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“People are not perfect. But God does not only call upon great saints to reveal his love for the world. He also calls the broken and desperate. We are all called to act as God’s light in this darkening world.”

-from Faith Under Fire

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“Let the Word of God come; let it enter the church; let it become a consuming fire, that it may burn the hay and stubble, and consume whatever is worldly; there is heavy lead of iniquity in many; let it be molten by divine fire; let the gold and silver vessels be made better, in order that understanding and speech, refined by the heat of suffering, may begin to be more precious.”

— St. Ambrose

Taking Up Our Crosses by Henri Nouwen

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.

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“Act as if everyday were the last of your life, and each action the last you perform.”

— St. Alphonsus Liguori

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The way of the cross is unavoidably uphill. Christians don’t get to carry their cross downhill. Suffering has always been inextricably linked with Christianity, but those who carry their cross willingly in these times can serve as an example and inspiration to all of us.”

-from Faith Under Fire

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“Remember this: the Lord wants us to be at peace, and the closer we are to Him, the more peaceful we feel. Peace is a good indicator that our actions are pleasing to Him. On the other hand, a persistent lack of peace typically indicates that the Lord is trying to get your attention. Give Him that attention, and He will show you what’s up!”

-from Faith, Hope & Clarity

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“Father, I have come to the understanding that Jesus asks very little from us, only that we accept him as our friend and love him and care for one another. How simple! And yet how difficult! Please give me grace not to disappoint him, who has given his all for me. I ask this in Jesus’s name, Amen.”

-from Stories of Jesus

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“The poor have much to teach you. You have much to learn from them.”

— St. Vincent de Paul

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“Let’s not forget these words: The Lord never tires of forgiving us, never. The problem is that we grow tired; we don’t want to ask, we grow tired of asking for forgiveness.”

-from Pope Francis Takes the Bus and Other Unexpected Stories

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“Dismiss all anger and look into yourself a little. Remember that he of whom you are speaking is your brother, and as he is in the way of salvation, God can make him a saint, in spite of his present weakness.”

— St. Thomas of Villanova

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The Catholic Company's photo.

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“The confessional is not the dry-cleaner’s; it is an encounter with Jesus, with that Jesus who is waiting for us, who is waiting for us as we are.”

-from Pope Francis Takes the Bus and Other Unexpected Stories

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“When a person commits a fault, God certainly wishes him to humble himself, to be sorry for his sin, and to purpose never to fall into it again; but he does not wish him to be indignant with himself, and give way to trouble and agitation of mind; for, while the soul is agitated, a man is incapable of doing good.”

— St. Alphonsus De Liguori

“Let us pray to Our Lady, that she may protect us. In times of spiritual upset, the safest place is within the folds of her garments.”

-from Pope Francis Takes the Bus and Other Unexpected Stories

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“Christ is my Spouse. He chose me first and His I will be. He made my soul beautiful with the jewels of grace and virtue. I belong to Him whom the angels serve.”

— St. Agnes

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The Catholic Company's photo.

 

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Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John….” But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).

John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic. He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life.

His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. His Baptism, he said, was for repentance. But One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John is not worthy even to carry his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b). But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b). Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew. John thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah. But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic.

The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus. John attracted countless people (“all Judea”) to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah. But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus.

Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus. For whatever reason, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (chapters 49 through 53). John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.

Comment:
John challenges us Christians to the fundamental attitude of Christianity—total dependence on the Father, in Christ. Except for the Mother of God, no one had a higher function in the unfolding of salvation. Yet the least in the kingdom, Jesus said, is greater than he, for the pure gift that the Father gives. The attractiveness as well as the austerity of John, his fierce courage in denouncing evil—all stem from his fundamental and total placing of his life within the will of God.

Quote:
“And this is not something which was only true once, long ago in the past. It is always true, because the repentance which he preached always remains the way into the kingdom which he announced. He is not a figure that we can forget now that Jesus, the true light, has appeared. John is always relevant because he calls for a preparation which all men need to make. Hence every year there are four weeks in the life of the Church in which it listens to the voice of the Baptist. These are the weeks of Advent” (A New Catechism).

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

— St. Thomas Aquinas

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“I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things . . . Every one there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light.”

— C.S. Lewis

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“At some times in life, the spectacles for seeing Jesus are our tears. We cry over what is good, over our sins, for the grace we receive, for joy. Let us ask ourselves, have we had that happiness of tears which prepare our eyes to look upon and to see the Lord?”

-from Pope Francis Takes the Bus and Other Unexpected Stories

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Praise the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ!

I Love My Catholic Faith by MyCatholicFaith.org's photo.

“In the middle of the night of the many ‘nights’ of so many sins which we commit, there is always that caress of the Lord, which seems to say, ‘This is my glory.’”

-from Pope Francis Takes the Bus and Other Unexpected Stories

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“For true hearts there is no separating ocean; or, rather, God is their ocean, in Whom they meet and are united; they love, and lose themselves in Him and in each other.”

— St. Théodore Guérin

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“[The] ultimate end of man we call beatitude. For a man’s happiness or beatitude consists in the vision whereby he sees God in His essence. Of course, man is far below God in the perfection of his beatitude. For God has this beatitude by His very nature, whereas man attains beatitude by being admitted to a share in the divine light.”

— St. Thomas Aquinas

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Everything I do today will be for the greater glory of God!

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“No one has greater love than one who lays down his life for his friends. Jesus has done that for us, for you, for me. He won it back again and he accompanies us with his life, full of love. Let yourselves be accompanied by Jesus. He loves you!”

-from Pope Francis Takes the Bus and Other Unexpected Stories

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Remember the richness of the Lord’s prayer.

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