Category Archives: Almsgiving

Have to Get It Right!

Matthew 5:48   “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Want to know what you need to do (and, if you are anything like me, you’re probably not doing it very well at all.)  Read Matthew Chapter 5.  You know, the one with the beatitudes, plucking out eyes and cutting off hands, and anger, and adultery, and divorce, and swearing, and retaliation, and loving one’s enemies.  One can’t read this Chapter without realizing what little worms we are when it comes to the whole perfection thing.  I read Chapter 5 before and after going to confession.  This and Chapter 25 are all I need to trot myself off to the confessional.  Add the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and I can go all gooey on the inside contemplating my long stay in Purgatory.

And yet. . .

God gives us grace and forgiveness and mercy to help us to prioritize the pursuit of holiness in our lives.  Pursuing holiness begins with having a strong, true, and ardent love for God and for our neighbor.  It means praying and fasting and making each word and act and little daily sacrifice the means of proving our love for our Savior who died on the cross for Love of us.  An effective love can transform a dry, cold heart into a furnace of charity.  Then we can burn with Love of God even while we must live here below.  I hope you, like myself, pursue this ardent charity.

We got to get this right.

“Lord, with your loving care, guide the penance we have begun.  Help us to persevere with love and sincerity.  Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.”  Liturgy of the Hours: Evening Prayer for the Friday after Ash Wednesday.

 

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Righteousness – A Word Study

Just finished reading Chapters 3 and 4 of Matthew’s Gospel.  There is so much there that it would take pages to discuss.  It is about His baptism by John and His temptation in the desert.  Satan was tempting Jesus’ identity as the Son of God.  He wants Him to embrace an earthly and political mission and thus subvert from His real mission of suffering and dying for our salvation.

Unlike us, Jesus could not have sinned at any time during His earthly life.  His “temptations” were entirely the suggestions of the devil and had nothing to do with any kind of inner struggle or disordered desire of a fallen nature.  We, of course, experience temptation because of our fallen nature.  However, just because He couldn’t sin, doesn’t mean that He didn’t show us how the devil should be treated when he comes around with his “suggestions.”

According to St. John Chrysostom, Jesus gives us a perfect example of Christian obedience.  Earthly life is our wilderness.  Our goal is to get to the “land” of heaven.  This life is like a probationary period for us.  God wills that we  overcome temptations (from the world, the flesh, and the devil) through the practice of penance and obedience to God’s word.   We must desire Christ’s humility.  And this is how we can increase the gift of righteousness:  penance, obedience, and humility.

Righteousness is a gift from God.  The word itself is used 7 times in Matthew and 85 times in the rest of the New Testament.  Christ first gives us this gift in Baptism when we are restored in our relationship as an adopted son or daughter of God.  It always means (from the Greek) the uprightness and faithfulness of God and His people.  It is part of the unique covenant vocabulary that runs throughout the old and new testaments.  God’s righteousness is because He is holy and is revealed as He takes care of Israel.  Now, He has demonstrated His righteousness through the saving work of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus wants us to be righteous, like He and His Father, are righteous.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind.  Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you.”  Jn 4: 7-8, 10

And, I might add, fill you with righteousness.

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The Fig Tree

“Behold the fig tree, and all the trees.  When they put forth their buds, you know that summer is near.  Even so, when you see these things coming to pass, know that the kingdom of God is near.”  Luke 21: 29-31

The Advent season in an invitation to sanctity.  Yes, we wait “with joyful hope for the coming of our Savior.”  We have hopeful expectations that He will come again in all His glory.  We even look for signs like Jesus told us in Luke’s gospel.  We pour over the signs of our times and wonder if the end is near.  Some of us long for the end of the world with a longing that is so deep in our soul that we fear we will die from the longing.  We ask with the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord?”

There were two meanings in the Gospel on Sunday.  Jesus foretold the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  Then, He turned to His second coming.  He gives us a reason to be glad for it.  “Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”  Luke 21: 28

Finally, He exhorts us to sanctity.  We have to face the fact that only by being holy as the Father is holy will we enter into heaven.  He is the fountain of life and grace; of strength and holiness.  He has already merited everything that serves for our sanctification; His gifts are unnumbered, yet we can not become saints unless we co-operate with Him.

Sanctity is the fullness of grace.  Jesus wills this for all of us.  Then, why are so few of us saints?  Why am I not a saint?

Sanctity is not obtained by our accomplishments or the number of gifts we have received from God.  Rather it is in the degree of sanctifying grace and charity to which our souls have attained by cooperating with His many invitations, inspirations and actual graces.  The gifts of Baptism and the Holy Spirit and all the sacraments should have already increased our treasure trove of grace.  And, yet, we remain slothful, prideful, and stingy.

It didn’t escape my attention that Luke’s chapter 21 begins with the Widow’s mite–extreme charity from extreme poverty.  What a lesson for us to begin this Advent season.  If we are to prove to Jesus that we are sincere about becoming holy, we need to, with His help, be very, very generous.  We need to overcome our selfishness and attachment to things no matter what it costs us.  We need to say a resounding “yes” to Him even when we would rather let our “hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life.”  Luke 21″ 34  We must not grow lazy in our pursuit of sanctity.

“O Jesus, never allow me to oppose and hinder Your actions in my soul.  Pursue me with Your grace until I give myself entirely to you.”

Have a blessed Advent.  Pursue sainthood with fervor!

 

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No Matter What the Consequences!

“Hear as Jesus heard; speak as Jesus spoke; suffer as Jesus suffered; die as Jesus died; rise as Jesus rose.”–One Bread One Body for Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

I have been sitting here with pen poised trying to visualize what this day would have looked like for Jesus and His disciples.  Was there an aura of intrigue about the temple and were they aware of it?  Had the disciples relaxed a bit because of the Hosannas ringing out when Jesus entered Jerusalem a few days before?  Were they watchful and anxious or just “hanging out” with Jesus?  Beginning Thursday evening, they will fall asleep, betray, flee, deny, despair, and hide.

I think I’m “hanging out” with Jesus after this post until Saturday afternoon.  I’m praying that I won’t fall asleep, betray, flee, deny, despair, and hide.  What about you?

Well, today, we study the final 9 verses of the Sermon on the Mount:  Matthew 7: 21-29.  I have learned much during this study.  Hope you have, too.

Concerning Self-Deception

Matthew 7:  21-23

7: 22 on that day:  This is the Day of Judgment on which Jesus will be the Divine Judge.  God’s sanctifying grace makes our soul fit for heaven.  We manifest it when we conform ourselves to the Father’s will, by knowing and obeying Jesus.  Sanctifying grace is conclusive evidence of our personal sanctity and membership in the family of God.  Charismatic graces, while heaven sent, are not.  (CCC 2003)

Hearers and Doers

Matthew 7: 24-29

7:24 like a wise man:  true wisdom puts Jesus’ teaching into practice and prepares for the future.  his house:  Physically, this parable alludes to building in New Testament Palestine.  Mud-brick houses were generally built in dry season.  Only a house with a solid foundation would resist erosion and destruction when torrential rains came.  Jesus’ reference to a wise man and his house is a reference to King Solomon who built the temple upon a great stone foundation.  Morally, the enduring house is the soul that is maintained only through labor and the materials of prayer and virtue grounded on Christ.

7:29 One who has authority:  Jesus delivered “new teaching “(Mk. 1: 27).  This teaching excelled over Mosaic Law in perfection.  (Matthew 5: 21-48)  Later, Jesus would denounce traditions that are incompatible with God’s word.  (15: 3-6; CCC 581)

The Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 25:  these are all part of Jesus’ blueprint for Holy living.  I know that I will continue to read and ponder them often during this pilgrimage to heaven.

“Save us, save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and Resurrection, you have set us free.”

Bloch-SermonOnTheMountNext time:  Easter Monday

Have a blessed and holy Triduum and a Joyous Easter!

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The Race to the Empty Tomb Begins

“Mary brought a pound of costly perfume made from genuine, aromatic nard, with which she anointed Jesus’ feet.  Then she dried His feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the ointment’s fragrance.”–John 12: 3

I love this passage from John.  It makes me think.  “Am I willing to give everything I have and everything I am to Jesus without counting the cost?”  Good question to think about during Holy Week.

Now to the second last section of the Sermon on the Mount.

Ask, Seek, Knock

(Matthew 7: 7-12)

7: 7  Ask. . .given you:  Jesus advocates perseverance in prayer.  Answered prayers stem from faith-filled intentions.  (CCC 2609)

CCC 2609 “Once committed to conversion, the heart learns to pray in faith. . .the beloved Son gives us access to the Father. . .He can tell us to “seek” and to “knock” since He Himself is the door and the way.”

7: 11 you then, who are evil:  Jesus indicates the pervasive sinfulness of man.  good things: the material necessities of life as well as the grace to live as God’s children.

7: 12 do so to them:  Jesus states the Golden Rule positively. (CCC 1970)

CCC 1970 the entire Law of the Gospel is contained in the ‘ new commandment’ of Jesus, to love one another as He has loved us.”

The Narrow Gate

(Matthew 7: 13-14)

Cities surrounded by a fortified wall had both wide and narrow gates for access.  Main, wide gates were big enough for whole caravans to pass through.  Small, narrow gates permitted only pedestrians.  Jesus is telling us that many will pass through this “easy” gate to “destruction.”  The “few” must exert some effort to make it to “life.”

False Prophets

(Matthew 7: 15-20)

These so-called prophets appear harmless, yet their ministry breeds error, division, and immorality.  (2 Peter 2: 1-3)

2 Peter 2: 1-3 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled.  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not bee idle and their destruction has not been asleep.”

Jesus Enters Jerusalem

Jesus Enters Jerusalem

Wednesday:  Matthew 7:  21-29

Study Question:  In Catholic Tradition, what is sanctifying grace?

Meditation:  Am I ready to carry my small sharing in the Cross of Jesus?

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The Big Three: Chapter 6: 1-18

At the beginning of Chapter 6, St. Matthew writes about the Lenten Big Three:  Almsgiving, Prayer & Fasting.  Let’s see what he has to say, shall we?

(6: 1-18)  Jesus reaffirms these three traditional works of mercy. (CCC 1434; 1969)  He does not challenge these practices in themselves.  He warns against performing them for public esteem. (CCC 1430)

(CCC 1969)  the new law practices the arts of religion:  almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, directing them to the “Father who sees in secret” in contrast with the desire to “be seen by men.”  Its prayer is the Our Father.

Concerning Almsgiving

(6: 2): give alms:  alms are charitable gifts given to the poor.  The exercise of one’s faith CAN be public so long as it flows from proper intentions.  (CCC 2447)

(CCC 2447)  Giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity; it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.”

He who has two coats. let him share with him who has none; and he who has food must do likewise.  But give for alms those things which are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

Concerning Prayer

(6: 5-15)  The Our Father is such an important prayer, that my Wednesday blog will cover this alone.

Concerning Fasting

(6: 17)  anoint your head:  Fasting was often a public practice accompanies by wearing sackcloth and putting ashes on one’s head.  (Esther 4: 3; Dan 9: 3)  Hypocrites utilized this to appear devout to others.  Washing and anointing outwardly symbolize happiness and disguise one’s inner commitment to God.  (Ruth 3:3; Ps 23: 5; Is 6: 1-3; CCC 1438)

(CCC 1438)  The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent and each Friday in memory of the death of Our Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice.  These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works.)

The Return of the Prodigal Son.

The Return of the Prodigal Son.

Next time:  Matthew 6: 5-15

Study Question:  How is the Our Father divided?  What are the 7 petitions?

Meditation:  “. . .and the greatest of these is love!”

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Conclusion of Chapter 5: 33-48 Probably the Toughest!

Next week, we will pick up the Sermon on the Mount in Chapter 6.  We are moving right along as we are over half-way through Lent.  It’s “gut-check” time.  Is our Lent helping us to get holy?  Are we praying, fasting, and giving alms (practicing works of mercy?)  Are we rushing less and reading more?  Are we getting to know Jesus; so we can better know the Father?  Are we attending Mass more often?  Have we gone to the Sacrament of reconciliation, yet or planning to go soon?  Or is it time for a course correction?  There’s plenty of opportunity to turn things around.

Concerning Swearing Oaths

(5:33) not swearing falsely:  Jesus forbids private oath swearing.  In the context of a public oath, God’s Holy Name is invoked to bring blessing to the upright and curses to those who violate their oaths.  Evidently, during Jesus’ time, people swore by heaven, hell, and Jerusalem (5: 34-35) for their own personal advantage and therefore, did not take their oaths seriously.

(5: 37)  Let what you say be simply “yes” or “no”; anything else is from the Evil One.

Concerning Retaliation

(5:38)  an eye for an eye:  Jesus forbids the misuse of Mosaic Law to justify private vengeance.  Exodus 21:24 was meant to limit retribution; (cf. Lev. 24-20; Deut 19: 21)  The punishment had to fit the crime and not exceed it.  Jesus eliminates a policy of retaliation from personal life.

(cf. Rom 12: 17)  Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.

(5: 41) if any one forces you:   Roman soldiers in NT Palestine could recruit and compel Jews into temporary service. (i.e. Simon of Cyrene in 27: 32)  Jesus wants ungrudging generosity beyond the call of duty.

Love for Enemies

(5: 43)  Jesus considers this one of the two great commandments of Mosaic Law.  Unfortunately, the Jews had a very narrow definition of “neighbor.”  It had to be someone exactly like them.  (CCC 1933)  hate your enemy:  Israel’s warfare laws were meant to wipe out Gentiles so the Jews wouldn’t imitate their idolatry.  Jews in NT Palestine disdained the Gentiles that lived among them.  Jesus broadens the definition of neighbor to include the Gentiles; even the Romans.

(5:48)  You. . .must be perfect. . :  New Covenant righteousness has a standard of mercy.  Jesus calls us to imitate God’s perfect compassion.  Our Father is kind and merciful to good and evil alike; so we must extend mercy even to our enemies.  (CCC 1968; 2842)

(Lk 6: 36)  Jesus gives holiness a new focus, defining it as mercy that reaches out to others.

(CCC 2842)  . . .it is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment by imitating the Divine Model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart. . .

So there you have it: chapter 5 of the Sermon on the Mount.  This is Jesus’ recipe for a good and holy life here on earth and an eternity with Him in Heaven.  Let us pray that we will hold Him and His precepts in our hearts and live the two greatest commandments as He explains them in St. Matthew’s Gospel.

Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan

Next week:  Begin Chapter 6: 1-15

Study Question:  (CCC 1933)  How does this explain our duty to expand our definition of who is our neighbor?

Meditation:  Chapter 5: 46-47

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