of our society. Our leaders reject Him. Our governments reject Him. Our courts reject Him. Our schools reject Him. Our families reject Him. Even some of our churches reject Him.

We just recently celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, and will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of her apparitions to the children of Fatima, for most of this year. During the apparitions at Fatima, Portugal, our Blessed Mother, and the angel that preceded her, made it clear that many souls have lost faith and trust in God, and many will be lost. They don't follow God or even acknowledge Him, they don't believe in him, and therefore will not be saved. We need to pray for them. Our Lady told us we need to pray and sacrifice as reparation for the sins of the world. It is all our sins that cause the chaos in the world. It is our sins that cause war and famine. Learn the message of Fatima, pray the Rosary for peace around the world. And pray that the world will accept Jesus as their real King.

References:
¹Commentary on Mark 15, from the Navarre Bible Commentary, "Gospels & Acts."
"Fatima For Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope," Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR


Monday, January 2, 2017

Time Is Short, Fill It With Love For God

In my meditation time today I found this wonderful passage by Fr. Francis Fernandez:

"Our life too is a path full of tribulations and of God's consolation. We have a life in time which we are now living, and another life outside time to which we are making our way. The time at our disposal is an important part of the inheritance God has left us. Time represents the separation between the present and that moment when we stand before God with our hands either empty or full. Only now in this life can we obtain merit for the next. In fact, each single day of ours is a period given us by God, so that we may fill it with love for him, with love for those around us, with work well done, with putting the virtues into practice; in a word, a life full of good works pleasing to God's eyes. Now is the time to amass the treasure that never perishes. For each one of us it is the acceptable time. Behold now is the day of salvation. Once it is past there will be no other time.

The time each one of us has at his disposal is short, but long enough to tell God that we love him and to accomplish the work he is given us. For this reason Saint Paul warns us: look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, for soon night comes, when no one can work. Short indeed is our life for loving, forgiving, for making atonement. It is wrong, therefore, to waste it or irresponsibly throw out of the window such a great treasure. We cannot squander this period of the world's history that God has entrusted to each one of us."

Picture courtesy of WikiArt

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What Does The Word Believe Mean?



Lately, the daily Gospel readings have been from the Gospel of John and have talked about the Eucharist and believing in Jesus. But what IS believing? What exactly does that mean? I recently discovered this excellent explanation from the Introduction to John's Gospel from the Navarre Bible Commentary:
“Believing means knowing revealed truth or, better, recognizing the authority of God revealing truth in fact, in this Gospel we often find the verbs "to believe" and "to know" side-by-side in the one phrase; sometimes they seem to be interchangeable. The verb "to know" has the meaning not just of knowing intellectually, of grasping the truth; it takes on an Old Testament meaning, indicating unreserved adhesion to the truth that is Jesus Christ. Therefore, faith includes the act of trusting commitment as well as the act of knowing. Recognizing supernatural truth through the testimony given us, we adhere to the truth and, by accepting it with our whole heart we obtain deep knowledge of God's truth.”

Some other helpful quotes in this section:

“Growth in faith goes hand in hand with growth in knowledge of Jesus Christ.” 
“Faith is at one and the same time a free gift of God and a free action on man's part: man reaches genuine freedom to believe when God gives him the grace which enables him to adhere to revealed truths.”

“No one can believe in him unless it is granted him by the father.”

Painting: "Maria, sister of Lazarus, meets Jesus who is going to their house" - Nikolai Ge, 1864. Courtesy: WikiArt

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Read This! 12 Catholic Books on the Spiritual Life You Should Read in 2016

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1622822285/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1622822285&linkCode=as2&tag=liveca-20&linkId=OHRV37HXG7AUBLES

Here are the books I think you should read in 2016. They are indispensable classics for me and they all sit next to me in my prayer corner or next to my bed. These are ones that have really helped me in my spiritual life. Each is amazing in its own way. Some are easy to read, some are ones you want to take the whole year to read carefully.


1) These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body by Emily Stimpson. When I first saw this book I thought, “Oh no, the difficult Theology of the Body.” Boy, was I wrong. This is super easy to read and brings this great topic to every part of your life. Just reading what the culture thought of man, before the Enlightenment, was breathtaking. It turns out that sex is only a really small part of John Paul II's teaching on the body. It is a wonderful way to guide your whole life into beauty and holiness. You can tell the author is an expert on the topic and has synthesized years of study on this topic into a really easy to understand and implement teaching. I'm planning on reading it again this year.  I also really enjoy Emily's website The Catholic Table and recommend you pay a visit. I'm a BIG fan of her Polenta recipe.


2) Worshipping a Hidden God by Archbishop Luis Martinez. I had this book on the shelf for years before I actually read it. I can't believe I waited so long. Abp. Martinez was a Mexican bishop, poet and mystic and this book completely changed my view of God. It is geared to helping you through problems with prayer and your spiritual life and understanding the nature of God. I cried through several chapters. It was a breakthrough for me and I hope it will help you too.


3) Fatima for Today: An Urgent Marian Message of Hope by Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R. This book has everything you ever wanted to know about the Marian apparitions at Fatima and what happened afterward. During this time of chaos, confusion, and darkness, the Blessed Mother's message is more imperative than ever in saving the world from evil. If you have ever wanted to know how or why to do the Five First Saturday devotions, or why the Rosary is so important, this is for you.


4) Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina by Tim Gray. This is an excellent explanation of how to pray using the Scriptures. Easy to read and understand.


5) The Navarre Bible: Gospels & Acts by the University of Navarre. This has been my mainstay Bible commentary for years. I use it constantly. I have several volumes of the Navarre Bible but, of course, this is the one I use the most. Other volumes I love are The Pentateuch (The first 5 books of the Old Testament) & the Letters of St. Paul. I highly recommend all the volumes. They have extensive commentary on all the text using lots of writings of Pope St. John Paul II, St. Josemaria Escriva and lots of other saints and Church writings.


6) Seeking Spiritual Direction: How to Grow the Divine Life Within by Fr. Thomas Dubay. Gives advice on finding a spiritual director. What I find the most profitable in this book is the advice in the back third of the book on problems and questions in the spiritual life. I'm definitely going to read this again this year. A related type book is Dan Burke's Navigating the Interior Life: Spiritual Direction and the Journey To God. I read this when it first came out a few years ago, but I, unfortunately, don't own a copy. It is excellent though, and helps guide you in spiritual direction and how to determine your main faults so you can overcome them.

Dan Burke also has several other resources that I can recommend. He has edited two other books that I do own and think you will profit from them: Finding God Through Meditation by St. Peter of Alcantara – St. Teresa of Avila's spiritual director, which I am reading now; and selected letters of St. Teresa of Avila on prayer, 30 Days With St. Teresa of Avila, which I really enjoyed. He has the best website on prayer and the spiritual life online (and I don't say that lightly,) Catholic Spiritual Direction is just excellent. I remember a time when everything online about Catholic prayer was wrong, or vacuous, or tainted with techniques from other religions that were the opposite of what Catholic spirituality taught. You still can find that stuff online, but this website was a revolution, and happily it is filled with excellent advice and direction, and others have followed the lead with the true teachings of Christian prayer. What we now have is a blossoming of the spiritual life. 

Also, check out the related Relevant Radio's Divine Intimacy Radio show and podcast, among other helps. Another radio show, from Radio Maria is Carmelite Conversations. It is absolutely my favorite podcast and I cannot tout it highly enough for discussions on Catholic spirituality, books, and Carmelite saints. I have learned so much!


7) 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC. A very approachable and understandable preparation for consecration to Jesus through the Blessed Mother. It uses teaching from Mother Teresa, Pope St. John Paul II, St. Louis de Montfort, and St. Maximilian Kolbe. Everyone I know who has read it has been very impressed. 

8) Trusting God With St. Therese by Connie Rossini. A lovely book on how St. Thérèse of Lisieux allowed God to guide her through difficult times in her life and how you can trust God in hard times too. 


Other books I can recommend but am not finished with yet:

Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI. I have the first of the three volumes.
 
The Hidden Power of Kindness: A Practical Handbook for Souls Who Dare to Transform the World, One Deed at a Time by Lawrence G. Lovasik 
 
An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, excellent for beginners. 
 
Spiritual Combat: How to Win Your Spiritual Battles and Attain Peace by Lorenzo Scupoli. St. Francis de Sales carried this in his pocket for years.