Vincentian Reflections

Vincentian Reflections2019-02-19T18:29:31+00:00
1608, 2022

August 21- Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

From the Deacon’s Desk:  Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts

 

August 21 – Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Have you ever noticed, Jesus does not seem to do yes or no answers?  But he gets his point across!  He and the disciples have been traveling the road to Jerusalem.   The journey is not easy.  It is filled with hardship and danger.  The destination is even more difficult.  He has been telling parables to make evident the steep cost of discipleship.  He has just told them along the way that he “has come to set the earth on fire!”  He intends to create division and strife.  And then comes the question – “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”   What was the mindset of the questioner?  As a follower of Jesus, did they feel like they were a part of the few, while many of those they were encountering had no shot to be saved?  Perhaps just being around Jesus and being able to say they know him will be sufficient.  But Jesus makes it clear – that is not enough.  This gospel should give us pause to consider our attitudes sometimes.  How often have I felt secure knowing I follow the rules?  I lead a respectable life and meet my obligations.  I make it to Mass, pray when I am supposed to and put some cash in the basket.  I have better morals than most.

 

Compliance and complacency are not enough though.  Jesus challenges us to look – truly look at our own quality of discipleship.  Don’t compare it to others, but compare it to the model of Jesus himself.  “I am the way, the truth and the life, says the Lord; no one comes to the Father except through me!”  Jesus tells us this week that some who are last will be first and some who are first will be last.  He tells us the gate is narrow.  Getting to heaven is not as easy as simply saying you believe. Yes, we need to believe in the “Truth” of Jesus.  But we also need to adopt His way and His life to follow that truth.  We need to shed our judgments, our pride, our smugness and our hypocrisies to be able to pass through the narrow gate.  We need to seek and adopt the will of God in our lives that it may become our compass and our beacon.

 

We all can complain from time to time, like the Hebrews did, about how hard the life of Jesus is.  Discipleship is not easy.  It requires effort and persistence on our part to stay strong and keep from having “drooping hands and weak knees.”  St. Paul tells us we must be trained by God even though the training will be difficult.  Discipline involves struggle and correction, learning, effort and even suffering.  Change comes slowly as we work to transform our lives that we might conform ourselves to the will of God. But it is through change that we lose the sins that weigh us down and keep us from the gate.   The gate is narrow, but it is open to all.  Salvation comes not by our efforts, but when we accept and put on Jesus.  The road is filled with hardships and the final entrance can be demanding.  The reward though is union with God.

 

As Vincentians, our primary purpose is to develop our spirituality and holiness.  We adopt a way of life that takes us to the heart of Jesus – with the poor and suffering – that we might imitate the compassion and mercy of Jesus.  We seek a virtuous way of life that allows us to develop the fortitude to stay true to our Lord, living the truth in His way, following in His footsteps.  How do I approach each day seeking to live as Christ did?  How do I strive to grow in humility by seeking and embracing God’s will for me?  How d

o I trust in His Divine Providence?

 

Lord Jesus, give me the courage and the strength to follow in your footsteps.  Help me to choose the narrow gate, that I may approach the kingdom of heaven giving glory to God.  Help me to embrace those in need as you did in mercy and charity.  Give me the humility to trust in you and to see your presence in those you bring to us.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen

 

Deacon Mike

908, 2022

August 14- Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From the Deacon’s Desk:  Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts

August 14 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“I have come to set the earth on fire!” says our Lord in the gospel this week.  But it’s not the fire you might think of that he is talking about.  It’s not the fire of the Holy Spirit that we will receive on down the road at Pentecost.  It’s not the fire the apostles and disciples were looking for.  They were looking for a Messiah – someone to save them from the Romans. Instead, they got a flame thrower.  No, this is a fire of change, a fire of division, a fire of transformation and even a fire death.  He is telling them that discipleship will come with a cost, the path will not be easy and many will not accept it.  There will be crosses to bear with pain and suffering and sacrifice.  Be careful what you ask for!

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth?  No I tell you, but rather division!”  In case there was any doubt, Jesus makes it clear that he is here to create a new direction for humanity and it won’t be a comfortable ride.  St. Paul indicates in the second reading that we look to the great cloud of witnesses – the prophets, the martyrs and all the saints – as examples and support in our endeavor to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, embracing the change to come and allowing our hearts to be set on fire.  Jesus invites each of us to join in his mission of passion, love and mercy, rooting out sin and darkness, to replace them with hope and joy.

We all seek to grow in holiness by coming to know Jesus Christ as intimately as we can.  One way to do that, is to go where His heart can most readily be found – and that is with those most in need.  He came to set the world on fire by teaching us to love one another, especially the poor.  He calls us to have mercy and compassion, for it is that same mercy and compassion he seeks to give to us. By seeking out the poor and all those in need, by coming to know them and looking them squarely in the eye, by seeking God in their very presence, we come to understand ourselves better – seeing in them what God sees in each of us.  A need for forgiveness and mercy and compassion.  A need for acceptance and hope and love.

When we help others by first getting to know them, we come to realize that we are all more similar than we are different.  It’s easy to say about someone, “they make bad decisions” –––well, God could say the same thing about us – don’t we as well?  Working with the vulnerable brings us face to face with our judgements and our prejudices.  Each of us has some type of poverty in our lives.   Working with the vulnerable helps us to see that poverty with the eyes of God and the heart of God.

Saint Vincent is our model as Vincentians.  He invites us to embrace the mission of Christ by embracing those in need, helping them to find hope in the future by making Christ present and visible to them today.  St. Vincent said,   “So, our vocation is to go … to set people’s hearts on fire, to do what the Son of God did. He came to set the world on fire in order to inflame it with His love.”  We are both the carriers and the recipients of the flame of Christ.  When we become infected by His love, we grow in holiness and share that love out broadly.  How do I allow myself to embrace the passion of Christ in humility?  How do I carry that fire into the world, fighting for those who are in need with zeal?  Is truth and justice more important to me than being comfortable and not rocking the boat?  Will I stand up for Christ as Christ stood up for me?

Lord Jesus, help me to embrace the fire of your love.  Help me to be an instrument of your disruption of discrimination, prejudice and injustice in the world.  Allow me to be a Voice of the Poor acting with zeal and passion.  Give me the grace to submit humbly to all that you ask of me that I might be a light shining forth with your goodness and love. We pray all of this in your name.  Amen

Deacon Mike

208, 2022

August 7- Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From the Deacon’s Desk:  Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts

August 7 – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

“Stay awake and be ready!  For you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”    Our gospel acclamation captures the warning of the message in our readings this week.  If the past couple years has taught us nothing else, it is that life can change in an instant.  We have watched the tragedies of nature – floods, tornados and wildfires – take everything people have.  Mass shootings have reminded us that life itself can be snuffed out in an instant.  COVID has taught us to take nothing for granted.  Often it is difficult for us to make sense of the suffering and loss.

But suffering and sacrifice are part and parcel of our faith.  They are the cross, and we are connected to it.  We should embrace it!  We embrace it by owning our faith, by trusting in God and by turning our lives over to Him.  It is faith that allows us to endure all that we must for God.  The faith of Abraham that St. Paul describes in our second reading.  A faith that believes in the hope and promise of God even when that promise is not visible to us.  It is a faith born out of love and trust, girded by humility and acceptance of God’s plan, and fueled by passion and hope for the future.  Faith gives us hope when all else seems to have failed.

“Do not be afraid,” Jesus tells us.  “For the Father is pleased to give us the Kingdom!”  God will never leave us alone, but are we willing to trust in Him?  Where do we place our trust?  Is it in our possessions – or is it by living under the loving gaze of God?  Trust in riches gets in the way of trust in God.  Jesus is always there with us – even in places where we don’t expect him. You see, Jesus is the one who has fought and already won the battle over evil for us.  We only need to choose to follow him, to bring him squarely to the center of our lives.  We need to hear the words of St. Paul, “faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”   We have found hope and joy in that which we cannot see.  Our faith is fulfilled and fueled by Jesus Christ in the Eucharist – body and blood, soul and divinity!

As Vincentian’s, each day we are called to grow in holiness, and as such to grow in faith.  We are carriers of that faith to all we encounter, including one another, and those to whom we minister.  Our actions and words become the evidence of God’s presence among us.  More than anything, it is faith, hope and trust which we share with others through the love of Christ.  How do I help others to find hope even in the darkest of times?  How do my actions convey a trust in God’s plan for each of us?  Does my humility convey a willingness to accept all that we are asked to endure?

Lord Jesus, help me to accept suffering as Christ accepted the suffering and pain of my sins.  Give me the humility to accept your will, your plan for me and those around me even when I don’t understand, even when it hurts.  Give me the trust and conviction of Abraham.  Help me to grow in my faith and holiness particularly when times seem dark.  Allow me to see the light of hope to carry me forward.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen

 

Deacon Mike

2607, 2022

August 1- Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From the Deacon’s Desk:  Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts

August 1 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

“Vanity of vanities!  All things are vanity!”  How close to home does this hit for us?  Our society teaches us the importance of possessions and the need to pursue them for both our desires and our ‘security.’  Not just material possessions, but influence, knowledge and power as well.  Anything that feeds our self-importance and makes us feel relevant!  But no, Qoheleth tells us, everything is filled with futility and emptiness.  Nothing has any final worth or meaning.  Everything is for nothing!  Why live??

If the world events of recent years have reminded us of anything, it is that life is short.  From the pandemic to the war in Ukraine, violence in our cities, horrific mass shootings, tornados, fires and floods – we are reminded of the temporary nature of life here on earth.  Everything can change in an instant, and that which seemed so important and precious, suddenly is gone.  As the gospel remind us, you do not know the time or the hour.  Looking at the foolishness of greed, Mark Twain noted, “There is no sense in being the richest man in the cemetery.”  Our readings point to the foolishness of pursuit of earthly riches.  Jesus tells us that our possessions and accomplishments will not benefit us on judgment day – particularly if they get in the way of doing God’s will.  When we get wrapped up in our pursuit of earthly treasures, we lose sight of the heavenly ones.  We spend our time preparing for our future – our retirement, when the reality is that our true focus should be on our eternal future – our salvation.  Death is not fair, but it does not have to be final!

St. Paul tells us that a baptized person has a reason to live.  When we are baptized, we become sharers in the life of Christ.  We reaffirm that each time we come forward to receive Christ in the Eucharistic feast. Since we are sharers in the life of Christ, St. Paul tells us, we have to live accordingly.  We have to pursue heavenly concerns rather than earthly things. We have to root out and destroy the parts of us that are earthly.  Do away with those things that don’t fit with our heavenly life with Christ.  Our life should be a journey to God; to be the image of God that He has placed within us.  With Jesus as our model, the definition of success changes.  Rather than endlessly pursuing earthly treasure, we begin to pursue conversation and relationship with Christ.  We seek relationship with others that we might be the presence of Christ to them and find his presence in them.

 

If we focus on heaven and eternity, as much as if not more than our earthly existence, then our perspective on what constitutes success changes.  The question is, what are we working for – today or tomorrow?  The goal of life is to be eternally happy, not temporarily happy. Without God all life is meaningless. But with God, every aspect of our lives proclaim the reason for our creation: to know him, to love him, to serve him.  Success is assuming Christ, it is a Christ centered family, it is caring for others as Christ cares for us!

As Vincentians, we are constantly dealing with people who have no possessions to speak of, and little hope of gaining many.  Often, faith is all they have left and growing in their relationship with God gains greater meaning. In ministering to others, particularly the vulnerable and poor, we learn the wisdom of valuing people and relationships more than our ‘earthly possessions’ of things.  They teach us the value and importance of trust in God, humility and hope.  How do I allow those in poverty, to teach me the wisdom of valuing people, relationships and prayer?  What are my treasures in life; and how do I want that to change?

Lord Jesus, help me to keep my focus always on you.  Help me to grow in the virtue of simplicity, not desiring those things which get in the way of keeping my gaze on you.  Through those I minister to, allow me to see the value of spiritual riches, and relationship to you through relationships with others.    Help me to never lose sight of what is truly important in life for me and for those to whom I minister.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen

 

Deacon Mike

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