Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Faith and our true life

What is important above everything else, first and foremost, is faith: faith in the reality of the divine presence in and around us, bringing the acts of our will and mind up to the level of the true life to which Our Lord is calling us.

This act of faith, which transforms our destiny from a purely human one to one truly divine, is painful to nature, and calls for a heroism of which we would not be capable had not God already given us the grace to make the initial effort and maintain it. Utterly incapable d ourselves of making this first act, we could not do better than say with the father of the sick child: Lord, I do believe; help thou my unbelief (Mark 9:24).

The Prayer of Love and Silence
A Carthusian

Pope visits Assisi for Pardon

Pope in Assisi Aug 4, 2016Today, the Pope was at the Portiuncula in Assisi, the first Church to mark the 800th Anniversary of the Pardon of Assisi – “Here at the Portiuncula everything speaks to us of pardon!…”

Here is a short news brief followed by a video clip from CNS.

Pope Francis gave this mediation on forgiveness: 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Today I would like, before all else, to recall the words that, according to an ancient tradition, Saint Francis spoke in this very place, in the presence of all the townsfolk and bishops: “I want to send you all to heaven!” What finer thing could the Poor Man of Assisi ask for, if not the gift of salvation, eternal life and unending joy, that Jesus won for us by his death and resurrection?

Besides, what is heaven if not the mystery of love that eternally unites us to God, to contemplate him forever? The Church has always professed this by expressing her belief in the communion of saints. We are never alone in living the faith; we do so in the company of all the saints and of our loved ones who practised the faith with joyful simplicity and bore witness to it by their lives. There is a bond, unseen but not for that reason any less real, which makes us, by baptism, “one body” moved by “one Spirit” (cf. Eph 4:4). When Saint Francis asked Pope Honorius III to grant an indulgence to all who visited the Porziuncula, he was perhaps thinking of Jesus’ words to the disciples: “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14:2-3).

Forgiveness – pardon – is surely our direct route to that place in heaven. Here at the Porziuncola everything speaks to us of pardon! What a great gift the Lord has given us in teaching us to forgive and in this way to touch the Father’s mercy! We have just heard the parable where Jesus teaches us to forgive (cf. Mt 18:21-35). Why should we forgive someone who has offended us? Because we were forgiven first, and of infinitely more. The parable says exactly this: just as God has forgiven us, so we too should forgive those who do us harm. So too does the prayer that Jesus taught us, the Our Father, in which we say: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt 6:12). The debts are our sins in the sight of God, and our debtors are those whom we, for our part, must forgive.

Each of us might be that servant in the parable burdened with so great a debt that he could never repay it. When we kneel before the priest in the confessional, we do exactly what that servant did. We say, “Lord, have patience with me”. We are well aware of our many faults and the fact that we often fall back into the same sins. Yet God never tires of offering us his forgiveness each time we ask for it. His is a pardon that is full and complete, one that assures us that, even if we fall back into the same sins, he is merciful and never ceases to love us. Like the master in the parable, God feels compassion, a mixture of pity and love; that is how the Gospel describes God’s mercy towards us. Our Father is moved to compassion whenever we repent, and he sends us home with hearts calm and at peace. He tells us that all is remitted and forgiven. God’s forgiveness knows no limits; it is greater than anything we can imagine and it comes to all who know in their hearts that they have done wrong and desire to return to him. God looks at the heart that seeks forgiveness.

The problem, unfortunately, comes whenever we have to deal with a brother or sister who has even slightly offended us. The reaction described in the parable describes it perfectly: “He seized him by the throat and said, ‘Pay what you owe!’” (Mt 18:28). Here we encounter all the drama of our human relationships. When we are indebted to others, we expect mercy; but when others are indebted to us, we demand justice! This is a reaction unworthy of Christ’s disciples, nor is it the sign of a Christian style of life. Jesus teaches us to forgive and to do so limitlessly: “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (v. 22). What he offers us is the Father’s love, not our own claims to justice. To trust in the latter alone would not be the sign that we are Christ’s disciples, who have obtained mercy at the foot of the cross solely by virtue of the love of the Son of God. Let us not forget, then, the harsh saying at the end of the parable: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (v. 35).

Dear brothers and sisters, the pardon of which Saint Francis made himself a “channel” here at the Porziuncola continues to “bring forth heaven” even after eight centuries. In this Holy Year of Mercy, it becomes ever clearer that the path of forgiveness can truly renew the Church and the world. To offer today’s world the witness of mercy is a task from which none of us can feel exempted. The world needs forgiveness; too many people are caught up in resentment and harbour hatred, because they are incapable of forgiving. They ruin their own lives and the lives of those around them rather than finding the joy of serenity and peace. Let us ask Saint Francis to intercede for us, so that we may always be humble signs of forgiveness and channels of mercy.

Choice: vanity of owning and being in eternity?

On the 18th Sunday Through the Church year we have been given this gospel: Luke 12:13-21. In part we come to the part of the passage where parable Jesus tells he mentions the demand for the inheritance. As a friend said in his homily, “It is interesting to observe how many times I find myself “give orders” to Jesus! Should it not be the opposite? But even for Jesus, rather than giving an order or even that of judgments or condemnation, He invites me to reflect….”

St. Ambrose offers us this reflection:

“He uselessly accumulates wealth when he does not know how he will use it. He is like him who, when his full barns were bursting from the new harvest, built storehouses for his abundant crops, not knowing for whom he gathered them. The things that are of the world remain in the world, and whatever riches we gather are left to our heirs. The things that we cannot take with us aren’t ours either. Only virtue is the companion of the dead. Compassion alone follows us.”

Prayers for captives

“For captives and for their salvation, let us pray to the Lord!” This is a spiritual work of mercy commanded by the Lord Jesus, and the Church.

Prayers for the protection, and release of Bishops Boulos Yazigi and Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, kidnapped on April 22, 2013.

For Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, kidnapped on July 29, 2013.

For the 230 school girls kidnapped in Chibok, Nigeria on April 15, 2014, 11 kidnapped on May 6th.
16 Christians including young boys and girls, abducted October 5th, 2014 in Knayeh, Syria

For the Salesian priest, Father Thomas Uzhunnalil missing in Yemen. It is believed that he was kidnapped March 4, 2016.

And for all held captive for the faith. For all those persecuted for the faith, let us pray to the Lord!

Kyrie eleison! Kyrie eleison! Kyrie eleison!

Filled with Compassion is the Lord’s method

Prodigal Son iconTaste and see the goodness of the Lord: I will get up and go to my Father and shall say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” Do we see ourselves as sinners in redemption? Do we see the truth of ourselves as needing change of heart, mind and action? There are so many of us in the Christian community that need to take up a new vigor in what is communicated by the Lord in His gospel and in His sacraments, and the Church. We know from experience and consistent teaching that the Church is holy, but the members of the Church, including the clergy, are sinners and their actions can be destructive. Sin is the result of not knowing the goodness of the Lord. In the end, the judgment of the Lord is based on how we treat people. Did we love others? Can we love those who have hurt us deeply?

These words of Saint John Bosco ring true about compassion: “This was the method that Jesus used with the Apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalized, and still others to hope for God’s mercy. And so he appeals to us to be gentle and humble of heart.”

One of the phrases in Luke’s version of the Prodigal Son sticks out: “filled with compassion.” Where do you stand? As the Lord and the father in the parable are filled with compassion, so ought we be filled. Do you taste and see the goodness of the Lord in welcoming the sinner? How do you live the conversion and repentance described by Jesus?

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us,

The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father: the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father’s house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father’s generous welcome; the father’s joy – all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life – pure worthy, and joyful – of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart of Christ who knows the depths of his Father’s love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way. (1439)

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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