Feast of the Holy Family (December 31, 2017)

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. We tend to forget that the First Family of the Christian Church had their trials too, as St. Francis de Sales notes:

We are often upset because things don’t succeed the way we want them to. What we desire was not found even in the family of our Lord. Think of the difficulties and changes, joys and sorrow found in the Holy Family. Mary received news that she would conceive of the Holy Spirit a Son, our Lord and Savior. What joy this was for her! Shortly afterward Joseph, seeing that she was with child and knowing that it was not by him, was plunged into distress! Mary was in grief, seeing her dear Joseph was about to leave her. When this storm passed, they experienced great joy. There was also joy in their hearts when the shepherds and Magi came.

However, a little later, the angel of the Lord said to Joseph in a dream, “Take the child and His mother and flee into Egypt.” Without doubt Mary and Joseph were troubled by this command. But was Joseph’s response: “Why do I have to go at night? Couldn’t this journey wait till the morning? I have neither horse nor money.” If we had been in Joseph’s place, would we not have made a thousand excuses? Whereas he promptly did all that the angel commanded. The peace and serenity of mind of Mary and Joseph shows their constant openness to do God’s will amid all the unexpected events that befell them.

We too, when we meet similar problems in our lives, must repeat over and over again to ourselves, so as the better to impress the truth on our minds, that no disturbance of events must ever carry away our hearts and minds into unevenness of temper. Like the Holy Family, God will guide us on our way no matter how difficult it may be.

(Adapted from St. Francis de Sales, Serenity of Heart: Bearing the Troubles of This Life, Sophia Press)

Vigil of Christmas (December 24, 2017)

This evening is the vigil of Christmas and we ponder on the mystery of the birth of Jesus, Our Lord and Savior. St. Francis de Sales offer us some thoughts on the nativity:

If someone intends to build a house or a palace, he must first consider for whom the dwelling is intended. He will obviously use different plans depending upon the social status of the person. So it was with the Divine Builder. God built the world for the Incarnation of the Son. Divine wisdom foresaw from all eternity that the Word would assume our nature in coming to earth. To accomplish this task, God chose a woman, the most holy Virgin Mary, who brought forth Our Savior.

In the Incarnation, God made us see what the human mind could hardly have imagined or understood. So great was God’s love for humanity that in becoming human, God desired to fill us with divinity. God wished to crown us with divine goodness and dignity. God wanted us to be children of God, for we are formed in God’s image.

Our Savior came into this world to teach us what we need to do to preserve in ourselves this divine resemblance of God. Oh, how earnestly we ought to summon up our courage to live according to what we are. Our Savior came so that we may have life to the fullest. He was wholly filled with mercy and kindness for the human family.

Often when the most hardened souls have reached the point of living as if there were no God, Our Savior allows them to find His Heart full of pity and kind mercy toward them. All, who know this, experience some feeling of gratitude for it. Let us let go of all that is not of God in our house. When we open our hearts to God’s love, we bring to birth the Christ Child in our hearts so as to establish God’s kingdom on earth.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 24, 2017)

In today’s Gospel we experience Mary’s openness to God’s will for her. St. Francis has many thoughts on being open to God’s love, which is God’s will in our life:

Mary’s greatest gift was her absolute openness to God’s love. God speaks to us through inspirations and the inner stirrings of our heart. We must be open to willingly accept the inspirations it may please God to send us. By inspirations we mean all those interior desires, acts of regret, thoughts and affections God places in our hearts to awaken and attract us to authentic virtues, holy love, and good resolutions. In short everything that sends us on our way to our everlasting welfare. Any thought that causes us anxiety and fear must be let go, as they do not come from God who is Prince of Peace.

When a good inspiration comes, receive it as an ambassador sent by a leader of a nation. Approach it simply and gently. Listen calmly to God’s proposal. Think of the love it inspires in you, and cherish it. Nurture your good desire and keep it alive by sleeping in the arms of God’s providence. That is, give your inspiration complete, loving and permanent consent by peacefully accepting it, and trusting that God will give you the love you need to fulfill it. In this way, God will be pleased with your good will. Sometimes when God asks us to do some good work, all God really wants is our willingness to do the work, and not the accomplishment. While Jesus established the Kingdom on earth, He left work for His Apostles and future generations to help Him bring it to completion.

However, before you consent to and act on inspirations that are important or unusual, always consult your spiritual adviser to affirm whether they are true or false. Once the consent is given, you must hasten to put the inspiration into practice. The fruit of our practice is true virtue that keeps us continually open, like Mary, to God’s infinite love.

(Francis de Sales, Introduction…; Power & Wright, Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal)

Third Sunday of Advent (December 17, 2017)

Today’s Gospel speaks of John the Baptist. St. Francis de Sales unfolds aspects of John’s character that we could all start to develop in our hearts during Advent:

John the Baptist dwelt in the desert like a rock, immovable in the midst of all the waves and tempests of tribulation. We, on the other hand, change according to time and season. When the weather is fine, nothing can equal our joy. But when adversity storms in on us, we become disheartened. We sometimes get upset even for the littlest thing that is contrary to our liking. As a result, our peace of soul cannot be restored until long after we have had to use many “healing ointments.” In short, we are spiritually fickle, not knowing what we want. One minute we are light-hearted. The next minute we are harsh and bitter. We are reeds, tossed about in every direction by every mood and humor.

John the Baptist tells us that we need to even out these ways for Our Savior’s coming, our path to wholeness. All the saints to a degree did this but none perfectly. In each of them something marred the perfection of their equanimity of spirit. This was true even for John the Baptist. Yet, we must become disciples of John the Baptist. We must look into our actions, reforming those that are not of good intentions and perfecting those that are. Our goal is to act with only one intention: conforming ourselves to the true image of God in us. For the reason why Jesus came, was to show us our true self in God.

We must remember God’s grace is never lacking, and if we are faithful in cooperating with the first grace God gives us, we will receive many more. For this reason in Holy Scripture, God recommends us to be faithful in following our good impulses, insights and inspirations. When we do this the greatness of God’s infinite mercy will surely shine through.

(Adapted from L. Fiorelli, ed., Sermons of St. Francis de Sales, V.4)

Second Sunday of Advent (December 10, 2017)

In today’s Gospel we experience “A voice in the desert” crying out to us to make straight God’s paths. St. Francis de Sales tells us how to do this:

Roads that twist and turn only weary and mislead travelers. To make straight God’s path in our hearts, we must have as our only goal to please God. We ought to be like the mariner who, in steering his vessel, always keeps his eye on the needle of the compass. We too must have our eyes fixed on acquiring an even disposition, the most pleasing virtue in the spiritual life. We need to consistently lead our feelings, emotions and inclinations to God’s love, which transforms them so that we possess an even disposition.

When our heart struggles constantly between our love of God and our self-centered love, we find ourselves in a state of fear, anxiety and confusion. The sight of our great faults can bring with it a certain unhealthy fear that unnerves the heart and often leads to discouragement. For this reason, throughout our whole life we must exercise ourselves in trusting God, and confiding ourselves to the goodness of God, who loves us.

Yet, a holy fear leads us to take proper means to avoid trouble. Holy fear and hope ought never to be without one another. Hope encourages us to expect holy enjoyment in God’s supreme goodness. God uses both of these virtues to work spiritual cures in us.

Our life contains many tortuous paths that can be put right only by a change of heart. When we orient our heart towards God’s love, we experience true self-love. When divine love reigns in our hearts, it tames all other loves. Divine love subjects all our natural emotions and affections to God’s plan and service. All one’s movements are at rest in this holy love. Those who have an abundance of sacred love have hearts full of confidence and hope, for they are on the straight path to wholeness in God. (Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially Sermons, L. Fiorelli, Ed.).

(Adapted from the writing of St. Francis de Sales, especially, Sermons, L. Fiorelli, Ed.)

First Sunday of Advent (December 3, 2017)

Today is the First Sunday of Advent. The readings remind us to be aware of our need for Christ who strengthens us until the end. St. Francis de Sales constantly stress the importance of living Jesus so that we may become fully human. But to live Jesus calls for the spirit of liberty. In a letter to Jane de Chantal he writes:

It is clear what God’s will is regarding the commandments and the duties of our vocation. However, there are many other things I am not obliged to do either by the general commandments of God or by the duties of my own vocation. With these it is necessary to consider carefully in liberty of spirit what would tend to the greatest glory of God. I said “liberty of spirit” because this needs to be done without pressure or anxiety. If it is not a matter of great importance, then we should not invest a great concern in it, but after a little thought decide. And if later the action or decision doesn’t seem good, I must in no way blame or bother myself about it, but rather trust in God and laugh at myself.

Do all through love, nothing through constraint. Love obedience more than you fear disobedience. I want you to have a liberty of spirit that excludes constraints, scruples and anxiety, not the kind that excludes obedience (this is freedom of the flesh). If you really love obedience and docility, I’d like to think that when some legitimate or charitable cause takes you away from your religious exercises, this would be for you another form of obedience. And your love would make up for whatever you have to omit in your religious practice. In all things a holy liberty and freedom must reign and we must have no other law or coercion than that of love. Whether love invites us to make something for the poor or for the rich, it does all things well and is equally pleasing to our Lord.

(Joseph Power, OSFS & Wendy M. Wright, Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal)

Christ the King (November 26, 2017)

Celebrating Christ as King, while popular in the Church, only became part of the liturgical calendar in 1925. St. Francis de Sales speaks of Jesus as King:

Jesus as a king was called to be our Savior. He desired that others should share in the glory of being leaders, especially his blessed Mother. Our Blessed Lady asks us to have her Son as King of our hearts so that He might reign in us. His commandments are good and very useful because they give goodness to those who otherwise would lack it, and increase goodness in those who would be good even if not commanded to be so.

Thus, Jesus made God’s goodness abound more than evilness. Jesus’ reign is truly salutary when it touches our miseries and makes them worthy of divine love. When the Holy Spirit pours divine love into our hearts, we are restored to health and empowered to share in our Savior’s work: to bring God’s love and care to those in our midst.

Since our Lord repaired us all equally, and wants all to share in spreading His Kingdom, we too must love in our neighbor what truly represents to us the sacred Person of our Master. We are not to love in our neighbor what is contrary to this sacred image. Let us walk then as Jesus Christ walked. He gave His life not only to heal the sick, to work miracles and to teach us what we ought to do to be divinely human. He also taught us how to give our life, as He lovingly did, for those who would take it from us.

How happy we are when we choose Jesus as our leader, who gives us unparalleled peace and calm if we follow Him. May we remain faithful to our King’s desires, so we might begin in this life what, with the help of God’s love, we shall do eternally in Heaven: Live in glory with Jesus, who in overcoming evil with good, is the true King.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially, Sermons, L. Fiorelli, Ed.).

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 19, 2017)

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that it is just as important and useful to serve Him faithfully with one talent or many. Here are some Salesian thoughts on using our talents:

What went wrong with the servant who buried his one talent? He wasted much time examining his ability to do his Master’s work. Focusing on his own lack of talents became an obstacle to faithfully perform the task asked of him. He was clinging to a false sense of security. He feared taking the risk that a spiritual journey demands.

In orienting our talents to serve God, we need to be patient with everyone, but first of all with ourselves. Like most of the saints, it will take us years to free ourselves of our selfish desires, including our desire for false security. Gradually though, we discard our disordered affections, and open ourselves to what God desires for us. We are then free to perform our everyday activities with the confidence that we are doing God’s will. Our true security and happiness is in God—who provides us with all that is necessary to establish the reign of God in the midst of our daily tasks.

Jesus tells us that those with one talent are just as useful and important as those with many talents in doing God’s work. The bees give us a good example. Some gather honey, some watch over the hive and others keep it clean. But they all eat the same honey. We too, the strong and the weak, work together in Christ. Faithful servants do all they know to be pleasing to God, who fills their emptiness. They reveal their divine potential for union with God through their everyday tasks. They recognize that God reigns in the midst of their daily activities. Happy are they who use their talents to establish God’s love in their midst. God will never let them be unfruitful! Even if they do only a little for God, God will shower abundant blessings on them in this life and in the next.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 12, 2017)

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that those who experience the kingdom of heaven are wise and prudent. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Good Christians who live in a worldly culture must be prudent to improve their situation. They have to give great care to the needs of their families. By acting otherwise, they would be failing in their responsibilities. Yet, good Christians also trust in God’s wisdom more than in their own proficiency. They work faithfully, but let God take concern for their work. The things they do are insignificant when they consider only the dignity their work has in being willed by God’s will, arranged by Providence, and planned according to His wisdom. God’s wisdom is God’s love for us.

Now the problem with our human spirit is that it never follows the middle course, but usually runs to extremes. We can be too concerned about our personal welfare or not concerned enough. In always trying to follow a straight path it is only natural that at times we tilt to one extreme or the other. We can recover our balance by choosing God’s wisdom and prudence, for they unite us to God’s love by rejecting what is harmful to us.

Let us not let our worldly desires get in the way of God’s loving wisdom. To the extent that we reorder our lives through prayer and virtuous living, we find God’s love empowering us to balance our actions so that they are effective in living wisely. We must be like little children who with one hand hold fast to their father while with the other they gather blackberries from the hedges. So too if you handle the goods of this world with one hand, you must always hold fast with the other to the hand of your heavenly Father, whose loving wisdom gives us an abundance of means to enter the kingdom of heaven.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (November 9, 2017)

Today we give special attention to the Lateran Basilica in Rome. This basilica is the official seat of the Holy Father as Bishop of Rome. The Roman emperor Constantine (274-337 AD), who converted to Christianity, built this church. To show our unity with Rome, we have celebrated the dedication of the Lateran Basilica since the 12th century.

Today’s readings stress how a church building must be dedicated to serving God. St. Francis de Sales notes:

While God is everywhere and in all time, why would God, at certain times, not want to have certain consecrated places, where Our Savior can be honored? It is the place where the Body of Christ is reserved. We are indeed able to say, “Truly the Lord is here.”

As the people of God, we are ‘living stones’ that make up the Church and become ‘God’s building’. We are temples of God, and the Spirit of God lives in us. Our good works are highly valued because they come from the Holy Spirit. Through divine love, the Spirit does these works in us, for us, and with us. We co-work with the Spirit. The works of good Christians are of such great worth that heaven is given in return for them.

Let us unceasingly work to prepare the Church on earth for its heavenly glory. The fervor of our sacred love for one another is the bond that unites us in the ‘House of God’. All that is not of God weakens the human spirit, and stands in the way of dedicating our hearts to God with the holiness of our lives. The Church is a house strewn with flowers of martyrs and holy people, invincible in their constancy and love.

Like these Christians who came before us, let us dedicate our hearts to serving God. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to flood our hearts with divine love, so that the Spirit may work in and through us, and make us ‘living stones’ of God’s work on earth.

(Adapted from Salesian writings, especially St. Francis de Sales, Oeuvre: Sermons.)

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 5, 2017)

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that we must be good and faithful servants who care for God’s law and people. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Our Lord desires only that we be totally open to God's will for us. When we embrace God’s will we consecrate our hearts to God’s love. We desire to serve God faithfully in both great and small tasks. Flies bother us not because of their strength, but because of their numbers. So it is that many trifling tasks give us more trouble than important ones. While we must be attentive to the tasks God has committed to our care, we must not be worried about them. Worry hinders our ability to reason and clouds our good judgment. So, without hurry, try to calmly do your tasks in order one after the other. Order carefully what is at hand today with a calm mind. Tomorrow you will order something else.

Anxiety is a desire to escape a present evil or acquire a hoped for good. When we do not succeed in the way we want, we grow anxious and impatient. Nothing impedes our progress in holy love more than anxiety. That is why we must take great care to have our heart pliant and open to God’s love. When we allow divine love to govern our tasks, we have no less love than when we pray. Our work and our rest joyously praise and serve God. Then our daily tasks gild as it were a work of holiness. For a single cup of water, our Savior has promised a sea of perfect bliss to his faithful.

We are open to God’s will when we perform with love our little daily acts of charity and accept all the little trials throughout the day. Such opportunities present themselves from moment to moment. To do little actions with a great purity of intention to please God is to do them excellently. Then our daily tasks increase divine love, for we live Jesus who teaches us how to be good and faithful servants of God.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales).

All Souls (November 2, 2017)

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Souls. In today’s Gospel, we experience Jesus revealing that we are made for eternal life. St. Francis de Sales notes:

From the heights of heaven, Jesus Christ mercifully looks down upon you and graciously invites you there. He says, “Come, dear soul, and find everlasting rest in my bountiful arms. I have prepared undying delight for you in the abundance of my love.”

Consider the nobility and excellence of your soul. Our soul is spiritual and immortal. It resides in the whole body. It understands; it wills freely. It is capable of knowing, of reasoning, of judging, and of having virtue. In all this it resembles God, who placed you in this world to give you grace and glory. You ask, “How shall my soul, from now on, be wholly subject to God who has effected so many wonders and graces in me?”

As bees remain only among living flowers, so also our hearts find rest solely in God. God does not will that our heart find a place of rest. Just like the dove that went out from Noah’s ark only to return to him, so we must return to God, who has ordered us to acquire holy virtues. True virtue goes ever forward to God. Yet, we ought not be troubled at finding ourselves always beginners in the exercise of virtue. The greatest boon for our souls is that in this fleeting life, they can still grow without limit in their love of God.

Let us do everything to acquire holy virtues, but if we find our progress in holiness wanting, let us remain in peace, and diligently strive to do better in the future. It is for us to cultivate our souls well, and we must faithfully attend to them. But as for plentiful crops, that is for God to give. Go forward then to eternity. Put away anything that leads you astray or delays you on the journey. Remind your soul that it is worthy of eternity. Fill your soul with courage, and thank God who made you for so exalted an end.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially the Introduction to the Devout Life.)

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 29, 2017)

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us to love God and neighbor. These two commandments are the foundation of Christian Spirituality and permeate the writings of St. Francis de Sales:

To show us more vividly how ardent God’s desire is for our love, God demands that love from us in wonderful terms: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all of your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” We often think that God is so great and we are so little that we are incapable of loving God. So as not to be discouraged and turn away from God’s love, we are told that we are highly capable of loving God with all our strength, even after sin.

To love God above all else means we need to place God above all our idols, for our heart runs after many material things and spiritual consolations. As soon as we have obtained them, it seems that we have to do it all over again. Nothing can ever satisfy our heart. God wills that our heart not find a place of permanent rest in our idols. Then our heart is free to return to God from whom it comes. Bees can only rest upon flowers in bloom. So it is with our heart. Our heart finds rest solely in God’s love. Why then do we detain our heart’s desire for God’s love, and pursue other loves?

The Commandment to love God is higher than the Commandment to love the neighbor. But our nature offers greater resistance to the love of neighbor. Yet, when we trust in our Savior’s love, we can be more courageous in loving the image of God that is frequently veiled from us in our neighbor. We come to recognize the resemblance of the Creator in each other. For, the pure love of God is to love what is of God in all creatures. Let us then imitate Jesus, who taught us more through His works than His words, how to love our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as we do our own self.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially Treatise on the Love of God).

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 22, 2017)

Today’s Gospel tells us to give to God what belongs to God and to give to the state what belongs to the state. St. Francis de Sales notes that in order to enjoy a just state we must obey those to whom God gives authority to govern. Yet he stresses more “what belongs to God” in light of “obedience of love”:

We have a natural desire to love God that tells us we belong to God. We are like deer marked with the initials of their owner who lets them free to roam in the forest. Yet, all know to whom the deer belong. We too are free, and our natural inclination to love God lets our friends and enemies know that we still belong to God, who desires us to be united through “obedience of love.”

This obedience of love consecrates our heart to God’s love and service. Jesus is the model. Allowing God to shape and form us, we place all our desires in God’s hands. Such obedience has no need to be roused up by threats or rewards, by commandment or law. It goes ahead of all such things when it gives itself to God. It begins to do with love all that leads to the union of our heart with God. It undertakes this journey in simplicity.

Sometimes our Lord urges us to run with full speed in the tasks required of us. Then God makes us stop in mid career, when strongest in our course. While we must do everything to bring God’s work to a successful end, we must peacefully embrace the outcome. It is our part to plant and water carefully, but the increase belongs only to God.

Nonetheless, as a tender mother leads her little children, and helps and holds them up as long as she sees a need for it, so also our Savior carries us and holds our hand in unbearable hardships. Let us then enjoy a serenity of heart by embracing this obedience of love that unites us to God to whom we belong.

(Adapted from the works of St. Francis de Sales, esp. Treatise on the Love of God)

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 15, 2017)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that those who respond to God’s abundance of graces will enter the Kingdom of God. St Francis de Sales expands on our response:

God’s supreme goodness poured forth an abundance of graces over the entire human family. God wills that all be saved through the knowledge of the truth that our Savior came to give us the fire of holy love, and desired that it be kindled in our hearts.

How ardently God desires our love! God does so by filling us with divine love. God, the sun of justice, sends abundant beams of inspirations upon us, warms our hearts with blessings, and touches each of us with the allurements of holy love. It is God’s inspiration that warms our will, helps and reinforces our will, and moves it so gently that the will desires to turn and glide freely toward the good found in God’s inspiration.

God cast into your heart holy inspirations, and you received them. You cooperated with God’s inspirations by giving your consent to them. The movement of your will freely followed upon that of heavenly grace. God continued to strengthen your heart by various movements, until at length God infused into it holy love as your living and perfect health. Yet, you were free to accept or reject this divine goodness.

It was said that a little fish had the power to stop a ship sailing over the high seas. Yet, this fish had no power to make the ship set sail. So it is with our free will. When the favorable wind of God’s grace fills our soul, we can freely choose to refuse or consent to it. Yet, when our spirit sails along and makes a prosperous voyage, it is not we who cause the wind of inspiration to come to us. It is God who gives movement to the ship, our heart. We merely receive and consent to the wind coming from heaven. Blessed are they who respond to God’s word in the depths of their hearts, the Kingdom of God is theirs!

(Adapted from St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God)

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 8, 2017)

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God will be given to those who live the Lord’s way of truth and sacred love. St. Francis de Sales expands on this:

How happy we shall be if we love this divine Goodness that has prepared such favors and blessings for us! God became one of us so that we might become like God. Our Savior gave us His life not only to heal the sick, work miracles, and teach us what we must do to have a life-giving, healthy life. He also used his entire life choosing to shape His cross by enduring insults from those for whom He was doing so much good. He chose to give up His life for His people who rejected Him.

To live in our world, and live contrary to the cultural values that stress material things, selfish ambition and power is to go against the current of the river of this life. Yet, we can let go of these disordered passions by practicing interior gentleness, simplicity, humility, and above all, sacred love. To let go of all that is not of God in us is to strive to live an authentic human life of truth and holy love. As no human can live this way without God’s help, such a life is a continual going out of ourselves to embrace God’s goodness for us. The person who chooses God’s divine love lives beyond his or her selfish desires: They no longer live for themselves, but in and for their Savior.

Bees are first larvae but forsake this stage to become flying bees. We do the same. If we live a graced life, we live a new loftier human life than the life we lived before we accepted God’s love. Our new life is in God with Jesus Christ who gives it. This new life of heavenly love vivifies and animates our soul. With God’s help then, we are capable of using our life to walk in the way of this divine love. As God’s most dear children, we are able to generously produce the fruit of truth and holy love found in God’s Kingdom.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially Sermons, L. Fiorelli, Ed.)

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 1, 2017)

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that if we believe in and live His teachings we will enter the kingdom of God. Francis de Sales notes:

Jesus comes to teach us what we ought to do to love divinely. He confounds a culture that leads us to pursue false goals, a culture that never ceases to say, “How happy are the wealthy!” For Jesus, the blessed are they who conduct themselves in this life with trust in God. They will win perpetual peace and tranquility. They hear the word of God, keep it and profit by it.

There are two reasons why people do not profit from the word of God. First, they may indeed hear it and be interiorly moved by it. Yet, they postpone acting on it until tomorrow. Our life is the today in which we are living. Who can promise themselves a tomorrow? Our life consists in this present moment in which we are living. We can only assure ourselves of this moment that we now enjoy however brief it may be.

Second, some people have a great deal of knowledge. They amass all sorts of spiritual advice and information, but never put it into practice. We only learn well the teachings of Jesus when they become a part of our daily living. To live Jesus, we must allow ourselves to let go of our disordered emotions, habits, and affections.

We need to transform our emotions and affections so that they help us to become a divinely loving person. We do this by letting go of all that is not of God in us. To let go of our vices, we must practice the virtues opposed to the vice that we desire to abandon. For instance, if our anger is disordered, then we must practice gentleness and patience. Do not trouble yourself with anything else, except to follow Jesus’ teachings. Trust in the goodness of God, who will surely provide all that you need to enter the kingdom of God.

(Adapted from the Sermons of St. Francis de Sales, L. Fiorelli, Ed.)

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 24, 2017)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks to us about the Kingdom of heaven, where God’s generous mercy and goodness far exceeds our concept of justice. St. Francis de Sales notes:

When there is absolutely no human good to hope for, it is precisely then that God’s awe-inspiring mercy shines forth and surpasses God’s justice. God’s ways are not our ways. God would sooner work miracles than leave us without help. For this reason our Savior came to redeem us and deliver us from the tyranny of sin. The heart of our Savior is wholly filled with mercy and kindness for the human family.

God’s providence is wiser than what we are. We imagine we would feel better if we were on another ship. That may be, but only if we change ourselves! There is a real temptation to become dissatisfied and depressed about the world we have to live in. Truly we must not lose heart. God will never abandon us. It is we who abandon God.

If you are troubled you never want to leave God. An ounce of virtue practiced in adversity is worth more than a thousand pounds exercised in prosperity. We may be weak but our weakness is not nearly as great as God’s mercy toward those who desire to love God, and place all their hope in God. The problem is that all the nooks and corners of our hearts are cluttered with thousands of desires that prevent our Savior from giving us the gifts that He desires to shower on us.

We ought to be like the mariner who, in steering his vessel, always keeps his eye on the needle of the compass. We must keep our eyes open to correct our desires and have only one, that of pleasing God. Let our Lord reign in our hearts, as He desires. Then let us remain at peace, without hurry or fear in our hearts, and go on our little way. So long as we mean well and hold to our desire to love God, we are on the right track.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 17, 2017)

Today’s readings challenge us to forgive each other. Gathered here are some thoughts on forgiveness that reflect the teachings of St. Francis de Sales:

Forgiveness is hard to do. While we desire to forgive, we still let our feelings of anger sway us. Yet, if we let anger reign in our heart it grows from a twig to a large branch. The greatest motive for not harboring anger in our heart is that it does not allow us to flourish as a healthy, lively human being. Forgiveness, on the other hand, leads to our wholeness in Christ, whose Spirit floods our hearts with eternal love.

Yet, deep hurts that return again and again remind us that they can never be fully eliminated. Just when we think we’ve been victorious in forgiving, we find our anger stirred up again in our hearts. We’ve thrown it out the front door, but like a strong wind, anger comes again through a back window in need of repair.

Nonetheless, we do not have to let our weaknesses control our lives. God does not order us to keep anger from coming into our heart, only that anger ought not to reign in our heart. Little by little we become forgiving as we very gently put our heart back into God’s hands and ask God to heal it. Tell God how you desire to forgive as Jesus forgives. For it is in Jesus that we must place all our affections.

By nurturing sacred love in our heart through prayer and the sacraments, we become open to the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness comes more fully when we allow our Savior to enter our hearts and explore the rooms that require repairing. We must not be disturbed but rather glory in our infirmities so that God’s power may shine through us. Our deepest hurts remind us of our own weaknesses, and of our need to be more compassionate with others’ weaknesses. In that lies the power of forgiveness.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Exultation of the Holy Cross (September 14, 2017)

Today we celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Christ’s victory over death on a cross reveals the radiance of God’s pure love for us. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Out of Jesus’ death on the cross comes eternal life. Our Savior’s death purchased for us a life of eternal glory. The world does not understand this wondrous paradox of our Savior’s Cross. His death was an excess of love that was eternally life giving to us.

On the cross, Jesus showed us how to save ourselves through holy love. Nothing urges on a person’s heart so much as love. Like a loving nurse, Jesus tenderly nourished us on the cross with an incomprehensible love. He wanted to make us understand that the love He bore us was undiminished by his suffering.

On the cross, Jesus also wanted to teach us how our heart ought to be toward our neighbor. Seeing the ignorance and weakness of those who tormented Him, He forgave them on the cross. A prayer of forgiveness is a sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of our lips and our heart that we present to God as much for our neighbor as for ourselves.

On the cross, Jesus fed us with his own flesh and blood. God sent Jesus to heal our human brokeness. Indeed, He died with a holy joy for our cure, although it cost Him His life. He forgot Himself but not His creatures. Let us not be frightened or give up in our struggle to overcome evil with holy love and truth as Jesus did. Let us firmly and faithfully pursue the course that Jesus traveled first and the saints after Him.

We ought to consecrate every moment of our life to the divine love of our Redeemer’s Cross. That is, to his glory we must bring home all our works, actions, thoughts and affections. Then, we too will be alive to God in Christ Jesus, whose victorious and exalted Cross we celebrate today.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially his

Treatise on the Love of God ; Sermons, L. Fiorelli, ed.)