Saturday, June 30, 2018
We have actually reached the last four sections of Pope Francis' Exhortation on Holiness. We are still talking about the essential condition for progress in discernment. In #174, the Pope says that "an essential condition for progress in discernment is a growing understanding of God's patience and his timetable, which are never our own....Generosity too is demanded, for 'it is more blessed to give than to receive' (Acts 20:35). Discernment is not about discovering what more we can get out of this life, but about recognizing how we can better accomplish the mission entrusted to us at our baptism. This entails a readiness to make sacrifices, even to sacrificing everything. For happiness is a paradox. We experience it most when we accept the mysterious logic that is not of this world...
Underlining is mine.
Friday, June 29, 2018
I think both Peter and Paul would want me to continue with the Exhortation on Holiness of Pope Francis. There are only six more days so I will finish by July 5th, I think, but I do know that I need to go back and cover Chapter 2. I think it will mean more now that we are into discernment.
172. "Nonetheless, it is possible that, even in prayer itself, we could refuse to let ourselves be confronted by the freedom of the Spirit, who acts as he wills. We must remember that prayerful discernment must be born of a readiness to listen: to the Lord and to others, and to reality itself, which always challenges us in new ways. Only if we are prepared to listen, do we have the freedom to set aside our own partial or insufficient ideas, our usual habits and ways of seeing things. In this way, we become truly open to accepting a call that can shatter our security, but lead us to a better life. It is not enough that everything be calm and peaceful. God may be offering us something more, but in our comfortable inadvertence, we do not recognize it.
173. "Naturally, this attitude of listening entails obedience to the Gospel as the ultimate standard, but also to the Magisterium that guards it, as we seek to find in the treasury of the Church whatever is most fruitful for 'today' of salvation....
The discernment of spirits liberates us from rigidity, which has no place before the perennial 'today' of the risen Lord. The Spirit alone can penetrate what is obscure and hidden in every situation, and grasp its every nuance, so that the newness of the Gospel can emerge in another light."
Thursday, June 28, 2018
In #171 of Gaudete et Exsultate, the Pope tells us that the Lord speaks to us in a variety of ways, "at work, through others and at every moment. Yet we simply cannot do without the silence of prolonged prayer, which enables us better to perceive God's language, to interpret the real meaning of the inspirations we believe we have received, to calm our anxieties and to see the whole of our existence afresh in his own light. In this way, we allow the birth of a new synthesis that springs from a life inspired by the Spirit."
Wow! I guess we all want to have a life inspired by the Spirit! Discernment is really meant to help us to live such a life.
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Pope Francis continues to tell us in the fifth and last chapter of his Exhortation on Holiness about discernment. Again, the underlining is mine.
170. ..."We should always remember that discernment is a grace. Even though it includes reason and prudence, it goes beyond them, for it seeks a glimpse of that unique and mysterious plan that God has for each of us, which takes shape amid so many varied situations and limitations. It involves more than my temporal well-being, my satisfaction at having accomplished something useful, or even my desire for peace of mind. It has to do with the meaning of my life before the Father who knows and loves me, with the real purpose of my life, which nobody knows better than he. Ultimately, discernment leads to the wellspring of undying life: to know the Father, the only true God, and the one whom he has sent, Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 17:3). It requires no special abilities, nor is it for the more intelligent or better educated. The Father readily reveals himself to the lowly (cf. Mt 11:25).
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
As we continue with the last chapter of Gaudete et Exsultate,
we can see how necessary discernment is and how important the Pope thinks a daily examen, in dialogue with the Lord, is.
169. "Discernment is necessary not only at extraordinary times, when we need to resolve grave problems and make crucial decisions. It is a means of spiritual combat for helping us to follow the Lord more faithfully. We need it at all times, to help us recognize God's timetable, lest we fail to heed the promptings of his grace and disregard his invitation to grow. Often discernment is exercised in small and apparently irrelevant things.....It involves striving untrammelled for all that is great, better and more beautiful, while at the same time being concerned for the little things, for each day's responsibilities and commitments. For this reason, I ask all Christians not to omit, in dialogue with the Lord, a sincere daily 'examination of conscience'. Discernment also enables us to recognize the concrete means that the Lord provides in his mysterious and loving plan, to make us move beyond mere good intentions."
Underlining is mine. I am really trying to make this daily examen to see where Jesus is calling me in my daily life and I hope you will try to take back this important spiritual exercise, too.
Monday, June 25, 2018
167. The gift of discernment has become all the more necessary today, since contemporary life offers immense possibilities for action and distraction, and the world presents all of them as valid and good. All of us, but especially the young, are immersed in a culture of zapping. We can navigate simultaneously on two or more screens and interact at the same time with two or three virtual scenarios. Without the wisdom of discernment, we can easily become prey to every passing trend.
168. This is all the more important when some novelty presents itself in our lives. Then we have to decide whether it is new wine brought by God or an illusion created by the spirit of this world or the spirit of the devil. At other times, the opposite can happen, when the forces of evil induce us not to change, to leave things as they are, to opt for a rigid resistance to change. Yet that would be to block the working of the Spirit. We are free, with the freedom of Christ. Still, he asks us to examine what is within us - our desires, anxieties, fears and questions- and what takes place all around us - 'the signs of the times' - and thus to recognize the paths that lead to complete freedom. 'Test everything; hold fast to what is good.' (1 Thess 5:21).
Underlining is mine!
Sunday, June 24, 2018
This is a feast that the Church has kept as a "Solemnity" and therefore it is more important than the normal Sunday readings. The Collect is worth reflection on before Mass so we know what we are praying for: "O God, who raised up Saint John the Baptist to make ready a nation fit for Christ the Lord, give your people, we pray, the grace of spiritual joys and direct the hearts of all the faithful into the way of salvation and peace."
When Mary arrived to visit Elizabeth, she was carrying Jesus and Elizabeth said that the infant that Elizabeth had been carrying for over six months, "leapt in her womb'. The Gospel for today's feast has the neighbors and relatives rejoicing with the birth and thinking that he would be called after his father, but Elizabeth said, "No, he will be called John." Since none of the relatives had that name, they made signs asking his father what he wished him to be called. Zechariah "asked for a tablet and wrote, 'John is his name,' and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. . . "
It is good to us to remember that God does intervene in our lives and we need to listen to His voice and believe.
Saturday, June 23, 2018
We are in the fifth chapter of Gaudete et Exsultate, #165 where Pope Francis tells us: :Spiritual corruption is worse that the fall of a sinner, for it is a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for 'even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light"(2Cor11:140). ...
166. How can we know if something comes from the Holy Spirit or if it stems from the spirit of the world or the spirit of the devil? The only way is through discernment, which calls for something more than intelligence or common sense. It is a gift which we must implore. If we ask with confidence that the Holy Spirit grant us this gift, and then seek to develop it through prayer, reflection, reading and good counsel, then surely we will grow in this spiritual endowment.
The underlining is mine, but I think this last chapter on discernment is very important and the Pope is very clear on the importance of this gift of being able to discern God's action in our lives.
I arrive home yesterday driving from Watsonville where I had nine nights and eight full days giving a retreat to one of my RSCJ friends in a lovely little condo near the ocean. It was a great way to deepen my own retreat and I enjoyed the time immensely.
Friday, June 22, 2018
163. "Along this journey, the cultivation of all that is good, progress in the spiritual life and growth in love are the best counterbalance to evil. Those who choose to remain neutral, who are satisfied with little, who renounce the ideal of giving themselves generously to the Lord, will never hold out...."
164. The path of holiness is a source of peace and joy, given to us by the Spirit. At the same time, it demands that we keep 'our lamps lit'(Lk 12:35) and be attentive... Those who think they commit no grievous sins against God's law can fall into a state of dull lethargy. Since they see nothing serious to reproach themselves with, they fail to realize that their spiritual life has gradually turned lukewarm. They end up weakened and corrupted."
Thursday, June 21, 2018
162. God's word invites us clearly to stand against the wiles of the devil and to quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. These expressions from Paul's Letter to the Ephesians are not "melodramatic, precisely because our path towards holiness is a constant battle. Those who do not realize this will be prey to failure or mediocrity. For this spiritual combat, we can count on the powerful weapons that the Lord has given us: faith-filled prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of Mass, Eucharistic adoration, sacramental Reconciliation, works of charily, community life, missionary outreach. If we become careless, the false promises of evil will easily seduce us."
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
We need to admit the existence of the devil so that we can understand how evil can be such a destructive force. In #160 the Pope tells us that the final clause of the Our Father would be translated more exactly for it does not refer to evil in the abstract but 'the evil one'. "It indicates a personal being who assails us. Jesus taught us to ask daily for deliverance from him, lest his power prevail over us."
161. "Hence we should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable. The devil does not need to possess us. He poisons us with the venom of hatred, desolation, envy and vice. When we let down our guard, he takes advantage of it to destroy our lives, our families and our communities. 'Like a roaring lion, he prowls around, looking for someone to devour' (Pet 5:8)."
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Today we begin the fifth chapter of Gaudete et Exsultate, and I consider it very important as the Pope explains why we need discernment in our daily lives and how to go about becoming discerning people.
158. "The Christian life is a constant battle. We need strength and courage to withstand the temptations of the devil and to proclaim the Gospel. This battle is sweet, for it allows us to rejoice each time the Lord triumphs in our lives.
159. We are not dealing merely with a battle against the world and a worldly mentality that would deceive us and leave us dull and mediocre, lacking in enthusiasm and joy. Nor can this battle be reduced to the struggle against our human weaknesses and proclivities (be they laziness, lust, envy, jealousy or any others). It is also a constant struggle against the devil, the prince of evil. Jesus himself celebrates our victories. ...
Monday, June 18, 2018
Pope Francis tells us in #155 that "if we realize that God exists, we cannot help but worship him, at times in quiet wonder, and praise him in festive song.
156." The prayerful reading of God's word, which is 'sweeter than honey' (Heb 4:12), enables us to pause and listen to the voice of the Master.....
#157 "Meeting Jesus in the Scriptures leads us to the Eucharist, where the written word attains its greatest efficacy, for there the living Word is truly present. In the Eucharist, the one true God receives the greatest worship the world can give him, for it is Christ himself who is offered. When we receive him in Holy Communion, we renew our covenant with him and allow him to carry out ever more fully his work of transforming our lives."
This is the end of the fourth Chapter, a long one developing different aspects to help us to holiness.
Sunday, June 17, 2018
In today's Gospel (Mark 4:26-34) Jesus tells the parable of the mustard seed to try to explain the Kingdom of God. "It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches so that the birds of the sky can dwell it its shade."
Saturday, June 16, 2018
In Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis speaks of the prayer of supplication as "an expression of a heart that trusts in God and realizes that of itself it can do nothing. The life of God's faithful people is marked by constant supplication born of faith-filled love and great confidence. Let us not downplay prayer of petition, which so often calms our hearts and helps us persevere in hope. Prayer of intercession has particular value, for it is an act of trust in God and, at the same time, an expression of love for our neighbor....
Intercessory prayer is an expression of our fraternal concern for others, since we are able to embrace their lives, their deepest troubles and their loftiest dreams."
Pope Francis says that this prayer attempts to practice the twofold commandment that Jesus left us.
Friday, June 15, 2018
153."Prayer, because it is nourished by the gift of God present and at work in our lives, must always be marked by remembrance....our prayer is interwoven with memories. We think back not only on his revealed Word, but also on our own lives, the lives of others, and all that the Lord has done in his Church. This is the grateful memory that Saint Ignatius of Loyola refers to in his Contemplation for Attaining Love, when he asks us to be mindful of all the blessings we have received from the Lord. Think of your own history when you pray, and there you will find much mercy. This will also increase your awareness that the Lord is ever mindful of you; he never forgets you. So it makes sense to ask him to shed light on the smallest details of your life, for he sees them all."
I am convince that when we develop this grateful memory, we are full of joy!
Thursday, June 14, 2018
In #151 Pope Francis asks: "Are there moments when you place yourself quietly in the Lord's presence, when you calmly spend time with him, when you bask in his gaze? Do you let his fire inflame your heart? Unless you let him warm you more and more with his love and tenderness, you will not catch fire. How will you then be able to set the hearts of others on fire by your words and witness? If, gazing on the face of Christ, you feel unable to let yourself be healed and transformed, then enter into the Lord's heart, into his wounds, for that is the abode of divine mercy. ( Cf. Bernard of Clairvaux).
#152 Pope Francis asks that we never regard prayerful silence as a "form of escape and rejection of the world around us.
The reason I love retreats so much is that we sink into deep silence and can listen to God because of exterior and interior silence.
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
The Holy Father reminds us in #148 that we should try to remain in the presence of God. He quotes St. John of the Cross and says that we need to always go to God "whether you eat, drink, talk with others, or do anything, always go to God..."
149. "For this to happen, however, some moments spent alone with God are also necessary. For Saint Teresa of Avila, prayer 'is nothing but friendly intercourse, and frequent solitary converse with him who we know loves us.' I would insist that this is true not only for a privileged few, but for all of us, for 'we all have need of this silence, filled with the presence of him who is adored.' Trust-filled prayer is a response of a heart open to encountering God face to face, where all is peaceful and the quiet voice of the Lord can be heard in the midst of silence.
150. "In that silence, we can discern, in the light of the Spirit, the paths of holiness to which the Lord is calling us. Otherwise, any decisions we make may only be window-dressing that, rather than exalting the Gospel in our lives, will mask or submerge it. For each disciple, it is essential to spend time with the Master, to listen to his words, and to learn from him always. Unless we listen, all our words will be nothing but useless chatter."
One of our Chapter calls is to create silence. Interior silence leads us deeper into contemplation.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
146. "Contrary to the growing consumerist individualism that tends to isolate us in a quest for well-being apart from others, our path to holiness can only make us identify all the more with Jesus' prayer 'that all may be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you'" (Jn17:21).
We are still on Chapter Four where the Pope is speaking about different aspects of holiness. Now he will speak of constant prayer. The underlining is mine.
147. Finally, though it may seem obvious, we should remember that holiness consists in a habitual opening to the transcendent, expressed in prayer and adoration. The saints are distinguished by a spirit of prayer and a need for communion with God. They find an exclusive concern with this world to be narrow and stifling, and, amid their own concerns and commitments, they long for God, losing themselves in praise and contemplation for the Lord. I do not believe in holiness without prayer, even though prayer need not be lengthy or involve intense emotions."
We thought about our call to adore the Heart of Christ in the Eucharist during retreat. We are to foster a spirit of adoration. I have found such grace in just spending an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament each afternoon.
Sunday, June 10, 2018
The Collect for today's Liturgy is worth praying over all week.
"O God, from whom all good things come,
grant that we, who call on you in our need,
may at your prompting discern what is right,
and by your guidance do it.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
The first reading is from the Book of Genesis when, after Adam has eaten of the tree, God called to him, but Adam was afraid and so hid. Adam, of course, blames Eve, who in turn blames the serpent.
The responsorial psalm is from Psalm 130 with the response:
"With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
The second reading is from St. Paul's second Letter to the Corinthians. In this reading Paul says: "Everything is indeed for you, so that grace may be bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God."
The Gospel (Mark 3: 20-35) shows us Jesus will such a crowd around him that he cannot eat, but he teaches them. His mother and his brothers arrive and the crowd tells him they are outside and asking for him. Jesus replies: "Who are my mother and my brothers? Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."
Let us strive to know and do the will of God.
That is where discernment helps us.
Saturday, June 9, 2018
In #144 of Gaudete et Exsultate, the Pope tells us "not to forget that Jesus asked his disciples to pay attention to details.
The little detail that wine way running out at a party.
The little detail that one sheep was missing.
The little detail of noticing the widow who offered her two small coins.
The little detail of having spare oil for the lamps, should the bridegroom delay.
The little detail of asking the disciples how many loaves of bread they had.
The little detail of having a fire burning and a fish cooking as he waited for the disciples at daybreak."
What are the little details in my life now that the Lord is asking me to pay attention to? Maybe I should be thanking for these each day or maybe discerning in these small details what the Lord might be saying to me now?
Friday, June 8, 2018
Our Lord has kept His Heart open for us. As Religious of the Sacred Heart, we are called to enter into His Heart and draw forth His love to give to others. We are also called to stay with Jesus in the solitude of His Heart. This Feast is one where we stop again to thank the Lord for His many graces to us. We are called to live in union and conformity with Jesus. It requires us to stay in touch, to know His preferences, to listen to His Spirit who helps us to discern what is pleasing to Jesus.
We are one body in this little Society and very united in love today. We include all our Associates and those who are still connected with us in so many ways. Happy Feast to all!
Thursday, June 7, 2018
Tomorrow is our great Feast of the Sacred Heart; we renew our vows during the Mass. In the early days of the Society, the eve of the Feast was always a fast day. I guess that lasted maybe even until the Church changed its fasting regulations.
To continue with the Pope's Exhortation on Holiness:
141. "Growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others. We see this in some holy communities. From time to time, the Church has canonized entire communities that lived the Gospel heroically or offered to God the lives of all their members....Living and working alongside others is surely a path of spiritual growth.
142. "Each community is called to create a God-entlightened space in which to experience the hidden presence of the risen Lord. Sharing the word and celebrating the Eucharist together fosters fraternity and makes us a holy and missionary community. It also gives rise to authentic and shared mystical experience.".....
143. "Such experiences, however, are neither the most frequent nor the most important. The common life, whether in the family, the parish, the religious community or any other, is made up of small everyday things."
That is encouraging as we have those "small everyday things" without looking for them.
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
In #140 of Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis states that "when we live apart for others, it is very difficult to fight against concupiscence, the snares and temptations of the devil and the selfishness of the world. Bombarded as we are by so many enticements, we can grow too isolated, lose our sense of reality and inner clarity, and easily succumb.
141. "Growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others...In many holy marriages too, each spouse becomes a means used by Christ for the sanctification of the other. Living or working alongside others is surely a path of spiritual growth. Saint John of the Cross told one of his followers: 'You are living with others in order to be fashioned and tried.'"
I find joy living in a community of 48 now, but I also enjoy the fact that I can have quite a bit of solitude both in my room and in the Chapel. There is a richness in a large community but even when we are working or sharing with only one or two, we have community.
We have finished our retreat and we did think about community during it as we have the call to be one body and we thought about the different families we belong to and how we see community. I thought that I often sit with the same people at lunch (our dinner for only a light supper in the evening); the five of us have formed a little community from praying and sharing together each day. We laugh a great deal, too. I guess I will be sharing tidbits from the retreat as we go along, but I do want to finish the rest of the Pope's Exhortation on Holiness as it is so important for all of us.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
#138. "We are inspired to act by the example of all those priests, religious, and laity who devote themselves to proclamation and to serving others with great fidelity, often at the risk of their lives and certainly at the cost of their comfort....the Church needs passionate missionaries, enthusiastic about sharing true life....
#139. Let us ask the Lord for the grace not to hesitate when the Spirit calls us to take a step forward. Let us ask for the apostolic courage to share the Gospel with others and to stop trying to make our Christian life a museum of memories. In every situation, may the Holy Spirit cause us to contemplate history in the light of the risen Jesus. In this way, the Church will not stand still, but constantly welcome the Lord's surprises."
This seems to go with our Call from the 2016 Chapter to "set sail" and seek new frontiers. One of the questions asked at the beginning of the retreat which is still with me is: "Where is my prayer frontier?" Someone shared this at table today:"If we take the word margin, remove the r, put an i at the beginning and an e at the end, we have "imagine" and the imagination has no limits. I liked this.
Monday, June 4, 2018
We continue to look at the fourth chapter of Gaudete et Exsultate and different aspects of holiness.
136. "True enough, we need to open the door of our hearts to Jesus, who stands and knocks (cf. Rev 3:20). Sometimes I wonder, though, if perhaps Jesus is already inside us and knocking on the door for us to let him escape from our stale self-centredness."
137. Complacency is seductive; it tells us that there is no point in trying to change things, that there is nothing we can do, because this is the way things have always been and yet we always manage to survive. By force of habit, we no longer stand up to evil. We "let things be:, or as others have decided they ought to be. Yet let us allow the Lord to rouse us from our torpor, to free us from our inertia. Let us rethink our usual way of doing things; let us open our eyes and ears, and above all our hearts, so as not to be complacent about things as they are, but unsetttled by the living and effective word of the risen Lord."
Be attentive to open the door to Jesus who waits for each of us!
His Heart is open for us.
Sunday, June 3, 2018
Today's feast is always special, even without the processions that take place in so many countries where the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance is carried through the streets.
Let us look at the beautiful liturgy for today:
The Collect: O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament have left us a memorial of your Passion, grant us, we pray, so to revere the sacred mysteries of Your Body and Blood that we may always experience in ourselves the fruits of your redemption.
This is one of the few feasts that has a Sequence, Lauda Sion, which may be sung before the Alleluia - the shorter form still has four verses but there are 24 verses. Here are some of my favorite: "Bring him all the praise you know,
He is more than you bestow,
Never can you reach his due.
Blood is poured and flesh is broken,
Yet in either wondrous token
Christ entire we know to be.
Very bread, good shepherd, tend us,
Jesu, of your love befriend us,
You refresh us, you defend us
Your eternal goodness send us
In the land of life to see.
The Gospel is Mark's account of the last supper when Jesus gave his apostles the gift of the Eucharist. What a gift this is for us to have Jesus really present in every Mass and in countless tabernacles.
The Communion Antiphon: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him, says the Lord.
Saturday, June 2, 2018
From Pope Francis' Exhortation on Holiness:
135. "God is eternal newness. He impels us constantly to set out anew, to pass beyond what is familiar, to the fringes and beyond. He takes us to where humanity is most wounded...God is not afraid! He is fearless! He is always greater than our plans and schemes....So if we dare to go to the fringes, we will find him there; indeed, he is already there....
Friday, June 1, 2018
#133. We need the Spirit's prompting, lest we be paralyzed by fear and excessive caution, lest we grow used to keeping within safe bounds. Let us remember that closed spaces grow musty and unhealthy.
#134. "Like the prophet Jonah, we are constantly tempted to flee to a safe haven. It can have many names: individualism, spiritualism, living in a little world, addiction, intransigence, the rejection of new ideas and approaches, dogmatism, nostalgia, pessimism, hiding behind rules and regulations. We can resist leaving behind a familar and easy way of doing things. Yet the challenges involved can be like the storm, the whale, , the worm that dried the gourd plant, or the wind and sun that burned Jonah's head. For us, as for him, they can serve to bring us back to the God of tenderness, who invites us to set out ever anew on our journey."
The call from our last General Chapter to set sail certainly fits the call the Pope is making to all of us.