NOT LIVING BY BREAD ALONE

Bread is the one common food that transcends boundaries.  Most cultures have their bread.  It is the world’s life-giving food.  

Jesus calls Himself  “the Living Bread come down from heaven,” and says in Luke 4:4 “One does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” 

The “bread” in our Sacrifice of the Mass is “the Bread of Angels.”  The word Eucharist means “to give thanksgiving.”  The sacrament of the Eucharist is the sacrifice of Calvary, the same sacrifice that Jesus offered on Mount Calvary.  It is not another sacrifice.  It is the original sacrifice.   The Church finds its center and most intense expression in the celebration of this sacrament.  It is the Sacraments of sacraments.   It is not just a sign.  It is the true presence of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.   He instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of His death and resurrection.  He fulfilled the Passover.  It is not just a recollection, we are present at Calvary.  The Paschal mystery is not repeated.  It is present now.   The Last Supper was the first Mass.   The Eucharist is also a sacrifice.  “This is My Body which is given for you.”  He gives us the very body which was sacrificed on Calvary.   The priest says Mass “in personae Christi.”

Just as bread can give us life-giving strength, the Eucharist can give us the spiritual life.   Jesus is still alive and comes to us in the humble form of bread.   This is the sacrifice of the New Covenant.  This replaces the bullock, lamb or a pigeon in the Old Covenant.  In the New Convenant, the Lamb offers up Himself.

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PRAYING FOR THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU

In Matthew 5:34-48, we read:  Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what recompense willyou have?  Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that?  Do not the pagans do the same?  So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

We are urged to be perfectly loving.  It is difficult to be loving to all and especially to those who don’t like us or put us down.  What could Jesus have meant by that verse in Matthew?  I think He meant just what he said.  He doesn’t say “like” those who persecute you.  He says “love.”  That’s a much different action. 

To love is to want the best for that person, to care about their well being in spite of their behavior.  We are called to model Jesus.  As He hung from His cross in adject pain, he promised one thief that he would be with Him in paradise and he asked the Father to forgive his persecutors for “they know not what they do.”  I don’t know that I could have done that under the same circumstances.  That’s why Jesus is God and I’m not.  But what we are asked to do is to try – to shoot for perfection and be accepting of  just making progress.

In today’s world there are examples of people loving those who persecute them.  It came from the people who lived in the Amish village  in Pennsylvania who, after their young girls were murdered, they went to the home of the perpetrator’s widow and not only offered their sympathy but brought food and comforted her.  And, when the news media made a circus out of the event and came in droves to the school house, they tore the building down and planted grass where it had been.  Normally the news would never publicize the good that men do, but the murders were so horrific that they forgot themselves and broadcast their visit to the widow’s house.  The message left by the Amish still makes me inwardly stand up and take notice.  Their love of neighbor is exemplary. 

In attempting to be loving to all, I find my battle between my will and God’s to be tremendous.   I can come up with a few reasons I find it difficult to love certain people in the blink of an eye.  I have a strong sense of fairness when it comes to me.  But, Jesus calls us to love anyway.  If He could love from His cross, we can certainly try from our little crosses.  His commandments – to love God and love our neighbor could not be plainer.  

Lord, give me the grace to love!

FEAR OF THE LORD

We all have a natural fear.  If we saw a wild animal coming at us, we’d run in the house as fast as we could.  We have three kinds of fear – one is servile fear (fear of God’s punishment),  but we have to move beyond that to mixed fear (where fear of God’s punishment and not wanting to offend Him) and then, ultimately, through the love of the Holy Spirit and His grace, we come to not wanting to offend God…this is called Fear of the Lord.  The Holy Spirit is the giver of this virtue.  We have great sorrow that we ever offended God in our life.  As we say in confession, “but most of all, because they offend You…”  This gift fills us with a great desire to never be separated from God.

Of late, I felt separated from God and locked into my own selfish desires.  My daily attendance at Mass drifted off (I blamed the weather) and my prayer life only a small percentage of what it has been in the past.  I fall into despair when I think about this slippage and get filled with scrupulosity (which takes away from my memory the gift of God’s mercy).  According to Saint Louis Marie de Montfort in Preparation for Total Consecration, the saint says Our Blessed Mother can help us remove these scruples that make us forget His mercy.  We have to ask the Mary and the Holy Spirit to help us with this scrupulousity.

Today as I write this, I have made a decision, thanks to a dear religious friend of mine, to begin again.  And to stay away from near occasions to sin as I refill my soul with knowledge of God’s mercy.  I wish the same for you!

ST. AGNES

My birthday is on the feast of St. Agnes.  I took her name in Confirmation.  My name was going to be Agnes, but my father wanted a more Irish name.  However, St. Agnes, a young martyr who was killed by Roman soldiers for not renouncing her faith, has been the singular most important saint in my life.   As a child, I read her story in Book Two, Miniature Stories of the Saints, and wished she just said she wasn’t Christian but had her fingers crossed behind her back.  Today as a mature woman, I see the importance of her giving up her young life. 

She is always pictured with a lamb.  She was a lamb taken to slaughter just like her Lord.  Pope Damascus adorned her tomb with sacred poetry and many of the Fathers of the Church honored her in their writings.

Beyond her slaughter she gained eternal life.  How did such a twelve year old overcome the fear of pain and death?   She loved God more than she loved her life.  

Dear St. Agnes, help us!  Show us the way to eternal peace!

HE IS EVERYTHING

Father Walter Hilton, a canon of the Augustinian Priory in England, who died in 1396 said “He is everything and He does everything, if you could but realize.  You do nothing but allow Him to act on your soul and consent with great joy of heart to what he deigns to do in you.  You are nothing but His instrument, though you are endowed with reason.  And therefore, when at the touch of His grace you feel your mind caught up by a strong desire to please Him and love Him, believe that you possess Jesus.”

I am moved by the knowledge of a man who lived over 600 years ago.  His words confirm what I feel in my being often since my conversion back to my Catholic faith.  There is a filling of beauty, comfort, rightness that I cannot describe which I have received since attending Mass and praying through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I am clearly happy with a sense of consistency which I didn’t trust at first.  I lived with this internal joy on my journey without a sense of toil or frustration.  I was visited by peace, a beautiful sense of wellness, a warm and gentle spirit which did not leave me.  Though I did not always know it, I felt it.  My earlier life was tormented by unrest.  It is hard work to be lost in an alien world and trying to find a resting place. 

My Catholicism is a peaceful blanket in a wintered world.  I have a grateful heart, a life that finally makes sense, and way of life that makes my ordinary days extraordinary.  God has truly touched me.  I am strengthened by His Eucharist.  I rejoice that I experience the same feeling of His Presence as a priest who lived 600 years ago.

THE HOLY NAME

During the circumcision rite the name of Jesus was given to the Christ Child. He was given a Name “which is above all names; that at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow.” (Phil 2, 8-10). It is during holy season that we give honor and glory to Him who humbled Himself so profoundly for us.

In Matthew 1,21 we read where an angel announces His Name: “Thou shalt call His Name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” His Holy Name came from God Himself. He is the bridge between God and all mankind.

I have a bad habit of calling out His name when surprised or overwhelmed that I have prayed for this habit to be removed from me. I hear it all the time and try to make an aspiration when I do. Unfortunately, for me, this habit is difficult for me to stop. However, in this new year and on this first Saturday, I am determined to be rid of it. In confession, it was suggested that I say the Divine Praises whenever I find it has happened again.

Blessed be God.
Blessed be His Holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
Blessed be the Name of Jesus.
Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart.
Blessed be His Most Precious Blood.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
Blessed be her holy and Immaculate Conception.
Blessed be her glorious Assumption.
Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.
Blessed be St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse.
Blessed be God, in His Angels and in His Saints.

In John 14: 13, Jesus promised, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do.” This is an important statement. For there is no “other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved. (Acts 4:12)

GOD, THE GIVER

Earth, air, and water are necessary to our survival and God, the Giver, has put them into our world in abundance.  We need to breathe and sleep and eat and we are naturally able to do these things.  They are common and so much a part of our day that we don’t notice.  The Giver gives to almost all of  us the abilities every day to survive.  Most of us don’t ever worry about these gifts.  Yet without them, we would not continue to live.  God, the Giver, not only gives us these things, but gives us these things in abundance.

In the supernatural realm, love and fidelity are necessary…perhaps as necessary as food and water in the natural realm.  If  The Great Giver gives to us in abundance, then it follows that love and fidelity cannot be too difficult to acquire.   To do our part in God’s world (to love and be faithful) we will have abundant help.   

In the book Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence by Father J. P. de Caussade, S.J.,  he says it is easy for us to attain great holiness.  We have only to fulfill the simple duties of the Catholic faith and of our state of life, to accept with submission the crosses that go with those duties and to submit with faith and love to the designs of Providence in everything that is constantly being presented to us to do and to endure without searching for anything ourselves.  

May God , the Giver of all Gifts, in this holy season of Christmas, allow us the clarity of thought to draw us all to holiness.  May He reign in our hearts forever.