Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mary, Mercy, and the Ark of the Covenant


The Gospel of Luke gives us the beautiful story of the Visitation, when Mary hastened to help her cousin Elizabeth. What does this have to do with mercy? First of all, Mary is doing a work of mercy in helping her older relative with this unexpected pregnancy. But the text has another theme, a bit hidden, that is also connected with mercy. Luke is hinting that Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant. What does this mean?

First, what was the Ark? It’s first mentioned in the book of Exodus and it represented the presence of God with his people Israel. The Ark was a large wooden box gilded with gold that contained three things: 1) some manna 2) Aaron’s rod, which budded, and 3) the tablets with the Ten Commandments.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The gold-plated cover of the box was called the mercy seat (kapporah in Hebrew; hilasterion in Greek). Later when the Temple was built, the ark was placed in the Holy of Holies, where the high priest would go once a year on the Day of Atonment. He would sprinkle blood on it and make an offering to God to atone for the sins of the people. The idea was that God would have mercy on the people and forgive their sins.

So the Ark of the Covenant had this close connection with mercy. We also find that in the New Testament, Jesus himself is the one who offered the perfect atonement for sins by his sacrificial offering of himself on the cross. The Greek word used for the mercy seat, indicating its role as an atoning sacrifice, is used of Jesus, for example, in Romans 3:25 where Paul says, “whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.”

In the Visitation, we can see an important connection between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary. How so? First, consider that the Ark represented God’s presence among the people. As she went on her journey, Mary was already carrying Jesus. And since Jesus is God, Mary is the God-bearer. Here she is bringing Jesus, who is mercy itself and the one who will offer the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Mary was like a tabernacle for Jesus.

Luke’s text indicates this, as we can see by comparing it to 2 Samuel 6:1-19, where the Ark of the Covenant was transferred to a new location.

1) Dancing and joy
“David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the lord with all their might….” (v. 5)

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb” (Lk 1:39)

2) Humility before God’s presence

David said, “How can the ark of the lord come into my care?” (v. 9)

Elizabeth said, “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (Lk 1:43).

3) Three months time span:

“The ark of the lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months” (v. 11)

“Mary remained with her about three months” (Lk 1:56)

4) Blessings from God’s presence in the Ark

“And the lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household” (v. 11)

Elizabeth told Mary, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Lk 1:45)


What about us?
As baptized Christians we too have the presence of God in us through sanctifying grace and the sacraments, especially Communion. Like Mary, we can bring Christ to others through our words and actions.


Prayer

Mary, you were a tabernacle for Jesus, bringing him to others. Pray for us that like you, we too may recall his presence in us through grace, and always strive to lead others to your Son. Help us realize that everything we do can be a positive witness to the Gospel, so that through our lives others will be brought to Jesus.

© 2016, Daughters of Saint Paul

Friday, May 27, 2016

St Thomas and the Feast of Corpus Christi



Besides his great theological work, Thomas was a poet and hymn writer. He wrote his most famous hymns for the feast of Corpus Christi, which was first celebrated in 1246 in the diocese of Liège (Belgium). Under the inspiration of a devout group of women headed by St. Julienne of Mont-Cornillon, the bishop Robert of Torote approved their request to establish a feast in honor of the Body and Blood of Christ. It was a local celebration but soon began to spread. The Dominican Hugh of Saint-Cher approved it for use in Germany, where he was the cardinal-legate.
On August 11, 1264, Pope Urban IV established the feast for the whole Church through the publication of the papal bull Transiturus. Before becoming Pope, Urban had been in Liège and knew St. Julienne, so he was well acquainted with the background of the feast. However, in Italy the impetus for the feast originated with the Eucharistic miracle at Bolsena, a small town near Orvieto. A priest who was traveling through the area and who had been experiencing doubts about the Eucharist celebrated Mass in the town. During Mass the sacred host began to bleed, and the doubting priest reaffirmed his faith. The corporal he used is now venerated in the cathedral in Orvieto. This miracle stirred up popular Eucharistic devotion. Pope Urban asked Thomas to write the texts for the Mass and Office of this feast. This includes some of his most famous hymns that are still sung today and cherished by Catholics, such as the Pange lingua, Tantum ergo, and Panis angelicus. Although for a while some scholars had expressed doubts that Thomas was the author of the liturgical texts, more recent studies have concluded without a doubt that he indeed was (see Jean-Pierre Torrell, St Thomas Aquinas, vol. 1, p. 129-132). The theology of the texts is like Thomas’ autograph.
Although the feast was set for the Thursday following the octave of Pentecost, that first year it was celebrated in Orvieto in the late summer of 1264. Pope Urban died shortly after, on October 2. The implementation of the feast was never fully carried out until 1317 under Pope John XXII (who also canonized Thomas).

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Veneremur cernui:
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Praestet fides supplementum
Sensuum defectui.


Genitori, Genitoque
Laus et jubilatio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
Compar sit laudatio. Amen.



Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! o'er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.

To the everlasting Father,
And the Son Who reigns on high
With the Holy Spirit proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor blessing,
Might and endless majesty. Amen.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Nine: Self-Control

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control." Gal 5:22

This is the ninth and final fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions here in Galatians. He is not speaking of self-control only in the sense of a certain kind of asceticism, though we need that too. For Paul, if we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit himself enables us to live holy lives. We need to do our part, definitely, but it is primarily a matter of grace.
And God always gives that grace in abundance if we pray and ask for it. On Sunday when we celebrate Pentecost, pray for the Spirit to come upon you personally just as it happened on the first Pentecost. The apostles were waiting and praying in the upper room as Jesus had told them (see Acts 1:4, 13-14). When the Holy Spirit came upon them with power, they were transformed and spoke about Jesus with renewed boldness and zeal. The Holy Spirit will transform us too.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts!

In our congregation, today (Saturday May 23) we celebrate the feast of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. Mary was the one most filled with the Holy Spirit. So here is a prayer that brings out that connection.



Mary, Transformer of the Apostles

Mary rejoice for the days you were in the Upper Room
with the Apostles and Disciples of your Son, Jesus.
You were teacher, comforter, and mother to all those
gathered in prayer awaiting the promised Holy Spirit,
the Spirit with the sevenfold gifts,
Love of the Father and of the Son;
Transformer of the Apostles.
Through your intercession and prayer obtain for us
the grace to realize the value of every human person
saved by your Son’s fidelity to the Father
to the point of offering his life on the cross.
May the love of Jesus urge us on for the Gospel.
May we feel in our hearts the needs of the unborn, of children,
of youth, of adults, of the elderly.
Grant that the vastness of Africa, the immensity of Asia,
the promise of America, the hopes of Europe, and Oceania
will attract us to share the message of the Gospel
with every person and in every culture.
May the apostolate of witness, prayer, the press,
films, radio, television, the Internet, social media and all media-technology,
draw many apostles to use these effective means
as ways to announce the Kingdom of God.
Mary, Mother of the Church and our Mother,
Queen of the Apostles, our intercessor, pray for us.

Blessed James Alberione, SSP, adapted



Mary and the Holy Spirit

Unless we see Mary in relation to the Holy Spirit, we will never understand her role in the Church.

“The Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell; he so transforms them that they begin to live a completely new kind of life” (St Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John).

The Holy Spirit first came upon Mary at her Immaculate Conception, preserving her from original sin and filling her with grace. She was filled with the Spirit all through her life, but at certain moments received a greater outpouring of the Spirit:  at the Annunciation, on Calvary, and on Pentecost. At each of these moments the Holy Spirit changed Mary. In what way and why did it matter?

The Holy Spirit changed Mary by making her holy and by giving her a new mission. The role of the Spirit is not only to make us holy, but also to give us a mission in the Church. As St John Paul put it, “The Holy Spirit is indeed the principal agent of the whole of the Church’s mission” (Mission of the Redeemer, no. 21). With that in mind let’s dig a little deeper into these three moments in Mary’s life.

The Annunciation

The angel Gabriel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God” (Lk 1:35). At that moment when Mary gave her consent, she became the Mother of God by becoming the mother of Jesus, who is God. That was a huge change for her, unique in the history of the human race. But that shouldn’t make us feel that Mary is distant from us. The mission she received then was not so much for herself but for us. Her mission was to give us Jesus in the flesh, the incarnate Son of God who came to earth to free us from our sins. The mission of Jesus depended on Mary. Without her, we wouldn’t have him. For many Christians, Mary’s mission stops here. But the Gospel leads us deeper.

On Calvary

“Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home” (Jn 19:25-27) What was going on? Certainly Jesus cared about his mother’s welfare and as a loving son wanted to provide for her. But John’s Gospel has layers of meaning, so there’s more to it.
The beloved disciple is never named in the Gospel. Many think that is because he represents the beloved disciples of every age, that is, all of us. Jesus was telling the disciple not just to take care of his mother, but also to accept her into his life of faith. In telling Mary “Here is your son,” Jesus was giving her many spiritual sons and daughters who would follow Jesus throughout the ages. Mary would help the beloved disciple more than he could help her, because of her spiritual motherhood.
With that gesture, Jesus finished his mission on earth and the Gospel tells us “Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn 19:30). Certainly that means that he died. But again, the text has a deeper meaning. Jesus is handing over the Holy Spirit to the Church, represented there by his mother and the beloved disciple (see I Believe in the Holy Spirit, Yves Congar, p. 52). This will become more definitive after Easter, but John is bringing out a connection between Jesus’ death on the cross and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Mary, receiving the Spirit again, is changed and is given the new mission of being the mother of the beloved disciples and indeed all of us.


Pentecost

Finally, on Pentecost we find Mary with the disciples gathered in the Upper Room, and “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). This new outpouring of the Holy Spirit again brought to Mary a new change and a new mission. This has to do with her role in the Church. Vatican II said of Mary that “the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church: the Mother of God is a figure of the Church in the matter of faith, charity, and perfect union with Christ” (Lumen Gentium, no. 63).
Mary received a new motherhood in the order of grace (see John Paul, Mother of the Redeemer) by which she leads us to a deeper knowledge and love of her son, Jesus. As disciples, the more we ourselves are filled with the Holy Spirit, the more we will be changed to fulfill the mission God gives us. And the more we welcome Mary into our own lives as disciples, the more effective we will be.


Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us!


Friday, May 13, 2016

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Eight: Gentleness (Fri.)

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . gentleness" (Gal 5:22)

The word Paul uses for gentleness (prautes) is the same word Matthew uses for the beatitude: Blessed are the meek (or gentle or humble in heart). Jesus spoke of himself in that way, that he is gentle and humble of heart. He invites us to take his yoke on us because he is so gentle he will never "break the bruised reed" (Is 42:3).
Jesus promised he would send us the Spirit. Of course he has already sent the Spirit, but he can do that again and again. As time goes on we can grow in our capacity to receive the Holy Spirit.

Do I turn to Jesus with trust? 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of life, you who came down upon the apostles in a mighty wind and with fire, who filled the house where they were and gave them the gift of tongues to proclaim the wonders of God, come down now upon me as well.
Fill me with yourself and make of me a temple wherein you dwell. Open my lips to proclaim your praise, to ask your guidance, and to declare your love.
Holy Light, divine Fire, eternal Might, enlighten my mind to know you, inflame my heart to love and, strengthen my will to seek and find you. Be fore me the living and life giving Breath of God, the very air I breathe, and the only sky in which my spirit soars. Amen.


Below is another version of the Taize chant of the Veni Sancte Spiritus.



Thursday, May 12, 2016

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Seven: Faithfulness (Thur.)

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . faithfulness" (Gal 5:22)

The word Paul uses here (pistis) can be translated as faith or faithfulness. But in the context of Galatians, in which Paul speaks about how faith in Christ justifies us, it can probably be best seen as a trust founded on God's own faithfulness (that's from Matera's commentary.)

This kind of faithfulness leads us to trust that God will always be with us no matter what trials we are going through. This makes me think of an incident from the life of St. Thomas. As a young man he decided he wanted to join a new order called the Dominicans. They were mendicants--traveling preachers who depended on people to help them with food and other necessities.
Thomas was from a noble family in Italy. They wouldn't have minded if he had wanted to become a Benedictine. Since he had studied at the Abbey of Monte Cassino, they thought he could enter there and eventually become the Abbot. But the idea of him going around begging for food horrified them. His mother in particular adamantly opposed Thomas on this.

But Thomas had other ideas. He wanted to follow the poor Christ, without a position of power (in those days abbots sometimes had a good deal of power and influence). So when he entered the Dominicans and they sent him on a journey to Paris, his family intervened. His brothers went after him and took him against his will back to the family castle in Aquino.
There they kept him under a sort of house arrest. They thought he wouldn't last too long and would eventually give in. But he resisted all their pressure to make him change his mind. Finally, after about a year, they realized he wasn't going to follow their plans. Instead, Thomas was faithful to the plans that he believed God had for him. That was faithfulness in action.


Is there some area in my life where I can be more faithful to what God is asking of me right now?

Prayer to the Holy Spirit for the Gift of Courage (public domain):

Come, O Holy Spirit of Courage, uphold my soul in time of trouble and adversity, sustain my efforts after holiness, strengthen my weakness, give me courage in the trials of life, that I may never be overcome and separated from you, my God and greatest Good. Amen.

Below is another version of the Taize chant of the Veni Sancte Spiritus.












Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day Six Goodness (Wed.)

"The fruit of the Spirit is ... goodness." Gal 5:22


 In high school I had a wonderful teacher who was a mentor for me. She would often say, "Be good." Even though it sounds so simple, it sums up the essence of the Christian life. By being good we can act  with goodness toward others. The way we act reveals what is in our hearts. And by good acts, we become better persons. That was the main idea St John Paul wanted to get across in his book Person and Act. The opposite is also true; if we do evil things our heart changes and is drawn more to evil. But the power of good is greater; whatever little good we do can turn our hearts more and more to God, who is Goodness itself.
St. Paul often encouraged his Christians to be good: "I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness..." (Rom 15:14).
The Holy Spirit is the source of our goodness, for the Spirit is Love. When we open ourselves more fully to the Spirit, we can expect to be filled with an abundance of grace and spiritual gifts.

How can I show goodness to others today?



Prayer for Holiness of Life
 By St. Augustine

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
that I may defend all that is holy.
Guard me, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy.

And here is the traditional Come, Holy Ghost:

 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day Five Kindness (Tuesday)

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . kindness." (Gal 5:22)

Some years ago when I was dealing with a difficult situation that had lasted a while, I was praying in our chapel one day. A sister who was visiting from Italy -- who knew nothing of the difficulty -- came up to me and expressed genuine appreciation for some of my good qualities. When people do that I tend to disregard it, but in this case it was such perfect timing and so completely affirming that I thought it had to be the Holy Spirit who inspired her. It wasn't flattery but I felt almost like she had a window into my soul. And she didn't say any negative things like I may have feared, but instead she spoke of the good she saw in me. And that makes it easier to live out of those good things. It took me completely by surprise but it was a wonderful act of kindness. To this day whenever I think of that, I still recall how good I felt.

Kindness can make such a big difference to another person, and it often costs us so little. To look at someone and see their good points instead of their flaws is an act of kindness. And only kind people will do that. We reveal who we ourselves are by the way we treat others.

How can I show greater kindness to others today?


 Prayer to the Holy Spirit by St John Paul II

Come, Holy Spirit.  Come.  Enter deep into the hearts of those who belong to you.  May each be given the manifestation of you for the common good.  So that God may be all in all.
Lord, give me a spirit of faith and knowledge.  Give me a spirit of kindness and generosity.  Give me a spirit of love and unity.  The fruit of the spirit is love, patience, and generosity.  It is peace.


 When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. -- Abraham Joshua Heschel



The Veni Creator Spiritus 




Monday, May 09, 2016

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Four: Patience (Monday)


"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . patience" (Gal 5:22)

The patience that St Paul refers to here is more like forbearance.
In relation to God, it's the way that God never tires of us, always has patience, and tries to draw us to conversion.
For us, this kind of patience helps us to control our anger, especially in situations when it threatens to overwhelm us. Just about all of us, at one time or another, have gotten angry to the point it was hard to control our thoughts and words. When that happens we usually say something we later regret.

Patience helps us to control ourselves at those moments. It helps us to see things from another's point of view. If we can do that, even if we don't agree with the person, we can at least understand where he or she may be coming from.

The New Testament has two words for patience. One is hupomonē, which refers more to bearing a burden patiently. It's more like long-suffering, holding up under trials. But here in Galatians Paul uses the word makrothumia. It's a compound word and the two parts give us the meaning: makros or "long" and thumia or "passion" or "temper." So it has more of the sense of being long-tempered, able to take a lot of stress without losing one's temper. If we can practice this, we can become more like God who is so patient with us. That's why it's a fruit of the Spirit, since it depends more on grace than our own efforts.

How can I be more patient today in the events of my life and with the people I am with?

This prayer is directed to St. Paul:


For Patience

Glorious Saint Paul, from a persecutor of Christianity you became an ardent apostle and evangelizer. Throughout your life you even suffered imprisonment, scourging, stoning, and shipwreck; you endured persecutions of every kind for the sake of the Gospel. Your sole desire was to make the Savior Jesus Christ known to the farthest bounds of the world, and to that end you shed your blood to the last drop.
Obtain for me the grace to accept the hardships of ill health and the daily struggles of this present life as opportunities to grow in love for Jesus Christ and share in his sufferings. May the unexpected difficulties that come my way help me to be a more patient, compassionate, and loving person who seeks to assist others in their needs. And, amid the pressures and demands of everyday life, grant me enduring strength to be a faithful and fervent follower of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Blessed James Alberione 

"Have patience with all things but first with yourself." --St Francis de Sales

Below is another version of the Taize chant of the Veni Sancte Spiritus.












Sunday, May 08, 2016

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Three (Sun.) Peace


"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . peace" (Gal 5:22)

Nine years ago I had the opportunity to make an Ignatian 30-day retreat at a retreat house in Gloucester. I loved walking along the water to pray and reflect. The retreat is structured so that the person first meditates and prays about God's great love for us, and only after that come the meditations on sin. We can't truly confront our sin without a secure knowledge of God's love, knowing that no matter what we've done, God's mercy is greater. At that point I made my confession. Afterward, walking along the water, the words of Micah 7:19 came to mind, "You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins." It left me with an incredible feeling of peace.

Before the retreat I had invited people to leave their prayer intentions that I took with me. When I got back, I found a message: "Sister, the prayer I left with you was answered, and today I was able to receive Communion for the first time in more than twenty years." I still treasure that message and it's so beautiful to think of how God answers our prayers for each other. I don't know who that person was, but I'm sure that he or she had a deep experience of this fruit of the Spirit: peace.

Above all else, peace comes first in our relationship with God. When that is set aright, we can more easily live at peace with others. When we allow the Holy Spirit into our hearts, the grace we receive enables us to look at others in a new way. Then it is easier to love them too.

"Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.”--St Teresa of Avila

 Prayer for Peace by St. John Paul II (slightly adapted)

Holy Spirit, hear my voice, for it is the voice of the victims of all wars and violence among individuals and nations.

Holy Spirit, hear my voice, for it is the voice of all children who suffer and will suffer when people put their faith in weapons and war.

Holy Spirit, hear my voice when I beg You to instill into the hearts of all human beings the wisdom of peace, the strength of justice, and the joy of fellowship.

Holy Spirit, hear my voice, for I speak for the multitudes in every country and in every period of history who do not want war and are ready to walk the road of peace.

Holy Spirit, hear my voice and grant insight and strength so that we may always respond to hatred with love, to injustice with total dedication to justice, to need with the sharing of self, to war with peace.

Holy Spirit, hear my voice and grant unto the world Your everlasting peace.



This is the beautiful Taize chant.






Saturday, May 07, 2016

Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day Two (Sat.) Joy




                                                  

Joy is the second fruit of the Spirit mentioned by St. Paul in Galatians.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, we can't help but be joyful. St. Paul himself gave an example of this kind of joy. When he and Silas were preaching the Word of God in Philippi, some people in the town opposed them and stirred up opposition. The apostles were dragged before the town magistrates, who punished them. They were severely beaten with rods and locked up in the town jail (see Acts 16: 19ff.)

But Paul and Silas didn't get discouraged. Instead, they talked to the other prisoners and praised God with prayers and hymns. They were joyful even while undergoing such trials. Shortly after, an earthquake struck the prison and Paul and Silas were freed from their chains. But instead of escaping they talked to the jailer and converted him and his family, who were then baptized. Acts says of them: "He and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God." The Good News that Paul preached brought joy to those who heard it.

In the New Testament, joy isn't primarily just a happy feeling. Instead, it refers to the intense, deep-seated realization that God wants to bring us to salvation through Jesus Christ. This kind of joy can even exist in times of suffering. In fact, sometimes trials themselves can bring a spiritual joy in the sense that we know God is at work through them to bring us closer to him.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:4-7).

Today how can I radiate the joy of the Holy Spirit to those I meet?



Prayer for Holiness of Life


Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
that I may defend all that is holy.
Guard me, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy.
St. Augustine





"A heart filled with joy is more easily made perfect than one that is sad."  -- St. Philip Neri

Optional Scripture reading:
Philippians chapter 2, the epistle of joy

Friday, May 06, 2016

Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day One (Friday) Love




                                                  



On January 13, 1982, a plane taking off in Washington DC crashed into the Potomac River. Camera crews filmed the scene as a helicopter rushed in to throw down a rescue line to lift passengers to safety. As we watched the news that night in our community, Sr Susan Helen said, “Look at that man in the water! He keeps on handing the line to other people so they can be rescued first.” We were all amazed to see a man helping other people before himself. The passenger’s name was Arland D. Williams. He helped save five other people before he himself drowned in the icy water. As we saw him go under and not come up, we were all deeply moved. That heroic image was burned into my memory, a graphic example of Jesus’ words: “Greater love than this no one has, than to lay down one’s life for a friend” (Jn 15:13).

Mr. Williams certainly had agapē—the kind of love Paul speaks about as the first fruit of the Spirit. While I don’t know anything about Williams except his last heroic act, he must have practiced love in countless ordinary ways in his life. People tend to act true to their character in emergency situations.

Greek has several words for love. Agapē is a special kind of love marked by a true gift of one’s self. It has no self-interest about it. It is the kind of love that moves a parent to stay up with a sick child, or a teacher to never give up on a struggling student.

St. Paul uses agapē often in his letters. For him its primary meaning is God’s love for us. For example, Romans 5:8 says: “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

Knowing and experiencing God’s love for us enables us to then love others. As Paul said earlier in Galatians, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” (5:14) In this letter, Paul clarified the role of the Mosaic law. As Christians we are no longer bound to observe that law, for we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. But Paul goes on to explain that this doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want. We are still bound by the law of love, which Jesus taught us in the Gospel.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Love itself. On this first day of the novena for Pentecost, we can ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with an even greater love for God and for others. That is the basis for living a good Christian life.

Today how can I show greater love to those with whom I live and work?


Prayer to the Spirit of Love

Come, Holy Spirit.
Come, Mighty Spirit.
Spirit of love and wisdom.
Spirit of light and power.
You help us in our weakness.
Come, fill our inmost being.
Come, Holy Spirit, come to us.
Transform us so that our hearts may be
a new creation of your love.
Guide us with your wisdom and love,
and let the radiance of your light
renew the face of the earth. Amen.
Carlo Recalcati, SSP



"In the evening of life we will be judged on love."  -- St John of the Cross

Optional Scripture reading:
1 Corinthians 13:1-13—the hymn to love

Monday, May 02, 2016

St Athanasius



Saint Athanasius (c. 296/98-May 2, 373)


As a young man Athanasius spent some time with Saint Anthony of the Desert to learn the ways of the spiritual life. That formation served him well, for Athanasius became one of the most important defenders of the Christian faith. Bishop Alexander of Alexandria brought Athanasius with him to the Council of Nicea in 325. The Council taught the truth about the divinity of Jesus Christ. The priest Arius had been teaching a false doctrine that Jesus was not fully divine but a sort of created demi-god. Despite the Council’s clear teaching, Arianism spread widely, especially because it was politically supported by the emperors. In 328 Athanasius became the bishop of Alexandria, a position he held until his death. But he had to constantly struggle to uphold the true teaching about Jesus Christ. Four different emperors exiled Athanasius five times, for a total of seventeen years. Despite all the opposition Athanasius never wavered from defending the truth, giving rise to the expression Athanasius contra mundum (Athanasius against the world). He wrote important theological works and also a biography of Saint Anthony, which helped spread Christian monasticism. After his death, the Council of Constantinople in 381 reaffirmed the orthodox teaching about the divinity of Jesus.



Reflection
Athanasius reminds us that it is never easy to be Catholic. He could have caved and compromised the truth about Jesus Christ in order to accommodate the Arians. But he knew that would have destroyed the Christian faith, for if Jesus is not divine he could not have saved us. Our world today is filled with many voices that challenge and sometimes ridicule Christian faith. Like Athanasius, we must resist such errors even while loving those who hold them.

Prayer

Saint Athanasius, pray for us that we may grow in our knowledge and love of Jesus Christ, and always acknowledge him as our Savior.


© 2015, Daughters of Saint Paul

ShareThis