Something beautiful…

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The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the oldest Marian Feast, returns every year in the heart of summer. It is an opportunity to rise with Mary to the heights of the spirit where one breathes the pure air of supernatural life and contemplates the most authentic beauty, the beauty of holiness.”
~ Pope Benedict XVI, homily on the Solemnity of the Assumption, August 15, 2008

“If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to Him.” – Edith Stein

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Today is the Memorial of Edith Stein

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr

“Things were in God’s plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that – from God’s point of view – there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God’s divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God’s all-seeing eyes.”

St. Teresa Benedicta (1891-1942), began life as Edith Stein, the child of Jewish parents. By the time she was a teenager, though, she identified as an atheist. She earned a doctorate in philosophy, summa cum laude, and her thesis “The Problem with Empathy” earned her great renown. Later, while trying to gain a professorship, a near-impossible feat for women of the day, St. Teresa Benedicta had a conversion experience. St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography inspired her, and in 1922 she was baptized. She continued academic life and translated works of Aquinas and Newman. In 1934, she professed in the Carmelite Order. Sadly, her path took an abrupt turn. As World War II engulfed Europe, St. Teresa’s Jewish heritage caused her to be arrested and placed in Auschwitz, where she was killed. She is remembered as a ‘daughter of Israel,’ who was faithful to both her Jewish heritage and her Christian beliefs.

Today’s Catholic Mass Readings here.

Sweet Peace

PEACE by Henry Vaughan, 1650

My soul, there is a country
Far beyond the stars,
Where stands a wingèd sentry
All skillful in the wars :
There, above noise and danger,
Sweet Peace sits crown’d with smiles,
And One born in a manger
Commands the beauteous files.
He is thy gracious Friend,
And—O my soul awake !—
Did in pure love descend,
To die here for thy sake.
If thou canst get but thither,
There grows the flower of Peace,
The Rose that cannot wither,
Thy fortress, and thy ease.
Leave then thy foolish ranges ;
For none can thee secure,
But One, who never changes,
Thy God, thy life, thy cure.

“He who created us without our help will not save us without our consent.” St. Augustine

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“God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel (cf. Sir 15:14), so that he might of his own accord seek his creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him” (GS 17 § 1).

Freedom is the power to act or not to act, and so to perform deliberate acts of one’s own. Freedom attains perfection in its acts when directed toward God, the sovereign Good”  (CCC 1743, 1744).

Our Spiritual Family

A reflection on today’s Sacred Scripture:

Imagine you’re the one who relays the message to Jesus that His mother and close relatives are waiting outside the crowds to speak to Him.  No doubt you’d be flabbergasted by Jesus’ response: “Who is my mother?  Who are my brothers?”  (Matthew 12:48)

Jesus wasn’t turning His back on His relatives.  He was teaching that to be His disciple means saying yes to God’s invitation to belong to His family by living in conformity with His way of life: “For whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)  Family ties are vital, but as Christians, our first vocation is to follow Jesus.

Many people aren’t a part of an earthly family and at times feel they’re without a friend in the world.  But when we live in friendship with Jesus, our family circle grows to millions as we become part of the spiritual union with everyone in Heaven who served God faithfully while on earth, and those on earth who live in His friendship along with us.

Today’s Gospel promises that if everyone were to draw near to Jesus, there’d be no more loneliness in the world, for He not only becomes our truest of friends, but our brother, sharing with us the same loving Father in Heaven.

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Like Sheep Without a Shepherd

Again, Jesus amazes the crowds when He heals a demoniac, but the Pharisees respond with suspicion, declaring to all that Jesus’ power comes from the devil.  The crowds are confused by this and feel abandoned by their religious leaders, especially after they hear Jesus teach in their synagogues and see more of His miraculous healings.  Jesus’ heart is moved with pity for them because they recognize Him as Truth, but having been deserted in their own place of worship, are now like sheep without a shepherd, who only thirst for more of Him.  So Jesus sends His disciples out on a mission, telling them to ask the Master of the harvest to send out laborers for His abundant harvest.

Our world is still vastly troubled and in a state of confusion, because like the Pharisees, too many religious leaders are leery of the Truth the Gospel brings.  But it was by this Truth that Jesus received the power to heal when He disposed His heart to do the will of His Father.

Jesus has many followers, but few who are willing to become laborers and proclaim the Gospel of His Kingdom.  We want only to see His miracles, feel His consolation — but not His sufferings.  Today’s Gospel incites the disciples of our time to become true laborers by imitating Jesus, the Great Laborer, by bringing into our prayer-lives the desire to cooperate with the divine plan of our Father, the Master of the harvest, and to share the message of Truth to those He brings to us.  e.

Believe

“You did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time” (Luke 1:20).

Faith assures us that anything is possible with God, and The Catechism teaches us that,

“God, who created everything also rules everything and can do everything. God’s power is loving, for He is our Father, and mysterious, for only faith can discern it when it is made perfect in weakness.” (Paragraph 268, CCC)

But faith doesn’t always come easy, as Zechariah discovered.  He and Elizabeth had spent their lives childless; Elizabeth was barren and now they were old, so any hope of a child had gone forever and their prayers remained unanswered.

Or so it seemed.

A message of incredible hope was delivered to Zechariah by the Angel Gabriel, “Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.”  But Zechariah didn’t believe and his doubt became a lesson in faith after he was made speechless.

In time, Zechariah accepted the Angel’s message as truth and God’s promise was fulfilled. Zechariah was given a son who was great and whose name would restore his speech and change his and Elizabeth’s lives, and the lives of the children of Israel forever!

How often do we pray for what we think is impossible then doubt we’ll ever receive an answer, especially one as extraordinary as Zechariah’s?  We lean toward uncertainty when our situation seems hopeless—but it’s only hopeless to us. What seemed hopeless to Zechariah was accomplished with the help of an angel, God’s grace and Zechariah’s ultimate trust and faith.

Like Zechariah, we must trust in God’s loving power and believe that He will exceed our expectations in time.  Zechariah’s muteness taught us that our prayers will only be answered in fullness when we believe.  e.

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist – Vigil Mass

Who Can Enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ . . . but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

It’s about saying vs. doing.

Jesus teaches that His Father’s will is accomplished through actions, not just words.  It’s not sufficient to say, “I believe,” or “I’m sorry.”  When our days here end, having merely spoken these words will not have been enough.

On an encouraging note, God loves us more than we can comprehend.  He wants to make our sin and His law visible to us so we can attain eternal life with Him.  It’s not enough to confess, and then repeatedly commit the same sins.  We must also resolve to do His will. So He left us with tools for strength and endurance: His Word and the Sacraments, to help us build our house on rock, not sand.  We must let Him transform us, and when He sees we’re determined, He’ll replace our way with His way.  During our lives, each of us is given the opportunity to develop the Kingdom of God, His very presence, within us.  When we do, we begin to see a clearer path toward the Kingdom of Heaven.

How exciting, to realize today’s Gospel was not meant to dishearten. Jesus only wanted us to know that, to His Father, actions speak louder than words.  e.

“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit” (Matthew 7:18).

Weeks ago we noticed one of the large apple trees in our neighborhood hadn’t yet come into bud.  Its bare form stood alone among all the other trees that had long since flowered and were well into full leaf.  I remarked that it must have died, but my husband thought it just needed a little more time to mature.  Day after day we’d watch the tree and chat about its progress, until finally we agreed that the harsh winter must have killed it.  Figuring it would soon be cut down, we didn’t give it another thought.

Fortunately God doesn’t give up on us that easily.  And neither should we be quick to decide on another’s growth.  Like trees, we need to mature before we can blossom.  We tend to think it’s hopeless when others fail to bud, but God goes on feeding us with the desire that we grow in His love and bear fruit that is recognizable as good.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus compares Christian disciples with trees—some produce good fruit, others bad.  How are we to distinguish between them?  The difference can be recognized by the quality of our deeds—the “fruits.”

The lone apple tree we left for dead is now fully leafed and lush with life, but because we gave up on it, we completely missed its spectacular flowering stage of pink and white blossoms.  Now, with God’s care, it’s well on its way to bearing shiny red fruit, which is what He wants from each of us. “So by their fruits you will know them”  (Matthew 7:20).

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