Posts Tagged ‘shown mercy’

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, November 1, 2015 — All Saints

October 31, 2015

Solemnity of All Saints
Lectionary: 667

Sermon On The Mount by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Reading 1 RV 7:2-4, 9-14

I, John, saw another angel come up from the East,
holding the seal of the living God.
He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels
who were given power to damage the land and the sea,
“Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees
until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal,
one hundred and forty-four thousand marked
from every tribe of the children of Israel.After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me,
“Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”
I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.”
He said to me,
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 24:1BC-2, 3-4AB, 5-6

R. (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
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The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
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R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
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Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
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R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
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He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
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R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
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Reading 2 1 JN 3:1-3

Beloved:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure,
as he is pure.

Alleluia MT 11:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest, says the Lord.
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R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 5:1-12A

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

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Sermon on the Mount, Getty Museum
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From Monastery of Christ in the Desert

Scripture Readings: Book of Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; First Letter of Saint John 3:1-3; Gospel According to Saint Matthew 5:1-12a

This year the Church’s liturgical festival to celebrate all of God’s saints, officially canonized or not, falls on a Sunday. Being a “big feast,” the celebration of All Saints takes the place of the usual Sunday in Ordinary time and becomes a focal point for this Sunday’s worship by God’s people in the Catholic Church throughout the world. We honor this Sunday all saints, those who now enjoy the glory of heaven with God.

Even if not canonized by name, “all saints” are recognized by God and the Church and form a “cloud of witnesses” (see Letter to the Hebrews 13:1) in God’s presence. Their dwelling with God is a source of inspiration and edification for us, literally meaning our being “built up” to follow in their footsteps.

The Solemnity of All Saints is intended in part to sustain and even raise our sense of hope in longing to “be with God” forever in heaven. This is what the saints, who have gone before us in faith, now enjoy and which we hope to experience as well as end our earthly existence, entering a new life in Christ beyond time and space.

This Sunday, and really every Sunday and day that we take time to ponder the mystery of God-with-us, we realize that it is not in vain that we believe in Jesus Christ. We believe so as to secure our steps in the way of love in this life and then to enjoy for eternity, “life on high,” as it is sometimes described, with the Holy Trinity, as well as all the angels and saints, in Paradise or Heaven. This we hold firm to as a matter of faith and dogma.

The number of the elect or saved, one hundred and forty-four thousand, described in the Book of Revelation is not to be understood as a literal number, but a figurative one. It indicates a perfect number, and we are certainly called to be among that number, however many it may actually be when all is said and done.

On one level, the actual number of “saved” is not so important as the fact that there are multitudes, coming from everywhere over the ages, who through a life of perseverance in the ways of the Lord are now enjoying the rewards of eternal life in God’s presence. A sublime and great mystery this is, but something we hold dear as believers in God and members of the Church.

The Apostle Saint John speaks in his letter assigned to this solemnity of All Saints of the certainty that is to characterize followers of Jesus, who are not just called to be, but really are children of God, awaiting the fullness of what that means in the life yet to come. Even in this life, though, we participate to some degree in God’s glory, part and parcel of a life of faith, hope and love in God’s Church.

We can say that in celebrating All Saints no one missing from the picture and there are no favorites. Sure, we may have our favorites, such as for me, Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, Saint Therese of Lisieux, Blessed Charles de Foucauld and others, but in God’s sight they are equal and all of them “full participants” in God’s life in heaven. So too no one saint has a head start on the others. All were called, as we are all called, to holiness, meaning nearness to God and conformed to God’s likeness by a life of loving service of God and neighbor.

The theme of growing in holiness or likeness to God continues in this Sunday’s Gospel passage from Saint Matthew, where Jesus gives his followers the “Beatitudes,” as they are usually called.

Jesus is seated, in the rabbinical manner of teaching, and gives instructions to everyone, no matter what may be their financial situation or age, and merely thirsting for holiness as the needed criterion to take up his teaching.

The Beatitudes make few demands but can be very demanding nonetheless. Daily interacting with others requires patience, tact, genuineness and many other virtues. We are to live openly and trustingly within our family and faith community, with co-workers or fellow-students, wherever we meet and rub shoulders with others. Therein lies the heart of our going to God.

We may tend to think of more dramatic actions are needed to become holy, such as going to the slums or the ends of the earth and ministering to the poor there. Some are indeed called to that and find holiness in so doing. For the vast majority of followers of Christ, though, the task is to live and love well in the ordinary places and ways that are required in daily living.

I like this quote from the late biblical scholar, Father Carroll Stuhlmueller, of the Passionist Order. He says, in commenting on the Beatitudes:

“In the bond of faith within the extended family of the Church or within our immediate family or neighborhood and community, we realize how our being poor in spirit has settled the reign of God in our midst; how consoling others in their sorrow brings the blessedness of forgetting one’s own sorrow; how sharing one’s goods with others soothes the hunger and thirst within ourselves. With such blessed single-heartedness in reaching outward, we become “children of God” and even “see God” (from “Biblical Meditations for Ordinary Time, Weeks 23 – 34,” Paulist Press, 1984, page 412).

In other words, there are many opportunities for sanctity in our daily life. Openness to God’s presence and activity in our life is a path toward sharing one day with all the angels and saints the reward of eternal life.

Yes, All Saints Day is about the blessed who have gone before us, but also an invitation to be counted among them eventually, for therein lies true fulfillment and happiness.

We long to see God’s face. May we always eagerly walk in the ways that Jesus has taught, the path to wholeness and holiness open before us life, a mysterious and wonderful road that leads to God’s house.

All you saints of God, pray for us!

Prior Christian Leisy, OSB

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

Abiquiu, New Mexico.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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SAINTS ARE CALLED TO SHARE IN THE LIFE OF GOD BY LIVING OUT THE BEATITUDES OF CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: REV 7:2-4, 9-14; JN 3:1-3; MT 5:1-12

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.”  This is truly a great privilege of ours to be called and chosen as God’s children.  In other words, John tells us that we are all created to share in the intimacy of God’s life.  Our origin and destiny lie in our relationship with God.  Our calling in life is therefore bound to our destiny as well.  It means therefore that our life on earth is but the flowering of the divine life that is already given to us at birth and especially at our baptism.  We are called to live out our divine sonship in this life.  In this way, we will one day attain the fullness of sonship when we will become like God since we share in His life fully, which is another way of saying that “we shall see him as he really is.”

This is indeed a real challenge because living out our sonship is not an easy task.  We are constantly meeting challenges, trials and sufferings in life and called to choose between sin and God.  The fact is that some of us have chosen against Him because we have forgotten our origin and destiny.  That is why St John says that “because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us.”   By choosing against God, we have also chosen sin and evil and therefore death.  Thus, because none of us is truly living our life as we should, as children of God, we must therefore purify ourselves in love.  Like the saints and martyrs before us, who have had their robes washed white by the blood of the lamb, we too will also have to be purified by the blood of the lamb.

How then can we be purified by the blood of the lamb?  We must not take this expression too literally as if the blood of Jesus can wash us clean.  Rather, this is a metaphorical way of saying how Jesus in His life and in His death has shown us the way to be saints.  This way is given to us in today’s beatitudes, which is actually the blue-print Jesus has for us in our journey towards the Kingdom; one which He lived out in His very own life.  So what Jesus is teaching us is based on His very own convictions – which He ultimately paid with His own blood and life by surrendering His life for us on the cross.  What, then, is this blueprint?

Firstly, we are called to be poor in spirit.  This simply means that only those of us who are docile to the Spirit can truly be happy in life.  Docility calls for openness and a humble recognition of one’s limitations.  So long as we are open to growth and learning, then we will always be given opportunities to perfect our life to that of God’s.  Conversely, those of us who think that we know everything cannot grow because of our pride and self-sufficiency.

Secondly, we are called to be gentle.  Gentleness in the gospel means meekness and sensitivity.  Unless we are sensitive towards others and ourselves, we will not be able to be in communion with others.  To be sensitive is to be aware of what we are doing, how we are feeling.  In this way, we will also become sensitive towards the feelings, needs and dignity of our fellow human beings.  Without gentleness and sensitivity, we cannot treat others with love and respect.

Thirdly, in order to live in the communion of saints, Jesus says that we must mourn.   Those who mourn will be comforted.  To mourn is to be repentant of our sinfulness and lack of love in life.  It is recognizing one’s weaknesses and resolving not to commit them again.  Mourning requires that we understand the extent and depth of our sins so that conversion is brought about not because of guilt but because of true sorrow for one’s sinful actions.

Fourthly, the beatitudes of Jesus tell us that we must hunger and thirst for what is right.  Fighting for truth, justice and righteousness is truly a sign that we are in communion with the saints.  If we do not stand up for the oppression of our brothers, we have not yet really fulfilled our part in the communion of saints.  There will be no peace and joy in our lives, for how can we pretend that everything is all right when our fellow human beings are suffering?  Indeed, it is better to suffer for doing what is right than for doing what is wrong.  And not doing anything to redress the rights of others would be a sin of omission.

Fifthly, we are told that “those who are merciful, they shall have mercy shown them.”   There is much truth in this beatitude.  We can experience the mercy of God only when we learn to be merciful towards others.  Being merciful is to be compassionate with our fellow human beings.  Compassion requires us to identify with others and to be with them in their sufferings.  And because we are merciful, we will also learn to appreciate and thank God for our present situations.  Compassion helps us to know that we are not alone in this world in our struggles in life.  That is why, in showing mercy to others, we also show mercy to ourselves for we recognize the mercy of God towards us.

Sixthly, the saints of God must be pure in heart.  Only then they can see God.  Purity of heart requires purity of mind.  When a person is pure in his intention and in his thinking, he is neither malicious nor judgmental.  A pure heart is therefore one who has a clear conscience and always lives according to the gospel life.  Those who are not pure in heart, those who live in guilt, will also necessarily live in fear.  That is why these people are not only afraid to see God but also afraid to look at others in the eye.  Deep within, they know that they are not truthful and honest in their dealings.  They suffer from guilt, greed and fear.  However, if a person has purity of mind and heart, he walks about freely, without anxiety of any sort.  He is always ready to die at any time because he carries no guilt in him.  Such a person, because he is liberated from within, will therefore be able to see the goodness of God in others and in his life.  Hence, those who are pure in heart see God in everyone and, most of all, within himself.

In the seventh beatitude, Jesus tells us that the saint must also be a peacemaker.  Why is that so?  Because being a member of the communion of saints, we do not live in isolation.  To be truly Christ is to be concerned for others.  And surely if one member of our family is not in union with the family, we would want to reconcile them.  Living the life of the communion of saints necessarily entails that we become peacemakers.  We do not bring disunity and sufferings to others by breaking up the unity of the family.  Instead, we strive to live in unity with others by respecting each other.  But more than that, we also have the responsibility to reconcile those members of the family that are alienated from each other or from God.   In this way, by being peacemakers we are called sons of God because Jesus as the Son of God is the bridge or mediator in our reconciliation with God.

Finally, Jesus tells us that happiness comes to those who are persecuted on His account.  To suffer persecution for the sake of truth is to suffer on account of the name of Jesus.   Even when we are persecuted for proclaiming the name of Jesus, for proclaiming the gospel life, we must be glad since we have done nothing wrong.  It is surely better to die in the service of life than to die a selfish death or as an accomplice of evil and social injustices.  Such is the great joy of knowing that we have suffered on account of Jesus because we know that ultimately the true joy of life is when we give up even our own lives for the salvation of others.  No greater love can a man give than to lay down his life for his friends and, better still, for his enemies.

Yes, today as we celebrate All Saints Day, let us thank God for this gift of divine life that He has already given to us.  We pray for His grace that we will bring to completion the good work He has begun in us; so that the seed of divine life in us will flourish into the Kingdom of God.  When that happens, we will share in the fullness of life, a condition that is just beyond our human imagination as John tells us.  But one thing is certain, there will be total joy, total love because we will live with God in God’s kingdom.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Jesus’ words on the Beatitudes that Matthew drew from his sources, were condensed in short and isolated phrases, and the Evangelist has placed them in a broader context, which Biblical scholars call the “sermon on the mount” (chapters 5-7). This sermon is considered like the statutes or Magna Carta that Jesus gave to the community as a normative and binding word that defines a Christian.

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The many themes contained in this long sermon are not to be seen as collection of exhortations, but rather as a clear and radical indication of the new attitude of the disciples towards God, oneself and the brothers and sisters. Some expressions used by Jesus may seem exaggerated, but they are used to stress reality and thus are realistic in the context although not so in a literary sense: for instance in vv.29-30: «If your right eye should be your downfall, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should be your downfall, cut it off and throw it away, for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body go to hell». This manner of speaking indicates the effect desired to be created in the reader, who must understand correctly Jesus’ words so as not to distort their meaning.

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Our focus, for liturgical reasons, will be on the first part of the “sermon on the mount”, that is the part dealing with the proclamation of the beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12).

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Some details:

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Matthew invites the reader to listen to the beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus with a rich concentration of details. First he indicates the place where Jesus proclaims his sermon: “Jesus went onto the mountain” (5:1). That is why exegetes call this the “sermon on the mount” even though Luke places this sermon on level ground (Lk 6:20-26). The geographic location of the “mountain” could be a veiled reference to an episode in the OT quite like ours: that is, when Moses proclaims the Decalogue on mount Sinai. It is possible that Matthew wishes to present Jesus as the new Moses who proclaims the new law.

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Another detail that strikes us is the physical posture of Jesus as he proclaims his words: “when he was seated”. This posture confers upon him a note of authority in the legislative sense. The disciples and the “crowd” gather around him: this detail shows what Jesus had to say was for all to hear. We note that Jesus’ words do not present impossible matters, nor are they addressed to a special group of people, nor do they mean to establish a code of ethics exclusively for his inner circle. Jesus’ demands are concrete, binding and decisively radical.

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Someone branded Jesus’ sermon as follows: «For me, this is the most important text in the history of humankind. It is addressed to all, believers and non, and after twenty centuries it is still the only light still shining in the darkness of violence, fear and solitude in which the West finds itself because of its pride and selfishness» (Gilbert Cesbron).

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The word “blessed” (in Greek makarioi) in our context does not say “softly” but cries out happiness found throughout the Bible. For instance, in the OT, those called “blessed” are those who live out the precepts of Wisdom (Sir 25,7-10). The prayerful person of the Psalms defines “blessed” as those who “fear”, or more precisely those who love the Lord, expressing this love in the observance of the precepts contained in the word of God (Sal 1,1; 128,1).

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Matthew’s originality lies in adding a secondary phrase that specifies each beatitude: for instance, the main assertion “blessed are the poor in spirit” is clarified by an added phrase “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Another difference with the OT is that Jesus’ words proclaim a saving blessedness here and now and without any limitations. For Jesus, all can attain happiness on condition that they remain united to Him.

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The first three beatitudes:

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i) The first cry concerns the poor: “How blessed are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of heaven is theirs”. The reader may be shocked: how can the poor be happy? In the Bible, the poor are those who empty themselves of themselves and above all renounce the presumption of building their own present and future alone, and thus leave room for and focus on God’s project and his Word. The poor, always in the biblical sense, is not someone closed in on himself, miserable, negative, but someone who nurtures being open to God and to others. God is all his/her treasure. We could say with St.Teresa of Avila: happy are those who experience that “God alone suffices!”, meaning that they are rich in God.

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A great modern spiritual author described poverty as follows: «As long as one does not empty one’s heart, God cannot fill it with himself. As you empty your heart, so does the Lord fill it. Poverty is emptiness, not only in what concerns the future but also the past. Not a regret or memory, not a worry or wish! God is not in the past, God is not in the future: He is in the present! Leave your past to God, leave your future to God. Your poverty is to live the present, the Presence of God who is Eternity» (Divo Barsotti).

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This is the first beatitude, not just because it is the first of many, but because it seems to encapsulate all the others in their diversity.

ii)Blessed are those who mourn; they shall be comforted”. One can mourn because of a great pain or suffering. This underlines the fact that we are dealing with a serious situation even though the motives or the cause are not mentioned. If we wish to identify today “those who mourn” we could think of all the Christians who hold dear the demands of the kingdom and suffer because of many negative aspects in the Church; rather than focus on holiness, the Church presents divisions and lacerations. They may also be those who suffer because of their sins and inconsistencies and who, in some way, slow down their conversion. To these, only God can bring the news of “consolation””.

iii)Blessed are the gentle, they shall have the earth as inheritance”. The third beatitude is about gentleness. This is a quality that is not so popular today. Rather, for many it has a negative connotation and is taken for weakness or the kind of imperturbability that knows how to control calculatingly one’s own emotions. What does the word “gentle” mean in the Bible? The gentle are remembered as those who enjoy great peace (Ps 37:10), are happy, blessed and loved by God. They are also contrasted with evildoers, the ungodly and sinners. Thus the OT gives us a wealth of meanings that do not allow for one single definition.

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In the NT the first time we meet the word is in Matthew 11:29: “Learn from me because I am gentle and humble of heart”. A second time is in Mt 21:5, when Matthew describes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and cites the prophet Zechariah 2:9: “Behold your servant comes to you gentle”. Truly, Matthew’s Gospel may be described as the Gospel of gentleness.

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Paul too says that gentleness is an identifying quality of the Christian. In 2 Corinthians 10:1 he exhorts believers “I urge you by the gentleness and forbearance of Christ”. In Galatians 5:22 gentleness is considered one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the heart of believers and consists in being meek, moderate, slow to punish, kind and patient towards others. Again in Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:12 gentleness is an attitude that is part of the Christian and a sign of the new man in Christ.

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Finally, an eloquent witness comes from 1 Peter 3:3-4: “Your adornment should be not an exterior one, consisting of braided hair or gold jewellery or fine clothing, but the interior disposition of the heart, consisting in the imperishable quality of a gentle and peaceful spirit, so precious in the sight of God”.

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How does Jesus use the word “gentle”? A truly enlightening definition is the one given by the gentle person of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini “The gentle person, according to the beatitudes, is one who, in spite of the fervour of his/her feelings, remains docile and calm, not possessive, interiorly free, always extremely respectful of the mystery of freedom, imitating God in this respect who does everything with respect for the person, and urges the person to obedience without ever using violence. Gentleness is opposed to all forms of material or moral arrogance, it gains the victory of peace over war, of dialogue over imposition”.

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To this wise interpretation we add that of another famous exegete: “The gentleness spoken of in the beatitudes is none other than that aspect of humility that manifests itself in practical affability in one’s dealings with the other. Such gentleness finds its image and its perfect model in the person of Jesus, gentle and humble of heart. Truly, such gentleness seems to us like a form of charity, patient and delicately attentive towards others” (Jacques Dupont).

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The word enlightens me (to meditate)

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a) Am I able to accept those little signs of poverty in my regard? For instance, the poverty of poor health and little indispositions? Do I make exorbitant demands?

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b) Am I able to accept some aspect of my poverty and fragility?

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c) Do I pray like a poor person, as one who asks with humility the grace of God, his pardon and his mercy?

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d) Inspired by Jesus’ message concerning gentleness, do I renounce violence, vengeance and a vengeful spirit?

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e) Do I encourage, in families and in my place of work, a spirit of kindness, gentleness and peace?

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f) Do I pay back any small malice, insinuations or offensive allusions with evil?

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g) Do I look after the weakest who cannot defend themselves? Am I patient with old people? Do I welcome lonely strangers who are often exploited at work?

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To pray

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a) Psalm 23:

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The Psalm seems to rotate around the title “The Lord is my shepherd”. The saints are the image of the flock on the way: they are accompanied by the goodness and loyalty of God, until they finally reach the house of the Father (L.Alonso Schökel, I salmi della fiducia, Dehoniana libri, Bologna 2006, 54)

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Yahweh is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.

In grassy meadows he lets me lie.
By tranquil streams he leads me
to restore my spirit.
He guides me in paths of saving justice as befits his name.

Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death
I should fear no danger,
for you are at my side.
Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me.

You prepare a table for me under the eyes of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup brims over.

Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life.
I make my home in the house of Yahweh
for all time to come.

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Closing prayer:

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Lord Jesus, you show us the way of the beatitudes so that we may come to that happiness that is fullness of life and thus holiness. We are all called to holiness, but the only treasure of the saints is God. Your Word, Lord, calls saints all those who in baptism were chosen by your love of a Father, to be conformed to Christ. Grant, Lord, that by your grace we may achieve this conformity to Jesus Christ. We thank you, Lord, for the saints you have placed on our way and who manifest your love. We ask for your pardon if we have tarnished your face in us and denied our calling to be saints.

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http://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-all-saints-matthew-51-12a

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We at Peace and Freedom often read the daily suggested readings or homilies in the booklet “Pondering the Word, The Anawim Way.” Today’s suggested reading in the “Anawim” includes Pope Francis’ Homily of 2 October 2013 at follows:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In the Creed, after professing: “I believe in one Church”, we add the adjective “holy”; we affirm the sanctity of the Church, and this is a characteristic that has been present from the beginning in the consciousness of early Christians, who were simply called “the holy people” (cf. Acts 9:13, 32, 41; Rom 8:27; 1 Cor 6:1), because they were certain that it is the action of God, the Holy Spirit that sanctifies the Church.

But in what sense is the Church holy if we see that the historical Church, on her long journey through the centuries, has had so many difficulties, problems, dark moments? How can a Church consisting of human beings, of sinners, be holy? Sinful men, sinful women, sinful priests, sinful sisters, sinful bishops, sinful cardinals, a sinful pope? Everyone. How can such a Church be holy?

1. To respond to this question I would like to be led by a passage from the Letter of St Paul to the Christians of Ephesus. The Apostle, taking as an example family relationships, states that “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her” (5:25-26). Christ loved the Church, by giving himself on the Cross. And this means that the Church is holy because she comes from God who is holy, he is faithful to her and does not abandon her to the power of death and of evil (cf. Mt 16:18). She is holy because Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God (cf. Mk 1:24), is indissolubly united to her (cf. Mt 28:20); She is holy because she is guided by the Holy Spirit who purifies, transforms, renews. She is not holy by her own merits, but because God makes her holy, it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and of his gifts. It is not we who make her holy. It is God, the Holy Spirit, who in his love makes the Church holy.

2. You could say to me: but the Church is made up of sinners, we see them everyday. And this is true: we are a Church of sinners; and we sinners are called to let ourselves be transformed, renewed, sanctified by God. There has been in history the temptation for some to say: the Church is only the Church of the pure, the perfectly consistent, and expels all the rest. This is not true! This is heresy! The Church, that is holy, does not reject sinners; she does not reject us all; she does not reject because she calls everyone, welcomes them, is open even to those furthest from her, she calls everyone to allow themselves to be enfolded by the mercy, the tenderness and the forgiveness of the Father, who offers everyone the possibility of meeting him, of journeying toward sanctity.

“Well! Father, I am a sinner, I have tremendous sins, how can I possibly feel part of the Church? Dear brother, dear sister, this is exactly what the Lord wants, that you say to him: “Lord, here I am, with my sins”. Is one of you here without sin? Anyone? No one, not one of us. We all carry our sins with us. But the Lord wants to hear us say to him: “Forgive me, help me to walk, change my heart!”.

And the Lord can change your heart.

In the Church, the God we encounter is not a merciless judge, but like the Father in the Gospel parable. You may be like the son who left home, who sank to the depths, farthest from the Gospel. When you have the strength to say: I want to come home, you will find the door open. God will come to meet you because he is always waiting for you, God is always waiting for you, God embraces you, kisses you and celebrates.

That is how the Lord is, that is how the tenderness of our Heavenly Father is. The Lord wants us to belong to a Church that knows how to open her arms and welcome everyone, that is not a house for the few, but a house for everyone, where all can be renewed, transformed, sanctified by his love, the strongest and the weakest, sinners, the indifferent, those who feel discouraged or lost. The Church offers all the possibility of following a path of holiness, that is the path of the Christian: she brings us to encounter Jesus Christ in the Sacraments, especially in Confession and in the Eucharist; she communicates the Word of God to us, she lets us live in charity, in the love of God for all. Let us ask ourselves then, will we let ourselves be sanctified? Are we a Church that calls and welcomes sinners with open arms, that gives courage and hope, or are we a Church closed in on herself? Are we a Church where the love of God dwells, where one cares for the other, where one prays for the others?

3. A final question: what can I, a weak fragile sinner, do? God says to you: do not be afraid of holiness, do not be afraid to aim high, to let yourself be loved and purified by God, do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Let us be infected by the holiness of God. Every Christian is called to sanctity (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, nn. 19-42); and sanctity does not consist especially in doing extraordinary things, but in allowing God to act. It is the meeting of our weakness with the strength of his grace, it is having faith in his action that allows us to live in charity, to do everything with joy and humility, for the glory of God and as a service to our neighbour. There is a celebrated saying by the French writer Léon Bloy, who in the last moments of his life, said: “The only real sadness in life is not becoming a saint”. Let us not lose the hope of holiness, let us follow this path. Do we want to be saints? The Lord awaits us, with open arms; he waits to accompany us on the path to sanctity. Let us live in the joy of our faith, let us allow ourselves to be loved by the Lord… let us ask for this gift from God in prayer, for ourselves and for others.

https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20131002_udienza-generale.html

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