In Honour of World Communications Day 2015

One of my greatest pleasures and privileges as a blogger is to be part of the team at CatholicMom.com. On this website, founded by author and speaker, Lisa Hendey, I write a Gospel reflection for the third day of each month. I also contribute an article for the first Friday of each month.

For World Communications Day, May 17 2015, CatholicMom.com produced this youtube video honouring families. The theme of World Communications Day is “Communicating the Family: A Privileged Place of Encounter with the Gift of Love.” The video reflects this theme by showing the families of CatholicMom.com contributors. My family is around the 3:36 mark.

Posted in Catholic, Catholic family, children, faith, family, large family | Tagged | 6 Comments

St. Gianna: the modern woman’s saint

Also posted at Catholic Insight

St. Gianna Beretta MollaIt is said that God gives us the saints we need in our time. Saints who, by their lives rooted in self-surrendering, self-sacrificing love show us how to conquer the darkness of the world in which we live and rise to their ranks. In our time, when so many women continue to deny their authentic femininity as ordained by God, He has given us St. Gianna Beretta Molla.

16 May 2015 marks the eleventh anniversary of St. Gianna’s canonization by Pope St. John-Paul II. We know St. Gianna as a pro-life saint because she chose to save the life of her unborn baby instead of opting for surgery that would have saved her life at the expense of  the life of her unborn daughter.

But if we examine her life, we come to know a thoroughly modern, vivacious woman who had all the marks of success in the world. At a time when women typically did not work outside of the home, St. Gianna was a well-loved physician with a thriving medical practice. Not only was she a working mom (unheard of in her day) who sometimes had childcare emergencies, she was a female doctor in a male-dominated profession. She believed that she was called by God to be a physician. Reflecting on her work as a doctor, she said: “We touch Jesus in the bodies of our patients.” To her, work was prayer: “We are apostles, and if we do not want our work to be in vain, but to be effective, there is only one method that will not fail: prayer. We must pray with faith, hope, charity, humility, devotion, and reverence…. Work can be prayer … if we offer to the Lord all the actions that we perform so that they might serve His glory.”

All of the published photos of St. Gianna show a strikingly beautiful, elegantly dressed, lively, confident young woman. She enjoyed beauty; she enjoyed life. Her husband, Pietro, said: “Gianna was a splendid, but ordinary woman…. She was stylish and elegant, a beautiful and intelligent woman who loved to smile. She loved going to the mountains and she skied very well. She loved music. For years we had season tickets for the concerts at the Milan Conservatory…. She also liked to travel.” St. Gianna appreciated the beauty of women expressed in refined fashion. Shortly before the birth of their fourth child, as Pietro prepared to leave for business trip to Paris, St. Gianna asked him to bring back some French fashion magazines. “If God keeps me here, I would like to make some nice clothes.”

Her letters to Pietro, written when he was away on frequent business trips, revealed a woman passionately in love with her husband who missed him when he was away and who at times was frustrated with his absences. Pietro was the plant manager for a large manufacturing company and business travel was necessary; therefore, she always tried to be supportive of his trips away. She wrote that she “missed [his] warm embrace,” and the “strength and support of [his] presence.” She believed that Pietro “completed [her] has a human being.” The married couple knew the importance of spending time together. They regularly attended concerts, plays, movies, and art galleries in Milan. St. Gianna traveled with Pietro on one of his extended business trips, leaving the children in the care of their relatives.

A devoted mother, she juggled the needs of her growing family with the demands of a busy medical practice. She wanted a large family and thanked God when she realized she was pregnant with her fourth baby.

It wasn’t long before she noticed an abnormal swelling in her abdomen. Her brother, Ferdinando, also a physician, assisted Dr. Vitali during the surgery to remove a large benign tumour growing on her uterus.  Ideally, the uterus ought to have been removed, but at her insistence, it was kept intact so the baby would not be harmed. In his clinical report, Ferdinando noted: “the patient did not hesitate to place the baby’s life ahead of her own, knowing what could occur, and pleaded with the surgeon to respect her wishes during the operation.”

After recovering from the surgery, she returned to her work and the pregnancy proceeded cautiously. Although she knew there could be further danger to the uterus, she abandoned her life to God’s Providence. Pietro recalled that Gianna “prayed to the Lord, to Our Lady, and to [her] own mother that the right and guarantee to life for the baby in [her] womb might not require the sacrifice of [her] life, that [she] would be spared for the sake of our children and our family.”

St. Gianna’s and Pietro’s four child, Gianna Emanuela Molla was born by cesarean section on 21 April 1961. Within a few days, St. Gianna was diagnosed with septic peritonitis. The painful agony that followed would have been unbearable if not for her immense faith. She called to Jesus for help as she clasped and kissed a crucifix. “Oh, if Jesus were not here to console us at times like this…” she murmured.  She found the strength to receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. After one week of intense pain, her self-sacrifice almost complete, St. Gianna fell into a coma. Pietro brought her home from the hospital. He laid her in the bed that they shared, and with her children sound asleep in the other room, St. Gianna died peacefully at 8:00 A.M. on 28 April 1962 with Pietro at her side.

In the photos of St. Gianna, in the recollections of those closest to her, and in her writing, the picture emerges of an intelligent woman who to a certain extent was ahead of her time. She loved all the good things the world had to offer: beauty, culture, nature. She loved her work and she loved people. In turn, she was much loved by everyone who knew her. In her we have the example of a beautiful woman,  a successful physician, a loving mother, and a devoted wife. But these qualities, as noble as they are, are not her most important attributes. It was her daily witness to the Gospel in all areas of her life and her heroic love culminating in her ultimate self-sacrifice that is an inspiration for women seeking to live a life of holiness.

In her own words:

“The most essential condition for every fruitful activity is stillness in prayer. The apostle begins work by kneeling…. Before acting, we lift our souls to God. The more we feel the desire to give, the more often it is necessary to go back to the infinite fountain of love that is God….

Our task is to make the truth visible and lovable in ourselves, offering ourselves as an attractive and, if possible heroic example….

Work and sacrifice yourself only for the glory of God…. If, even after all of your best efforts, failure seems to be the result, accept this generously. A failure gracefully accepted by an apostle, who has used all the means available to succeed, may be more beneficial for salvation than a victory. Let us always work generously and humbly; let us try not to look immediately for the fruits of our labor…. Remember that saving the world has never been easy, not even for the Son of God, not even for the Apostles.”

Sources:

Guerriero, E. (2014). The Journey of Our Love: The Letters of Saint Gianna Beretta and Pietro Molla. Boston: Pauline Books and Media.

Pelucchi, G. (1994). Saint Gianna Beretta Molla: A Woman’s Life 1922 – 1962. Boston: Pauline Books and Media.

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The month of May and the Act of Total Consecration

Preparation for Total consecration to Jesus Christ Through Mary according to St. Louis de Montfort” I’d like to renew my Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary,” I explained  to my spiritual director. ” I feel that something in my life needs to change.”

It has been about one year since I first prayed the thirty days of preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary. In that year, life has been very busy. And while I take time for daily quiet prayer which includes the Rosary, as well as praying the family Rosary on most evenings, for the last few months, something has been  gnawing at me.

“Do you feel that you need more in your prayer life?” my spiritual director asked during the course of our conversation.

“Yes, that’s it,” I answered. “Something’s missing from my prayer life. I feel like I’m in a routine of repeating the words but not really living them.”

Before renewing the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, I am following the preparation prayers through out the month of May. My guide is the book written by Fr. Hugh Gillespie, SMM, Preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus Christ Through Mary According to  St. Louis de Montfort. This is the book I used the first time I made the Total Consecration and the prayers as well as Fr. Gillespie’s insights into the teachings of St. Louis de Montfort are inspiring.

There is a danger that those of us who spend much of our time trying to follow what our Blessed Lord admonished (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked – in other words, performing much needed corporal acts of mercy) can sometimes be so focused on “doing” for the Lord and for our neighbours that we forget to first “be” before the Lord. And when we feel that nagging in our soul, we try to silence it with more “doing.”

If we take the time to stop and take an honest look at ourselves, we may find that we have become so caught up with the importance of all the good things we are doing that we have forgotten that the real reason we are performing all those corporal works of mercy is because of our love for the Merciful One. The spirit of the world has crept into our good works.  Because of our weak human nature, “even our best efforts in the service of the Gospel are coloured by our pride, our selfishness, our desire to be noticed, our resentments and our self-interest.”

Father Gillespie explains that for St. Louis de Montfort “consecration is never simply the gesture of a moment, but a fundamental movement of self-giving and self-surrender, an act of radical belonging to the Lord through Our Lady, that asserts itself in every aspect of life.” Just as in sacramental marriage, love  compels us to surrender ourselves entirely to our spouse, so too our love for the Lord should compel us to undergo a “radical surrender of oneself into the life of Jesus Christ.” But just as we sometimes take our spouse for granted, we can take the Lord for granted and we ignore Him. And that’s when the gnawing  in our soul tells us that we have to re-evaluate our lives and renew our self-surrendering commitment to Him.

The month of May is a providential  time for renewal since it is the month of our Blessed Mother. The way of renewal is to  follow the two  basic movements of de Montfort spirituality” “emptying [my]self of the spirit of the world and filling [my]self with the spirit of Jesus Christ.”

“The path of Total Consecration draws its strength from an intimate participation in the life of Jesus Christ himself, who, in the Mystery of his Incarnation, took upon himself the form of a slave and entrusted himself completely into the hands of his Blessed Mother. The act of self-gift and self-surrender that one makes in the Act of Total Consecration is an act made in union with and in honour of this great act of self-gift and self-surrender of Jesus Christ who consecrates himself, in Mary, to the glorification of his Father and to the achievement of our salvation…. The life of the one who is consecrated must be, therefore, a life lived in celebration of this great Mystery.”

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Individualism, Hedonism, and Minimalism: Spirit of the world disguised as the Spirit of the Gospel

Father Eric Mah is a priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto. Here is one of his recent thought-provoking homilies.

Hoffman-ChristAndTheRichYoungRuler

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler by Heinrich Hofmann. Wikipedia.org

This past Christmas, the Knights of Columbus from our parish generously handed out free copies of a book by Matthew Kelly called Rediscover Catholicism.(1) I encourage you to take the time to read this book and share it with your own families, because it’s a great way to introduce people to how to live the Catholic faith in a very real and practical way.

When I read this book on my own, something which immediately caught my attention was near the beginning where the author speaks about the various attitudes and philosophies which shape and define the particular mindset of the modern secular world. In particular, he identifies three key things: individualism, hedonism and minimalism.(2)

Let’s run through all three of these things. First, what’s individualism? Individualism is an attitude whereby I come to see myself as the center of the universe. The individualist will typically go through the course of his or her day asking himself or herself one question: “What’s in it for me?”(3)

Secondly, what’s hedonism? Essentially, it is an attitude whereby I come to see the pursuit of my own personal pleasure as my primary concern in life.(4) The hedonist will typically ask himself or herself this question: “How can I maximize the amount of pleasure in my life while minimizing the amount of pain and inconvenience which I must endure?”

Thirdly, what is minimalism? This is a particular attitude whereby I look to put in the minimum amount of effort that I possibly can into life, while reaping the maximum amount of reward.(5) The minimalist will typically ask himself or herself questions such as these: “What’s the least amount I can possibly do at the workplace and still keep my job?”(6) Or perhaps: “What’s the least amount I can possibly do at school and still get a good grade?”(7)

There are many people in the world today who might “self-identify” as being “Christian”, if not “Catholic”, who are still, in reality, giving their hearts very much to the so-called “spirit of the world”; whether we’re talking about the spirit of individualism, hedonism or minimalism.

For instance, we can say that there are many Catholics in the world who go to Mass, say their prayers, and perhaps even occasionally eat fish on Fridays – who still govern the vast majority of their conduct by asking themselves this one simple question: “What’s in it for me?”

Many of these people might still be very “kind” and “generous” to certain persons that they happen to know. Who isn’t from time to time? But perhaps, this sense of “kindness” and “generosity” is still governed by a pervasive sense of selfishness and self-interest. In other words: “I’ll be kind to you, but only insofar as you’re being kind back onto me!” or “I’ll be nice to you only insofar as you’re being nice back onto me!” And what is that but the spirit of individualism.

Let’s take a different example. Again, we can say that there are many Catholics in the world today who go to Mass, say their prayers, and perhaps belong to certain religious clubs or organizations who still govern the bulk of their conduct by asking: “How can I get through the course of my day while incurring the least amount of pain or inconvenience to myself?”

Many of these people might still be saying their prayers, perhaps even every day, but what’s often the real substance behind these prayers? “O Lord, give me the things that I want, the things that I desire, the things that I believe to be essential to my own sense of happiness and well-being. But Lord, whatever You do: do not make me suffer, do not give me inconvenience, and do not give me pain! In other words, do not give me the Cross!” And that is the spirit of hedonism: the relentless and almost single-minded pursuit of one’s own personal pleasure as one’s ultimate concern.

This takes us to our third example. Again, there are many Catholics in the world who go to church, go to confession, and even follow the Commandments who still perhaps ask themselves this question over and over again: “How can I get myself into the kingdom of heaven, while putting the least amount of effort into my relationship with God?”

These people might try their very best to avoid all sorts of serious sin. But, as we know from personal experience, there is a huge difference in reality between simply trying to avoid “serious sin”, and actually trying our very best to please the Lord in all things, especially in those little details which perhaps no one else would ever notice, except Christ Himself! But that’s really the difference between being a “lukewarm Catholic” (or a “minimalist”) and being a true disciple of the Lord.

Perhaps one of the best ways for us to pull this together is to reflect on the story in the Gospel of the rich young man (Mt 10:17-31; Mk 19:16-30; Lk 18:18-30). You’ll recall how the story actually begins: the rich young man goes up to Jesus and he says to Him: “[Good] Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life” (Mt 19:16)? If we look at the very wording of the rich young man’s question, we find the spirit of individualism. Because he’s basically saying: “[Good] Teacher, what good deed must I do on my own to ‘buy’ my way into the kingdom of heaven, without any kind of real regard for my relationship with You or my relationship with other people?” This is the spirit of individualism.

But that’s just the first thing. The second is this: we can also perceive in the wording of the rich young man’s question a strong sense of minimalism. He’s also saying: “What’s the least amount I can possibly do in the context of the spiritual life, whether we’re talking about saying a certain number of prayers or doing a certain number of good works, to ‘guarantee’ my spot in the kingdom of heaven, such that I can just ‘do those things’ and then get on with the rest of my life?

You’ll recall what Jesus says to him in response. The Gospel says that Jesus looks at him with love (cf. Mk 10:17). But then, Jesus says to him: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow Me” (Mt 19:21) [emphasis added]. Because the rich young man is not just an individualist and a minimalist, but he’s also a hedonist, he is “shocked” (Mk 10:22) by our Lord’s response. And so, the Gospel says (very famously) that he “[goes] away grieving, [because] he had many possessions” (Mk 10:22) [emphasis added].

jm_200_NT2.pd-P20.tiffWhenever we hear this story, we too are often inclined to come away “grieving, [because we too] have many possessions”. But we have to think about what Jesus is really saying. In a certain sense, what He’s actually saying to us is this: being a Christian is not about doing “randomly good stuff,” and it’s not about trying to simply “buy our way into heaven.” No, being a Christian is ultimately about following the person of Christ: it’s about being His disciple. In particular, it’s about making that very explicit choice throughout the course of our day, in all those really tiny, discreet little decisions that make up the very fabric of our day, to orientate the entirety of our lives to the person of Christ: everything that we are, everything that we do, and everything that we have. That is what it ultimately means to be a true disciple of the Lord.

That is why it doesn’t make sense for us to “claim” to be a Christian, to “claim” to be a Catholic, where we seem to be doing all the right things from a purely external point of view, whether we’re talking about going to Mass, saying our prayers, going to confession, or even belonging to certain religious clubs or organizations. But at the same time, what we are actually doing is giving our hearts very much to the so-called “spirit of the world,” whether we’re talking about the spirit of individualism, hedonism or minimalism.

If we’re only being nice to other people because they’re being nice back onto us; or if we’re only saying our prayers or doing good works because we believe that these things will help us to “buy” our way into heaven; or if we’re only interested in doing what is right when it doesn’t cost us very much, or when it seems to be convenient for us to do, then, what we are actually doing is living not for the person of Christ, but rather, we are still living simply for ourselves.

The point is that when we try to live the Catholic faith in this very narrow, compromised, and ultimately selfish way, is it really any wonder that we’re left feeling empty and sad? Not because the Catholic faith “doesn’t work,” but rather, because we have not yet learned, or more accurately, we have not yet acquired the courage to actually live the Catholic faith in the way that we should. Perhaps not even for a single day!

I think the Lord is inviting each one of us to really take a chance here; to really have courage; to really try and live the Catholic faith in the way that we should: not as a “moral code” or as merely “philosophy” but rather, as a life of true discipleship vis-à-vis the person of Christ.(8) And then, to see if the peace of Christ, which is beyond all understanding (cf. Phil 4:7) does not then and only then become ours for the taking.

Source:

1. Matthew Kelly, Rediscover Catholicism (Cincinnati, Ohio: Beacon Publishing, 2010).
2. Ibid., 26-30.
3. Ibid., 26.
4. Ibid., 28.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.

8. Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 1.

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“Look at Him, even just for a moment”

Life is extremely busy. I’m taking another parish nursing online course and my days are filled with family/work/school/volunteer commitments. There’s never enough time.

When the calendar is overflowing, it’s easy to rush through prayer, or worse, stop spending time in quiet prayer. These days, I have to force myself to be still before the Lord.

Providentially, a friend gave me this piece of writing from St. Teresa of Avila. Her wisdom is exactly what a busy person needs.

220px-Claude_Mellan_-_Face_of_Christ_-_WGA14764

“I’m not asking you now that you think about Him or that you draw out a lot of concepts or make long and subtle reflections with your intellect. I’m not asking you to do anything more than look at Him. For who can keep you from turning the eyes of your soul toward this Lord, even if you do so just for a moment if you can’t do more?

He has suffered your committing a thousand ugly offenses and abominations against Him, and this suffering wasn’t enough for Him to cease looking at you. Is it too much to ask you to turn your eyes from these exterior things in order to look at Him sometimes? Behold, He is not waiting for anything else… than that we look at Him. In the measure you desire Him, you will find Him.”

St. Teresa of Avila, Way of Perfection, Ch. 26:3

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Palliative Care from a Catholic Moral Perspective

stethoscopeOn 6 February, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the ban on physician – assisted suicide. The subsequent federal laws that will determine the provision of medical aid in dying will impact the delivery of palliative care. For this reason, it is important for Catholics to understand end-of-life issues including the provision of palliative care measures. This subject is very broad and among faithful Catholics there is some confusion regarding what measures are acceptable.

Palliative care, especially end-of-life care,  is near and dear to my heart. On my blog at Catholic Insight, I wrote an article that explains end-of-life care from a Catholic moral perspective. Here’s the link, if you’d like to read it.

Photo courtesy of MorgueFile.com

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The Promise of the Paschal Candle

Also posted at Catholic Insight

640px-DeaconsingingExsultet2007At the beginning of the Easter Vigil, when the congregation is engulfed in darkness, the entrance of a single source of light from the Paschal candle signifies hope, salvation, resurrection. It is the light that we follow into the darkened church, the only light that illuminates our way. As the gentle flame draws us in, we are reminded that our Saviour, through His death and resurrection, has set aflame our new life within Him.

This year, the Paschal candle held new meaning for me as I became the godmother of two of my parish’s RCIA elect,  sisters whose long journey home to the Catholic Church has been challenging. The sisters had never before been to the Easter Vigil; had never experienced the grandeur of the Sacred Liturgy so beautifully celebrated; never fully participated in the Eucharistic celebration; never before received the grace of being a full member of the one Holy Catholic Church. As I sat between the sisters, so grateful to be there with them, and so thankful for our faithful priests who gave of themselves so tirelessly during Lent and the Easter Triduum, I had to stop myself from embracing them and asking excitedly: “See? Isn’t this awesome? You’re part of the Catholic Church now! Isn’t God great?”

The Easter Vigil homilist asked passionately: ” Christ has risen in each and every one of us. Can you feel it? Do you know it? The life of Christ in us that we love more than all else. The life of Christ that burns within us. Would you willingly die for that life?”

The prayers of  Consecration which had not been prayed since Holy Thursday brought a deep sense of comfort that our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament had returned to our parish. But it was the Paschal candle burning brightly that continued to draw my attention.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote of the Paschal candle:

“This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the Paschal mystery of Christ, who gives Himself and so bestows the great light…

We should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth. Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves…. And this fire is both heat and light: not a cold light, but one through which  God’s warmth and goodness reach down to us.

Let us pray to the Lord at this time that He may grant us to experience the joy of His light; let us pray that we ourselves may become bearers of His light, and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant face may enter our world.” (Homily, Easter Vigil, April 7, 2012)

We godparents lit the baptismal candles for our newly baptized and the gesture of passing on the light of Christ to them was very clear. Receiving and passing on the flame holds great responsibility. The godparents, in lighting the baptismal candles and handing them on to the elect were in effect promising: I pass on to you the light of Christ. I promise to help you grow in your life of faith, and I promise to be a bearer of the light of Christ for you.

In receiving the lit baptismal candle from their godparents, what the elect were saying is this: I receive the light of Christ through my baptism into the Catholic Church. I promise to continue to grow in my life of faith and in my turn, to be a light of God’s goodness to all I meet in the world.

And the congregation that stood in witness were not merely spectators. They promised to live the life of Christ bestowed upon them at their baptism.

The Paschal candle that remains lit until the end of the Easter season symbolizes Christ resurrected in all of us. As it burns it asks the same questions demanded by the homilist: Do you know that our resurrected Lord lives within you? Do you love the life of Christ in you more than anything or anyone else? Will you be the light of God’s goodness and righteousness in a darkened world? Do you love Christ totally and are  you willing to lay down your life for Him?

Source:Pope Benedict XVI, compiled by Thigpen, P. (2013) The Faith: Reflections on the truths of the  Apostles’ Creed from the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI. Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor

Photo: “DeaconsingingExsultet2007″ by Błażej Benisz – WSD Ołtarzew, http://www.wsdsac.pl. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DeaconsingingExsultet2007.jpg#/media/File:DeaconsingingExsultet2007.jpg

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God’s Basin

Jesus washing of the feet

Image courtesy of photobucket.com

(From: The Joy of Knowing Christ: Meditations on the Gospels by Pope Benedict XVI)

Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). God loves his creature, man; he even loves him in his fall and does not leave him to himself. He loves him to the end. He is impelled with his love to the very end, to the extreme; he came down from his divine glory.

He cast aside the raiment of his divine glory and put on the garb of a slave. He came down to the extreme lowliness of our fall. He kneels before us and carries out for us the service of a slave: he washes our dirty feet so that we might be admitted to God’s banquet and be made worthy to take our place at his table – something that on our own, we neither could nor would ever be able to do.

God is not a remote god, too distant or too great to be bothered with our trifles. Since God is great, he can also be concerned with small things. Since he is great, the soul of man, the same man, created through eternal love, is not a small thing but great, and worthy of God’s love.

God’s holiness is not merely an incandescent power before which we are obliged to withdraw, terrified. It is a power of love and therefore a purifying and healing power.

God descends and becomes a slave; he washes our feet so that we may come to his table. In this, the entire mystery of Jesus Christ is expressed. In this, what redemption means becomes visible.

The basin in which he washes us is his love, ready to face death. Only love has that purifying power which washes the grime from us and elevates us to God’s heights. The basin that purifies us is God himself, who gives himself to us without reserve – to the very depths of his suffering and his death. He is ceaselessly this love that cleanses us; in the sacraments of purification – Baptism and the Sacrament of Penance – he is continually on his knees at our feet and carries out for us the service of a slave, the service of purification, making us capable of God. His love is inexhaustible; it truly goes to the very end.

Forgiving Tirelessly

washing of the feetLet us add a final word to this inexhaustible gospel passage: “For I have given you an example: (John 13:15); “You also ought to was one another’s feet” (13:14). Of what does “washing one another’s feet” consist? What does it actually mean?

This: every good work for others – especially for the suffering and those not considered to be worth much – is a service of the washing of feet.

The Lord calls us to do this: to come down, learn humility and the courage of goodness, and also the readiness to accept rejection and yet to trust in goodness and persevere in it.

But there is another, deeper dimension. The Lord removes the dirt from us with the purifying power of his goodness. Washing one another’s feet means, above all, tirelessly forgiving one another, beginning together ever anew, however pointless it may seem. It means purifying one another by bearing with one another and by being tolerant of others; purifying one another, giving one another the sanctifying power of the  Word of God, and introducing one another into the sacrament of divine love.

The Lord purifies us, and for this reason, we dare to approach his table. Let us pray to him to give to all of us the grace of being able to one day be guests forever at the eternal nuptial banquet. Amen!

Homily, April 13, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI. (2009). The Joy of Knowing Christ: Meditations on the Gospels. Maryland: The Word Among Us Press.

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“Not My Will, But Yours”

apostles asleep in gethsemane(from The Faith: Reflections on the truths of the Apostles’ Creed from the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI)

The three Apostles – Peter, James, and John – were asleep [in Gethsemane], but they awoke intermittently and heard the refrain of this prayer of the Lord: “Not my will, but your will be done.” What is this will of mine, what is this will of yours, of which the Lord speaks?

“My will” is that He should not die, that He be spared this cup of suffering. It is the human will, human nature; and Christ felt, with the whole awareness of His being, His life, the abyss of death, the terror of nothingness, the threat of suffering. Moreover, He was even more acutely aware of the abyss of evil than are we who have a natural aversion to death, a natural fear of death.

Together with death, He felt the whole of humanity’s suffering. He felt that this was the cup He was obliged to drink, that He himself had to drink in order to accept the evil of the world, all that is terrible, the aversion to God, the whole weight of sin.

And we can understand that before this reality, the cruelty of which He fully perceived, Jesus, with His human soul, was terrified: My will would be not to drink the cup, but My will is subordinate to Your will, to the will of God, to the will of the Father, which is also the true will of the Son. And thus in this prayer Jesus transformed His natural repugnance, His aversion to the cup and to His mission to die for us. He transformed His own natural will into  God’s will, into a “yes” to God’s will.

Man of himself is tempted to oppose God’s will, to seek to do his own will, to feel free only if he is autonomous. He sets his own autonomy against … obeying God’s will. This is the whole drama of humanity.

But in truth, this autonomy is mistaken, and entry into God’s will is not opposition to the self. It is not a form of slavery that violates my will, but rather means entering into truth and love, into goodness.

And Jesus draws our will – which opposes God’s will, which seeks autonomy – upwards, towards God’s will. This is the drama of our redemption, that Jesus should uplift our will, our total aversion to God’s will and our aversion to death and sin, and unite it with the Father’s will: “Not my will but yours.”

In this transformation of “no” into “yes,” in this insertion of the creaturely will into the will of the Father, He transforms humanity and redeems us. And He invites us to be part of His movement: to emerge from our “no” and to enter into the “yes” of the Son. My will exists, but the will of the Father is crucial, because it is truth and love.

General Audience, April 20, 2011

Source:Pope Benedict XVI, compiled by Thigpen, P. (2013) The Faith: Reflections on the truths of the  Apostles’ Creed from the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI. Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor

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Jesus, the High Priest

Jesus praying in Gethsemane(from The Faith: Reflections on the truths of the Apostles’ Creed from the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI)

The Letter to the Hebrews gave us a profound interpretation of this prayer of the Lord [in] Gethsemane. It says: Jesus’ tears, His prayer, His cry, His anguish, all this is not merely a concession to the weakness of the flesh as might be said. It is in this very way that Jesus fulfilled His office as High Priest, because the High Priest must uplift the human being, with all his problems and suffering, to God’s heights. And the Letter to the Hebrews says: Will all these cries, tears, prayers, and supplications, the Lord has brought our reality to God (see Heb 5:77ff)…

It was in this drama of Gethsemane, where God’s power no longer seemed to be present, that Jesus fulfilled His role as High Priest. And it also says that in this act of obedience, that is, of the conforming of the natural human will to God’s will, He was perfected as a priest.

Furthermore, it … uses the technical word for ordaining a pries.t In this way, He truly became the High Priest of humanity and thus opened heaven and the door to the resurrection.

If we reflect on this drama of Gethsemane we can also see the strong contrast between Jesus  – with His anguish, with His suffering – in comparison with the great philosopher Socrates, who stayed calm, without anxiety, in the face of death, which seems the ideal. We can admire this philosopher, but Jesus’ mission was different. His mission was not this total indifference and freedom; His mission was to bear in himself the whole burden of our suffering, the whole of the human drama.

This humiliation of Gethsemane, therefore, is essential to the mission of the God-Man. He carries in himself our suffering, our poverty, and transforms it in accordance with God’s will. and thus He opens the doors of heaven. He opens Heaven: This curtain of the Most Holy One, which until now man has kept closed against God, is opened through His suffering and obedience….

Dear friends, we have endeavored to understand Jesus’ state of mind at the moment when He experienced the extreme trial in order to grasp what directed His action. The criterion that throughout His life guided every decision Jesus made was His firm determination to love the Father, to be one with the Father, and to be faithful to Him. This decision to respond to His love impelled Him to embrace the Father’s plan in every single circumstance, to make His own the plan of love entrusted to Him, in order to recapitulate all things in  God, to lead all things to Him….

Let us also prepare ourselves to welcome God’s will in our life, knowing that our own true good, the way to life, is found in God’s will, even if it appears harsh in contrast with our intentions. May the Virgin Mother guide us on this itinerary and obtain from her divine Son the grace to be able to spend our life for love of Jesus, in the service of our brethren.

General audience, April 20, 2011

Source:Pope Benedict XVI, compiled by Thigpen, P. (2013) The Faith: Reflections on the truths of the  Apostles’ Creed from the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI. Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor

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