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Gal 5:18-25 The Spiritual Life

Wednesday of the Twenty–Eighth Week in Ordinary Time 
Now the works of the flesh are obvious:
immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry,
sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy,
outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness,
dissensions, factions, occasions of envy,
drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.
I warn you, as I warned you before,
that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
Those who deny the spirit usually do so in order to dismiss the good that comes with the life of spirit. The allure of the flesh drives their mind to adopt the necessary logic to justify their skepticism. As Paul says in Philippians 3:19, Their God is their stomach.” In most cases, their appetites, not their minds, direct their course through life and all good things eventually fall by the wayside while every evil thing crops up on the horizon.
In the struggle for holiness, no one should  imagine that it is a conflict of mind over the body—the body will win every time—but rather is a conflict of the soul with the flesh. The very force that works upon the mind and the will, one’s own spirit, must subdue the other force that can do the same, one’s body. While not inherently evil, the body can open the forces of evil into one’s life if not controlled. Like an ignorant mob instigating a reign of prejudice and terror that tears apart the history and culture of a nation, the unbridled impulses of the body can decimate the nobler parts of a man. The life of the spirit properly contains these hordes and channels their energy towards more constructive ends. The spiritual individual can truly regain his humanity and adopt the virtues that Paul speaks of: “ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
Unfortunately, the soul often loses in its struggle with the body. After all, the body has the world on its side while the soul has God, whom many people foolishly choose to ignore. The lonely soldier that fights for the soul easily succumbs to the throng of armies fighting for the body. Neutrality does not exist in the battlefield of the one’s self: either the spirit rules or the flesh does; any wavering on this point inevitably favors the latter.
At first the victory of the flesh over the soul feels wonderful. One can sin with utter abandonment, delighting in the pleasures of the world. Jettisoning the burden of self-sacrifice and personal growth, the sinner can live like a child again except with the strength and spending-power of an adult. Anything seems possible in those early period of the flesh: relationships, food, politics, and entertainment all serve as perfectly fine idols to worship. All one has to do is have these things at hand forever until they die in perfect ignorant bliss. To this end, human progress has made great strides in supplying the spiritually impoverished with all the bodily goods they could possibly want.
However, these goods, these friendly ubiquitous idols, suffer the same fate as the bodies they satisfy: they grow old and pass away. Lust does not last, nor does gluttony, nor does vanity, nor does sloth. They peak, and then they fade, leaving a person empty. The body which triumphed in its success now struggles to continue as its kingdom declines. It desperately clutches some new source of joy or pleasure even to the point of enduring great suffering, much like an old despot starving his own people and brutalizing any opposition just to remain in power. By their very nature, these pleasures quickly degenerate into division, enmity, mediocrity, and desolation. Nothing but corruption can result from selfishness.
By contrast, the spiritual life brings about spiritual goods, the goods that last. Through His grace, God confers these gifts upon men from within. They, like the spirit, endure forever and require nothing from the world; hence, the world spurns the spiritual life and constantly denies its existence. Rather than dividing people and stoking hatred, these spiritual goods bring people together in true sincere manner. Far from encouraging mediocrity and self-indulgence, the spiritual life nurtures personal excellence and “self-control.”
St. Theresa of Avila, whose feast day the Church celebrates today, strove for this life of the spirit for much of her life. All of a sudden the spiritual life brought about all the goods that Paul mentions. Theresa personally discovered what grace lay in the life of the spirit that so many Christians took for granted. Illuminated by God, she created many new monasteries, reformed her own order, and wrote many crucial works on the spiritual life and the many barriers that prevented its full adoption. She demonstrated that the life of a Christian means pursuing this life of the spirit, and that a life of the spirit is ultimately a life that never ends.

Retreat Week

Please keep me in your prayers this week. I’m on retreat. :) Fr Alfonse

Gal 5:18-25 Guided By The Spirit

Wednesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Brothers and sisters: If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like…..In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Today we celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Teresa of Avila, a Virgin and Doctor of the Church instrumental in reforming the Carmelite Order.  I love this quote from the Spanish mystic:
“May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given toyou. May you be content knowing that you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into our bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and everyone of you.”   
 Saint Teresa’s beautiful words resonate as I reflect on how we are guided by the Holy Spirit.   Many times we ignore the Spirit’s prodding, choosing to do morally objectionable things through our own selfish will.   We fail to recognize how “works of the flesh” harm our souls as well relationships with others.  We lose an inner peace that Our Lord desperately wants to bless us with. Stubborn sinfulness is all too pervasive throughout mankind.
We feel instant attraction to forbidden fruit.  (As the saying goes, we want what we cannot have!)  We lust after attractive men or women often to the point of treating them as objects, using them for our own gratification.  We idolize everything from movie celebrities to money and power instead of placing God #1 in our lives.  We display acts of hate, anger, and rivalry in ways that cause divisions and frictions with one another.  Furthermore, we often fall into the trap of believing in heretic teachings, “new age” thought, and quackery which distances us from the Truth of Christ.
The forbidden fruits of the flesh may taste delectable, smell fragrant and look beautiful; however, they can be caustic to our souls.   To neutralize the caustic effect, it’s essential for us to dine from the fruits of the Spirit.  Most of us rather snack on a cookie than a carrot; drink soda instead of water; and eat fried food instead of baked!  Junk food tastes good, but if that’s all we eat we will harm our bodily health.  The same situation goes with our spiritual health; by engaging in sinful and perverse behaviors we cause damageto our souls.
Our interior souls are beautifully molded and crafted by God.  He wants our souls to be well taken care of.  He doesn’t want us to choose human pleasures that disconnect ourselves from Him.  When we love instead of hate, we see the goodness in another person.  When we strive for joyfulness instead of grouchiness, we bring smiles to others.  When we act with generosity and kindness, we bring hope to others.  When we remain patient and self-controlled, we no longer risk scandal and offense.
Most importantly of all, when we remain faithful in Jesus Christ we recognize a peace within ourselves and others.  This peace is often blinded by anxiety and worry, but through prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments we can overcome darkness and see the shining Light of Christ.
“Let nothing disturb you, 
Let nothing frighten you, 
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.”
-Saint Teresa of Jesus, Pray for Us!
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer’s Spectrum of Spirituality

Lk 11:37-41 Changing From Within

Tuesday of the Twenty-Eighth week in Ordinary Time

The Lord said to him, ‘Oh you Pharisees!
Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,
inside you are filled with plunder and evil.
You fools!
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?
But as to what is within, give alms,
and behold, everything will be clean for you.’”

In the readings today, both Paul and Jesus address a crowd of men who think their good manners and circumcisions will naturally earn them a place in Heaven, or at least the place of honor at the dinner table. After all, good manners distinguishes the respectful enlightened citizen from the uncouth peasant, and circumcision distinguished God’s people from the world’s people. Although these things may seem like superficial attributes, the ancient world, along with the modern world, did not offer many alternatives to differentiate good people from bad people. By that time, different peoples mixed, making one’s ethnicity and ancestry difficult to identify; Hellenization homogenized cultural distinctions like language and aesthetics, eliminating another obvious marker; and the economic and political status of certain individuals became difficult to ascertain due to Roman interference. Only in religion could a Jewish man gain honor for himself; and for most Jews, this meant following Mosaic Law.

While one could praise the Pharisees and the Galatian Judaizers for following God’s law, the motives behind their actions earn some of Jesus’ and Paul’s fiercest rebukes. In extolling their own strict observance of the law, the Pharisees and Galatians forget to observe their own souls. Their legalism creates a host of profound errors in which they misunderstand God, His Son, His Grace, and faith. They think think like children by deciding to ignore the crucial fact that their goodness comes from God, Who works from within. Instead, they insist on the impossible task of following the letter of law as they live as unexamined a life as possible. They sincerely believed that outer observance could lead to inner conversion, that change could happen by receiving instead of giving.

Modern thinking matches up closely with this kind of superficiality. Modern logic proclaims that one can change only by receiving something from outside of oneself. If certain people do not like the way they feel, they can buy something or take something to make them feel better. If certain people does not like the way they look they can buy products or services to remake themselves in their own image. If certain people struggle to make friends, they populate their daily lives with virtual friends. If certain people hate the way the world is going, they can elect new politicians and shop at different businesses. If one does not like a certain group of people, they can mandate abortion and eugenics to eliminate them from the gene pool. All the while, their hearts remain untouched. Time and again, this superficial understanding of reality, that people can change themselves by changing their circumstances, leads to deep-set patterns of sin rather than a commitment to virtue.

True change comes from within, where God dwells. Therefore, in order to experience a true change in one’s life, a conversion of the heart, one must have faith in God. When one converts the following cycle, brought about by constant prayer, will occur: faith in God will bring about a knowledge of God; a knowledge of God will stimulate a desire for God; a desire for God will lead to love towards God and neighbor; the joy and fulfillment that comes from this love will then strengthen one’s faith in God even further, thus continue the virtuous cycle. In this way, the Christian can truly change and distinguish himself from the Non-Christian. In this way, Catholics who make up the Church can the light the way for a world shrouded in darkness.

Too often, believers think a new pope, a new policy, a new law from the federal government, a new design for a local church, or some other addition will lead to a stronger Church that can successfully oppose the pressures of the world. Thinking this way verges towards the same reasoning the Pharisees used when they thought following their Law would do the same. In order to successfully rebuff the world, Christians must have God in their hearts. “Only faith working through love” will count for anything; everything else is simply another distraction from the truth.  

Mt 22:1-14 Let The Secret Out!

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.”The kingdom of heaven.&nbs…

Lk 11:27-28 The Gift

I like to think of the gospel passage in the mass as a present – sure I could peak and see what it is ahead of time, but that would ruin some of the fun (the poignancy.) The church outlines the daily readings and gospel for us at great length. I like to think of it as a gift from the church to me (us) every day. Today was like a small box, with a treasure inside.
While Jesus was speaking,
a woman from the crowd called out and said to him,
“Blessed is the womb that carried you
and the breasts at which you nursed.”
He replied, “Rather, blessed are those
who hear the word of God and observe it.”
This portion of Luke’s gospel is short and sweet. But make no mistake, it is action packed!  Jesus makes a simple point here – when the woman says “blessed is the womb…”,Jesus is quick to point out what Mary really did – she heard God and observed. Or in other words, she heard God and acted accordingly. Mary was not a passive participant in this event, she was all in and accepted the mission ahead.
How do we do this?! I find it hard enough to listen to what God is saying to me personally, then add in all the pressures of the day – work being the monopoly of my time! If purely willing the good of others at work, won’t that stifle my professional advancement? If I give all the credit to someone else, I’ll miss out. I’ll be passed over. I. I. I.
A number of years ago, I had an incredible boss. He genuinely didn’t care if he got the credit. He only cared that we succeed. Granted, he owned the company so I suppose he didn’t need the credit. Or did he? Shouldn’t the owner take all the credit as to elevate his position outside of the company? That’s a very typical response, but not his. The result was employees with an unwavering loyalty. When the company was hit hard in 2007, the staff asked for a 20% salary reduction to help keep the company (and the owner) afloat.  Humbled, he refused.  The company endured, though it took time. I can’t pretend to know what the Lord told him, but I imagine it had something to do with servant leadership. Clearly, he chose to listen and observe.
God asks us to perform great acts in His name. However the act of carrying and giving birth to the Son of God has already been done. That opportunity is passed, and you were not chosen to carry it out. But you where chosen to carry out other great acts for Him – a treasured gift! The challenge is listening and doing. Mary did that, in the purest most humble way.
This meditation was written by Kim Elenez, wife, mother and media executive in Raleigh, NC. Kim converted to Catholicism in 2012.

Lk 11:15-26 Driving Out All Demons

Friday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd said: “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.”  Others, to test him, asked him for a si…

Lk 11:5-13 Accepting the Challenge

Thursday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)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…’ and …

Lk 11:1-4 The Paradox of Prayer

Wednesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.’”
The disciples make a strange request of their Master: to teach them how to pray. They did not ask what to pray for, or how prayer works, but simply how to pray. Often in Luke’s gospel, Jesus separates Himself from his audience to go and pray to the Father. Seeing this, the disciples likely wanted to imitate Him in order to better understand this gospel He brought and r to have that same relationship He with His Father.
The idea of prayer is a paradox that has baffled many who try to understand it logically. We pray to God, yet God already knows everything we could possibly pray for; He knows our thoughts, our feelings towards Him and His Son, our thoughts on sin, and the remedies that would need to receive from His grace alone. Prayer does not inform anyone of anything. Still, God commands His creation to pray. He may not require it, but we certainly do.
This paradox of prayer flips another way. If we prayed correctly, we would pray to know God and His ways better, and most devout Christians pray for this. They know better to petition God for a list of thing as though He were Santa Claus, and they know that all truly good things rest with God alone. Thus, they pray to follow God’s will. This becomes paradoxical because the Christian seeks to pray to Someone he does not know for knowledge of that Someone; a person cannot pray to something that he does not know, but he nonetheless tries.
St. Augustine starts his Confessions with this question to God: “which is first, to know you or to call upon you?” After working through a few lines from scripture, Augustine comes up with the proper sequence: “Lord, let me seek you by calling upon, and let me call upon you by believing in you, for you have been preached to us.” Herein lies the answer that flusters skeptics who insists on having knowledge on their own terms. Augustine, on his reading of scripture, declares that one must first seek God, then believe in God, so that he can ultimately know God. As Christians, we should not believe God when we see Him; we should see God when we believe in Him.
Prayer acts as a proper expression of this belief that desires to know God, and to some extent, to know oneself. When I go to Confession, I never truly know my sins until I verbalize them to the priest on my knees in self-examination. As I confess, I know my sins for what they are and what they do whereas when I merely recalled my sins, waiting in line, examining my conscience, I simply did not know myself as well as in the confessional. A person may know what to expect when they look into a mirror, but truly seeing himself in the mirror brings a better knowledge of oneself. The act of prayer works in this manner: it brings knowledge to the penitent who finally organizes his thoughts into verbal expression and offers a glimpse of one’s own heart. In this sense, the more we know God, the more we happen to know ourselves; the more believe in God, the more we happen to believe in ourselves. Falsehood and delusion depart, and truth and honesty enter.
In prayer, particularly the Lord’s prayer, the disciple comes to know God as He is, not as we imagine Him. We come to know God as a Heavenly Father, greater than any force of nature, greater than anything we can fathom. Even His name transcends the concept of a name. Not by necessity but out of love does God create Heaven and Earth. His Kingdom comes to those who do His will, those who accept His love and return His love. He provides all we need. He forgives those humble enough to forgive others and ask for forgiveness from others. He sends His Son and Holy Spirit to keep His children from evil, for without Him they would falter and fall to perdition.
Even as Christians recite these words again and again, century after century, the words never grow old for those who truly ponder their significance. These words contain the mystery of love, of life, of sin, and forgiveness. They bring us to a world far outside yet deep within ourselves. They bring rest to the restless heart. This is ultimately what the disciples ask for, and this is what Christ, the Son of God, grants to them.

Lk 10:38-42 Martha is so Stressed!

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary(Click here for readings)Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.  She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.  Martha, burdened wi…

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