A free heart where God can dwell

Quote of the Day
excerpt from chapter 2 of The Gift of Faith by Tadeusz Dajczer

And you, in whom or in what do you place your hope? What do you count on? Who is your God? If you place your hope in a false god, then you will know bitterness and disappointment, because it is a matter that sooner or later will disappoint you. This will be a great grace for you because then your trust in mammon will begin to crumble.

What can this mammon that enslaves your heart be? It can be material as well as spiritual goods. For example, it can be attachment to money, to your children, to you work, or to something you are presently creating or working on. It may be attachment to peace or even to one’s own perfection. All these attachments cause your bondage and bring you slavery. As a human being you can choose to attach yourself to the one and only reality — the will of God. Everything that enslaves you closes you off from God and diminishes your faith.

How can you uncover your mammon? Are the tension, stress, restlessness, rushing, and sadness that accompany you through life signs that you serve some kind of mammon? There are people, for example, who live under constant stress. How great then must be their attachment to something opposed to God. People free from attachments are filled with the peace of God. The peace of God builds and strengthens mental health, which in turn reflects on physical health. In this way, the soul, the psyche, and the body participate in a person’s great freedom. A person free form attachments is also free from facial wrinkles, from stress, and from the diseases of civilization. Mammon systematically destroys a human person. It not only blocks you way to Christ and your adherence to Him, but it also destroys your health and your psyche.

An obvious sign of attachments is also your sadness in situations when God takes something away from you. He will, therefore, take that to which you are enslaved; hence, He will take everything that is your greatest enemy — whatever causes your heart not to be free for Him. It is only when you start to cheerfully accept these kinds of situations, and submit with serenity, that you will become more and more free.

While standing before the Lord during prayer, show Him not only your empty hands, but also your dirty hands defiled by your attachments to mammon, and pray that He will have mercy on you. Prayer can develop only in the atmosphere of freedom. As a disciple of Christ, you are especially called to contemplative prayer. For your prayer to become contemplation — a loving gaze on Jesus Christ, your beloved — it is essential to have a free heart. That is why Christ fights so much for your heart to be free. He fights through various events, difficulties, and storms, all the while giving you the chance to cooperate intensely with grace. In all these situations, Christ expects that you will try to cleanse your heart soiled by attachments and servitude to mammon. Hence, all these difficult moments and all the storms are graces for you. They are the passing by of the Merciful Lord who loves you so much that He wants to give you the magnificent gift — the gift of the total freedom of your heart. Your heart should not be divided; it should be a heart solely for Him.

To have faith means to see and understand the meaning of your life in accordance with the Gospel, and that God is most important. Your life is to be oriented toward Him — primarily to seek and to build His kingdom, with faith that everything else will be given to you (cf. Mat 6:33). God wants to bestow each person with all His love. However, He can bestow this on a person only to the extent of his openness and his readiness to be stripped of his attachments so that room may be made for Him. It is faith that creates the emptiness and vacuum in us where God can dwell.

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Pray every, every, every day

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the Old Testament reading we are told that the Lord’s house is a house of prayer and a house for all peoples. Foreigners are welcome to join themselves to the Lord. And in the Gospel passage it is a pagan woman, rather than a Jew, who comes to Jesus and asks for healing for her daughter. She is persistent in her request, willing to engage the Lord in banter, which Jesus uses to display the foreign woman’s great faith. He goes so far as to invoke the Jewish cultural view of her: she is the equivalent of a dog. Jesus did not view this woman as a dog. We know better. If anything, during this exchange, Jesus has repudiated the Jewish cultural notion of looking upon others as less than human or not worthy of God’s love and mercy. The epistle sheds a some light on this: God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.

Jesus breaks cultural barriers and customs, showing that we all have a claim on God’s love. In yesterday’s reading the “outsiders” were the children, who were annoying the disciples. The adults wanted to push them aside, get them out of the way. In today’s reading, the outsider is both a pagan and a woman. Jesus has come to elevate and acknowledge the worth of each and every one of us, regardless of our heritage, our gender, our age, or any other aspect of ourselves that may differentiate us from others.

When it seems that God is not answering our prayer, we must not go away defeated, but engage him all the more.

Quote of the Day
Into the Deep: Finding Peace Through Prayer by Dan Burke

Some time ago my youngest brother, who is a bit baffled by my faith, asked me an important question: “Dan, do you pray every day?”

I replied, “Yes.”

He asked, “Every, every day?”

Again I said, “Yes.”

He then asked again but with an emphasis in his tone that reflected some measure of disbelief and a demand for an absolutely honest answer. “Every, every, every day?”

A light went on in my head, and I realized what he was really asking me. “Dennis, you don’t understand—I don’t pray because I am holy; I pray because I am not.” I continued, “I am not capable of living a life without God. This is why I pray every, every, every day.”

The idea of my own incapacity to live even a single day without prayer is not new or unique to me. One of the most oft-quoted sayings in the history of Christianity is St. Augustine’s line in his Confessions, “…our heart is restless until it rests in you.” The reason this is cited so often, even more than a thousand years after it was written, is that it rings true across all cultures and throughout all time. Any heart open to God says “yes” when it hears this beautiful expression. We know in the depths of our being that this is true. The reason it is true is revealed in the full quote, which reads, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

St. Augustine recognizes that our hearts are restless to the degree that we fail to orient all that we are to God. Our restlessness comes from a disorientation of our hearts. To the degree that we give ourselves  to God in prayer, the restlessness will begin to subside. To the degree that we give ourselves to God, we fulfill the purpose of our existence; we know union with God and thus know the peace and joy that enable us to face and overcome whatever comes our way.

If your heart is restless like mine, there is a path to peace and joy available to you. This path can only be found in and through prayer.

Scriptures of the Day

Old Testament: Isaiah 56:1, 6–7

Thus says the LORD:
Observe what is right, do what is just;
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed.

The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
ministering to him,
loving the name of the LORD,
and becoming his servants—
all who keep the sabbath free from profanation
and hold to my covenant,
them I will bring to my holy mountain
and make joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
for my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.

Responsorial Psalm: 67:2–3, 5, 6, 8

May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!

May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!

May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!

Epistle: Romans 11:13–15, 29–32

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles.
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous
and thus save some of them.
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy.
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.

Gospel: Matthew 15:21–28

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

Prayer

May  Jesus heal us individually and collectively as a nation of wrong notions about our brothers and sisters, and unified in Christ, may we live in peace and joy. May all find welcome in our houses of prayer.

Question of the Day

So how is your prayer life? Do you pray every, every, every day?

The way of spiritual childhood

Feast Day of Saint John Eudes

Gospel of the Day: Matthew 19:13–15

Children were brought to Jesus
that he might lay his hands on them and pray.
The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said,
“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them;
for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
After he placed his hands on them, he went away.

Quote of the Day
In Conversation With God, Vol. 4, Francis Fernandez

63.1 Christ’s love for children and for those who become like children.

Our Lord also reveals to us in this Gospel passage that his Kingdom belongs to those who become “as children.” This means having a clean heart and soul, being sincere and uncomplicated, without pride or pretensions. Before God we are indeed as little children, and should act accordingly. Being at the start of life, the child is open to any adventure. So it should be with you. Don’t put any obstacle in the way of your progressive union with Christ, a process which should continue throughout your whole life. [C. Lubich, Words of Life, 47]

63.2 Life of childhood and divine filiation.

In the Incarnation the Son of God could have presented himself to mankind as an angel, or as an all-powerful sovereign. Yet he chose to present himself in the weak and fragile condition of a new-born babe. He chose to be helpless as a child, as if He needed protection and love.

God has wanted us to imitate his Son in this choice, to become what in fact we are — helpless children constantly in need of God’s assistance. See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  [1 John 3:1] These few words capture the fundamental truths of our Faith. They show us how we should deal with our God. To become like children … this requires a real change of heart that will transform all of our thoughts and actions. What must we do to become like children? First of all we must really have to want to be sons of God, ever docile to his Will, being of clean mind and body, humble and sincere. This desire is evidenced in the lives of the saints. As they have become more and more transformed by the action of the Holy Spirit they have increasingly seen themselves as sons of God. To become like children in the spiritual life is more than simply a beneficial  and praiseworthy devotion. It is the expressed desire  of the Lord. Although not every saint has manifested this attitude explicitly, this has been the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of each and every one.

A foolish child wails and stamps his feet when his loving mother puts  a needle to his finger to get a splinter out. A sensible child, on the other hand, perhaps with his eyes full of tears — for the flesh is weak — looks gratefully at his good mother who is making him suffer a little in order to avoid much greater harm. Jesus, may I be a sensible child. [Saint Josemaria Escriva, The Forge, 329] This is our request in this time of prayer — that we learn how to understand sickness, pain, apparent professional failure … that we shall find in such setbacks the providential hand of a Father who never ceases to watch over his sons and daughters. We will accept with a smile whatever life has to offer us, in good times and in bad, and we will se it as something sent or else permitted by Someone who is infinitely wise, Someone who is infinitely in love with us.

A life of childhood has nothing to do with behaving  childishly. A foolish child wails and stamps his feet … childishness has to do with personal immaturity, with a lack of self-discipline, with an overall absence of personal struggle. Such behavior can accompany people throughout their entire life. There are those who enter into old age, and even go to their deaths, without knowing they are children of God. True spiritual childhood  entails real maturity — supernatural vision, consideration of events with the eyes of faith and with the help of the Holy Spirit. This maturity brings with it sincerity and simplicity: its possessor has become a sensible child … In contrast, he who readily accedes to his whims, who gives in to his emotions and his every idea, who is constantly preoccupied  with himself, this person will not make progress on the way of spiritual childhood. The man who is simple as a child is completely taken up with the glory of his Father God, just as his Master was in his earthly life. The true child, the true son, the true daughter has a steady relationship with Abba, his and her Father.

 

Be patient with me; increase my love

Nineteenth Week of Ordinary Time – Thursday

Yesterday’s Gospel was about God’s desire to forgive the infinite debt we owe him due to our sins. To look upon the crucified Christ is to know that our debt has been paid. Today’s Gospel is about our opportunity to image God the Father in the world by forgiving those who sin against us and whose debt to us is much less than what we owe God, who has given us every good thing. Jesus is clear that God can forgive us only to the extent that we forgive others. (The cup you use to measure others is the cup God will use to measure you.)

Gospel of the Day: Matthew 18:21–19:1

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

When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee
and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.

Quote of the Day
In Conversation With God, Vol. 4, Francis Fernandez

61.1 The innumerable benefits from the Lord.

…This first debtor symbolizes our own situation; we owe God so much that we can never hope to pay the debt. We owe him the gift of our creation. He preferred to create us as we are rather than in another way. He created our bodies with the help of our parents, but He created our immortal souls as well as our bodies in a direct, unrepeatable act. He made our bodies and souls to be eternally happy in Heaven. We find ourselves in the world by His express desire. We owe God our conservation in existence, since without him everything would return to nothing. He has given us the energies and qualities of our body and spirit, our health, our life and all the goods we possess. Over and above this natural order, we are in his debt for his supernatural benefits such as the Incarnation of his Son, the Redemption, our divine filiation, our being called to participate in the divine life here on earth and later in Heaven with the glorification of body and soul.

We are indebted to God for the immense gift of being sons and daughters of the Church, in which we have the blessing of receiving the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. In the Church we share through the Communion of Saints in the good works of the other members of the faithful. At any moment we are receiving graces through those other members, those who are at prayer or who are offering up their work or their sufferings … We are also continually receiving benefits from the saints in Heaven, from the holy souls in Purgatory and from the angels. All of these graces reach us through the intercession of Mary, our Mother. Their source lies in the infinite merits of Christ, our Head, our Redeemer and Mediator. These helps are bestowed upon us daily, keeping us from sin, lighting up our souls, moving us to fulfil our duties to do the good that is possible in every moment, to be silent when others complain, to go to the defence or the assistance of the most needy …

We owe God for the grace that is always necessary for any good works, to be true to our resolutions, to deepen our desires to follow Jesus Christ and to make progress in the acquisition of virtues. …

Truly, we are insolvent debtors who have not the wherewithal to pay our debt. We can only adopt the attitude of the bankrupt servant in the parable: So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord,, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ Since we are his sons, we can petition him with an unlimited confidence. Fathers do not remember the loans they have made out of love to their little children. Draw strength from your divine filiation. God is a Father — your Father! — full of warmth and infinite love. call him Father frequently and tell him, when you are alone, that you love him, that you love him very much, and that you feel proud and strong because you are his son. (St J Escriva, The Forge, 331). Our older brother, Jesus Christ, will more than pay in full for all of us.

61.3 Gratitude towards all people; always forgiving every offence

Always and everywhere to give you thanks … This is what our attitude should be towards God. We should be grateful at every moment, in whatever circumstances. This includes those times when we have trouble understanding some event. …Everything that happens to us is a continuous call ut in gratiarum actione semper manemus, that we remain always in an ongoing act of thanksgiving.

Ut in gratiarum actione semper maneamus … We have to bring this attitude  to the fore in our daily life. We need to take advantage of the little happenings of each day to show our gratitude in family life, at work, with our friends … We show our gratitude to the man who sells us a newspaper, to the clerk who attends to us, to the driver who allows us to enter traffic, to the friendly pharmacist at the corner shop.

In this passage from the Gospel the Lord shows us another way to settle our accounts with him. This includes all the debts we have contracted through our sins and omissions. The Lord wants us to forgive those offences which are done to us. IN the worst kind of situation we can imagine, the sum of those offences we receive will not exceed one hundred denarii, a somewhat ridiculous amount compared with the ten thousand talents (some sixty million denarii). If we know how to forgive the offences done to us by others (perhaps even to the extent of a really grievous injury), then our Lord will not hold against us the enormous debt we owe him. This is the condition Jesus imposes at the conclusion of the parable. And this is what we say to God each day when we pray the Our Father: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. When we forgive and forget, we imitate Our Lord, since nothing makes us more like unto God than to be always willing to forgive (St John Chrysostom, Homilies on St Matthew’s Gospel, 19.7).

We finish our meditation with a prayer that has been traditionally popular with the faithful: I thank you my God for having created me, redeemed me, made me a Christian, and given me life. I offer you my thoughts, words, and actions of this day. Do not allow me to offend you and give me strength to flee from occasions of sin. Increase my love for you and for everyone.

He wants to pardon everyone

Nineteenth Week of Ordinary Time – Wednesday

Gospel of the Day: Matthew 18:15–20

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church.
If he refuses to listen even to the Church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”

Quote of the Day
In Conversation With God, Vol. 4, Francis Fernandez

60.1 The promise of the sacrament of Penance and its institution. Giving thanks for this sacrament.

Jesus is well aware of our weaknesses and failings. That is why he instituted the sacrament of Penance. He wanted us to be able to straighten out our ways whenever necessary. Christ had the power to forgive sins and He exercised it on a number of occasions — with the woman taken in adultery (John 8:11), with the good thief hanging from the cross (Luke 23:43), with the paralytic of Capharnaum (Mark 2:1–12) … He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), just as he does now in our own day.

The prophets had prepared the way and foretold this restoration of all things in Christ and the reconciliation of man with God. It is reflected in the words of Isaiah: Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool (Is 1:18). This was  also the mission of the Baptist, who came to preach a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4). How is it then that people wince when the Church preaches the need for Confession?

Jesus shows his mercy above all in his approach to sinners. I know the plans I have for you, plans for peace and not affliction (Jer. 29:11). This was God’s promise through Jeremiah. The liturgy applies these words to Jesus, for it is through him that God reveals his infinite love for us. He did not come to condemn us, to remind us of our pettiness and lack of virtue. He came to save us, to pardon us, to excuse us, to bring us peace and joy (St Josemaria Escriva, Christ is passing by). He sought to pardon those men and women he met on the roads and in the villages of Palestine. He wants to pardon everyone who lives on the earth for the rest of time. …

60.2 Reasons for our gratitude

… In Confession we encounter Jesus, in the same way that the good thief met him, as did the woman caught in adultery, the Samaritan woman and so many others. We meet Jesus as Peter did after his denials. Inasmuch as the remission of sins is an action of Christ, it is at the same time an action of the Mystical Body, the Church.

We should also give thanks for the universality of this power granted to the Church in the person of the Apostles and their successors. The Lord is ready to forgive everything in everyone, always, as long as he finds the proper dispositions. …

Jesus says to us: I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. In Confession he gives us the opportunity to empty all worldliness from the soul, to have a thorough cleaning out. Imagine that God wants you to be overflowing with honey, but you are full of vinegar. Where can God put the honey? asks Saint Augustine. First you have to empty and clean out the container. … The Holy Spirit will increase the sensitivity of our souls if we make the little effort required to confess our sins frequently, to examine our consciences diligently and make good resolutions. We will acquire an interior refinement of soul characterized by a horror of mortal sin. We will flee from the occasions of mortal sin while we grow in our hatred of venial sin. In this manner, Confession fills us with confidence in the struggle. Those who practice it have found it to be “the sacrament of joy.”

…With this aid we make progress in humility. We combat un-Christian customs. We confront lukewarmness head on. We strengthen our will and increase sacramental grace in ourselves by the virtue of the sacrament of Penance. How mamy benefits we receive from the Lord through this wonderful sacrament!

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Faithful and inexhaustible love

Prayer of the Day: Pope Francis’ Intention for July
that our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the faith
rediscover the beauty of the Christian life

 

In today’s scripture, we see the faithful and inexhaustible love of God demonstrated when Jesus relieves two men who are possessed by demons. Not only are two men free, but the road becomes safe for all to travel. Rather than rejoice, the people of the town reject Jesus and the freedom he desires to give. Later on in scripture, however, we learn that this town does turn to and follow Jesus, and we can do the same. Jesus awaits each one of us, no matter for what reason or for how long we have rejected him. He desires no less than to set us free and bestow his love upon us.

Scripture of the Day: Matthew 8:28–34
in which the people of a town reject Jesus and ask him to leave

When Jesus came to the territory of the Gadarenes,
two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him.
They were so savage that no one could travel by that road.
They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God?
Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?”
Some distance away a herd of many swine was feeding.
The demons pleaded with him,
“If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine.”
And he said to them, “Go then!”
They came out and entered the swine,
and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea
where they drowned.
The swineherds ran away,
and when they came to the town they reported everything,
including what had happened to the demoniacs.
Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus,
and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.

Question of the Day

Have you turned away from Jesus? Why?