Trusting God

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,’
and he says in reply from within,
‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit
to those who ask him?”
(Luke 11:5-13)  

Scripture Study

One of the essential features of prayer is trusting perseverance. By this simple example and others like it (cf. Lk 18:1–8) our Lord encourages us not to desist in asking God to hear us. “Persevere in prayer. Persevere even when your efforts seem sterile. Prayer is always fruitful” (St J. Escrivá, The Way, 101).

 “Do you see the effectiveness of prayer when it is done properly? Are you not convinced like me that, if we do not obtain what we ask God for, it is because we are not praying with faith, with a heart pure enough, with enough confidence, or that we are not persevering in prayer the way we should? God has never refused, nor will ever refuse, anything to those who ask for his graces in the way they should. Prayer is the great recourse available to us to get out of sin, to persevere in grace, to move God’s heart and to draw upon us all kinds of blessings from heaven, whether for the souls or to meet our temporal needs” (St John Mary Vianney, Selected Sermons, Fifth Sunday after Easter).

Our Lord uses the example of human parenthood as a comparison to stress again the wonderful fact that God is our Father, for God’s fatherhood is the source of parenthood in heaven and on earth (cf. Eph 3:15). “The God of our faith is not a distant being who contemplates indifferently the fate of men—their desires, their struggles, their sufferings. He is a Father who loves his children so much that he sends the Word, the Second Person of the most Blessed Trinity, so that by taking on the nature of man he may die to redeem us. He is the loving Father who now leads us gently to himself, through the action of the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 84).[1]

Reflection

“We can swallow God not giving us what we ask for when we’re asking for a Ferrari, a new house or for our favorite team to win the big game. But it gets real when our health, or the health of someone we love, begins to fail, or when we’ve been looking for employment for months and the bills are due. These are the moments when God’s answers are hard to accept. So hard, that we reject His answer.

But our prayers should be reminders of our trust in God and His wisdom, of our belief that nothing is happening that He is not aware of, or even allowing.

Trusting God is an admission of our limited perspective. God is good. And He is the giver of good gifts. Trusting Him through His answers that don’t make us feel great provides us an opportunity to show that we can love and trust Him despite the hurt from painful circumstances.

After all, that’s the way He loves us.”

– Antwuan Malone in Relevent

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 115.

Tell It

Praise the LORD, all you nations,
glorify him, all you peoples!

For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.

(Psalm 117:1-2)  

Scripture Study

117:1. The call made to all the nations to offer praise includes acknowledgment that the Lord is the God of all of them (cf. Ps 47:1–2; 67:2–4; etc.). Association of the Gentiles in praise of God, and God’s faithfulness to his promises are seen by St Paul as reaching fulfillment in Jesus Christ and in the Church, when he quotes this verse to show that Scripture confirms his teaching: “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, Therefore I will praise thee among the Gentiles, and sing to thy name; and again it is said, Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people; and again, Praise the Lord, all Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him” (Rom 15:8–11). These words encourage Christians to strive to bring all nations to acknowledge the Lord. Saints are noted for this zeal for souls: “The zealous man desires and seeks, by all the ways available to him, that God would always be more widely known and served in this life and in the next, because this holy love is boundless. He does the same for those close to him, and desires that all would be content in this life, and happy and blessed in the world to come; so that all may be saved, and no one lost for all eternity” (St Anthony Mary Claret, El egoismo vencido, 60).

117:2. The praise is offered on account of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness which he has shown the people of Israel. It is stronger than the people’s sin and means that God’s promises and the Covenant endure for ever.[1]

Reflection

“Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.”

The line above comes from today’s responsorial psalm and joyfully encourages us to go and tell the world about the greatness of our Lord. Yet this core aspect of our baptismal commitment can challenge us. Many of us do not feel qualified or capable of being that missionary disciple we so often associate with this statement.

Are we using this as an excuse? Do we look at our own perceived shortcomings in the knowledge of our faith, in how we are living our faith, and allow it to prevent us from sharing it?

We need to realize that the world is our neighbor next door, our co-workers at work, and friends in the community; that we are all broken and doing the best we can; that all the Lord is asking us to do is tell “our story” about God – in all its messiness. Isn’t that something we can all do?   

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] James Gavigan, Brian McCarthy, and Thomas McGovern, eds., Psalms and the Song of Solomon, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2003), 389.

Set Apart

Brothers and sisters:
You heard of my former way of life in Judaism,
how I persecuted the Church of God beyond measure
and tried to destroy it, 
and progressed in Judaism
beyond many of my contemporaries among my race,
since I was even more a zealot for my ancestral traditions.
But when he, who from my mother’s womb had set me apart
and called me through his grace,
was pleased to reveal his Son to me,
so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles,
I did not immediately consult flesh and blood,
nor did I go up to Jerusalem
to those who were Apostles before me;
rather, I went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus.

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas
and remained with him for fifteen days.
But I did not see any other of the Apostles,
only James the brother of the Lord.
(As to what I am writing to you, behold,
before God, I am not lying.)
Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.
And I was unknown personally to the churches of Judea
that are in Christ;
they only kept hearing that “the one who once was persecuting us
is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”
So they glorified God because of me.
(Galatians 1:13-24)   

Scripture Study

In this moving parable, which only St Luke gives us, our Lord explains very graphically who our neighbor is and how we should show charity towards him, even if he is our enemy.

Following other Fathers, St Augustine (De verbis Domini sermones, 37) identifies the good Samaritan with our Lord, and the waylaid man with Adam, the source and symbol of all fallen mankind. Moved by compassion, he comes down to earth to cure man’s wounds, making them his own (Is 53:4; Mt 8:17; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Jn 3:5). In fact, we often see Jesus being moved by man’s suffering (cf. Mt 9:36; Mk 1:41; Lk 7:13). And St John says: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn 4:9–11).

This parable leaves no doubt about who our neighbor is—anyone (without distinction of race or relationship) who needs our help; nor about how we should love him—by taking pity on him, being compassionate towards his spiritual and corporal needs; and it is not just a matter of having the right feelings towards him: we must do something, we must generously serve him.

Christians, who are disciples of Christ, should share his love and compassion, never distancing themselves from others’ needs. One way to express love for one’s neighbor is to perform the “works of mercy”, which get their name from the fact that they are not duties in justice. There are fourteen such works, seven spiritual and seven corporal. The spiritual are: To convert the sinner; To instruct the ignorant; To counsel the doubtful; To comfort the sorrowful; To bear wrongs patiently; To forgive injuries; To pray for the living and the dead. The corporal works are: To feed the hungry; To give drink to the thirsty; To clothe the naked; To shelter the homeless; To visit the sick; To visit the imprisoned; To bury the dead.[1]

Reflection

“But when he, who from my mother’s womb had set me apart.”

People who enjoy the art of cooking will often set apart a particular item for a special purpose. I can recall my mother washing Roma tomatoes before she cut them up to put in a pot. Every now and then she would set would set one aside. I asked her why she did that and she replied, “That’s too good to put in the pot. We’ll use that for our special sandwiches.”

Mother could always spot those things that were created for a more valued purposes. In our reading from Galatians, we see how the Lord set Paul apart for his special purpose – to be an apostle.

Did you know that we are given special and unique gifts designated specifically for us? Your opportunity is to discover your gifts and embrace them. Only then will you find your special purpose – just as Paul did!

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 110.

Go and Do Likewise

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, 
“And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, 
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:25-37)   

Scripture Study

In this moving parable, which only St Luke gives us, our Lord explains very graphically who our neighbor is and how we should show charity towards him, even if he is our enemy.

Following other Fathers, St Augustine (De verbis Domini sermones, 37) identifies the good Samaritan with our Lord, and the waylaid man with Adam, the source and symbol of all fallen mankind. Moved by compassion, he comes down to earth to cure man’s wounds, making them his own (Is 53:4; Mt 8:17; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Jn 3:5). In fact, we often see Jesus being moved by man’s suffering (cf. Mt 9:36; Mk 1:41; Lk 7:13). And St John says: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn 4:9–11).

This parable leaves no doubt about who our neighbor is—anyone (without distinction of race or relationship) who needs our help; nor about how we should love him—by taking pity on him, being compassionate towards his spiritual and corporal needs; and it is not just a matter of having the right feelings towards him: we must do something, we must generously serve him.

Christians, who are disciples of Christ, should share his love and compassion, never distancing themselves from others’ needs. One way to express love for one’s neighbor is to perform the “works of mercy”, which get their name from the fact that they are not duties in justice. There are fourteen such works, seven spiritual and seven corporal. The spiritual are: To convert the sinner; To instruct the ignorant; To counsel the doubtful; To comfort the sorrowful; To bear wrongs patiently; To forgive injuries; To pray for the living and the dead. The corporal works are: To feed the hungry; To give drink to the thirsty; To clothe the naked; To shelter the homeless; To visit the sick; To visit the imprisoned; To bury the dead.[1]

Reflection

“The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

The challenge in today’s Gospel reading is understanding the enormity of what the Samaritan did from our twenty-first century view. Can we imagine today seeing a person we have witnessed spewing hateful and discordant views against minorities then giving of their time and treasure to assist those same people? That action would significantly perplex us today as the the actions of the Samaritan was similarly perplexed to the Jews.

Jesus is telling us that we need to step back and see that we are all children of God – that we are all capable of sinful and virtuous behavior. The opportunity for each of us is to look for the good in everyone and not expect otherwise just because they live a life different from our own. Our accountability is to respond as Jesus taught – always with kindness and mercy.  

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 110.

Unprofitable Servant

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 
The Lord replied,
“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? 
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’? 
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? 
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
(Luke 17:5-10)   

Scripture Study

17:5. “Increase our faith!”: a good ejaculatory prayer for every Christian. “ ‘Omnia possibilia sunt credenti. Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.’ The words are Christ’s. How is it that you don’t say to him with the apostles: ‘Adauge nobis fidem! Increase my faith!’?” (The Way, 588).

17:6. “I’m not one for miracles. I have told you that in the holy Gospel I can find more than enough to confirm my faith. But I can’t help pitying those Christians—pious people, ‘apostles’ many of them—who smile at the idea of extraordinary ways, of supernatural events. I feel the urge to tell them: Yes, this is still the age of miracles: we too would work them if we had faith!” (The Way, 583).

17:7–10. Jesus is not approving this master’s abusive and arbitrary behavior. He is using an example very familiar to his audience to show the attitude a person should have towards his Creator: everything, from our very existence to the eternal happiness promised us, is one huge gift from God. Man is always in debt to God; no matter what service he renders him he can never adequately repay the gifts God has given him. There is no sense in a creature adopting a proud attitude towards God. What Jesus teaches us here we see being put into practice by our Lady, who replied to God’s messenger, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38).[1]

Reflection

What is Jesus telling us when he says, When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”

Our first response might be to step back and wonder why Jesus would rebuke our servant efforts. But that is not what is being said. The Lord wants us to understand that all we do in His name is for the glory of God. Our reward is in the participation of building up His Church and deepening the maturity of our discipleship.

What we do in serving God can ‘earn’ us salvation. All of our efforts should be approached with the same humility that Christ exemplified in his life on earth.

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus.
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:6-10)

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 148–149.

Gratitude in the Midst of Trial

Job answered the LORD and said:

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be hindered.
I have dealt with great things that I do not understand;
things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.
I had heard of you by word of mouth,
but now my eye has seen you.
Therefore I disown what I have said,
and repent in dust and ashes.

Thus the LORD blessed the latter days of Job
more than his earlier ones.
For he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels,
a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she-asses.
And he had seven sons and three daughters,
of whom he called the first Jemimah,
the second Keziah, and the third Kerenhappuch.
In all the land no other women were as beautiful
as the daughters of Job;
and their father gave them an inheritance
along with their brothers.
After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years;
and he saw his children, his grandchildren,
and even his great-grandchildren.
Then Job died, old and full of years.
(Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17)   

Scripture Study

The prose epilogue describes Job’s remarkable rehabilitation. He is indeed appreciated as a wise man, for he spoke rightly, and as a good person, who will successfully intercede on behalf of his opponents. This passage, almost certainly, must (like the prologue) have been part of the original text; prologue and epilogue are closely interconnected and have literary features in common. Some commentators have suggested that this happy ending does not fit in well with the message in the book, because it seems to confirm the idea that good people enjoy success and wrongdoers do not. But that is not really the point. The epilogue displays the mercy of God who, as supreme judge, desires that all should be saved; Job, in his case, has found salvation through suffering.

A number of small details help us to see why the book is given this ending: it contains no mention of Satan, perhaps because his presence was irrelevant to the question posed in the book. Eliphaz and his friends, who thought that they were speaking on God’s side, now have to admit they were wrong: they have not “spoken what is right” (vv. 7–8); they must turn to the Lord; that is the only way to discover the truth. Finally, Job is comforted and accepted by all his relatives and friends (vv. 10–11), and is blessed by God with children, wealth and a long life (vv. 12–17). So, God does not conform to the way human beings see things; they, rather, must respect what he does and conform to his wishes.[1]

Reflection

“Trouble is not the only thing that teaches us to pray”

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”

“A surge of the heart”—that is how St. Thérèse, whom the Holy Father presented to us as a Doctor of the Church on October 19, 1997, describes the “source of prayer”: the heart. “In naming the source of prayer, Scripture speaks sometimes of the soul or the spirit, but most often of the heart (more than a thousand times).… It is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain” (CCC 2562).

How does the heart manage to “surge”? A folk saying puts it this way: “Trouble teaches us to pray.” And so it often does. How many prayers—in our churches, at places of pilgrimage, or wherever—ascend to God from the depths of distress! “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice!” (Ps 130:1–2).

But trouble alone does not necessarily teach us to pray. It can also lead to a hardening of the heart. Only that trouble which helps us to recognize and accept the fact that we need God leads us to prayer. Once we recognize, or at least begin to suspect, that we are beggars before God (CCC 2559), that in and of ourselves we are feeble and helpless, then our heart becomes open to prayer. As long as we think that we “don’t need God” and have everything under control, our heart is closed.

Does that mean that God wants to make us as small as possible, so as to be the great God himself? Is God pleased to see us in misery? Does God want to see us as slaves, oppressed and powerless?

God does not want to “take us down a peg”; in fact, he wants to give us everything, especially himself. He knocks on our door and asks to be admitted (cf. Rev 3:20). Just as Jesus asked the woman at Jacob’s well, “Give me a drink” (Jn 4:7), so too he asks us for our heart. He knocks at the door of every human being; he asks each one to let him in. Often it takes the experience of some trouble in order for us to hear God knocking. Does God therefore want us to be in trouble? Should we not rather say: He allows it but does not abandon us to it? Yes, this is what many have experienced: Trouble taught them to pray (again). In their trouble they found God (again). Thus trouble became a blessing. And gratitude rises up in the midst of trial and in the midst of joy.[2]

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] Michael Adams, tran., Wisdom Books, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishing, 2004), 153.

CCC Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2d ed., revised in accordance with the official Latin text (1997)

[2] Christoph Schönborn, Living the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Paths of Prayer, trans. Michael J. Miller, vol. 4 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003), 15–17.

You Know Me

O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.

Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence where can I flee?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I sink to the nether world, you are present there.

If I take the wings of the dawn,
if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
Even there your hand shall guide me,
and your right hand hold me fast.

Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works.
(Psalm 139:1-3, 7-10, 13-14)   

Scripture Study

This is the first psalm of entreaty in this group of psalms of David (Ps 138–145), and by being positioned here it reads as an extension to the prayer of the exile (cf. Ps 137). Adopting the sort of feelings David might have had when he was fleeing from one place to another, it acknowledges that, wherever we are, we can be seen by God and he will call us to account for our actions. The psalm has a number of links with the previous one: God’s plans with regard to the psalmist (cf. Ps 138:8) are now considered in more depth, though they are cloaked in mystery (Ps 139:7); and the psalmist’s enemies (cf. Ps 138:7) are now depicted as the enemies of God himself (Ps 139:22). So, the prayer of a man who feels the Lord’s hand upon him becomes deeper here: he appeals to God, acknowledging him to be all-knowing, almighty, his maker, a just judge. It all serves to make this one of the most beautiful psalms in the Bible.

The psalm begins by registering that God knows everything the psalmist does, and takes special care of him (vv. 1–6); even if he wanted to, the psalmist could not escape his gaze (vv. 7–12), for God is the one who made him and he has steered his life in accordance with his mysterious purposes (vv. 13–18). Therefore, the psalmist has recourse to the Lord, asking him to do away with the ungodly, but asserting that he himself is faithful to the Lord and submits to his judgment (vv. 19–24). At the end of the psalm, what v. 1 said was already done is made the subject of an entreaty.

When Christians pray this psalm, they can become more aware of their dependence on God, more trustful of him, closer to him through Jesus Christ, who “knows what is in man” (cf. Jn 2:25), and can experience the inner presence of the Holy Spirit, who “searches everything” (cf. 1 Cor 2:10). The psalm is a call to practice the “presence of God” more fervently.[1]

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] James Gavigan, Brian McCarthy, and Thomas McGovern, eds., Psalms and the Song of Solomon, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2003), 447–448.