Sunday, February 16, 2014

Epiphany 6

The opening prayer today acknowledges God as the strength in whom you and I place our trust. Only a person who is blindly proud and self-absorbed fails to recognize our natural human weakness which prevents him or her from doing anything good without the grace of God.

The first reading (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) depicts Moses speaking to the people about "the commandments of the Lord" and about choices: 1) that of obeying, loving and walking in God's ways, or 2) that of turning our heart away from God, of not listening to God, and of being led astray and of serving other "gods". Moses uses three phrases to describe the option of choosing to live: 1) loving God; 2) really listening to God, because that is the true meaning of the word "obey"; and 3) holding fast to God. Mother Teresa of Calcutta often referred to this as "cleaving to God".

In the Epistle to the Christians of Corinth (3:1-9) Saint Paul explains what all of this means in our daily life. It means that we need to work together in peace, as much as we are able. We cannot do this if we are jealous of one another, nor if we are constantly quarreling with each other. Each of us must do what we have to do according to how God calls us. We are to have a common purpose in doing the work of God. We are servants of God, working together. And "only the increase", says Paul.

In the Gospel according to Saint Matthew (5:21-37) Jesus leads us to a deeper understanding of the "commandments". In the Hebrew text "commandments" are translated as "words" of God. Jesus says that God's word to us not to murder anyone also means not refusing to forgive your sister or brother in Christ, nor refusing to be reconciled with her or him. He also says that inappropriate lusting for someone in your heart is no less harmful and disrespectful than an inappropriate sexual action with that person. Jesus says that in all our relationships with each other we are to be singleminded. "Let your word be 'Yes, Yes' or 'No, No'. In other words, we need to be humble enough and wise enough to realize that Jesus is the Lord of our life. Jesus told us: "Without me, you can do nothing." 

These scriptures help us to understand that God's wisdom is God's plan for creation. Jesus Christ has come to our world to raise us and all creation from death and sin, and to bring us to life with him. Our human wisdom leads us to know the plan of God and live in harmony with it. Our human laws, civil and religious, are our attempts to match human wisdom with the wisdom of God, so that God's plan may be a reality in our actual lives.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The "Excellent Foundress"

The Venerable Giovanni Merlini, 3rd Moderator of the Congregation of the Precious Blood, a favorite companion of its founder, St. Gaspar del Bufalo, and spiritual guide of Maria de Mattias, referred to her in his funeral oration as "an excellent foundress, a woman able to govern numerous communities and many daughters".

Maria de Mattias (1805-1866) came from Vallecorsa (Frosinone), Italy. In her adolescence there she met Gaspar and Merlini, under whose guidance she came to realize that her vocation was to found a community of nuns in 1834 at Acuto: the Congregation of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ. Her motto was "Charity toward God and toward our dear neighbor."

Merlini later spoke of Maria as "a strong woman, a tireless worker…" He describes her as having a sensitive heart, open to God's grace, an energetic spirit, and a saintly character. That came, as it always does, at a personal cost. Maria's devotion to the Mother of Christ as a young woman revealed to her her vanity and pride, and moved her to eventually appreciate and perpetuate a greater vision of unselfishly helping others to realize Christ's desire to love and be loved by them, under the symbol of his precious Blood.

Father most holy, who in your loving plan adorned
St. Maria de Mattias with exceptional gifts of grace
so that in the Church she might be a witness to the
blood of Christ: grant that, through her intercession, 
we may faithfully adore Christ who died and rose for us,
celebrate with thanksgiving the new and eternal covenant
in his blood, and with zeal proclaim to all the power
of the love of Christ crucified.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The third prayer of the Blessing of the Candles is a beautiful summation of the message of this feast, full of rich images upon which to reflect:
Lord Jesus Christ, the true light, you enlighten everyone coming into this world: pour your blessing upon these candles and sanctify them with the light of your grace. Mercifully grant that as these light, enkindled with visible fire, dispel the darkness of night, so our hearts, illumined by invisible fire, that is, the brightness of the Holy Spirit, may be free from the blindness of every vice; that our mental eye may be so purified that we may perceive those things which are pleasing to you and are profitable to our salvation, so that after the dark perils of this world, we may deserve to come into that never-failing light: through you, Christ Jesus, Savior of the world, who in perfect Trinity live and reign, God, world without end. Amen.