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Gospel Mt 8:23-27

As Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him.
Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea,
so that the boat was being swamped by waves;
but he was asleep.
They came and woke him, saying,
“Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?”
Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea,
and there was great calm.
The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this,
whom even the winds and the sea obey?”

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Taking Up Our Crosses – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

Jesus says:  “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him … take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).   He does not say:  “Make a cross” or “Look for a cross.”  Each of us has a cross to carry.  There is no need to make one or look for one.  The cross we have is hard enough for us!  But are we willing to take it up, to  accept it as our cross?

Maybe we can’t study, maybe we are handicapped, maybe we suffer from depression, maybe we experience conflict in our families, maybe we are victims of violence or abuse.  We didn’t choose any of it, but these things are our crosses.  We can ignore them, reject them, refuse them or hate them.  But we can also take  up these crosses and follow Jesus with them.

For further reflection …

“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”
– Isaiah 58: 8, 9a (NIV)

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It is absolutely essential that we never forget this critical truth: God’s power is his love. He has no power but love. And his love is all-powerful. Again, God is love—infinite love.

-from Zealous

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Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others. Under no circumstance can this invitation be obscured!

-from Pope Francis and our Call to Joy

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Spiritual Courage – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

Courage is connected with taking risks.  Jumping the Grand Canyon on a motorbike, coming over Niagara Falls in a barrel, or crossing the ocean in a rowboat are called courageous acts because people risk their lives by doing these things.  But none of these daredevil acts comes from the centre of our being.  They all come from the desire to test our physical limits and to become famous and popular.

Spiritual courage is something completely different.  It is following the deepest desires of our hearts at the risk of losing fame and popularity.  It asks of us the willingness to lose our temporal lives in order to gain eternal life.

For further reflection …

“Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” – Proverbs 4: 7b

Words That Create Community – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

The word is always a word for others.  Words need to be heard.  When we give words to what we are living, these words need to be received and responded to.  A speaker needs a listener.  A writer needs a reader.

When the flesh – the lived human experience – becomes word, community can develop.  When we say,  “Let me tell you what we saw.  Come and listen to what we did.  Sit down and let me explain to you what happened to us.  Wait until you hear whom we met,”  we call people together and make our lives into lives for others.   The word brings us together and calls us into community.  When the flesh becomes word, our bodies become part of a body of people.

For further reflection …

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.  Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” – Deuteronomy 4: 9

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Exclusion, apathy, complacency, worldliness: These are the faults that the pope sees as standing in the way of us going forth and sharing the Good News. As an antidote, he holds forth the importance of listening, inclusion, community, and sacrifice. And ultimately his answer is to hold on to the joy of the Gospel and the joy of sharing that Good News.

-from Pope Francis and our Call to Joy

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Flesh Become Word – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

The word must become flesh, but the flesh also must become word.  It is not enough for us, as human beings, just to live.  We also must give words to what we are living.  If we do not speak what we are living, our lives lose their vitality and creativity.   When we see a beautiful view, we search for words to express what we are seeing.  When we meet a caring person, we want to speak about that meeting.  When we are sorrowful or in great pain, we need to talk about it.  When we are surprised by joy, we want to announce it!

Through the word, we appropriate and internalize what we are living.  The word makes our experience truly human.

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Evangelization is always a two-way street. We might think that we’re the ones with the message, with the answers, with the Good News, and yet time and time again we discover that we learn as much from the people we’re with as we had when we began the conversation.

-from Pope Francis and our Call to Joy

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Learning to get along with all kinds of people and listening patiently to a wide variety of opinions can encourage us to grow in all manner of virtues, including patience, tolerance, and even love of enemies!

-from Pope Francis and our Call to Joy

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Words That Come From the Heart – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

Words that do not become flesh in us remain “just words.”  They have no power to affect our lives.  If someone says,  “I love you,” without any deep emotion, the words do more harm than good.  But if these same words are spoken from the heart, they can create new life.

It is important that we keep in touch with the source of our words.  Our great temptation is to become “pleasers,” people who say the right words to please others but whose words have no roots in their interior lives.  We have to keep making sure our words are rooted in our hearts.  The best way to do that is in prayerful silence.

For further reflection …

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. – Genesis 1: 3, 4 (NIV)

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Photo Credit: Flickr/Paul Sableman

It comes down to this: when we see things in a unitive way, in conscious union with the eyes of God, what we see is qualitatively different. Basically, it is no longer self-referential but very expansive seeing, and this changes everything. The right energy comes forth when it is not “all about you.” Then a larger presence, an inner vitality, shines through your very words and actions–and this ends up becoming the core message itself!

The motivation, meaning, and inherent energy of any action come from its ultimate source, which is the person’s foundational and core vantage point…. There is a very different kind of seeing from a person who has remained lovingly and consciously connected to the Source (God, Jesus, our Higher Power) than from mere self-interest and its small lens.

from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi,
pp. 61-62, 64-65, 80

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Again and again Pope Francis reminds us that we’re to go out to meet people where they are, not wait for them to come to church. And we can’t wait at the top while people struggle on the way up. We need to join them on the journey. We need to bring Christ to them on the way.

-from Pope Francis and our Call to Joy

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Growing into the Truth We Speak – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

Can we only speak when we are fully living what we are saying?  If all our words had to cover all our actions, we would be doomed to permanent silence!  Sometimes we are called to proclaim God’s love even when we are not yet fully able to live it.  Does that mean we are hypocrites?  Only when our own words no longer call us to conversion.  Nobody completely lives up to his or her own ideals and visions.  But by proclaiming our ideals and visions with great conviction and great humility, we may gradually grow into the truth we speak.  As long as we know that our lives always will speak louder than our words, we can trust that our words will remain humble.

For further reflection …

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment!” – James 2: 12-13

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Sharing the message of the Gospel always comes down to one thing: a personal encounter with Jesus Christ through his word, his presence in the Eucharist, and his presence in other people.

-from Pope Francis and our Call to Joy

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“When we stand praying, beloved brethren, we ought to be watchful and earnest with our whole heart, intent on our prayers. Let all carnal and worldly thoughts pass away, nor let the soul at that time think on anything except the object of its prayer”

-St. Cyprian, On the Lord’s Prayer, 31.
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Loving Your Enemies

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “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, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun to rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:43-45).

Your enemy always carries the dark side of your own self, the things you don’t like about yourself. You will never face your own dark side until you embrace those who threaten you (as Francis embraced the leper in his own conversion experience). The people who turn you off usually do so because they carry your own faults in a different form.

Jesus goes on to say, “If you love those who love you, what’s so great about that?” (Matthew 5:46). It’s simply magnified self-love. Love the stranger at the gate, the one outside of your comfort zone. Until you can enter into love with the not-me and the non-self, Jesus is saying, you really have not loved at all.

And what’s Jesus’ motivation for doing this? Some translations say, it’s to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). A more useful and accurate understanding of the word translated as “perfect” is “whole.” Jesus and Francis met a God who is One, who is whole, who is all-inclusive. Be all-inclusive as your heavenly Father is all-inclusive and all merciful. This is the heart of the Gospel. Jesus’ and Francis’ goal was imitation of a loving, forgiving God.

Think of one of your enemies, someone for whom you feel anger, resentment, or hurt. What about this person most offends or disturbs you? Is it possible this same characteristic is in you, perhaps hidden and unrecognized? When you are able to recognize your own darkness, bring it into God’s loving presence through prayer. As the sense of God’s compassion and acceptance for you grows in your heart and body, extend that warmth to your enemy, embracing them with the same grace you are receiving.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Sermon on the Mount

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Often when we pray “deliver us from evil” during the Lord’s Prayer, we are thinking of the evil “out there” in the world when, in reality, we should also be considering the evil inclinations that come from within us (Mark 7:21).

-from Tweet Inspiration

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