Archive | July, 2015

Faith, Family and Joy

21 Jul

pierre and marley                 Our own St. Mary Magdalen Parish, near Orlando, has a good cross-section of family life. There are children, teenagers, young adults, single folks, grandparents and great-grandparents. And we have widows and widowers.

          And we are all one family, brothers and sisters in Christ—one and all children of the Father. Our joy and love for one another is quite evident as we gather together before and after Sunday and weekday Masses. Our priests are true spiritual fathers whose love for all of us is so very evident.

          From the fourth century, St. Ambrose speaks to the heart of the modern family and parish.

Let your mind “stand open to receive him, unlock your soul to him, offer him a welcome in your mind, and then you will see the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, the joy of grace.[i]

The Riches of Simplicity

          Simplicity may seem illusive today because of the pressures on the family (or the parish): so many things to be done, so many distractions coming from all directions, the pressures of strained or broken relationships, the departure of loved ones.

          Simplicity is to trust God in all things—budgets, debts, illness, death and whatever else may otherwise shake your faith. It is also to thank God for all the good that comes your way.

          Simplicity is born of humility; humility is the result of standing in right relationship with God—you are creature and he is Creator; your every breath is a gift from our God.

The Treasures of Peace

          Peace comes with trust in God, in believing that in all things God is with us—with you and me, with every member of our families and with our parish family.

          This is the “peace that surpasses understanding,” a peace that is born in the heart of Christ and given to us freely if we can but trust and surrender to God.

The Joy of Grace

          In my younger and even more ignorant years, I thought of grace as a gift of God—and it is. However, I saw it as a commodity God would hand me if I would only be a good little boy.

          Since I am a bit less ignorant now, I realize that grace ultimately is better understood in terms of my relationship with God. God loves me, wants me to know him, love him and serve him in this life and to be happy with him in the next.”[ii] His gift of grace is his invitation and, when I surrender to him of my own free will, he draws me into the embrace of his love, wisdom and divinity.

          “Sanctifying grace” is a share in the divine life of God. Nothing less—and there can be nothing more this side of the Pearly Gates.

          “Actual graces” are special gifts from God that enable us to turn the other cheek, help the less fortunate and keep our priorities in order.

          Grace is a great joy—it helps us focus on who God wants us to become.

          Grace is a great joy because it is God’s special gift in which we know that God has touched us and our families; we can bask in his love and friendship always ready to share that great joy with others.

[i] St. Ambrose (fourth century), Bishop of Milan, Liturgy of the Hours,    Book III, page 469

 [ii] Baltimore Catechism, response to the question, “Why did God make me?”

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A Sacrifice of …

13 Jul

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You may have experienced a great faith-hurdle: How can I truly praise and thank God when there are tough things in life, or if I fear that the world is headed toward a God-less devastation?

And yet, in the midst of small and great troubles, the Scriptures direct us to make a “sacrifice of praise” and a “sacrifice of thanksgiving.”[i]

What do these “sacrifices” mean in my relationship with God?

A Sacrifice of Praise

You may hear someone say, “Praise the Lord”—an invitation to others to join you in a moment of intimate gratitude and worship. The invitation may also be a strong statement of faith when made in the midst of fear, danger or turmoil.

For me, praise of the Lord means ultimately to surrender to God who, out of love, willed me into existence. Also, God gave me the gift of faith—but I, too often, smugly regard faith as my gift to God. Even obedience to God is a gift. Without God’s grace I could never hope to know him, love him or serve him.

A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Praise and thanksgiving are inseparable.

How can I praise God without a sense of gratitude? How can I thank God without praising him?

And how can I give God anything that demands from him something in return?

(For) ”from him and through him and for him all things are.”[ii]

A Third Virtue

Perhaps we need to embrace a third virtue to accompany praise and gratitude. This virtue, humility, enables the faithful believer to enter into a precious intimacy with God.

Humility helps us stand in proper relationship with God and our neighbor. We become able to embrace, as a gift, that unrelenting thirst to be totally one with God and with one another.

Humility brings us to the blessing mentioned by St. Gregory of Nyssa:

Now when you are told that the majesty of God is exalted above the heavens, that his glory is inexpressible, his beauty indescribable, and his nature transcendent, do not despair because you cannot behold the object of your desire. If by a diligent life of virtue you wash away the film of dirt that covers your heart, then the divine beauty will shine forth within you.[iii]

And then, you will rejoice in God’s gift of life, you will be able to remain hopeful in the midst of troubles or disasters.

[i] See Heb 13:15, Lev 7:11-15, Psalms  35:13, 50:23 and 107:22.

[ii] Rom 11:33-36.

[iii] Liturgy of the Hours, Book III, p. 413.