Readings & Reflections: Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter & St. Theophilus of Corte, May 19,2017
The Psalmist exhorts us, “Awake, O my soul.” We can fall into the doldrums of self-doubt, of reduced and nihilistic lives. Then we hear Christ say, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” With steadfast hearts we rededicate our lives to the name of Jesus.
“Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Amen. (Prayer of Ignatius Loyola)
The Apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole Church,
decided to choose representatives
and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.
The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas,
and Silas, leaders among the brothers.
This is the letter delivered by them:
“The Apostles and the presbyters, your brothers,
to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia
of Gentile origin: greetings.
Since we have heard that some of our number
who went out without any mandate from us
have upset you with their teachings
and disturbed your peace of mind,
we have with one accord decided to choose representatives
and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So we are sending Judas and Silas
who will also convey this same message by word of mouth:
‘It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us
not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities,
namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols,
from blood, from meats of strangled animals,
and from unlawful marriage.
If you keep free of these,
you will be doing what is right. Farewell.’“
And so they were sent on their journey.
Upon their arrival in Antioch
they called the assembly together and delivered the letter.
When the people read it, they were delighted with the exhortation.
The word of the Lord.
Ps 57:8-9, 10 and 12
- (10a) I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord.
My heart is steadfast, O God; my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and chant praise.
Awake, O my soul; awake, lyre and harp!
I will wake the dawn.
R. I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord.
I will give thanks to you among the peoples, O LORD,
I will chant your praise among the nations.
For your mercy towers to the heavens,
and your faithfulness to the skies.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
above all the earth be your glory!
R. I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection 1 – Love one another
In today’s first reading we see all the apostles and elders of the Church get involved in the process of resolving the church’s first great challenge. We see how they have all tried to work out the seeming confusion between the Jews and the Gentiles.
We are all witness to the clear statement of issues, the open deliberation and argument from both sides, the use of evidence from scripture, good communication among those who were involved but most importantly the use of prayer. The net result was unanimity and unity with the whole church.
The main issue that rocked the church was the old and existing practices of the Jewish people, which were being forced as a burden upon the new gentile converts. It became their decision through the guidance of the Holy Spirit not to lay any burden on the new converts beyond that which is strictly necessary namely to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood and meat of strangled animals, and from illicit sexual union. They agreed that the day has come for both the Gentiles and the Jewish to bear God’s name and for the Gentiles not to turn to God with much hindrances.
In prayer and through the power of the Holy Spirit, the early church was able to resolve a major theological dispute in a very harmonious way.
A good number of times, moral issues are however easier to resolve more than personal conflicts, but in all cases only through the Spirit and in God’s time. One may recall that there was a personal dispute between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15: 36-41), which remained unresolved.
God’s message to all of us today is for us not to have any hindrance in our relationship with Him. When we witness in His Name, we are all called to make His gospel the only foundation. Any conflicts that may arise within God’s church should be resolved using His Word.
Today, whatever conflict or differences in opinion we may have in community should be settled through the Holy Spirit. If we feel, we have been grossly disadvantaged by another, through the power and authority vested in the person, let us take comfort that we have a God who sees every man’s heart and nothing will escape His attention. Our Lord corrects and sets His will in place. It is always better to be found on the aggrieved side rather than be the object of God’s ire and wrath!
We have all been chosen and appointed to bear much fruit that will remain. If we cannot resolve community conflicts and we are always at odds with one another, then we may not have LOVED at all, then we may never bear fruit that will remain. Then we have failed our Lord when he said: “This I command you: love one another.”
One thing we ought to do when we say we have loved… never to lay extra burden on another.
Jesus said: “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.”
A way to love another is not to lay any additional burdens on others especially with regards their spiritual journey.
Heavenly Father, give us the grace to resolve differences in your church and enable us to love our neighbor unconditionally, as You have loved us. In Jesus, we pray. Amen.
Reflection 2 – Greater love
Jesus made this clear when He said, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love… This is my commandments, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn 15:10,12-13). Jesus gave the best he had and all that he had. He gave his very life for those he love in order to secure for them everlasting life with the Father. What does this mean for us today?
Here is a story of Princess Alice, the second daughter of Queen Victoria. She had a four-year old son whom she loved very much. When he contracted the disease known as “black diphtheria,” Alice was devastated. The disease was highly contagious and very deadly. The nurses continually warned the Princess, not being in the best health herself, to stay away from her son. Naturally this would be difficult for any mother. Still, Alice knew she would be in danger if she ignored the warning.
One day as Princess Alice stood in a far corner of her son’s room; she heard her son whisper to the nurse, “Why doesn’t my mother kiss me anymore?” That was more than Alice could bear. As tears streamed down her cheeks, she raced to her son’s bed, held him in her arms, and smothered him with kisses. Tragically, this turned out to be the kiss of death. Princess Alice contracted the deadly disease and in a matter of weeks, both mother and son were buried. Is that a foolish thing to do? To love as deeply as the cross: who ever said that was sensible?
True love is costly. Those who truly love give the best he can offer and willing to sacrifice everything he has for the beloved. God willingly paid the price for our redemption – the sacrifice of his only begotten Son. That’s the nature of true friendship and love – the willingness to give all for the beloved. True friends will lay down their lives for each other. Jesus tells us that he is our friend and he loves us whole-heartedly and unconditionally. If we open our hearts to his love and obey his command to love our neighbor, then we will bear much fruit in our lives, fruit that will last for eternity. Do you wish to be fruitful and to abound in the love of God?
Reflection 3 – I have called you friends
What is the greatest act of love which one can give for the sake of another? Jesus defines friendship – the mutual bond of trust and affection which people choose to have for one another – as the willingness to give totally of oneself – even to the point of laying down one’s life for a friend. How is such love possible or even desirable? God made us in love for love. That is our reason for being, our purpose for living, and our goal in dying.
God is love
Scripture tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8) – and everything he does flows from his immense love for us. He loved us so much – far beyond what we could ever expect or deserve – that he was willing to pay any price to redeem us from our slavery to sin and death. That is why the Father sent us his beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. In this great exchange – the Father giving up his Son to death on the cross in order to give us abundant everlasting life and adopt us as his beloved sons and daughters in Christ (Romans 8:14-17).
It is for this reason that we can take hold of a hope that does not fade and a joy that does not diminish because God has poured his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5). God’s love is not limited or subject to changing circumstances. It is an enduring love that has power to change and transform us to be like him – merciful, gracious, kind, forgiving, and steadfast in showing love not only for our friends, but for our enemies as well. God’s love is boundless because he is the source of abundant life, perfect peace, and immeasurable joy for all who open their hearts to him. That is why Jesus came to give us abundant life through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment – a new way of loving and serving one another. Jesus’ love was wholly directed toward the good of others. He love them for their sake and for their welfare. That is why he willingly laid down his own life for us to free us from sin, death, fear, and everything that could separate us from the love of God. Our love for God and our willingness to lay down our life for others is a response to the exceeding love God has given us in Christ. Paul the Apostle states,
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?… For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35,38-39).
Friendship with God
Jesus calls his disciples his friends. Jesus not only showed his disciples that he personally cared for them and sought their welfare. He personally enjoyed their company and wanted to be with them. He ate with them, shared everything he had with them – even his inmost heart and thoughts. And he spent himself doing good for them. To know Jesus personally is to know God and the love and friendship he offers to each one of us.
One of the special marks of favor shown in the Scriptures is to be called the friend of God. Abraham is called the friend of God (Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23). God spoke with Moses as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11). Jesus, the Lord and Master, calls the disciples his friends rather than his servants.
What does it mean to be a friend of God? Friendship with God certainly entails a loving relationship which goes beyond mere duty and obedience. Jesus’ discourse on friendship and brotherly love echoes the words of Proverbs: A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17). The distinctive feature of Jesus’ relationship with his disciples was his personal love for them. He loved his own to the end (John 13:1). His love was unconditional and wholly directed to the good of others. His love was also sacrificial. He gave the best he had and all that he had. He gave his very life for those he loved in order to secure for them everlasting life with the Father.
Love to the death
The Lord Jesus gives his followers a new commandment – a new way of love that goes beyond giving only what is required or what we think others might deserve. What is the essence of Jesus’ new commandment of love? It is a love to the death – a purifying love that overcomes selfishness, fear, and pride. It is a total giving of oneself for the sake of others – a selfless and self-giving love that is oriented towards putting the welfare of others ahead of myself.
Jesus says that there is no greater proof in love than the sacrifice of one’s life for the sake of another. Jesus proved his love by giving his life for us on the cross of Calvary. Through the shedding of his blood for our sake, our sins are not only washed clean, but new life is poured out for us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We prove our love for God and for one another when we embrace the way of the cross. What is the cross in my life? When my will crosses with God’s will, then God’s will must be done. Do you know the peace and joy of a life fully surrendered to God and consumed with his love?
The Lord Jesus tells us that he is our friend and he loves us wholeheartedly and unconditionally. He wants us to love one another just as he loves us, wholeheartedly and without reserve. His love fills our hearts and transforms our minds and frees us to give ourselves in loving service to others. If we open our hearts to his love and obey his command to love our neighbor, then we will bear much fruit in our lives, fruit that will last for eternity. Do you wish to be fruitful and to abound in the love of God?
“Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Prayer of Ignatius Loyola) – Read the source: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/2017/may19.htm
Reflection 4 – Love Hurts!
In today’s Gospel (Jn 15:12-17), Jesus states the heart of his mission and his message: It is all about love. He loves his friends well enough to lay down his life for them. He asks but one thing in return: that they love one another. He said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
“Sometimes love sure hurts!” The mother and father were expressing the difficulties and heartaches of guiding their children through their teen years. “Maybe if we didn’t love them quite so much it wouldn’t be so hard,” the husband added.
Even though love brings pain and sorrow, what would life be without it? In his book The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis wrote:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. . . . The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers . . . of love is hell.”
To love is to take risks, to expose our hearts. Sometimes it hurts! It hurt Christ, but He kept on loving, even at the cost of His life. He commanded us, “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 15:12).
We must keep loving that spouse, that teenager, that neighbor, that co-worker. It is Christlike–and it’s better than locking your heart in a coffin of self-centeredness.
Thinking It Over
How have you been hurt by those you’ve tried to love?
Have you been tempted to withhold your love?
How has someone shown patient love to you?
Nothing costs as much as loving except not loving (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).
Reflection 5 – Laying down your life for Jesus
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus emphasizes that he has chosen us to be his friends. He chose you! He looked at you and said to the Father, “I want to be close friends with this one!”
Slaves serve their masters out of fear and duty. Friends serve each other because they care. Jesus doesn’t want us to serve him with the “do it or else” fear of punishment. Nor does he want us to serve him out of obligation and duty. Rather, he wants us to realize that he’s here to serve us because he cares about us. Then, because we appreciate him so much, we want to serve him by helping him serve others.
In our enthusiastic love for Jesus, we love everyone whom he loves, and we want to serve them as he serves them. Jesus and you are friends who partner together to make the world a better place.
Jesus summarized all of the Holy Commandments in one sentence: “Love one another as I love you.” Do you obey God because you love others?
Do you obey Church teachings because you love others? What about those teachings that you don’t like: Have you investigated how they empower you to love others? (The teachings about artificial contraception and family planning, cohabitation and marriage, and divorce and annulments are common examples, and yes even the teachings about same sex marriages — all of it truly is about loving others in the most Godly ways!)
We are friends of Jesus to the extent that we love everyone whom he loves and to the extent that we serve them as he serves them, for he serves them not only with us but through us. This of course means doing good to everyone, even those who bring trouble into our lives. Jesus is our example of how to serve the sinner while being uncooperative with their sins.
Loving means caring; it does not mean putting up with evil. Do you pray for those who’ve made you suffer? Not this kind of prayer: “Punish them God the way they deserve. Make them suffer like they made me suffer.” Instead, do you ask God to heal their souls and bless them with his mercy? If they don’t repent, they will reap what they sow and suffer terrible consequences. Do you feel sad for them?
It can be difficult, but by uniting ourselves to Jesus and his way of handling sinners, we obey the Father just like Jesus did. Then, whatever we ask the Father in his name (i.e., while united to Jesus), it will be given to us. This is a fact, because when we’re united to Jesus, we don’t ask for anything that is not already the Father’s will for us. And thus, Jesus gets another opportunity to serve us, to his great delight.
If we want to grow deeper in our love relationship with God, we will serve our friend Jesus by serving those around us, because he cares about them and so do we. In friendship, Jesus serves us as we walk the extra mile for others.
Love is supposed to be the bottom line and top priority of every decision we make and every action we take, even if it doesn’t seem right in our limited understanding and our wounded hearts. This is how we lay down our lives for our friend Jesus. – Read the source: http://gnm.org/good-news-reflections/?useDrDate=2017-05-19
Reflection 6 – St. Theophilus of Corte (1676-1740 A.D.)
If we expect saints to do marvelous things continually and to leave us many memorable quotes, we are bound to be disappointed with St. Theophilus. The mystery of God’s grace in a person’s life, however, has a beauty all its own.
Theophilus was born in Corsica of rich and noble parents. As a young man he entered the Franciscans and soon showed his love for solitude and prayer. After admirably completing his studies, he was ordained and assigned to a retreat house near Subiaco. Inspired by the austere life of the Franciscans there, he founded other such houses in Corsica and Tuscany. Over the years, he became famous for his preaching as well as his missionary efforts.
Though he was always somewhat sickly, Theophilus generously served the needs of God’s people in the confessional, in the sickroom and at the graveside. Worn out by his labors, he died on June 17, 1740. He was canonized in 1930.
There is a certain dynamism in all the saints that prompts them to find ever more selfless ways of responding to God’s grace. As time went on, Theophilus gave more and more singlehearted service to God and to God’s sons and daughters. Honoring the saints will make no sense unless we are thus drawn to live as generously as they did. Their holiness can never substitute for our own.
Francis of Assisi used to say, “Let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up to now we have made little or no progress” (1 Celano, #193).
Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1388
SAINT OF THE DAY
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|SAINT THEOPHILUS OF CORTE|
|BORN||30 October 1676
|DIED||17 June 1740 (aged 63–64)|
|VENERATED IN||Roman Catholic Church|
|CANONIZED||29 June 1930 by Pius XI|
His family was wealthy, and his parents were of the nobility.