The Kingdom Interpretation

In The Kingdom Interpretation (Mk 12:44-48) Fr. Tom McKenna, CM of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission offers a challenging insight for all who claim to be followers of Christ the King. Think about ” stepping into his shoes” such that I start to look at the world the way Jesus does”

The Kingdom Interpretation (Mk 12:44-48)

To profess myself a Christian is to profess a desire – and that desire is to follow behind the Lord, Jesus Christ. Perhaps “follow behind” doesn’t quite get to the heart of it. It’s more accurately a “stepping into his shoes” such that I start to look at the world the way Jesus does, start to catch the meanings he reads as he looks out at life.

One clear instance of Jesus catching a certain meaning is what occurs in the Gospel story of the poverty-stricken widow slipping up to the collection box in the Temple and dropping in her last penny. Many things are going on there, the disciples and many others standing around, conversing, contributing money and jewels, passing the time of day – a whole raft of activities. How do the different people there “read” what’s happening there? How do they interpret the scene?

Interpretation, as you’d know, is a lined-up perception of what it is that stands out to the perceiver. So a woman with an eye for dress is taken with the fashionable clothes of the donors. A man who is jealous of anyone who has more sees rich people showing off. Individuals take in the scene according to what’s uppermost in their minds, as if each has a different lens through which they’re watching. In other words, it’s not only what they see, but it’s what is inside them that lets them see what they see. What someone notices is very revealing of what is going on inside that person.

What does Jesus see there in the crowded Temple? Of all the possibilities, he spies this elderly widow off to the side shuffling up to the basket and dropping in her two pennies. And he tunes into not only what she’s doing but how and why she’s doing it. Mostly invisible to everyone there, she lights up on Jesus’ screen.

And that is because of what is going on inside him, this immense backdrop against which he sees everything – the wrap-around compassion of his beloved Father, this expanse of goodness and love Jesus calls the Kingdom of God. Looking through this lens, he notices the behaviors and attitudes that sync with what existence is like inside that Kingdom, that world of abundant mercy and concern for the other. Unlike everyone else in the room, his inner stance lets him spot the selfless, generous thing she’s doing. He’s moving from a “Kingdom perspective,” the one that privileges the pure of heart, and the peacemakers, and those who thirst after justice, and all those other beatitude traits. What comes off the page for Jesus are just these qualities as he interprets the scene through the lens of what counts in his Father’s world.

We come to a place (a church) and an activity (the Lord’s Last Supper) which are designed to open up that Kingdom lens. These and our whole Vincentian tradition are vivid backdrops against which we would look out at our world. They call us to relook at life and once again size up counts and what doesn’t. They summon us to recalibrate what’s important and what’s less so. They challenge us to reassess what attitudes and actions come first to our attention.

All our worship and prayer and our Vincentian practices are meant to take us inside and behind Jesus’ eyes, to lead us into his way of perceiving. They would have us “step into his shoes” and view the world from just that stance.  Following the Lord Jesus means more than doing what he does. It means coming to see as He sees, developing our ability to react with his reactions, and catching those meanings of his dear Father which he picks out in all the corners of life.

Just because of who He is, Jesus zeroes in on the poor but very generous widow. Because of whom we’re called to follow in our faith, because of examples like Vincent and Louise and Frederick, and especially because we are continually invited to share in the Lord’s Eucharistic supper, we become more and more able to spot and do the Father’s will not just as it is in heaven but, in the words of the Our Father, as it is here on this earth.

What happens to Thanks after Thanksgiving Day?

What happens to Thanks after Thanksgiving Day?

Rising above the complexities of Thanksgiving Day

For most, but not everyone, Thanksgiving is a day with lots of good things to eat, parades and football games to watch, family traditions to be celebrated. Yet, Thanksgiving can also get pretty complicated.  In an atmosphere of deeply felt political opinions and even alternative “facts”, the togetherness once eagerly awaited can seem like claustrophobic affinity.

Nevertheless, during this special day, usually at the beginning of the meal, someone rises to the occasion and gives thanks for all the blessings of the past year. There may be mention of additions to the family, milestones achieved, significant people no longer present. If only momentarily people are united in giving thanks and saying Amen.

But today I ask what happens to all the ’Thanks” after Thanksgiving Day.


The forgetfulness of “Thanks” the day after Thanksgiving.

We seem to be slipping back into an entitlement mentality of very young children who do not think to say thank you. Think back in your own day to day experience. How many times do you hear a heartfelt “thank you” whether from members of your family, your coworkers, much less your boss? Of course, the flip side of that is how often have I said something more than a perfunctory thank you… or its digital equivalent?

I wonder if we have forgotten what we learned early on in life. Conscientious parents have always gently reminded us as children, “And what do we say when someone does something nice for us?”

Nowhere is that truer than in our relationship with God the giver of every good gift. How often has prayer been reduced to a litany of requests, if not something closer to demands. It is relatively easy for us to thank God when God delivers, does what we want. Even there we slip easily into taking our blessings for granted.

But the real challenge we face is to say thank you for everything we experience. For millions of Americans, this Thanksgiving will require people to dig deep within themselves in order to truly give thanks if they are homeless, broke, sick without health insurance or have exhausted hope that things are going to get better anytime soon.

We struggle with “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

The struggle to say thank you in all things

We can learn from the peasant in the Chinese fable.

An old man lives up on the mountain and he has only two possessions, one horse and one son. One day his horse breaks out of the corral and runs away and is gone. This is tragic. It means his livelihood. He can’t work his fields or do anything. So all the neighbors come and they are so distraught for him. They say, “Oh, what bad luck you have.” The old man replies, “How do you know it’s bad luck?” They all go home, shrugging their shoulders.

Sometime later his horse returns bringing with him six wild mares into the corral. The son runs to close the gate. Now instead of only one horse, the man has seven horses. When all the neighbors hear his good fortune they come excitedly saying, “Oh, what good luck you have.” But the old man says, “How do you know it’s good luck?” They all shrug their shoulders and return home.

Not long after, his healthy son is taming one of the wild mares and in the process, is thrown, his leg is shattered and he is crippled. When all the neighbors hear about this tragic event, they come to express their condolences saying, “Oh, what bad luck you have.” And again, the old man replies, “How do you know it’s bad luck?”

Not long after, a warlord comes through the village and drafts every able bodied man. Seeing this young son who can’t run or can’t march, he is left behind. And everyone exclaims, “What good luck ….”

The story doesn’t end there. It goes on and on and on. That’s life! From our tunnel vision we can’t always recognize good news from bad news, nor good luck from bad luck. Sometimes it takes us a while to see the blessing in events we do not like.

As Christians we realize this is the cycle of death and resurrection. And for all parts of that cycle we strive to say thank you. When we do we enter into the daily dying and rising with Christ.

Saying thank you every day… in all things

  • Do we take the good things in life for granted?
  • Can we see instances when something we thought was bad was actually a blessing?
  • Do we accept and thank God for our daily dying and rising with Christ?

 

 

 

 

For What and How Did Vincent Pray – His Successor Reflects

In this year’s Advent letter, Fr. Tomaž Mavrič, CM, 24th successor of St. Vincent, invites us to explore what and how St. Vincent de Paul prayed. In his Advent letter he addresses one of the main sources from which Vincent drank as a mystic of Charity, daily prayer. “He urged all the groups that he founded or with which he associated – the lay members of the Confraternities of Charity; the priests and brothers of the Little Company, the Congregation of the Mission; the Daughters of Charity; the Ladies of Charity; the priests of the Tuesday Conferences – to drink deeply from the fount of meditation every day.”

Advent Letter
To all the Members of the Vincentian Family

My very dear brothers and sisters!

May the grace and peace of Jesus be always with us!

Two years ago, in my first letter for the feast of Saint Vincent, I wrote to you about Saint Vincent de Paul as a Mystic of Charity. When we reflect on Saint Vincent as a Mystic of Charity and try to follow his example in this regard, we need to remind ourselves that he was not a Mystic in the generally understood sense of the word, the way the Church usually describes a Saint as a Mystic. Vincent de Paul was a Mystic, but a Mystic of Charity. With eyes of faith, he saw, contemplated, and served Christ in the person of the poor. When he touched the wounds of the marginalized, he believed that he was touching Christ’s wounds. When he attended to their deepest needs, he was convinced that he was worshiping his Lord and Master.

This Advent, I want to speak with you about one of the principal founts from which Vincent drank as a Mystic of Charity: daily meditative prayer, daily meditation. He urged all the groups that he founded or with which he associated – the lay members of the Confraternities of Charity; the priests and brothers of the Little Company, the Congregation of the Mission; the Daughters of Charity; the Ladies of Charity; the priests of the Tuesday Conferences – to drink deeply from the fount of meditation every day.

One of Saint Vincent’s most quoted statements, from a conference given to the members of the Congregation of the Mission, expresses Vincent’s attitude eloquently:

Give me a man of prayer, and he’ll be able to do anything: he can say with the holy Apostle, “I can do all things in Him who sustains and comforts me” (Philippians 4:13). The Congregation of the Mission will survive as long as it’s faithful to the practice of meditation because meditation is like an impregnable rampart, which will protect the Missioners against all sorts of attacks.[1]

Vincent was speaking of daily meditative prayer, daily meditation. He assured his followers,

Let’s all of us really devote ourselves to the practice of meditation, since through it all good things come to us. If we persevere in our vocation, it’s thanks to meditation; if we succeed in our works, it’s thanks to meditation; if we don’t fall into sin, it’s thanks to meditation; if we remain in charity, if we’re saved, all that is thanks to God and to meditation. Just as God refuses nothing in meditation, so he grants almost nothing without meditation.[2]

To encourage his sons and daughters to meditate, he used many of the metaphors commonly found in the spiritual writers of his day. He told them that what food is for the body, prayer is for the soul.[3] It is a “fountain of youth” by which we are invigorated.[4] It is a mirror in which we see all our blotches and then change our appearance to be more pleasing to God.[5] It is refreshment in the midst of our difficult daily work in the service of the poor.[6] It is a sermon, he told the missionaries, that we preach to ourselves.[7] It is a resource book for the preacher in which he can find eternal truths to share with God’s people.[8] It is a gentle dew that refreshes the soul every morning, he tells the Daughters of Charity.[9]

Vincent urged Saint Louise de Marillac to form the young sisters well in meditating.[10] He gave them many practical conferences on the subject. He assured the sisters that meditating is really quite easy and that it is like having a conversation with God for half an hour. He stated that if others are thrilled to have a chance to talk with the king, we should be delighted to have a chance to talk heart to heart with God every day.[11]

Meditative prayer, for Vincent, is a conversation with God, with Jesus, in which we express our deepest feelings (he called this affective prayer) and in which we seek to know what God is asking of us each day, especially in our service to the poor. It is characterized by deep gratitude for Jesus’s many gifts, especially our vocation to serve the poor. It results in resolutions about how we might serve them better in the day ahead. For some, even many, it moves toward quiet contemplation of Jesus’s love for us and for the poor, and it draws us to throw “darts of love” that “pierce the clouds” and touch Our Lord’s heart.[12]

For Vincent, the principal subject of prayer was the life and teaching of Jesus. He emphasized that we must focus again and again on the “mysteries” of Jesus’s humanity: his birth, his relationship with Mary and Joseph, the events of his public ministry, his miracles, his preferential love of the poor. He urged us to meditate on what Jesus did and taught in the scriptures.[13] Among Jesus’s teachings, he called special attention to the Sermon on the Mount.[14] Most of all, he recommended that our prayer focus on the passion and cross of Jesus.[15]

The method that Saint Vincent taught was basically that of Saint Francis de Sales.[16] He made only slight modifications. He was more restrained than Francis when speaking about the use of the imagination. While valuing affective prayer highly, he insisted vigorously on the need for practical resolutions. Particularly in his conferences to the Daughters about meditation, there is a lovely mingling of spiritual wisdom and common sense. He cautioned the sisters about cultivating “beautiful thoughts” that lead nowhere. He warned the priests against using prayer as a time for speculative study.

The method that Saint Vincent de Paul proposed had three steps:

1. Preparation

First, we place ourselves in the presence of God. This can be done in a variety of ways: by considering Our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament, by thinking of God reigning over the universe, by pondering God’s presence within our own hearts.
Then we ask for help to pray well.
Finally, we choose a subject for meditation, such as a mystery in Jesus’s life, a virtue, a reading from scripture, or a feast day.
2. Body

We reflect on the subject we have chosen.
If the subject is a virtue, we search for the motives for loving and practicing the virtue. If it is a mystery in Jesus’s life, like the passion, we picture what happened and ponder its meaning.
As we reflect, we express to God what is in our heart (e.g., love of Christ who suffered so much for us, sorrow for sin, gratitude). Basically, Vincent encouraged his followers to:
mull over the subject of meditation,
identify motives for embracing it,
make concrete resolutions to practice it.
3. Conclusion

We thank God for this time of meditation and for the graces we received during it. We place before God the resolutions we have made. Then, we ask help in carrying them out.

Daily meditative prayer, daily meditation is an indispensable part of our spirituality. Saint Vincent was utterly convinced of its importance in our life and work for the poor. He saw it as the “soul of our souls”[17] and felt that without it we would be unable to persevere through the difficulties involved in our service to the most abandoned.

In this Advent letter, I want to encourage every member of the Vincentian Family to engage or to keep engaging in daily meditation. Every Congregation of Consecrated life within the Vincentian Family has its own Constitutions and Statues where the practices of its prayer life, including the time to be dedicated to daily meditation, are outlined. I also would like to encourage the lay branches of the Vincentian Family to engage in meditation daily, even for a short five-to-ten-minute period.

Vincent recognized that there are many ways of meditating and encouraged their use. Some will surely employ methods other than the one that he often taught and that I have described above. Although we may use other methods of meditation, it is important for us to know and keep in mind the method Saint Vincent de Paul left us. In the end, the most important thing is that we engage our minds and our hearts in meditative conversation with Jesus and that we do so daily and perseveringly.

The list of topics for frequent meditation that Saint Vincent de Paul left us is long:

Jesus’s relationship with God as Father
his deep human love for his friends
his compassionate and effective love for the marginalized
the kingdom he preached
his community with the apostles
his prayer
the presence of sin in the world and in ourselves
Jesus’s eagerness to forgive
his healing power
his attitude as a servant
his love of truth/simplicity
his humility
his thirst for justice
his desire to bring peace
his struggle with temptation
the cross
the resurrection
Jesus’s obedience to the Father’s will
Jesus’s gentleness/meekness
mortification
apostolic zeal
poverty
celibacy
obedience
Jesus’s joy and thanksgiving.
All these topics relate to our mission to the poor. All will help us to follow Vincent as a Mystic of Charity. What a wonderful opportunity we have to revive or deepen, from this Advent onwards, daily meditation that will remain part of our spiritual life until our departure from this earth into eternity.

May our meditations be always based on the Bible, on the daily liturgical readings. May we not spend the time of meditation reading a spiritual book; that we can leave for our spiritual reading at some other time of the day.

To meditate is to place ourselves before God, Jesus, through His word. It is to place our hearts at Jesus’s total disposition, allowing Him to speak to us as we listen. It is to dispose ourselves to listen to what Jesus would like to communicate to us every single day. It is to trust in Providence, battling any temptations to avoid or omit daily meditation. It is simply to be with Jesus every day in the silence of our minds and hearts, even if our minds remain empty and we have the feeling that nothing was accomplished, that we wasted half an hour doing nothing, because Jesus did not communicate any idea, feeling, or message to us. It is simply to believe in Jesus’s way of communicating with God His Father. He often spent the whole night in meditation. It is simply to show Jesus our total love for Him, to show it by simply being there with Him, ready whenever and however Providence will think appropriate for Jesus to communicate His message to us. It is simply to be there every day, ready when Jesus will think best, not letting the moment of grace pass, not missing Jesus’s visit.

More and more in his final years, Vincent uttered ecstatic words about God’s love. They clearly flowed from his meditation. On 30 May 1659, he prayed aloud in a conference to his confreres:

Let’s look at the Son of God; what a heart of charity He had; what a fire of love! Please tell us, Jesus, who pulled You away from heaven to come to endure the curse of earth and the many persecutions and torments You suffered? O Savior! Source of love humbled even to our level and to a vile agony, who showed, in that, greater love for the neighbor than You yourself did? You came to lay yourself open to all our misfortunes, to take the form of a sinner, to lead a life of suffering and to undergo a shameful death for us; is there any love like that? But who else could love in such an outstanding way? Only Our Lord, who was so enamored with the love of creatures as to leave the throne of His Father to come to take a body subject to weaknesses. And why? To establish among us, by His word and example, love of the neighbor. This is the love that crucified Him and brought about that admirable work of our redemption. O …, if we had only a little of that love, would we stand around with our arms folded? Would we let those we could assist perish? Oh, no! Charity can’t remain idle; it impels us to work for the salvation and consolation of others.[18]

Few saints have been as active as Saint Vincent, yet his actions flowed from his deep immersion in God, in Jesus. How fortunate we are to have such an extraordinary founder.

Many blessings in these Advent days.

Your brother in Saint Vincent,

Tomaž Mavrič, CM
Superior General

Footnotes:
[1] Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, translated and edited by Jacqueline Kilar, DC; and Marie Poole, DC; et al; annotated by John W. Carven, CM; New City Press, Brooklyn and Hyde Park, 1985-2014; volume XI, p. 76; Conference 67, “Meditation.” Future references to this work will be indicated using the initials CCD, followed by the volume number, then the page number, for example, CCD XI, 76.

[2] CCD XI, 361; Conference 168, “Repetition of Prayer,” 10 August 1657.

[3] CCD IX, 327; Conference 37, “Mental Prayer,” 31 May 1648.

[4] Ibid., 328.

[5] Ibid., 327.

[6] CCD IX, 316; Conference 36, “The Good Use of Instructions,” 1 May 1648.

[7] CCD XI, 76; Conference 68, “Meditation.”

[8] Cf., CCD XII, 13; Conference 181, “Repetition of Prayer,” [1658].

[9] CCD IX, 316; Conference 36, “The Good Use of Instructions,” 1 May 1648.

[10] CCD IV, 53; Letter 1240 to Saint Louise, [Between 1647 and 1651].

[11] CCD IX, 94; Conference 15, “Explanation of the Regulations,” [14 June 1643].

[12] CCD IX, 32; Conference 5, “Fidelity to Rising and Mental Prayer,” 16 August 1640.

[13] Cf., Common Rules of the Congregation of the Mission, I, 1.

[14] CCD XII, 101; Conference 197, “Gospel Teachings (Common Rules, Chapter II, Article 1),” 14 February 1659.

[15] CCD IX, 42; Conference 7, “The Jubilee,” 15 October 1641.

[16] CCD X, 471; Conference 105, “Order of Day (Articles 1-7),” 17 November 1658.

[17] CCD IX, 327; Conference 37, “Mental Prayer,” 31 May 1648.

[18] CCD XII, 216; Conference 207, “Charity (Common Rules, Chapter II, Article 12),” 30 May 1659.

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Thanksgiving with Mary

Thanksgiving with Mary … and a Dangerous Memory

 

The many layers of our Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has gone through many changes over the years.  For many in the United States Thanksgiving has gone from a much-anticipated family celebration to a dreaded get-together fraught with potential for political strife. Whatever the emotional climate, we have also come a long way from the culinary fare of the Pilgrims thanks to clever marketing by the turkey and cranberry industries. And somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that we were the immigrants to a land inhabited by a people we later confined to “reservations”.

Perhaps the biggest change is the loss of a consciousness of giving thanks to a God who has given us the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We could also reflect on the lack of appreciation of the root meaning of Eucharist, giving thanks for God’s intervention in the Exodus to a Promised Land and, even more significantly, Jesus’ conquering sin and death.

Forgotten truths about Mary’s song of Thanksgiving 

The “Magnificat”, Mary’s thanksgiving hymn after the Annunciation, has inspired gifted musicians and countless hours of prayer. But often it is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.  We often have lost sight of her beautiful prayers as a prayer of thanksgiving for “God’s revolution”.

In the Magnificat, echoing the Old Testament, Mary thanks God for totally changing the order of things. God takes that which is on the bottom; and God turns everything upside down, and puts the bottom on top and the top on the bottom God revolutionizes the way we think, the way we act, and the way we live.

Before God’s revolution, we human beings were impressed with money, power, status and education. We were impressed with beauty, bucks and brains. But God revolutionizes all of that; God totally changes all of that; God turns it upside down. The poor are put on the top; the rich are put on the bottom. It is a revolution; God’s revolution. The Magnificat clearly tells us of God’s compassion for the poor; and when God’s Spirit gets inside of Christians, we too have a renewed compassion and action for the poor. Our hearts are turned upside down. The Magnificat and God’s Revolution

Her Magnificat is a prelude to the whole gospel, and the theme that God respects the poor, exalts the poor, cares for the poor, feeds the poor, remembers the poor, helps the poor.

From thanks to giving

Mary not only gave thanks for this revolution. She intuitively realized she was part of the revolution. She did not just sit in stunned silence at all God did for her. She realized that if this was God’s way of acting,  then she intuitively knew she was called to act this way. Immediately after the Annunciation, she hurried up into the hill country to help her cousin.

In this, she anticipated Jesus words and actions when he washed the feet of his friends he asked “Do you understand what I have done? If you do,  do the same for all the lowly and marginalized of the world.

Popes have pointed to her as the pre-eminent disciple. It took the disciples some time to realize what Jesus did when he washed their feet. “Do you understand what I have done?… Do this in memory of me! We have spent 2000 years struggling to understand God’s revolution.

So the big question for your life and mine this Thanksgiving is: has God’s revolution occurred in our lives? Have things been turned upside down that our lives now are dedicated to exalting the poor, regarding the poor, feeding the poor, helping the poor, remembering the poor. Has this revolution occurred in your life and mine?

It turned the lives of  Vincent and Louise upside down.

Living God’s Revolution

  • Do we spend as much time thanking as we do asking?
  • Do we move from thanks to giving?
  • Is there enough evidence to convict us of being God’s revolutionaries?

 

The Wisdom of Widows

Father Pat Griffin of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission writes on FamVin of the generosity of the poor in The Wisdom of Widows. His reflection serves as a backdrop to the challenge of St. John Paul II to Americans gathered in Yankee Stadium in 1979.

“The poor of the United States and of the world are your brothers and sisters in Christ. You must never be content to leave them just the crumbs from the feast. You must take of your substance, and not just of your abundance, in is order to help them. And you must treat them like guests at your family table.”

One can easily discern the thinking of the authors of the Lectionary in bringing together the two stories which were proclaimed on this past Sunday.  We heard two tales about widows and unmatched generosity.  I cannot help but to be drawn to Jesus’ telling of the actions of the widow and her mite in the Gospel.  It seems like such an important example for him in teaching his followers about the meaning of discipleship.  Yet the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath remains compelling.

One can imagine the situation of this woman and her son.  The drought which had afflicted the land had brought suffering into the lives of many people, and especially the poor.  She had made ends meet to the best of her ability for some time, but now she had only the remnant at the bottom of her jar of flour and jug of oil.  One can envision simply some dust of grain and a little moisture of olive remained between her family and starvation.  Into this situation arrives the prophet Elijah. He makes an extraordinary request of her, even knowing her desperate situation. “Before you make something for your family to eat, make something for me to eat.”  Difficult as it is to conceive of these words emerging from his mouth, they do. The judgment as well as the generosity of the woman comes into play. What will she do? Does the request of this hungry man carry weight at the expense of her son’s life (not to mention her own)?

The story suggests to us a meditation on the generosity of the poor, the kinds of demands that a “prophet” places on a people, and the cost of trust in God’s care.  In some ways, one might characterize it as a confrontation of the pragmatic vs. the providential.

Without fail, those who have had regular contact with the poor have experienced their generosity.  Even though a family may have little to eat, they “kill the fatted calf” to provide for an honored guest.  Sometimes, when one knows (or suspects) the whole story, embarrassment can fill the visitor because of this hidden extravagance.  Missionaries and ministers to those who are poor can tell these types of experiences with ease and energy.  The truth emphasizes the willingness of the poor to share what they have and unequally with those who come among them to speak of the Lord.  In Sunday’s Gospel, our Scriptures held out to us the examples of the widow and her mite; we can also look to the story of the boy with the barley loaves, and many others.  The poor can give of themselves and their resources with an open hand.

The “prophet” places demands even on those who have little.  Jesus employs the action of the widow with her mite as the model for altruism.  The truth always recognizes the existence of someone who has less than a particular person. Charity, which places another in the place of special care, benefits the poor as well as the rich.  In proclaiming the Gospel, the missionary must speak this word with clarity and without embarrassment.  The smallness of the gift does not define the issue, but the largeness of the heart which provides.  Jesus tells those who would choose to be his disciples to “sell all and come follow me.” That holds true for every follower. The poor should not be denied the opportunity to be generous, even in their limited way.

The widow of Zarephath must place her trust in the words which the prophet Elijah speaks to her in order to act in this situation.  When she does, her faith is rewarded.  That benefit, however, does not describe the experience of everyone who trusts.  Sometimes the Lord has a different plan, and that too requires acceptance. Jesus’ surrender of himself to the will of the Father which leads to the cross provides a parade example of trust in the Divine care and the path which it may take.

The story of the Widow of Zarephath with the prophet Elijah makes us thoughtful and invites us to consider the cost and meaning of generosity.  The lesson stands comfortably beside that of the widow and her mite.  We are taught by their wisdom and trust.

 

Pope Francis’ Annual Day of the Poor and the Heart of St. Vincent

Pope Francis’ Annual Day of the Poor (Sunday Before Christ the King) – There must be a big smile in St. Vincent’s heart! When Pope Francis pours out his heart about the meaning of the annual World Day of the Poor his words resonate with themes close to the heart of Vincent.

Pope Francis and the relic of the heart of St. Vincent in St. Peter’s Square

 

 

“Sweat of our brows”

Last year when Pope Francis called for an annual celebration of a World Day of the Poor he borrowed for his title words from the First Epistle of John “Let us love, not with words but with deeds” This should resonate with members of the Vincentian Family. Vincent had his own way of saying it.

“Let us love God, brothers, let us love God, but let it be with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brows; for very often many acts of love of God, of devotion, and of other similar affections and interior practices of a tender heart, although very good and desirable, are, nevertheless, very suspect if they don’t translate into the practice of effective love.”

“Evangelized by the Poor”

This year Pope Francis writes

“This new World Day, therefore, should become a powerful appeal to our consciences as believers, allowing us to grow in the conviction that sharing with the poor enables us to understand the deepest truth of the Gospel.  The poor are not a problem: they are a resource from which to draw as we strive to accept and practice in our lives the essence of the Gospel.”

Vincentians today are familiar with the phrase “ evangelized by the poor”. It seems this phrase was never uttered as such by Vincent. But he often affirmed that the poor are our teachers and that true religion is lived and practiced especially by the poor, the humble and the peasants. They are teachers of the faith because they have cultivated a series of fundamental Christian virtues and attitudes. (Pope Francis is a strong believer in The evangelizing power of popular piety [Evangelii Gaudium 122-126].

For Vincent, Jesus was in the person of the poor. There Vincent discovered Jesus. Just as they called Vincent, they call us to conversion. Is it any surprise that in Vincent’s time the majority of the Daughters of Charity came from among the poor in order to serve God in the person of the poor. That the poor evangelize us is one of the most significant teachings that Vincent learned from being at the side of the poor.

Many of us have grown up in cultures that think of ourselves as being evangelizers and missionaries rather than being evangelized. We rarely think of what we receive from those who are poor. Francis and Vincent call us to remember that we learn from those who are poor

Rediscovering our capacity for getting together.

Learning from poor and each other requires encountering each other. Last year Pope Francis asked that “Christian communities make every effort to create moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance.”

This year he writes

“I would like that this year and in the future this  World Day be celebrated in the spirit of joy for the rediscovery of our capacity for getting together.”… “When we find a way to draw near to the poor, we know that the first place belongs to Him who has opened our eyes and our heart to conversion.”

Putting it into practice

  • Do I think of myself as learning from those who are on the margins?
  • When do I draw near enough to those who are poor to learn what Pope Francis and Vincent learned?

 

Prayer Request for the Health of Fr. Secundino Rios, C.M.

November 16, 2018
 
Please remember in your prayers Fr. Secundino Rios, C.M.
Fr. Rios is not well and will be having surgery soon.
Por favor recuerden en sus oraciones …

P. Secundino Rios, CM

P. Rios se encuentra un poco delicado de salud y pronto será intervenido quirurgicamente.