Readings & Reflections: Friday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time & St. Paul of the Cross, October 20,2017
Paul Danei was born in 1699 A.D. in Ovada, Genoa, Italy. He lost ten of his fifteen siblings to illness. Yet his devout mother made time to read her eldest son, sharing with him the writings of the Desert Fathers. In his teens, he began following a regimen of prayer. At seventeen, Paul felt a call to a life of strict penance. In prayer at twenty-six, while on retreat, he conceived the rule of the new order: men who would embrace monastic austerity as the foundation for their public proclamation of the Passion of our Lord, now called Passionist, an order of men committed to a life of rigorous penance for the sake of preaching to the poor. Paul and his younger brother John began preaching, and others joined them – the first Passionists. Their distinctive sign is the black badge bearing a white cross on top of a white heart. The Passionist, according to Paul, is “a man totally God-centered, totally apostolic, a man of prayer, detached from the world, from things, from himself so that he may in all truth be called a disciple of Jesus Christ.” Twelve “retreats,” Passionist monastic houses, were formed in his lifetime. Paul died in 1775 A.D.
“Lord, your perfect love casts out fear. Give me a passion for your word and for your righteousness and a resolute hatred for sin. Help me to cast aside anything which would hinder full union with you.” And Lord, bless me always with your grace so that I may always act and speak as Your Word leads, authentic and sincere in all my relationships. In your Name, I pray. Amen.
Brothers and sisters:
What can we say that Abraham found,
our ancestor according to the flesh?
Indeed, if Abraham was justified on the basis of his works,
he has reason to boast;
but this was not so in the sight of God.
For what does the Scripture say?
Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
A worker’s wage is credited not as a gift, but as something due.
But when one does not work,
yet believes in the one who justifies the ungodly,
his faith is credited as righteousness.
So also David declares the blessedness of the person
to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven
and whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not record.
The word of the Lord.
Ps 32:1b-2, 5, 11
R. (see 7) I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.
Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.
R. I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.
R. I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.
Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you just;
exult, all you upright of heart.
R. I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.
At that time:
So many people were crowding together
that they were trampling one another underfoot.
Jesus began to speak, first to his disciples,
“Beware of the leaven–that is, the hypocrisy–of the Pharisees.
“There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness
will be heard in the light,
and what you have whispered behind closed doors
will be proclaimed on the housetops.
I tell you, my friends,
do not be afraid of those who kill the body
but after that can do no more.
I shall show you whom to fear.
Be afraid of the one who after killing
has the power to cast into Gehenna;
yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.
Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins?
Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God.
Even the hairs of your head have all been counted.
Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection 1 – Beware of hypocrisy
In today’s gospel Jesus for the nth time warns us about the orientation of the Pharisees -hypocrisy. “Beware of the leaven–that is, the hypocrisy–of the Pharisees.” Their leaven puffed their heads up with a lot of air and bloated them with pride. They appeared great in piety and spirituality, but they could not fool Jesus with their two-faced characters as He exposed them for what they really were – just a lot of polluted air as they were rotting from the inside.
Hypocrisy may be defined as play-acting with the play actor being fearful of what other people think and therefore is desperate to look good to them. A man who really cares about how God thinks of him will never be a “play actor,” a great pretender or charlatan in this life. He will never be caught in the never-ending trap of pretensions just to live up to other people’s expectations.
What is the best way then for us to free ourselves of hypocrisy? Fear God and not man by living the life of a true witness- having the apostolate of a good and holy life.
Not all can be good ministers. Not all can be preachers. Not all have the capability to admonish or exhort others but every man can contribute to the spiritual good of his neighbor by giving the witness of a life which is basically Christian: by being steadfast to the principles Christ and faithfully fulfilling one’s obligations to both God and His people; by ministering to a brother or sister in need or in pain or who may be lagging behind in his/her life as a Christian disciple. To state that such brother or sister is failing in his/her witnessing without following through with an act of love like sharing God’s word or simply lending an ear is high level Pharasaic hypocrisy as one builds up oneself (amidst pretensions as no one can claim perfect Christian witnessing) at the expense of another. Such action condemns another and is quite far from the witness Jesus gave all of us.
Prayer, sacrifice and self-denial are powerful tools in leading a holy life. A good and holy life sounds clearer and louder than a trumpet. It speaks for itself and comes with great authority. It is more powerful than the words of any persuasive speaker, even from those who claim to have the “anointing” just because of some man made authority!
Amidst the great concern of Jesus about hypocrisy in people, we should be aware that it is getting to be more and more difficult to find people whose lives give a true and authentic witness to a life with Christ. Our Lord wants us to be concrete examples of virtue and sanctity so that our good works might be silent encouragement for those who see them. “So let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Today our Lord is telling us that our good actions should be made public to give our neighbor the example of good work but at the same time by our intention be directed only toward God to please Him alone in secret. There is a great difference between one who makes a big show of his good acts, hoping to call forth praise from others, gain a reputation for sanctity and one who is acting with the intention of pleasing God alone.
There is nothing unknown to God, whether it’s the number of our hairs or the stars in the blue skies. Nothing can be hidden from God’s piercing sight. And He cares for all of His creation – even the worthless sparrows. How much more for us, whom He made in His image and likeness? Only one thing He requires of us to be worthy of His love – to be sincere in our faith. And that means being truthful in all our ways.
As Christians we should never have any space for hypocrisy and play-acting but be a light and guide for those around us. We should never fear to do good and be a true witness despite ones’ brokenness and sinfulness for that is man’s nature.
No man is perfect and only God is perfect yet we can strive for perfection. “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). What is foremost should be the sincere intention of our actions to draw others to God. It is our duty both to God and our neighbor to edify others by our conduct.
There are countless ways to show one’s good heart and intentions. By humbly witnessing in the Name of Christ, one can avoid hypocrisy. Every man who lives a life that is focused to please God alone will always be a good witness for the Lord anywhere, anytime…but not one who judges and condemns!
A good witness of Christ is like a city seated on a mountain which cannot be hid. He is like a burning light set upon a candlestick that shines to all that are in the house. The deeper one’s life is, the brighter will its light shine upon other souls and the more will it draw them to God.
Have a pure heart that seeks only to worship God through good and godly acts.
Always be sincere in one’s relationships by sharing God’s love with everyone!
Heavenly Father, give me the grace to be humble and to do good to all men, all the days of my life. O Lord, grant that I may believe with my heart, profess with my mouth and put into practice your words so that I may draw more souls closer to You. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.
Reflection 2 – We serve because God loves
Our Jewish ancestors called Abraham their father in faith. To this day Abraham and Sarah remain key figures. It wasn’t that Abraham was perfect, worked the hardest or that he was super holy. Rather, it was because he listened for and heard God in his life. Abraham was chosen by God, not because he was righteous, but because God wanted to choose him. What Abraham did right was believe! In our first reading (Rom 4:1-8) today Paul points this out to us. Holiness is based upon belief in God, not in performing lots of good deeds for the wrong reasons.
That is what Jesus was going after in the beginning of today’s gospel (Lk 12:1-7). He warns his disciples not to do things in order for people to notice them. Some of the Pharisees often seemed to be doing this. Instead, Jesus invites them to listen to God and learn to trust what they hear. In other words be like Abraham rather than the Pharisees.
That invitation is for us, too. As Catholics we sometimes fall into the trap that says “more is better.” The more I pray, the more I give alms, the more I love my neighbor, the more I forgive, the more God will love me. We do what we think we are supposed to so that we will be right in God’s eyes. The Pharisees did the same thing, performing the proper rituals and living by the letter of the law. God sees through all human actions and looks to the reasons why we do what we do. God loves us first, whether we are perfect or not. Our hairs are even counted in love, not because we are holier than others, but simply because God wants to! From this call God invites us to faithful discipleship, listening and trusting the one who calls, just like Abraham. (Source: Rev. Steven R. Thoma, C.R. Weekday Homily Helps. Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, October 16, 2009).
Reflection 3 – Do not fear those who kill the body
What does leaven have to do with hypocrisy? To the Jews leaven was a sign of evil. It was a piece of dough from left-over bread which fermented. Fermentation was associated with decay and rotting – the state of foul-smelling decomposition. Why did Jesus warn his disciples to avoid the ways of the Pharisees? The Pharisees wanted everyone to recognize that they were pious and good Jews because they meticulously and scrupulously performed their religious duties. Jesus turned the table on them by declaring that outward appearance doesn’t always match the inward intentions of the heart. Anyone can display outward signs of goodness while inwardly harboring evil thoughts and intentions.
God’s light exposes darkness and transforms our minds and hearts
The word hypocrite means actor – someone who pretends to be what he or she is not. But who can truly be good, but God alone? Hypocrisy thrives on making a good appearance and masking what they don’t want others to see. The good news is that God’s light exposes the darkness of evil and sin in our hearts, even the sin which is unknown to us. And God’s light transforms our hearts and minds and enables us to overcome hatred with love, pride with humility, and pretense with integrity and truthfulness. God gives grace to the humble and contrite of heart to enable us to overcome the leaven of insincerity and hypocrisy in our lives.
Godly fear draws us to God’s love and truth
What does fear have to do with the kingdom of God? Fear is a powerful force. It can lead us to panic and flight or it can spur us to faith and action. The fear of God is the antidote to the fear of losing one’s life. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears… O fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no want! ..Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” (Psalm 34:4,9,11)
What is godly fear? It is reverence for the One who made us in love and who sustains us in mercy and kindness. The greatest injury or loss which we can experience is not physical but spiritual – the loss of one’s soul and life to the power of hell. A healthy fear of God leads to spiritual maturity, wisdom, and right judgment and it frees us from the tyranny of sinful pride, deceit, and cowardice – especially in the face of evil, falsehood, and deception. Do you trust in God’s grace and mercy and do you submit to his life-giving word of truth and righteousness (moral goodness)?
“Lord Jesus, may the light of your word free my heart from the deception of sin and consume me with a burning love for your truth and righteousness.” – Read the source: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/2017/oct20.htm
Reflection 4 – Right Spirit
Fear Him who . . . has power to cast into hell. . . . Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. —Luke 12:5,7
I once read some theology on the bumper of a car in front of me. It said, “If you go to hell, don’t blame Jesus!” The slogan apparently was an attempt by the driver to do some evangelism. I gave him credit for trying, but I wondered if those who saw that warning felt it was put there in love.
Reverend Newman Smith had a doctrinal dispute with Baptist preacher Robert Hall. So Smith wrote a stinging pamphlet denouncing Hall. Unable to select an appropriate title, he sent the pamphlet to a friend and asked him for a suggestion.
Smith had previously written a tract called “Come To Jesus.” After his friend read his bitter tirade against Hall, he sent it back with a brief note. “The title I suggest for your pamphlet is this: ‘Go to Hell’ by the author of ‘Come To Jesus.’”
One of the most disturbing assertions in the Bible is that men and women who reject Jesus will spend eternity separated from God. Even more unsettling, virtually everything we know about hell comes from the lips of Jesus. Yet when Jesus spoke of hell, He did so with accents of love.
When we witness to our neighbors, we should ask ourselves these questions: “Is this what God wants me to say?” and “Is this how He wants me to say it?”
— Haddon W. Robinson
Give me a spirit of love today
In everything that I do and say;
I would be loving and kind and true,
Asking myself what Jesus would do. —Hess
Difficult truth should be wrapped in the language of love (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).
Reflection 5 – A prayer that reveals what is hidden
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says, “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed….” We can make a prayer out of this scripture for the people we know who are caught up in deceptions and other hidden dangers.
Here’s an example of how this works. When our daughter was a college student, she planned to move into an apartment with an emotionally troubled gal who’d been her best friend in high school. Knowing that there’s a huge difference between occasional sleepovers and living together, my husband and I were concerned about what would happen if she became exposed to this friend on a daily basis. Our daughter didn’t think that her friend’s problems were all that bad, so we prayed that Jesus would reveal whatever was concealed. We asked him to shed the light of truth on the situation so that she could see the warning signs before it was too late.
Soon, the truth came out. Our daughter discovered that her friend had been lying to her for a long time. Then other disturbing facts began to surface that made her dislike the idea of living with this friend.
Sometimes this prayer reveals the truth almost immediately, or it can take many months or even years if the person who needs to see the truth prefers to stay in the illusions of falsehood. But always what is hidden in darkness does become visible.
Jesus also says in this scripture: “Don’t be afraid of anything except that which can send you to Gehenna [hell].” (Gehenna was a valley just outside Jerusalem where human sacrifices were made and garbage was burned; its horror and stench inspired the description of hell that we still use today.)
Jesus adds that we have nothing to fear, because God cares about us. He cares much more about you and me than he cares for the sparrows that he feeds. He cares so much that he knows how many hairs we have – and he cares about each strand, even the grey ones and the falling-out ones!
In caring so much about us, God wants us to know the truth. If we don’t understand a Church law or teaching, we can ask the Holy Spirit to explain it to us, and of course he will – watch for it to gradually unfold. If we can’t understand why something painful is happening to us, we can ask the Holy Spirit about it, and we’ll gain new wisdom when we quiet ourselves. If we’re uncertain about the value of a particular relationship, or if we’re wondering if there are any hidden dangers, we can ask Christ to shed his light on it, and he will do it.
Even so, if we don’t really want to know the truth, we won’t see it. Jesus told us to be on guard against such hypocrisy. Trust God! He will never neglect your need for the truth. – Read the source: http://gnm.org/good-news-reflections/?useDrDate=2016-10-14
Reflection 6 – Dare to speak the truth
Reflection 7 – St. Paul of the Cross (1694-1775 A.D.)
Born in northern Italy in 1694, Paul Daneo lived at a time when many regarded Jesus as a great moral teacher but no more. After a brief time as a soldier, he turned to solitary prayer, developing a devotion to Christ’s passion. Paul saw in the Lord’s passion a demonstration of God’s love for all people. In turn that devotion nurtured his compassion and supported a preaching ministry that touched the hearts of many listeners. He was known as one of the most popular preachers of his day, both for his words and for his generous acts of mercy.
In 1720 Paul founded the Congregation of the Passion, whose members combined devotion to Christ’s passion with preaching to the poor and rigorous penances. Known as the Passionists, they add a fourth vow to the traditional three of poverty, chastity, and obedience, to spread the memory of Christ’s passion among the faithful. Paul was elected superior general of the Congregation in 1747, spending the remainder of his life in Rome.
Paul of the Cross died in 1775, and was canonized in 1867. Over 2000 of his letters and several of his short writings have survived.
Paul’s devotion to Christ’s passion must have seemed eccentric if not bizarre to many people. Yet it was that devotion that nurtured Paul’s compassion and supported a preaching ministry that touched the hearts of many listeners. He was one of the most popular preachers of his day, known for both his words and his generous acts of mercy.
Paul wrote that God’s love “penetrates the inner core of one’s being, changes the lover into his beloved. And on a higher level whre love is merged with sorrow and sorrow mingled with love, there results a certain blend of love and sorrow that is so complex that the love can no longer be distinguished from the sorrow nor the sorrow from the love.”
Patron Saint of: Hungary
Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1718
SAINT OF THE DAY
Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God’s invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint. Click here to receive Saint of the Day in your email.
|SAINT PAUL OF THE CROSS|
“The service of God does not require good words and good desires, but efficient workmanship, fervor and courage” – St. Paul of the Cross
|BORN||3 January 1694
Ovada, Piedmont, Duchy of Savoy (now modern-dayItaly)
|DIED||18 October 1775 (aged 81)
Church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Rome
|VENERATED IN||Roman Catholic Church|
|BEATIFIED||1 May 1853, Rome by Pope Pius IX|
|CANONIZED||29 June 1867, Rome by Pope Pius IX|
|MAJORSHRINE||Church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Rome|
28 April (General Roman Calendar1869-1969)
His parents were Mark and Anna Maria Massari Danei. His father ran a small dry-goods store, and moved his family and store from town to town near Genoa trying to make ends meet. Paul was the second of sixteen children, six of whom survived infancy; and learned at an early age the reality of death and the uncertainty of life. Paul received his early education from a priest who kept a school for boys, in Cremolino, Lombardy. He made great progress and at the age of fifteen he left school and returned to his home at Castellazzo. In his early years he taught catechism in churches near his home.
Paul experienced a conversion to a life of prayer at the age of 19.Influenced by his reading of the “Treatise on the Love of God” by Saint Francis de Sales and the direction he received from priests of theCapuchin Order it became his lifelong conviction that God is most easily found in the Passion of Christ.
In 1715, Paul left his work helping his father to join a crusade against the Turks who were threatening the Venetian Republic, but soon realized that the life of a soldier was not his calling. He returned to help in the family business. On his way home he stopped at Novello, where he helped an aging, childless couple until the end of 1716. They offered to make him their heir, but he declined. His uncle, Father Christopher Danei, tried to arrange a marriage, but Paul had no plans to marry. When his uncle died, he kept for himself only the priest’s Breviary.
When he was 26 years old, Paul had a series of prayer-experiences which made it clear to him that God was inviting him to form a community who would live an evangelical life and promote the love of God revealed in the Passion of Jesus. In a vision, he saw himself clothed in the habit he and his companions would wear: a long, black tunic on the front of which was a heart surmounted by a white cross, and in the heart was written “Passion of Jesus Christ”. On seeing it, he heard these words spoken to him: “This is to show how pure the heart must be that bears the holy name of Jesus graven upon it”. The first name Paul received for his community was “the Poor of Jesus”; later they came to be known as the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, or the Passionists.
With the encouragement of his bishop, who clothed him in the black habit of a hermit, Paul wrote the rule of his new community (of which he was, as yet, the only member) during a retreat of forty days at the end of 1720. The community was to live a penitential life, in solitude and poverty, teaching people in the easiest possible way how to meditate on the Passion of Jesus.
His first companion was his own brother, John Baptist. In the belief that it was necessary to reside in Rome in order to secure approval of the Rule, Paul and John Baptist accepted an invitation of Cardinal Corrandini to help establish a new hospital being founded by the Cardinal. The brothers devoted their energies to providing nursing care and ministered to the pastoral needs of both patients and staff.
After a short course in pastoral theology, the brothers were ordained to the priesthood by Pope Benedict XIII on 7 June 1727, inSt. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. After ordination they devoted themselves to preaching missions in parishes, particularly in remote country places where there were not a sufficient number of priests pastorally involved. Paul was known as one of the most popular preachers of his day, both for his words and for his generous acts of mercy.Their preaching apostolate and the retreats they gave in seminaries and religious houses brought their mission to the attention of others and gradually the community began to grow.
The first Retreat (the name Passionists traditionally gave to theirmonasteries) was opened in 1737 on Monte Argentario (Province of Grosseto); the community now had nine members. Paul called his monasteries “retreats” to underline the life of solitude and contemplation which he believed was necessary for someone who wished to preach the message of the Cross. In addition to the communal celebration of the divine office, members of his community were to devote at least three hours to contemplative prayer each day. The austerity of life practised by the first Passionists did not encourage large numbers, but Paul preferred a slow, at times painful, growth to something more spectacular.
More than two thousand of his letters, most of them letters of spiritual direction, have been preserved.
He died on 18 October 1775, at the Retreat of Saints John and Paul (SS. Giovanni e Paolo). By the time of his death, the congregation founded by Saint Paul of the Cross had one hundred and eighty fathers and brothers, living in twelve Retreats, mostly in the Papal States. There was also a monastery of contemplative sisters in Corneto (today known as Tarquinia), founded by Paul a few years before his death to promote the memory of the Passion of Jesus by their life of prayer and penance.
Saint Paul of the Cross was beatified on 1 October 1852, andcanonized on 29 June 1867 by Blessed Pius IX. Two years later, his feast day was inserted in the Roman calendar, for celebration on 28 April as a Double. In 1962 it was reclassified as a Third-Class feast,and in 1969 it became an optional Memorial and was placed on 19 October, the day after the day of his death, 18 October, which is the feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist.
An excerpt from a letter from Saint Paul of the Cross
It is an excellent and holy practice to call to mind and meditate on our Lord’s Passion, since it is by this path that we shall arrive at union with God. In this, the holiest of all schools, true wisdom is learned, for it was there that all the saints became wise. Taken from a letter written by St. Paul of the Cross
- Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), pp. 106 and 121
- Devine, Arthur. “St. Paul of the Cross.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 17 Sept. 2014
- “St. Paul of the Cross”, The Passionists – St. Paul of the Cross Province
- Schepers, Elmer. “St Paul of the Cross, Mystic and Passionist Founder”
- Bialas C.P., Martin. In This Sign – The Spirituality of St. Paul of the Cross, Ways of Prayer 9, Dominican Publications, Dublin, 1979
- Foley O.F.M., Leonard. “St. Paul of the Cross”,Saint of the Day, Lives, Lessons and Feast, (revised by Pat McCloskey O.F.M.), Franciscan Media
- 3rd Class