All posts in “Lectio Divina”

Lectio Divina 8/19/2016

Friday, August 19 ~ Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint John Eudes, Priest; Founder, Congregation of Jesus and Mary

 

Holy Gospel: Matthew 22:34-40 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

 

Meditation: Let’s get back to something quite basic and foundational: What is the purpose of God’s laws and commands? The Pharisees prided themselves in the knowledge of the law of Moses and the ritual requirements of the law. They made it a life-time practice to study the 613 precepts of the Torah – the books of the Old Testament containing the Law of Moses. Jesus startled them with his profound simplicity and mastery of the law of God and its true purpose. Jesus summarized the whole of the law in two great commandments found in Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”, and Leviticus 19:18: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”. So what, then. does God require of us? Simply that we love as he loves! God is love and everything he does flows from his love for us. God loved us first and our love for him is a response to his exceeding grace and kindness towards us. The love of God comes first and the love of neighbor is firmly grounded in the love of God. The more we know of God’s love and truth the more we love what he loves and reject what is hateful and contrary to his will.

 

Prayer: O God, who wonderfully chose the Priest Saint John Eudes to proclaim the unfathomable riches of Christ, grant us, by his example and teachings, that, growing in knowledge of you, we may live faithfully by the light of the Gospel. 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. Amen.

 

Contemplation: Faith in God and hope in God’s promises strengthens us in the love of God. They are essential for a good relationship with God, and uniting ourselves with him. The more we know of God the more we love him and the more we love him the greater we believe and hope in his promises. The Lord Jesus, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, gives us a new freedom to love as he loves. So has anything entered your life that keeps you from the love of God and the joy of serving others with a generous heart? Saint Paul the Apostle wrote: “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

 

 

 

Scripture passages (NAB translation) courtesy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops;

prayers are from The Roman Missal, Catholic Book Publishing, 2011;

information about saints, solemnities, feasts and memorials courtesy of Catholic Culture.

frlumpe:2016

Lectio Divina 8/18/2016

Thursday, August 18 ~ Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

 

Holy Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and the elders of the people in parables saying, “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then the king said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

 

Meditation: One of the most beautiful images used in the scriptures to depict what heaven is like is the wedding celebration and royal feast given by the King for his newly-wed son and bride. Whatever grand feast we can imagine on earth, heaven is the feast of all feasts because the Lord of heaven and earth invites us to the most important banquet of all – not simply as bystanders or guests – but as members of Christ’s own body, his bride the church! The last book in the bible ends with an invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb – the Lord Jesus who offered his life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins and who now reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come!” (Revelations 22:17).  The Lord Jesus invites us to be united with himself in his heavenly kingdom of peace and righteousness.

 

Prayer: O God, who have prepared for those who love you good things which no eye can see, fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love, so that, loving you in all things and above all things, we may attain your promises, which surpass every human desire. 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. Amen.

 

Contemplation: The quote in today’s Gospel – “Many are invited, but few are chosen” – should be a simple reminder to each of us.  You and I and everyone is invited, but what are we doing individually and collectively to earn our seat at the banquet table?  What are each of us doing in this earthly life to follow Christ lovingly and zealously so that we can be seated at the eternal banquet?  Let’s not refuse this invitation.  No, let’s work unceasingly so that we may be worthy to enter into the eternal feast!

Lectio Divina 8/17/2016

Wednesday, August 17 ~ Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

 

Holy Gospel: Matthew 20:1-6 Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

 

Meditation: What do work, wages, welfare, and the unemployed tell us about the kingdom of God? In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard we see the extraordinary generosity and compassion of God. There is great tragedy in unemployment. In Jesus’ times hired laborers had to wait each day in the marketplace until someone hired them for a day’s job. No work that day usually meant no food on the family table. The laborers who worked all day and received their payment complain that the master pays the late afternoon laborers the same wage. The master, undoubtedly, hired them in the late afternoon so they wouldn’t go home payless and hungry. God is generous in opening the doors of his kingdom to all who will enter, both those who have labored a life-time for him and those who come at the last hour.

 

Prayer: O God, who have prepared for those who love you good things which no eye can see, fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love, so that, loving you in all things and above all things, we may attain your promises, which surpass every human desire. 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. Amen.

 

Contemplation: While the reward is the same, the motive for one’s labor can make all the difference. Some work only for reward. They will only put as much effort in as they think they will get out. Others labor out of love and joy for the opportunity to work. The Lord calls his disciples to serve God and neighbor with generosity and joy. Do you perform your work and duties with cheerfulness for the Lord’s sake?  And do you give generously to others, especially to those in need?

Lectio Divina 8/16/2016

Tuesday, August 16 ~ Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Stephen of Hungary

 

Holy Gospel: Matthew 19:23-30 Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Then Peter said to him in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

 

Meditation: Was Jesus really against wealth? And why does he issue such a strong warning to the rich (as well as to the rest of us who desire to be rich)? We know that Jesus was not opposed to wealth per se, nor was he opposed to the wealthy. He had many friends who were well-to-do, including one notorious tax collector who became an apostle. Jesus’ warning reiterated the wisdom of the Old Testament: “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is perverse in his ways” (Proverbs 28:6; see also Psalm 37:16). “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist” (Proverbs 23:4). Jesus seems to say that it is nearly impossible for the rich to live as citizens of God’s kingdom. The camel was regarded as the largest animal in Palestine. The “eye of the needle” could be interpreted quite literally or it could figuratively describe the narrow and low gate of the city walls which was used by travelers when the larger public gate was locked after dark. A normal sized man had to physically “lower” himself to enter that gate. A camel would literally have to kneel and crawl through it.

 

Prayer: Grant your Church, we pray, almighty God, that she may have Saint Stephen of Hungary, who fostered her growth while a king on earth, as her glorious defender in heaven. 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. Amen.

 

Contemplation: Wealth can make us falsely independent. The church at Laodicea was warned about their attitude towards wealth and a false sense of security: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing” (Revelations 3:17). Wealth can also lead us into hurtful desires and selfishness (see 1 Timothy 6:9-10). Look at the lesson Jesus gave about the rich man and his sons who refused to aid the poor man Lazarus (see Luke 16:19ff). They also neglected to serve God. The scriptures give us a paradox: we lose what we keep and we gain what we give away. Generosity will be amply repaid, both in this life and in eternity (Proverbs 3:9-10, Luke 6:38). Jesus offers us an incomparable treasure which no money can buy and no thief can steal. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. Material wealth will shackle us to this earth unless we guard our hearts and set our treasure in God and his everlasting kingdom. Where is your treasure?

 

About Saint Stephen: St. Stephen was the first Christian king of Hungary. He was born in 975 at Gran, the son of Prince Geisa, and was baptized in 985 by St. Adalbert. While courting Gisela, the sister of Emperor St. Henry II, he was promised her hand in marriage provided that he remain firm in the Christian faith and lead the pagan Hungarians to Christianity. He kept his word though it cost him dearly. From the hands of Pope Sylvester II (999-1003) he received the royal crown and was solemnly enthroned at Gran on the feast of Mary’s Assumption, 1001. Stephen was one of the wisest princes of his time. His royal generosity is shown in the establishment of the archbishopric of Gran and ten Hungarian bishoprics, and in his love toward the poor. Because he visited them in their houses and washed their feet, his right hand has remained incorrupt. Great was his zeal in prayer and meditation. From his marriage came a saintly son, the devout Emeric, an angel of purity, who died seven years before his father. By prayer and fasting Stephen sought the conversion of all Hungary; rightfully is he called the apostle of his nation. He chose the Mother of God as the patroness of Hungary.

 

Lectio Divina 8/15/2016

“The Christian life is a continuation and completion of the life of Christ in us. We should be so many Christs here on earth, continuing His life and His works, laboring and suffering in a holy and divine manner in the spirit of Jesus.” ~Saint John Eudes

 

Monday, August 15 ~ Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 

Because this Solemnity falls on a Monday it is not a Holy Day of Obligation this year

 

Holy Gospel: Luke 1:39-56 Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

 

Meditation: What enabled Mary to grow in faith and to persevere in hope in the face of obstacles and trials? The Gospel of Luke reveals the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s life. When Elizabeth and Mary greeted one another they were filled with the Holy Spirit and with a joyful anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promise to give a Savior. John the Baptist, even before the birth of the Messiah, pointed to his coming and leapt for joy in the womb of his mother as the Holy Spirit revealed to him the presence of the King to be born. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us to enable us to know and experience the indwelling presence of God and the power of his kingdom. The Holy Spirit is the way in which God reigns within each of us. Mary accepted her mission with uncompromising faith and obedience. She acted with unwavering trust and faith because she believed that God would fulfill the word he had spoken. Her great hymn of praise echoes the song of Hannah (see 1 Samuel 2:1-10) and proclaims the favor of the Lord: God exalts the lowly and he fills the hungry. The Holy Spirit is ever ready to renew your faith and hope in God’s promises and to make you strong in love for God and your neighbor. Do you live in the joy and confidence of God’s indwelling presence with you through his Holy Spirit?

 

Prayer: Almighty ever-living God, who assumed the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of your Son, body and soul into heavenly glory, grant we pray, that, always attentive to the things that are above, we may merit to be sharers of her glory. 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. Amen.

 

Contemplation: How strong is your hope in the promises of God? Mary is a model of faith and hope for us. And she is among “the first-fruits” of “all those who belong to Jesus” and who share in his triumph (1 Corinthians 15:20-24). There is a venerable tradition dating back to the early church which marks Mary’s “falling asleep” (the “Feast of Dormition” in many Eastern churches) and her heavenly birthday when she was received into heaven. Her reception into heaven is seen as a sign to all believing Christians of the promise Jesus made that we too would be received into paradise. At the last supper Jesus told his disciples that he would prepare a place for them in his Father’s house. “And when I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).

Lectio Divina 8/12/2016

Friday, August 12 ~ Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Jane Frances de Chantall, Religious;

Foundress, Order of the Visitation of Mary

 

Holy Gospel: Matthew 19:3-12 Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”  They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

 

Meditation: What is God’s intention for our state in life, whether married or single?  Jesus deals with the issue of divorce by taking his hearers back to the beginning of creation and to God’s plan for the human race.  In Genesis 2:23-24 we see God’s intention and ideal that two people who marry should become so indissolubly one that they are one flesh.  That ideal is found in the unbreakable union of Adam and Eve.  They were created for each other and for no one else.  They are the pattern and symbol for all who were to come.  Jesus explains that Moses permitted divorce as a concession in view of a lost ideal.  Jesus sets the high ideal of the married state before those who are willing to accept his commands.  Jesus, likewise sets the high ideal for those who freely renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

 

Prayer: O God, who made Saint Jane Frances de Chantal radiant with outstanding merits in different walks of life, grant us, through her intercession, that walking faithfully in our vocation, we may constantly be examples of shining light. 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. Amen.

 

Contemplation: Both marriage and celibacy are calls from God to live a consecrated life – that is to live as married couples (marriage between one man and one woman) or as singles who belong not to themselves but to God.  Despite what we may think, our lives are not our own; they belong to God.  He gives the grace and power to those who seek to follow in his way of holiness in their state of life.  Do you seek Christ and his grace for your state of life?

 

About Saint Jane Frances de Chantal: Jane Frances Fremiot de Chantal was the foundress of the Order of the Visitation of Mary. She was born in 1572 and came from a noble family, her father gave her in marriage to the Baron von Chantal in 1592. As mother she most zealously instructed the children in the ways of virtue and piety and in the observance of every divine precept. With great generosity she supported the poor and took special joy in seeing how divine Providence often blesses and increases the smallest larder. Therefore she made a vow never to refuse anyone who asked for alms in the Name of Christ. The death of her husband, who was accidentally shot while on the chase (1601), she bore with Christ-like composure and with all her heart forgave the person who had killed him; then she acted as sponsor for one of his children in order to show her forgiveness openly. There was a holy friendship between her and her spiritual guide, Francis de Sales; with his approval she left her father and children and founded the Visitation nuns. Thus, too, it should be with us—firm yet forgiving, and each at the proper place and in the proper measure. Our zeal must not make us hard, fanatic; neither may love degenerate into sentimentalism. In fundamentals, in faith, and in the commandments we must be firm, immovable, with no trace of tolerance; but in our contacts with men, patient, forgiving, tender, conciliatory. The Christian ought be firm and resolute as a father, mild and self-sacrificing as a mother. This tension between complementary virtues we find exemplified in a heroic degree in St. Jane Frances de Chantal.

 

 

 

Scripture passages (NAB translation) courtesy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops;

prayers are from The Roman Missal, Catholic Book Publishing, 2011;

information about saints, solemnities, feasts and memorials courtesy of Catholic Culture.

frlumpe:2016

 

Lectio Divina 8/11/2016

Thursday, August 11 ~ Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Clare, Virgin

 

Holy Gospel: Matthew 18:21-19:1 Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.

 

Meditation: When Peter posed the question of forgiveness, he characteristically offered an answer he thought Jesus would be pleased with.  Why not forgive seven times!  Jesus made it clear that there is no reckonable limit to forgiveness. And he drove the lesson home with a parable about two very different kinds of debts. The man who was forgiven such an incredible debt could not, however bring himself to forgive his neighbor a very small debt which was about one-hundred-thousandth of his own debt.  This contrast could not have been greater.  No offense our neighbor can do to us can compare with the debt we owe to God! We have been forgiven a debt which is beyond all paying; to ransom our debt of sin God gave up his only begotten Son. If God has forgiven each of us our debt – which is very great – we, too, must forgive others the debt they owe us.

 

Prayer: O God, who in your mercy led Saint Clare to a love of poverty, grant, through her intercession, that, following Christ in poverty of spirit, we may merit to contemplate you one day in the heavenly Kingdom. 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. Amen.

 

Contemplation: Jesus teaches that one must forgive in order to be forgiven. If we do not forgive our fellow human being we cannot expect God to forgive us. C.S. Lewis once wrote: “Mercy will flower only when it grows in the crannies of the rock of Justice: transplanted to the marshlands of mere Humanitarianism, it becomes a man-eating weed, all the more dangerous because it is still called by the same name as the mountain variety.”  Thus if we desire mercy to be shown to us, we ourselves must be ready to forgive others as God has forgiven us. Do you hold any grudge or resentment towards anyone? If so, there is no time like the present to forgive, forget, and move on with life.

Lectio Divina 8/10/2016

Wednesday, August 10 ~ Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

 

Holy Gospel: John 12:24-26 Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.”

 

Meditation: The image of the grain of wheat dying in the earth in order to grow and bear a harvest can be seen as a metaphor of Jesus’ own death and burial in the tomb and his resurrection.  Jesus knew that the only way to victory over the power of sin and death was through the cross.  Jesus reversed the curse of our first parents’ disobedience through his obedience to the Father’s will — his willingness to go to the cross to pay the just penalty for our sins and to defeat death once and for all.  His obedience and death on the cross obtain for us freedom and new life in the Holy Spirit.  His cross frees us from the tyranny of sin and death and shows us the way of perfect love.  There is a great paradox here – death leads to life; when we “die” to ourselves we “rise” to new life in Jesus Christ.

 

Prayer: O God, giver of that ardor of love for you by which Saint Lawrence was outstandingly faithful in service and glorious in martyrdom, grant that we may love what he loved and put into practice what he taught. 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. Amen.

 

Contemplation: Have you ever asked what it means to “die” to oneself?  It certainly means that what is contrary to God’s commands, God’s will and the teachings of Christ must be “crucified” or “put to death.”  God gives us grace to say “yes” to his will and to reject whatever is contrary to his loving plan for our lives.  Jesus also promises that we will bear much “fruit” for him, if we choose to deny ourselves for his sake.  Jesus used forceful language to describe the kind of self-denial he had in mind for his disciples.  What did he mean when he said that one must hate himself?  The expression to “hate” something often meant to prefer less.  Jesus says that nothing should get in the way of our preferring him and the will of our Father in heaven.  Do you hope in the Lord and follow joyfully the path that he has chosen for you?  Or when challenged by Christ, do you push back?  Learn now how to die to one’s self.

Lectio Divina 8/9/2016

Tuesday, August 9 ~ Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Virgin and Martyr

 

Holy Gospel: Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14 The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father. What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”

 

Meditation: Do you find yourself somewhat surprised to see the disciples discussing with Jesus who is the greatest? Have each of us not done the same thing at some point in our lives? The appetite for glory and greatness seems to be inbred in us on one level or another. Even the Psalms speak about the glory God has destined for us: “you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor.”  (ref. Psalm 8:6). Jesus made a dramatic gesture by placing a child next to himself to show his disciples who really is the greatest in the kingdom of God. What can a little child possibly teach us about greatness? Children in the ancient world had no rights, position, or privileges of their own. They were socially at the “bottom of the rung” and at the service of their parents, much like the household staff and domestic servants. What is the significance of Jesus’ gesture? Jesus elevated a little child in the presence of his disciples by placing the child in a privileged position of honor at his right side.

 

Prayer: God of our Fathers, who brought the Martyr Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross to know your crucified Son and to imitate him even until death, grant, through her intercession, that the whole human race may acknowledge Christ as its Savior and through him come to behold you for eternity. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Contemplation: So, then, who is the greatest in God’s kingdom? The one who is humble of heart, who instead of asserting their rights willingly, empties themselves of pride and self-seeking glory by taking the lowly position of a servant or child – and they do so by imitating Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity. Remember the words of Saint Benedict: “The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all.”

 

About Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross: Born Edith Stein of Jewish parents, Saint Teresa Benedicta was a brilliant philosopher who stopped believing in God when she was fourteen.  She was so captivated by reading the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila that she began a spiritual journey that led to her Baptism in 1922. Twelve years later she imitated Teresa by becoming a Carmelite, taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Born into a prominent Jewish family in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland), Edith abandoned Judaism in her teens. As a student at the University of Gottingen, she became fascinated by phenomenology, an approach to philosophy, and earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1916. After living in the Cologne Carmel (1934-1938), she moved to the Carmelite monastery in Echt, Netherlands. The Nazis occupied that country in 1940. In retaliation for being denounced by the Dutch bishops, the Nazis arrested all Dutch Jews who had become Christians. Teresa Benedicta and her sister Rosa, also a Catholic, died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.

Lectio Divina 8/8/2016

“A person who governs his passions is the master of the world. We must either rule them, or be ruled by them. It is better to be the hammer than the anvil. “

–Saint Dominic

 

Monday, August 8 ~ Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Dominic, Priest; Founder, Order of Preachers (Dominicans)

 

Holy Gospel: Matthew 17:22-27 As Jesus and his disciples were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were overwhelmed with grief. When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Does not your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes,” he said. When he came into the house, before he had time to speak, Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax? From their subjects or from foreigners?” When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him, “Then the subjects are exempt. But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you.”

 

Meditation: On three different occasions the Gospels record that Jesus’ prediction that he would endure great suffering through betrayal, rejection, and the punishment of a cruel death. The Jews resorted to stoning and the Romans to crucifixion – the most painful and humiliating death they could devise for criminals they wanted to eliminate. No wonder the apostles were greatly distressed at such a prediction! If Jesus their Master were put to death, then they would likely receive the same treatment by their enemies. Jesus called himself the “Son of Man” because this was a common Jewish title for the “Messiah.” So why must the Messiah be rejected and killed? Did not God promise that his Anointed One would deliver his people from their oppression and establish a kingdom of peace and justice? The prophet Isaiah had foretold that it was God’s will that the “Suffering Servant” make atonement for sins through his suffering and death. Jesus paid the price for our redemption with his blood. Slavery to sin is to want the wrong things (those include anything against the ten commandments, and anything contrary to the truths of sacred scripture) and to be in bondage to destructive desires. The ransom Jesus paid sets us free from the worst tyranny possible – the tyranny of sin and the fear of death. Jesus’ victory did not end with death but triumphed over the tomb. Jesus defeated the powers of death through his resurrection.

 

Prayer: May Saint Dominic come to the help of your Church by his merits and teaching, O Lord, and may he, who was an outstanding preacher of your truth, be a devoted intercessor on our behalf. 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. Amen.

 

Contemplation: No one is overly fond of paying taxes, especially when one thinks they might be unreasonable or unjust. And yet taxes provide much in the way of necessary civil services. Jesus and his disciples were confronted by tax collectors on the issue of tax evasion. When questioned about paying the temple tax, Jesus replied to his disciples: We must pay so as not to cause bad example. In fact, we must go beyond our duty in order that we may show others what they ought to do. The scriptural expression to “give no offense” doesn’t refer to insult or annoyance; rather it means to put no stumbling block in the way of another that would cause them to trip or fall. Jesus would not allow himself anything which might possibly be a bad example to someone else. Do you evade unpleasant responsibilities or obligations?