In today’s world, bringing up adolescents can be a harrowing experience. There are so many evils to beware of: immorality, alcoholism, drugs… At the same time, temptations to sin come from many directions: television, magazines, internet, friends…
To help their children, parents need to teach and guide them, especially by their own non-hypocritical examples. They must love them, spend time with them, and pray with them. They should correct and discipline them, but also allow their children some privacy and opportunities for self-expression and maturation, remembering that their offspring do not necessarily become exactly what they plan in the idealism of their minds.
In this chapter we emphasize three points: parents should pray for their children, they should have faith in God, they should not live in fear.
1. PRAY FOR YOUR CHILDREN
A Mother’s Prayer
The prayer of a parent is very powerful. The passage below illustrates how Jesus was moved to perform a miracle for a persistent mother.
And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Mt 15:22-28, RSV)
A Father’s Prayer
The father in the next passage had asked the disciples to help. But when they could not, he persevered by going to Jesus.
As they were rejoining the crowd a man came up to him and went down on his knees before him. “Lord,” he said, “take pity on my son: he is demented and in a wretched state; he is always falling into fire and into water. I took him to your disciples and they were unable to cure him.” In reply, Jesus said, “Faithless and perverse generation! How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.” And when Jesus rebuked it the devil came out of the boy, who was cured from that moment. (Mt 17:14-18, NJB)
What troubles your children? Whatever it is, pray for them. What troubles you concerning your children? Think truthfully, and pray for yourself.
If there is anything you can do, do it with wisdom and affection, and pray. If there is nothing you or anyone else can do, pray.
In another description of the above healing story, when asked by his disciples why they themselves could not cast out the demon from the boy, Jesus answered, “This is the kind that can be driven out only by prayer.” (Mk 9:29, NJB)
2. HAVE FAITH
When you pray, do so with faith. Jesus said to the Canaanite woman, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you desire.” (Mt 15:28, RSV)
He said to the demented boy’s father (in the other description), “Everything is possible for one who has faith.” (Mk 9:23, NJB)
To the disciples who could not heal the boy, he gave this reason: “Because you have so little faith. In truth I tell you, if your faith is the size of a mustard seed you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; nothing will be impossible for you.” (Mt 17:20, NJB)
By believing in Jesus, the father in the next story obtained his request.
And at Caper’na-um there was an official whose son was ill. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Jesus therefore said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was living. So he asked them the hour when he began to mend, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live”; and he himself believed, and all his household. (Jn 4:46-53, RSV)
The concern you have for your sons and daughters may not be physical. Read the above texts again as though they are about your own children, but replacing the maladies mentioned by the ills threatening them.
Read the next story as if it is about your child whom you imagine to be on the road to ruin.
And suddenly there came a man named Jairus, who was president of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and pleaded with him to come to his house, because he had an only daughter about twelve years old, who was dying…
While he was still speaking, someone arrived from the house of the president of the synagogue to say, “Your daughter has died. Do not trouble the Master any further.” But Jesus heard this, and he spoke to the man, “Do not be afraid, only have faith and she will be saved.”…
They were all crying and mourning for her, but Jesus said, “Stop crying; she is not dead, but asleep.” But they ridiculed him, knowing she was dead. But taking her by the hand himself he spoke to her, “Child, get up.” And her spirit returned and she got up at that very moment. Then he told them to give her something to eat. (Lk 8:41-42, 49-50, 52-55, NJB)
No matter how hopeless the situation appears, entrust your children to Jesus. Entrust yourself to him. And learn from his example. He took the child by the hand with kindness; he spoke with her; he asked her parents to give her something to eat, to nourish her, to care for her, to be attentive and loving towards her, to cherish her.
Trust Jesus’ Saving Mission
Jesus said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Mt 18:10-14, RSV)
“The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from my hand. The Father, for what he has given me, is greater than anyone, and no one can steal anything from the Father’s hand.” (Jn 10:27-29, NJB)
“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” (Jn 6:37-39, NIV)
3. DO NOT BE AFRAID
Two of the worst enemies of faith are fear, and the devil. In the last story, Jesus said to the father of the little girl, “Do not be afraid, only have faith and she will be saved… She is not dead, but asleep.” (Lk 8:50, 52, NJB)
In another passage of the gospel, he assures everyone: “Can you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? And yet not one is forgotten in God’s sight. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid: you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Lk 12:6-7, NJB)
You are very precious in God’s eyes. So are your children. God has not forgotten them. He looks after them – just as he has looked after you from your youth, and will continue doing so because you need him just as much as your children do.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God; trust also in me.” (Jn 14:1, NJB)
When you have done all that you can, place everything else in God’s hands. Let his power be displayed in the healing of your children and you.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.” (Jn 9:1-3, RSV)
Young people have their hardships. They are passing through a difficult stage in life. The devil will try to make you treat them like enemies. Do not be misled by him. Scripture says: “Resist him, firm in your faith.” (I Pet 5:9, RSV)
Jesus’ command is to love one another, not hate. Your children are your flesh and blood. If you don’t love them, who will?
Next time the devil attacks by creating a storm in your heart, do not fall for his tricks or react irrationally. Turn to Jesus immediately and ask him to come into the situation.
One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a storm of wind came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he woke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” (Lk 8:22-25, RSV)
Go in Peace
It takes a long time for young adults to grow and mature. It takes a long time for parents to grow and mature. Parents have lived more years; they should not use their greater age to browbeat their children, or to create more discord and conflict, but to bring affection and peace to their homes. They should not wait to be grandparents for this to happen. Let them begin now.
Jesus said, “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mk 9:50, RSV)
There may be occasional troubles and pain, but with God’s help all will be well in the end. Through overcoming your trials and difficulties, you will ripen into understanding and loving human beings.
Do whatever is in your power for your children. Go to the parish library or a trustworthy Catholic bookstore to find a suitable book on parenting. Ask those who might be able to lend a hand, for example, an experienced priest. But above all, pray for your children, have faith in God, do not live in fear.
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Lk 7:50, NIV) Faith will save your family. Faith will bring peace.
A Word to All Youths
The work of bringing up the young is not easy. Parents do not always possess enough knowledge or presence of mind to take the best course of action in every situation. You, sons and daughters, can help by your co-operation and love. Jesus said,
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12, RSV)
He also said, “Honour your father and your mother.” (Mt 19:19, NJB)
You give them the most honour, love, and peace of mind, by leading lives of great goodness.
What are you waiting for? A more meaningful life? A better job? A physical healing? The completion of a project? A problem to go away? The conversion of a relative?
Most people are obliged to wait for one thing or another. In the gospel you will find many blessed people having to bear their share of waiting. Mary is a prime example. The angel Gabriel appeared to her and announced:
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”… And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:30-31, 38, RSV)
With her assent, Mary opened herself to much waiting throughout her existence. The carrying of Jesus in her womb for nine months was only the beginning.
When Jesus was twelve years old, Joseph and Mary discovered that their son was missing on their return from Jerusalem. After a three-day search, they found him in the temple, asking the learned men questions and answering theirs, astounding them with his intelligence. His mother complained, “My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.” He replied, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:48-49, NJB)
Jesus yearned to be occupied with God’s affairs; he wanted to get on with the work he felt he had to do; his family could hardly hold him back. Yet, even with his advanced intelligence and understanding, he consented to wait. And for two decades he studied and worked in Nazareth, quietly growing up, and patiently getting ready for his future task.
The apostles waited too, though not for quite as long. Soon after his resurrection, Jesus commanded them to proclaim to all nations repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name. But first, he said: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Lk 24:49, NIV)
They were to await the descent of the Holy Spirit. They were not to go out just yet. Not until Pentecost, several days later, were they to begin their mission. It was then that they burst forth in an explosion of power given from on high.
How to Wait
Whatever we are waiting for, we should make the most of the intervening time. Let us gain some skills in this matter from Jesus, his mother, and the apostles.
Learn from Mary
What did Mary do after being told of Jesus’ conception?
Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could into the hill country to a town of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth… Mary stayed with her some three months and then went home.
(Lk 1:39-40, 56, NJB)
Instead of staying cooped up in the house, moping, and worrying about her concerns and problems, Mary went immediately to visit her saintly cousin. She went outside, she traveled. She helped in the preparations for the birth of John the Baptist.
In the same manner, while awaiting the arrival of a future event, we should not become totally isolated. Call on good people and friends. Visit them, and invite them to visit you. Go outdoors into the fresh air and open skies. And do not just sit around hoping for things to happen; start something yourself. Join your parish prayer group. Cultivate holy friendships. Do not be miserly with your money. Volunteer some of your time and resources for anyone who may be in need.
Read the first chapter of the Gospel according to Luke and you will discover the special favour Elizabeth and Zechariah enjoyed in the sight of God. One can easily surmise that Mary went to see them also for the purpose of seeking their guidance. We, too, ought sometimes to ask for direction and advice from a wise priest or nun, either in person or from good books or articles they may have written.
Judging also from the Spirit-filled nature of the meeting between Elizabeth and Mary (see Lk 1:39-55), we can speculate that they spent some of their time together in spiritual conversation and prayer. We, too, should daily devote some time to praying and pondering the things of God.
Learn from Jesus
How did Jesus live before taking up his public ministry?
And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them… And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man. (Lk 2:51, 52, RSV)
Jesus placed himself under the authority of his father and mother. He lived in obedience. He remained hidden. It was not till about age thirty that he worked his first miracle at a wedding in Cana.
We, too, should be obedient to God our Father, and Mary our mother, by keeping the commands given by God through Jesus in the gospel, and by living the messages that Our Lady has passed on over the centuries through her many apparitions on earth.
As well, like the Holy Family, we should pray together with our children and spouse.
“And Jesus increased in wisdom.” Many of us, as we become older, hardly become any wiser. Day after day we make the same complaints. Week after week we shed the same tears. Month after month we hold on to our hatreds and conflicts, and deal with problems through the same fruitless routine. We moan and groan but seldom learn from our experiences. Jesus, on the other hand, grew in wisdom.
And not only that, he also increased “in favor with God and man.” He became more and more what his Father wanted him to be; he got along better and better with his fellow human beings.
Let us seriously examine how we can improve our way of life, and how we can enrich our relationship with God and neighbour. If we are to mature like Jesus, we should read from the gospel every day.
Learn from the Apostles
After being told to remain in the city until the Holy Spirit came upon them, the apostles “returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” (Lk 24:52-53, NIV)
They stayed together. They benefited from each other’s company and support. They missed Jesus, but, in a group, they were able to cope. They did not go about carrying sad faces and forlorn hearts. They waited with joy; they praised God; they prayed in the temple.
Let us do the same by staying in community with holy friends. Let us help each other and be joyful. Since worrying and fretting do not make things any better, let us try praising God.
Let us reserve time for prayer, especially at church in the presence of Our Eucharistic Lord, adoring him, listening to him and following his guidance. He may be priming and grooming us for an assignment that only we can be trained to perform.
The Hour of Deliverance
Before Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had to return to Bethlehem to be counted in the Roman census.
And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son. (Lk 2:6-7, RSV)
Just as the term of Mary’s confinement came to completion, so will ours. The length of our waiting may be indefinite, but it is certainly not infinite. We may have had to wait nine months, or two decades, or a few days, but there will be an end to it all. There will finally be a moment of deliverance, of fulfillment. Then will our hearts overflow with such gratitude and peace.
Do not be impatient. Do not be cast down. Our day will come. It will come soon enough. Like the apostles, let us wait cheerfully and joyfully in prayer, supporting one another, and praising God for his far-sighted providence. Like Jesus, let us wait in obedience, improving ourselves spiritually and in other ways, growing in wisdom and in our relationship with God and with our neighbours. Like Mary, let us wait in doing good, making use of our time for the benefit of others, and getting ourselves refreshed and ready for what is to come.
Someday, like Mary, we too will give birth to Jesus – bringing Christ to those whom God has all along been preparing us to reach out to and lead back to himself.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Mt 9:36-38, RSV)
The prayer for labourers has risen up to the Lord countless numbers of times. Have you ever considered yourself an answer to the prayer?
Who Is a Shepherd?
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
(Jn 21:15-16, NIV)
The person who truly loves Jesus is the one who may be called upon to feed his lambs and tend his sheep. If you love Jesus, you may be asked to shepherd for him. The flock he gives you may not be large. It may be no more than a few relatives or friends. It may be just one member in your family or among your co-workers and acquaintances. It may even be a stranger that you meet by chance. Whoever they are, they may need you.
The Holy Spirit
Jesus said: “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” (Jn 14:15-17, NIV)
For what purpose?
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NIV)
You are to be Jesus’ witness, in more ways than one!
How might you witness for him?
Consider the following.
1. By Genuine Caring
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mk 6:34, NIV)
As in the quotation at the beginning of this chapter, we are told that the crowds were “like sheep without a shepherd.” In the first passage, Jesus asks for more labourers. Here he reveals how a shepherd feels and acts. “He had compassion on them.” His heart went out to them. He was moved with pity. He did not despise the people or hide from them, or make excuses to be rid of them. Even though he was very tired, he “began teaching them,” and he taught them “many things.”
We, too, can spend time with people who are lost for lack of direction. By kindness and understanding we can extend the comforting hand of Jesus to them. By showing our concern, we can spread his love and his good news.
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” (Mk 6:35-37, NIV)
Don’t send the people away. Do something for them. Without sinning or falling into temptation, do whatever you can, however little. In the above incident, when the disciples came forward with two fish and five loaves, Jesus built on their initiative and fed over five thousand people. You begin; Jesus will finish.
Youth prayer groups have been formed in many parishes throughout the world. The first steps towards organizing these were often taken by parents who saw the need for such spiritual gatherings for their sons and daughters. They did this voluntarily and without being ordered to do so. Now their young ones have a chance to know the joy of walking with the Lord. Now they have a trustworthy companion in Jesus. Now they do not spend their Saturday nights in undesirable places or with disreputable friends. These parents are examples of concerned shepherds.
Many men and women, boys and girls, fast, and pray the Rosary for the conversion of unbelievers and sinners. These are noble and unselfish ways of helping to save countless numbers of human beings from unnecessary and prolonged darkness and pain. This is caring. This is love. This is another illustration of shepherding.
The Good Shepherd
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep.” (Jn 10:11-13, RSV)
Be like Jesus. Do not run from the problem. Stay and help. Lay down your life for God’s people. The Holy Spirit is in you by virtue of the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. Use his power and the courage which he has placed in you.
2. By Speaking Out
Picture the scene at the first Christmas.
In the countryside close by there were shepherds out in the fields keeping guard over their sheep during the watches of the night. An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, “Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Lk 2:8-11, NJB)
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. (Lk 2:15-18, RSV)
As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Lk 2:19, NJB)
The shepherds were simple peasants. How were they to know if anybody would believe that they saw angels in the middle of the night? Why would anyone take them seriously about the little baby lying in the manger being the almighty Christ for whom all of Israel was waiting? Yet they spoke out boldly. “They made known” the message. This amazed their listeners. It touched them. It made even the Mother of God ponder in her heart. She “treasured” their words.
To bear witness for Jesus, you simply speak out. The angel’s announcement to the shepherds was, “Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.” Do not fear. What you say about Jesus is joyful news. It is good news. It should be shared by all.
Knowledge and Discretion
Of course, you have to be well informed, and discreet. You have to be thoroughly educated in the ways of the Lord. You must not make up your own theology from your limited understanding. You have to pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit and obtain discernment from an experienced priest. You have to choose the right words at the right moment. You have to be tactful, wise and loving.
Moreover, do not just speak about Jesus. Tell them to carry out what he taught. He said, “And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:20, NIV)
Not everyone will agree with what Jesus says. Not everyone will do all that he asks. But his words may make them wonder and think. Some may be influenced without your being aware of it.
In Medjugorje, many homes used to display a poster which said, “U ovoj kući se ne psuje.” It means, “In this house do not swear.” This demonstrates a silent way of speaking out.
The elimination of foul language helps to control bad temper and anger, and diminishes one’s false sense of self-importance; it can promote gentleness and peace among fellow-workers and family members. It can help bring a Christian atmosphere to places where people come together.
In the Western world, it is not fashionable to place such signs in homes and offices. But if you will begin by not using offensive expressions yourself, it might cause others to follow your example. Let peace begin with you.
To live a certain way is to speak out for that way. Individually, or in a group, let us do something about the evils around us.
Don’t Be Shy
Never feel embarrassed by your loyalty to Jesus.
“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mk 8:38, RSV)
Acknowledge him by hanging his portrait and crucifix in your home. Make decisions in accordance with his teaching. Go off to pray even if others should ridicule you for it.
What Else You Can Do
The above are only a few simple suggestions. Other things that you are capable of doing will come to mind if you ask the Holy Spirit with sincerity.
Jesus said, “He who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them.” (Jn 10:2-4, RSV)
By Baptism and Confirmation, by your love of Jesus and obedience to his commands, by your grounding in, and fidelity to, the teaching of the Church, you have entered through the gate that shepherds go through. You have the potential to be one of them. Develop that potential. A shepherd “leads them out” and “goes before them.” He is a leader. He walks in front. He starts things going where there is a need.
And he leads by showing his Christian compassion and care towards all. He leads by speaking out boldly, knowledgeably, and prudently in word and action at the opportune time.
Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to destruction is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Mt 7:13-14, NJB)
I did not kill anybody, or set fire to someone’s house, or committed adultery. I pray daily and go to church. I read the Bible and other spiritual books. I attend religious conferences and gained deep insights into Scripture and theological studies. I am much better informed on religious matters than my acquaintances. I know all the standard religious rituals and formulary prayers and hymns; I can compose lengthy pious prayers instantaneously. I have been instrumental in organizing numerous devotional events. I donate money to worthy causes, help people who are in need, do multiple voluntary works expertly and say many holy things. Surely I am the salt of the earth and the light of the world, am I not? Surely my friends will speak of me as a saint when I die!
But have I paid any attention to this teaching of James in the New Testament? “Nobody who fails to keep a tight rein on the tongue can claim to be religious; this is mere self-deception; that person’s religion is worthless.” (Jam 1:26, NJB)
According to just one short paragraph of Jesus’ teaching below, how many times should I have been condemned in the past week alone?
He warns, “You brood of vipers, how can your speech be good when you are evil? For words flow out of what fills the heart. Good people draw good things from their store of goodness; bad people draw bad things from their store of badness. So I tell you this, that for every unfounded word people utter they will answer on Judgement Day, since it is by your words you will be justified, and by your words condemned.” (Mt 12:34-37, NJB)
A person speaking good may be a good person, or may be an evil person pretending to be good. However, a person speaking evil is not a good person pretending to be evil; a person speaking evil is evil! “For the words of the mouth flow out of what fills the heart.” (Lk 6:45, NJB)
Will I not be opening my mouth proudly again to say malicious things against someone whom I consider inferior to me? Will I not continue to think nothing of spreading rumours about the person I envy? Will I not be justifying myself tomorrow for being angry with those who do not agree with my ideas? Do I deem pride, envy and anger – the deadliest three of the seven deadly sins – deadly for others but not for me? Do I not know that angels became devils because of pride? Do I consider myself sinless as long as nobody seems to notice my sins?
James writes: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” (Jam 2:10–13, NIV)
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (Rom 2:1–3, NIV)
Jesus cautions: “I have much to say in judgment of you.” (Jn 8:26, NIV)
This is how he speaks to those who have the appearance of good but are not truly so: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Mt 23: 27–28, NIV)
“You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Lk 16:15, RSV)
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” (Mt 23:15, NIV)
Is it time to canonize myself?
Before canonizing myself, I should think about and remember the following.
“For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Mt 7:14, NIV)
“When the day comes many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?’ Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, all evil doers!” (Mt 7:22-23, NJB)
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.” (Jn 12:46-48, NIV)
“Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!” (Mt 7:24–27, NJB)
“Watch yourselves, or all our work will be lost and you will forfeit your full reward. If anybody does not remain in the teaching of Christ but goes beyond it, he does not have God with him: only those who remain in what he taught can have the Father and the Son with them.” (2 Jn: 8-9, NJB)
“If any one teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth.” (1 Tim 6:3-5, RSV)
“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (Jam 3:14-16, NIV)
I had better be extremely careful, therefore; for I may have been invited, I may even have been chosen, and I may be at the gate, but if self-satisfaction sets in, I may be locked out in the end.
Jesus already said: “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Lk 13:24, RSV)
“When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’ He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!'” (Lk 13:25-27, RSV)
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.” (Lk 14:34-35, NIV)
“Many who are first will be last, and the last, first.” (Mk 10:31, NJB)
“What have you got that was not given to you? And if it was given to you, why are you boasting as though it were your own?” (1 Cor 4:7, NJB)
Should I crown myself today? Only a foolish person would do that. God alone can make saints – at the moment he chooses, if he opens the door into Heaven for me after a period of sincere self-examination, repentance and conversion on my part.
In the last book of the Bible God warns me: “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked… Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” (Rev 3:14-19, NIV)
John writes in his first epistle: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:1-6, NIV)
“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:5-9, NIV)
In Colossians 3:7-9, St. Paul says that I must put away all these things: anger, hot temper, malice, slander, abusive language, and filthy talk. “Stop lying to each other!” he cautions.
In the First Letter to the Corinthians, he demands, “Follow the way of love.” (1 Cor, 14:1, NIV)
In chapter 13 of the same letter, he describes love as the highest theological virtue. Concerning this, I had better look inside my own heart seriously. And I had better not make these mistakes: to merely speak about the well-known passage without putting it into practice, talk, talk, talk, giving advice, reciting the lines and using them to judge others instead of applying them to myself – none give any evidence of saintliness. But, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, if I meditate on the famous verses honestly, sentence by sentence, phrase by phrase, word by word, then change and carry out everything in them — towards everyone and at all times (even when nobody is watching) — then perhaps I will progress in the right direction.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor 13: 1- 7, NIV)
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (Jn 15:11-14, NIV)
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt 11:29, NIV)
Guidance from Peter
“God opposes the proud but accords his favour to the humble.” (1 Pet 5:5, NJB)
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Pet 2:1-3)
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.'” (1 Pet 3:8-12, NIV)
Guidance from Paul
“Not that I have secured it already, nor yet reached my goal, but I am still pursuing it in the attempt to take hold of the prize for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not reckon myself as having taken hold of it; I can only say that forgetting all that lies behind me, and straining forward to what lies in front, I am racing towards the finishing-point to win the prize of God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. So this is the way in which all of us who are mature should be thinking, and if you are still thinking differently in any way, then God has yet to make this matter clear to you.” (Phil 3:12-15, NJB)
“Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12, NJB)
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
God the Father
In union with the Holy Spirit, God the Father entrusted his Son to Mary.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, “Rejoice, you who enjoy God’s favour! The Lord is with you.” She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Look! You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.”
(Lk 1:26-32, NJB)
When he was twelve years old, well after the age of reason began for him, Jesus confirmed this entrustment by continuing to live in obedience to Mary and Joseph.
He went down with them then and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and with people.
(Lk 2:51-52, NJB)
As part of his last will and testament, Jesus also entrusted his disciples to her.
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, “Woman, this is your son.” Then to the disciple he said, “This is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
(Jn 19:25-27, NJB)
In the gospel, when Jesus speaks to or about someone, he is not necessarily speaking to or about that person alone. More often than not, he is addressing or referring to all his followers. For example, at the Last Supper, when he broke the bread and said, “Take and eat; this is my body” (Mt 26:26, NIV), he was not giving the instruction only to the twelve apostles gathered together in the upper room. When he commanded, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39, NIV), by “neighbor” he meant much more than the person living next door.
In the pronouncement, “Woman, this is your son”, “this” beloved disciple represented all whom Mary would be invited to look after as son or daughter. Similarly, “This is your mother,” was an injunction for all to take Mary as mother.
How do we go about taking Mary as our mother?
The following passage suggests the way.
Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”
He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”
(Lk 8:19-21, NIV)
That is, we become Jesus’ brothers and sisters by listening to God’s word and carrying it out; and by taking Jesus as brother, we automatically have Mary for mother.
Entrustment to Mary is not done simply by saying some form of prayer. We must live and act according to what God says.
And what does he say? In the gospel, he speaks from the mountain of Transfiguration, directing us to Jesus:
This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!
(Lk 9:35, RSV)
Mary’s statement at Cana completes the command:
Do whatever he tells you.
(Jn 2:5, NIV)
What Does Jesus Tell Us?
Here are five examples of Jesus’ sayings taken from the Gospel according to Luke.
At that very moment he rejoiced [in] the holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.”
(Lk 10:21, NAB)
“When you pray, this is what to say: Father, may your name be held holy.”
(Lk 11:2, NJB)
“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
(Lk 18:14, NIV)
“Blessed are you who are hungry now: you shall have your fill… But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.”
(Lk 6:21, 24, NJB)
And Jesus said to him [Zacchaeus], “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.”
(Lk 19:9, NAB)
The wisdom of Jesus may be quite puzzling and offensive. It is woeful to be rich? We are blessed when we hunger? God hides things from the learned but reveals them to the simple? No wonder his kinsfolk did not accept him.
He departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
(Mk 6:1-3, NAB)
“Where Did This Man Get All This?”
Although Jesus is fully divine, he is also human in every respect except sin. And as a human being, he had to grow. We see in the gospel that he appeared first as a tiny baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, and it took many years for him to become a mature adult. But not only did he grow physically, he also had to develop mentally and spiritually. “Jesus increased in wisdom” (Lk 2:52, NJB). He was not born with all his wisdom; he had to acquire it. As a human being, he would gain true wisdom in the same way that other human beings do – by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Now, the Holy Spirit works in us through many of our experiences; he teaches us through Scripture; he operates via some of the people we come in contact with – friends, acquaintances, teachers, and, perhaps more than all the others, our parents! And Jesus most certainly received much of his wisdom by way of Mary and Joseph, for, as we have seen, he “went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them” (Lk 2:51, NAB).
To illustrate Mary’s influence on Jesus, let us look at the Magnificat.
1. My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
2. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown the strength with his arm.
3. He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree.
4. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.
5. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.
(Lk 1:46-55, RSV)
Jesus and Mary
Let us put the words of Jesus and his mother side by side, so that their similarities can be seen more readily.
1. At that very moment he rejoiced [in] the holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
2. When you pray, this is what to say: Father, may your name be held holy. [God is holy means, among other things, that he is mighty, merciful, to be feared, full of strength.]
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown the strength with his arm.
3. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree.
4. Blessed are you who are hungry now: you shall have your fill… But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.
5. And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.”
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.
An Inspired Canticle
Some biblical scholars suggest that the words of the Magnificat were not Mary’s own. Others declare them to be a collection of hymns and sayings from the psalms and elsewhere. Still others maintain that it was not Mary who uttered them, but Elizabeth, her cousin. The evangelist, however, was moved by the Holy Spirit to attribute the song to Mary – showing his readers the sort of person she was, revealing her thoughts and ideals, and the type of wisdom she passed on to Jesus.
“What kind of wisdom has been given him?… Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary?” How could Jesus be wise if he was merely the son of Mary? How could Jesus’ teachings be thought of as wisdom if he had only learned it from his mother? Our answer is this: it is precisely because his mother was Mary, through her perfect co-operation with the Holy Spirit, that Jesus was directed to appreciate this kind of wisdom. It is precisely because his mother was Mary that Jesus was led to learn what he learned. It is precisely because his mother was Mary that Jesus eventually taught this wisdom to his disciples.
On the day Mary presented her son at the temple, a devout man named Simeon, prompted by the Holy Spirit, came up to her and prophesied the following:
“… – and a sword will pierce your soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.”
(Lk 2:35, NJB)
During her time on earth, Mary was not spared the trials and tribulations which accompany the life of a parent. By pondering in her heart all the joys and sorrows that passed her way, she came to understand much about human nature. By teaching her son the wisdom she learned from the Holy Spirit, she indirectly taught the world what was of importance, and what was not.
Entrustment to Mary was not an invention by some pious and sentimental soul. It was commanded by Jesus. He chose the most dramatic moment before his death on the cross to proclaim this integral part of God’s plan. He wanted all to come to Mary as her children; he wanted all to turn to her for guidance and protection; he wanted all to honour her, to cherish her, and to love her.
“This is your mother.” What did the disciple do when he heard Jesus say this? “And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” If you hear Jesus saying to you today, “This is your mother,” we hope that you, too, like a true and beloved disciple, will, from that hour, welcome her into your home, and into your heart.
Act of Consecration to Mary
Mother Mary, since Jesus from the cross gave you to me, I take you as my mother. And since Jesus gave me to you, please take me as your child. All that I am and have and do, I entrust entirely to your care.
I make this act of consecration with full knowledge and understanding that it entails commitment to a way of life, a way of life like that of Jesus at Nazareth, a way of life which he commands in the gospel. It is when your children become firmly dedicated to this life, it is when enough of your sons and daughters respond wholeheartedly to your call, it is when they listen to Jesus and do what he says, it is then that your Immaculate Heart will triumph, and an era of peace will begin to reign throughout the whole of Creation.
“Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” (Eph 5: 1-2)
Even if you were the only person on earth who needed redemption, Jesus would have given himself up for you.
Don’t wait until Lent to pray the Way of the Cross. Come close to Jesus daily by spending a few short moments with him in a manner similar to the example below. Ask him to teach you what to think about him, what to learn from him, how you can be like him, in what way you are already following in his footsteps. Thank him.
It is true that this version does not carry with it any plenary indulgence from the Church. If you want, you can pray a version which is attached to an indulgence. How often you do that each year is up to you to count.
Every Catholic church has the fourteen Stations of the Cross displayed prominently on the walls. Why is this?
Jesus, at the time when you were condemned and sentenced to death, no Gospel had been compiled and no theological treatises had been written to expound on what you were doing. You faced your sacrifice silently, with no explanation to anyone. Never once did you fight back, or say things like this: “I do so much for humanity, yet many sit around doing nothing for the benefit of others.”
Jesus, you were insulted, beaten, and made to shoulder the cross. The spectators regarded you as a disgraced failure. No matter what people thought, you persisted on your sacred mission. Without telling your foes, you were doing the greatest good for them. You bore no bitterness or hatred. You remained constantly meek and humble of heart. You cared not for prestige.
Jesus, after an all-night ordeal of brutality and torment, you collapsed. You could have used this fall as an excuse to call off the rest of the undertaking; but you got up and pressed onward.
Jesus, you said to Mother Mary: “Mother, pray for me. I am the only one who can redeem the world.” She prayed: “Father, have mercy on our Son. Reduce the time of his sufferings by giving them to me also.”
Jesus, you accepted help from a stranger. Even though he was only forced into giving you a hand, in return you inspired the evangelists to include in the Bible his name and those of his sons and his village. Lord, how much more will you reward those who do things for you voluntarily!
Jesus, you honoured Veronica by giving to her your personal image. Going against the current, and without the slightest concern for her own reputation and safety, she braved the wrath of the soldiers and the crowds. Forever after, whoever is devoted to you with selfless bravery will become more and more your true icon in heart and mind and soul.
Jesus, you were whipped and pushed, and fell a second time. You got back on our feet, not because you were coerced, but because of your immense love for me and your desire to save me.
Jesus, you always respected women, never taking advantage of them or preying on their sympathy and affection. Even in your own hour of need, you made sure to remind them to take care.
In the four gospels, I have seen how kindly you treated mothers, widows, little girls and women of all ages – sinners and the virtuous alike. You were always so thoughtful and considerate towards each one of them.
Jesus, you summoned up your last ounce of energy to complete your mission for my sake. Thank you.
Jesus, you submitted yourself to humiliation on my behalf; that is why, time and time again, even when I could have been put to shame, I wasn’t.
For your love does not apply solely to my life after death. Your love is concerned with every situation in my life now. Never should I live in darkness, with a shadow hanging over my head. When I surrender each difficulty into your hands, the light of your aid shines on all seemingly unsolvable problems. Thank you, Lord.
Jesus, you endured unbearable pains so that I do not have to suffer overly much. Lord, every time I ask, you deliver me from all tribulations – mental, physical and spiritual. You never fail me. Thank you.
Jesus, because of your agony and death on the cross I won’t end up in Hell, nor will I have to stay in Purgatory for very long. Thank you.
Jesus, why did you create me? For Heaven, of course! Nothing less! Without consulting me, you fashioned me; was it for suffering or for disaster? Certainly not! You are God, what you do must be for good. It cannot be otherwise. Thank you for creating me and redeeming me from my sins, keeping the door open for me to live in eternal happiness. Thank you for directing me back onto the right path every step of the way.
Jesus, with the help of your grace, I resolve not to sin against you anymore. I resolve to live in simplicity and humility, with complete trust in your unsurpassing kindness towards me.
“Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and woodworm destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworm destroys them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be too.” (Mt 6:19–21, NJB)
“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.” (Lk 12:32–33, NAB)
When you come to Jesus with petitions, keep the above Gospel passages in mind. In them Jesus speaks about the eternal treasures that you can gain, but he also hints at the inexhaustible treasures he already won for you, and is prepared to give you. Never will they be depleted. Whatever he gives you now will not diminish the amount of gifts that he can give in the future to you or to other people. You can request a hundred things, and he will still have plenty more to give to you and to the rest of the world. Even when he grants your smallest wishes it does not take away the chances of more important prayers being answered.
Jesus declares, “Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.” (Jn 16:24, NJB) Therefore, ask him for every good thing. Ask away, and build up a trustful relationship with the Lord. He is a very loving and generous friend.
He said, “I have loved you just as the Father has loved me.” (Jn 15:9, NJB) It is not too difficult to recognize his love after your petitions are fulfilled; however, a very blessed target to aim for on your journey towards holiness is to believe in Jesus long before you see the results. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (Jn 20:29, NJB)
The wonderful passages also explain why we appeal to saints for help. They too have accumulated stockpiles of treasures in Heaven, and the Lord will share his glory through them by giving from their store of goodness.
The passages are precious encouragements and exhortations for you to live a holy life, spurring you on to works of charity and sacrifice. In so doing, you will similarly obtain spiritual treasures for your family and friends, and the Lord will let you participate in his majestic magnanimity by awarding them gifts through you, since they are able to approach you easily. As time goes by, they will be led to trust Jesus more and more as they realize that he is the one behind all the graces.
Here is a child who put his heart in the right place. He gave to Jesus his treasure of the day – the lunch that his mom packed for him as he left the house that morning – and was shown the astonishing effect immediately. Imagine the surprise in his wide-opened eyes, and the happy smile across his little face. How exceedingly delighted he must have been that evening and throughout the rest of his existence on earth and in heaven. “Wow! How did he do that? I only gave him a kid’s meal!” Watch.
“‘There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?’ Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.” (Jn 6:9–13, RSV)
In Jesus’ hands, a few fish burgers were enough to satisfy the hunger of thousands of people. How many souls will be affected for all eternity if you give the merits of your sacrifices and good works to Jesus for him to multiply and distribute?
When you begin to see the love of Jesus working through your life, you may be tempted to think he is like that only once in a while. Resist the temptation. Remember this: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.” (Heb 13:8, RSV) “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (Jn 13:1, NIV) His faithfulness is continual and everlasting – not only towards the Apostles to whom the above sentence referred before he washed their feet at the Last Supper, but to you as well. “There is no favouritism with God.” (Gal 2:6, NJB)
Of course, Mt 6:19–21 and Lk 12:32–33 do not encompass all there is to holiness, but they present an excellent position from which to move forward. The passage in Luke contains the final part of the response which Jesus gave to the rich young man who came to him with the question: “Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk 10:17, NJB) We know what happened to him. Jesus said to him: “You need to do one thing more. Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mk 10:21, NJB) On hearing this, his face fell, “and he went away sad.” (Mk 10: 22, NJB) He kept his heart clinging tightly to where it used to be.
There are people who want to be servants of God, but their inner desires and complaints reveal them as unwitting slaves to money – not unlike their glamourous worldly acquaintances. Jesus cautions, “No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.” (Mt 6:24, NJB)
Our Lord promised: “So do not worry; do not say, ‘What are we to eat? What are we to drink? What are we to wear?’ It is the gentiles who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well.” (Mt 6:31–33, NJB)
“Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’” (Lk 13:24–27)
“Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!” (Mt 7:24–27)
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.” (Mt 22:37–38) “If you love me you will obey my commands … Whoever holds to my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me … Whoever loves me will keep my word.” (Jn 14:15, 21, 23)
“For if anyone in this sinful and adulterous generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mk 8:38)
An argument also began between them about who should be reckoned the greatest; but he said to them, “Among the gentiles it is the kings who lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are given the title Benefactor. With you this must not happen. No; the greatest among you must behave as if he were the youngest, the leader as if he were the one who serves.” (Lk 22:24-26)
“Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:26–28)
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Lk 18:10–14)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
Blessed are the meek; they shall have the earth for their possession.
Blessed are those whose hearts are pure; they shall see God.
Blessed are you, when you suffer insults and persecution and calumnies of every kind for my sake. Exult and be glad, for you have a rich reward in heaven; in the same way they persecuted the prophets before you.” (Mt 5: 3, 5, 8, 11–12)
“Alas for you when all speak well of you; that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” (Lk 6: 26)
“Be careful not to parade your uprightness in public to attract attention; otherwise you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven.” (Mt 6:1)
“Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy.” (Lk 12:1) “They do all their deeds to be seen by others.” (Mt 23:5)
The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Lk 16:14–15)
“Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” (Mk 7:6–8)
“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?” (Jn 5:39–44)
“How can your words be good when you yourselves are evil? It is from the fullness of the heart that the mouth speaks. Good people from their store of good produce good; and evil people from their store of evil produce evil. I tell you this: every thoughtless word you speak you will have to account for on the day of judgement. For out of your own mouth you will be acquitted; out of your own mouth you will be condemned.” (Mt 12:34–37)
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eyes are sound, you will have light for your whole body; if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be in darkness. If then the only light you have is darkness, how great a darkness that will be.
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the first and love the second, or he will be devoted to the first and despise the second. You cannot serve God and Money.” (Mt 6:22–24)
“Beware! Be on your guard against greed of every kind, for even when someone has more than enough, his possessions do not give him life.” (Lk 12:15)
“Sell your possessions and give to charity. Provide for yourselves purses that do not wear out, and never-failing treasure in heaven, where no thief can get near it, no moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Lk 12:33–34)
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Lk 6:38)
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” (Mt 6:33-34)
“It is not anyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ who will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. When the day comes many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?’ Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, all evil doers!” (Mt 7:21–23)
“That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely.” (Lk 12:47)
“Salt is good, but if salt itself loses its taste, with what can its flavor be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.” (Lk 14:34-35)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more.” (Jn 15:1–2)
“Remain in me, as I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, unless it remains part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a branch – and withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire and are burnt.” (Jn 15:4–6)
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12)
“The light will be among you only a little while. Walk while you have the light, so that darkness may not overcome you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light.” (Jn 12:35–36)
“I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness. And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day.” (Jn 12:46–48)
“So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of human beings, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of human beings, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.” (Mt 10:32–33)
Then many of his disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?’ Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (Jn 6: 60–64)
“The sower sows the word. With some the seed falls along the footpath; no sooner have they heard it than Satan comes and carries off the word which has been sown in them. With others the seed falls on rocky ground; as soon as they hear the word, they accept it with joy, but it strikes no root in them; they have no staying-power, and when there is trouble or persecution on account of the word, they quickly lose faith. With others again the seed falls among thistles; they hear the word, but worldly cares and the false glamour of wealth and evil desires of all kinds come in and choke the word, and it proves barren. But there are some with whom the seed is sown on good soil; they accept the word when they hear it, and they bear fruit thirtyfold, sixtyfold, or a hundredfold.” (Mk 4:14-20)
“Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” (Mt 4:19)
By Edmond Lo, M.T.S., catechist of the Chinese Martyrs Catholic Church
Unlike our Protestant counterparts who promote “Bible alone” (sola Scriptura), the Catholic Church teaches that the Bible cannot be properly understood without the teaching and guidance of the Church Magisterium, which does so following the Holy Tradition.
What is the Holy Tradition?
According to Vatican II, Tradition (from the Latin ‘traditio’ – ‘that which is handed down’) came from the preaching of the Gospel done by the apostles and other men associated with them, “who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit” (Dei Verbum, n.7).
In the words of Avery Dulles, S.J., a contemporary and well-respected mainstream Catholic theologian, “tradition involves a communal ‘sense of the faith’ aroused and continuously sustained in the Church by the Holy Spirit”; it is “grasped through familiarity or participation as a result of dwelling within the Church, taking part in its worship, and behaving according to its standards.” Tradition is “an organ of apprehension and transmission…the mode in which the Church perpetuates its faith and its very existence” (A. Dulles, The Craft of Theology, pp. 94 and 103).
Dulles contends that if “taken apart from the tradition in which it comes to the faithful, the Bible would no longer deserve to be called the word of God.”
Strong words, and yet so true!
There are many different ways to understand the teaching and events of the New Testament books. If you follow the Catholic tradition, you will see God as Trinitarian, for example. Similarly, you will find strong scriptural support for the Marian doctrines of Immaculate Conception and perpetual virginity. This is not the case at all if the Bible is read in the light of, say, the Jehovah Witnesses tradition, which disputes the divinity of Christ. Also, according to the traditions of many Protestant churches the Bible is understood to teach that Mary was not free from sins and had other children. Tradition is like eyeglasses: what you see is determined by what you wear!
But how could the Catholic Church claim that her tradition is the only tradition that has the authority and ability to properly interpret Scripture if hers is only one of many? Why are the Catholic “eyeglasses” necessarily better than all other eyeglasses? How could Catholic theologians such as Dulles be so “puffed up” as to claim that the Bible is no longer the word of God if taken apart from the Catholic tradition?
For one thing, of all the Christian denominational traditions, the Catholic tradition is one of a handful that was handed down to us directly from the apostles, who had first-hand experience in encountering the historical Christ.
More important, however, is the fact that of the few Christian traditions that can be traced back to the apostles (e.g. Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, etc.), the Catholic tradition is the only one that came down directly from Peter and Paul, the two glorious apostles of Christ, through two thousand years of continuous succession. The other traditions, while apostolic and originally part of the integral whole of the Petrine Church, had at one point or another branched out to progress and develop on their own, picking up characteristics and faith elements that are sometimes foreign to the Catholic faith.
According to Irenaeus, a second century and much-quoted saint, orthodox Christian faith is that which is believed in those apostolic churches, founded by the apostles. But among all the apostolic churches, he offered to produce only the line of succession “of the very great, the very ancient and universally known church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul” (Against the Heresies 3.3.2).
In concluding this article, let me leave you with this final thought: the Catholic tradition provides a certain approach, a sense of the faith, if you will, that Catholics adopt in reading and understanding the inspired Scriptures. It was based on this reading and understanding of the Christian faith as preached and proclaimed by the apostles, that the early Church determined the Canon of the Scripture, i.e. the official list of inspired books. Wouldn’t any attempt to read and understand the Scriptures apart from this original reading and understanding render the Scriptures unworthy of being considered the “inspired books” or word of God? Remember, the message or teaching is not the book as such, i.e. the Bible, which is but a stack of papers; it is the reading, the understanding, and the teaching derived there from.
If you understand my concluding thought, you will understand the topic of this article.
(Taken from Magnificat Vol. XXXVIII, No. 4)
In the School of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Father John Gregory of the Trinity, O.D.M.
Our Lord expects us to have true humility, not just a show of humility. We sometimes imagine that humility consists in saying, “I am but dust and ashes, a nothing, a poor sinner”! Those are mere words. What God expects of us is humility of heart and meekness – for example, at moments when others tell us (or make us feel) that we are not worth very much. The willing acceptance of scorn is of infinitely greater value than any vain protestations. People have a very false idea of humility. They would like the servants of God to walk with lowered heads, and above all that they not bother anyone, but be weak and complacent in evil. No. If we serve God, we must be defenders of the rights of God, but not defenders of our own little personal rights. Yet at the same time that while we must make ourselves small before God and man, we have to be imposing and energetic when it is a matter of defending the rights of God. To remain silent in the face of what offends God is not humility. It is cowardice and treason.
Even though we must protest against the falsehoods circulating in the world, or against the errors of certain persons, we have to always do so with love in our hearts. There must never be any bitterness toward anyone whatsoever. It is in the school of Jesus, especially in prayer and not in books, that we will understand these things and receive the lights of God.
When we have humility, we seek only to please God. Little does it matter whether they canonize or condemn us, whether they say we are pleasant or detestable and anathema. That should leave us completely indifferent, as long as God is content. Humility makes us free, sets us above all human judgments. It gives us joy and peace of soul. Are we despised? Do we have the impression that we are being set aside, wrongly judged? It doesn’t matter; if we have the grace of God, it should suffice for us.
With humility, nothing saddens us. Even if the Pope himself were to blame you, you should not be sad if your conscience is at peace, if your only purpose is to please God. God permits misunderstandings of this sort. Any human being, even the holiest, can lack lights on certain matters at a given moment. There are cases of this in the lives of the saints.
For example, in good faith St. Alphonsus Liguori believed some serious accusations of infamous sins were supposedly committed by St. Gerard Majella, one of his religious. Saying not a word on his own behalf, St. Gerard accepted the harsh sanction that was inflicted upon him, maintaining his peace of soul because he knew that God had not been offended. He let himself be accused because the Redemptorist Rule states that one must not reply and defend oneself when under accusation. (Obviously, St. Gerard had taken that rule too literally; what the founder of the Redemptorist order meant was that the brothers should not justify themselves in trivial matters.)
So St. Gerard Majella did not defend himself. His conscience was at peace, so what could anything else matter to him. That is humility. He is not saying, “I am nothing…” but as soon as anyone wants to touch the little “nothing” he revolts and hits the ceiling. Like the saints, we must rise above all human considerations. I assure you, it is a grace of God to liberate oneself of all the opinions of others, even those of persons who live with us and whom we esteem the most. We must have only one desire: to please God in all things.
Yes, we have a very false idea of humility. For example, if you are in authority, you must not assign yourself the last place out of humility. In all simplicity, you must preside. If God entrusts you with a certain responsibility, you must accomplish it without human respect. If He asks you to speak, you must do so humbly, to obey God. I repeat: far too easily, we think that humility means letting everything take its course, lowering one’s head, and above all saying nothing.
What may seem to be humility is sometimes great pride. To remain silent because you realize that people do not listen to you very carefully and do not have a very high regard for you, is simply pride. Not to defend the rights of God out of human respect, or in order to avoid looking proud, is not humility but pride. It is humility to accept having others think of you as being proud. Oftentimes, those who defend the rights of God are thought of as proud. It is humility to place yourself above all human considerations and thoughts, in view of seeking God alone. Even if this attitude appears 100% proud, that is of little importance, as long as we sincerely seek to please God.
Nonetheless, we must never speak the truth with arrogance or in a spirit of argumentation or dissent, in order to have the upper hand. God does not want us to have the upper hand. He very simply wants us to make the truth known. He does not ask us to succeed, but to obey Him.
God asks us to sow the good seed, as Our Lord teaches us in the Gospel. “The kingdom of heaven is like one who sowed good seed in his field.”(1) We must sow the good seed of our good words and example. The rest is not in our province. If your neighbor turns a deaf ear, that is not your concern. You have done your duty, you have your merit before God. He is pleased: that should suffice.
Let us always have this spirit: to speak the truth with simplicity and without raising objections. Our zeal must never turn into argumentation and controversy. As soon as we persist in wanting to make our idea prevail, at once we separate from God, we fall into darkness. Let us not forget these words of the Holy Gospel: “Let your speech be, ‘Yes, yes,’ ‘No, no.’ Whatever is beyond these comes from the evil one.”(2) We avoid many problems by following this rule. Otherwise we want to win out, and sometimes the consequences are tragic. We go too far, we no longer see clearly, because we have separated from God.
If the dispositions of humility are not present in our soul, how can we expect to be enlightened by God? “God gives His grace to the humble and resists the proud.”(3) After all, what does it matter if a poor creature accuses us or places us in trouble? If we have sought to please God, what does all the rest matter to us?
You may be certain, my brothers and sisters, that by practising humility, patience and meekness, you will have the last word, because God will be with you. When God is present, we have the last word. Do you think anyone can prevent what God wills? “If God is with us, who will be against us?”(4) Let us always have the ambition of having God with us. This is all that counts.
(1) Matthew 13:24
(2) Matthew 5:37
(3) I Peter 5:5
(4) Romans 8:31