Favorite Verse from Scripture

 ◊  Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, pray for us

The peer ministry group at school asked the faculty for their favorite Bible verse with a little reflection. Here is mine.

You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.

— Micah 6:8

This verse sums up nearly all of Scripture into one line.

Some translations have the word right as justice or righteousness. It is about right relationships with God, with others, and with ourselves. Some translations have the word goodness as kindness or mercy. This tells us how to interact in our relationships, what our attitude should be. To do right and love goodness is another way to say the two greatest commandments, love God and love your neighbor as yourself. It smells of the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments.

And the last part is the best. It is about the journey, to walk humbly with God. It reminds us of Adam walking with God in the garden before the Fall. It reminds us of God making a family covenant with Abraham. It reminds us of God leading Moses and the Israelites out of Egypt into the Promised Land. It reminds us of God instructing the prophets in the Old Testament to bring his wayward people back to Him. It reminds us of Jesus walking with the disciples throughout Galilee and Judea, and their time with Him after the Resurrection. And it all points to the last line in the Gospel of Matthew, “…and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

And so, when you find yourself distracted with the busyness of everyday life, remember what is truly important, and to walk humbly with your God.

Science Does Not Explain Everything

 ◊  Saint Gaucherius, pray for us

Bill Nye does science well, but not philosophy. He along with another famous scientist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, portray science much like a religion. (How ironic…)

Bp. Robert Baron responds:

…But the very success of the sciences invites the distortion of scientism, an epistemological imperialism which consigns extra-scientific forms of rationality to the intellectual ash-heap. And what an impoverishment this produces! …

The physical sciences can reveal the chemical composition of ink and paper, but they cannot, even in principle, tell us anything about the meaning of Moby Dick or The Wasteland. Biology might inform us regarding the process by which nerves stimulate muscles in order to produce human action, but it could never tell us anything about whether a human act is morally right or wrong. Optics might disclose how light and color are processed by the eye, but it cannot possibly tell us what makes the Sistine Chapel Ceiling beautiful. Speculative astrophysics might tell us truths about the unfolding of the universe from the singularity of the Big Bang, but it cannot say a word about why there is something rather than nothing or how contingent being relates to non-contingent being. How desperately sad if questions regarding truth, morality, beauty, and existence quaexistence are dismissed as irrational or pre-scientific.

— Bp. Robert Baron, “Bill Nye is Not the Philosophy Guy”, April 5, 2016

It reminds of something I posted a few years ago. I think it’s influenced by CS Lewis.

Take four objects: a baseball, a basketball, a bat, a hoop.

Now form two pairs.

There are two ways to pair these objects. One way is by shape or external properties: baseball and basketball in first pair, and then bat and hoop. The other way is by function: the baseball with the bat, and the basketball with the hoop.

Take another group of words: religion, technology, science, magic.

[Note the two senses of the word magic. There is magic as in magic tricks, which is an entertainment through illusion that attempts to deceive or misdirect the senses in believing something that is not real. And there is magic as in magic spells and potions (i.e. alchemy), which are attempts to manipulate things and people. It is this second sense of magic that is implied.]

Many people will group religion and magic together against science and technology. Maybe it is because of our modern culture and the media’s use of the terms “science and technology.” Maybe it is because of a presumption of science’s ability to solve problems and its use in developing technology. Maybe it is due to the demotion of magic to illusion or fantasy and the unprovableness of religion. This is how Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson would group these words.

But from a functional point of view, magic and technology go together because they are both forms of control—-controlling our environment, controlling nature, controlling objects, controlling people. The modern person sees technology this way, but they forget that was the exact same reason people in the “old” days looked toward magic and alchemy. Magic was a technology to attempt control over their environment.

And that functionally links science with religion. Both are forms of knowing. Science can answer the questions of how and what. Religion answers the questions of why and for what purpose. The knowledge of “how” changes and becomes more precise with further exploration—-theories change. The knowledge of “why” seems to have remained persistent throughout the history of humankind.

Spiritual Hunger

 ◊  Saint John of Capistrano, pray for us

Just as physical hunger is an indication of a living, healthy organism, so spiritual hunger is a sign of a robust spirit, one that is active and continually developing. The soul which feels no hunger for God, no need to seek Him and to find Him, and which does not vibrate or suffer with anxiety in its search, does not bear within itself the signs of the Resurrection. It is a dead soul, or at least one which has been weakened and rendered insensible by lukewarmness. The Paschal alleluia is a cry of triumph at Christ’s Resurrection, but at the same time it is an urgent invitation for us to rise also. Like the sound of reveille, it calls us to the battles of the spirit, and invites us to rouse and renew ourselves, to participate ever more profoundly in Christ’s Resurrection.

– Fr. Gabriel, Divine Intimacy, “Stay with Us” #141

The Supper at Bethany

 ◊  Saint Nicholas von Flüe, pray for us

Monday of Holy Week
by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., Divine Intimacy, #134

PRESENCE OF GOD – O Lord, with Mary of Bethany I wish to pay my humble, devout homage to Your sacred Body before it is disfigured by the Passion.

1. The Gospel for today (Jn 12:1–9) tells us of this impressive scene: “Jesus therefore, six days before the Pasch, came to Bethany… and they made Him a supper there; and Martha served…. Mary, therefore, took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair.” Martha, as usual, was busy about many things. Mary, however, paid attention only to Jesus; to show respect to Him, it did not seem extravagant to her to pour over Him a whole vase of precious perfume. Some of those present murmured, “Why this waste? Could not the ointment have been sold… and the price given to the poor?” And they murmured against her (cf. Mk 14:4–5). Mary said nothing and made no excuses; completely absorbed in her adored Master, she continued her work of devotion and love.

Mary is the symbol of the soul in love with God, the soul who gives herself exclusively to Him, consuming for Him all that she is and all that she has. She is the symbol of those souls who give up, in whole or in part, exterior activity, in order to consecrate themselves more fully to the immediate service of God and to devote themselves to a life of more intimate union with Him. This total consecration to the Lord is deemed wasteful by those who fail to understand it—although the same offering, if otherwise employed, would cause no complaint. If everything we are and have is His gift, can it be a waste to sacrifice it in His honor and, by so acting, to repair for the indifference of countless souls who seldom, if ever, think of Him?

Money, time, strength, and even human lives spent in the immediate service of the Lord, far from being wasted, reach therein the perfection of their being. Moreover, by this consecration, they conform to the proper scale of values. Giving alms to the poor is a duty, but the worship and love of God is a higher obligation. If urgent works of charity sometimes require us to leave His service for that of our neighbor, no change in the hierarchy of importance is thereby implied. God must always have the first place.

Jesus Himself then comes to Mary’s defense: “Let her be, that she may keep this perfume against the day of My burial.” In the name of all those who love, Mary gave the sacred Body of Jesus, before it was disfigured by the Passion, the ultimate homage of an ardent love and devotion.

2. In St. John’s Gospel it is clearly stated that the murmurings about Mary’s act were uttered by Judas Iscariot. The sinister face of the traitor appears darker still beside that of the loyal Mary: physically, he is still numbered among the Twelve, but spiritually, he has been cut off from them for a long time. Ever since the previous year, when the Master had told them about the Eucharist, Judas was lost. Referring to him on one occasion, Jesus had said, “Have not I chosen you twelve; and one of you is a devil” (Jn 6:71). Judas had been chosen by Jesus with a love of predilection; he had been admitted to the group of His closest friends and, like the eleven others, had received the great grace of the apostolate. In the beginning, he must have been faithful; but later, attachment to worldly things and avarice began to take possession of him, so as to completely chill his love for the Master and transform the Apostle into a traitor. Because of His divine foreknowledge, Jesus had expected the treachery; and yet, since Judas had been originally worthy of His trust, He had placed him on an equal footing with the other members of the apostolic college. Subsequently, although he had already become a liar, Jesus continued to treat him like the others, showing him the same love and esteem. This was very painful to the sensitive heart of Jesus, but He would not act otherwise, He wished that we might see with what love, patience, and delicacy He treats even His most stubborn enemies. How many times must the Master have tried to enlighten that when He gave His instructions on detachment from darkened mind! Certainly, He was thinking of Judas’ worldly goods: “You cannot serve God and mammon…. What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of His own soul?” (Mt 6:24–16,26). However, these words, which should have been an affectionate reprove to the traitor, did not touch him. Judas represents those souls who have received from God graces of predilection, but who prove to be unworthy of them, because of their infidelities. Consecrated souls must, therefore, be very faithful to the grace of their vocation and must not permit the slightest attachment to take root in their hearts.

Here are two paths, Lord, as diametrically opposed as possible: one of fidelity and one of betrayal, the loving fidelity of Mary of Bethany, the horrible treachery of Judas. O Lord, how I should like to offer You a heart like Mary’s! How I should like to see the traitor in me entirely dead and destroyed!

But You tell me: “Watch ye, and pray that you enter not into temptation!” (Mk 14:38). Oh! how necessary it is for me to watch and pray, so that the enemy will not come to sow the poisonous germs of treason in my heart! May I be faithful to You, Lord, faithful at any cost, in big things as well as in small, so that the foxes of little attachments will never succeed in invading and destroying the vineyard of my heart!

“Lord Jesus, when I meditate on Your Passion, the first thing that strikes me is the perfidy of the traitor. He was so full of the venom of bad faith that he actually betrayed You—You, his Master and Lord. He was inflamed with such cupidity that he sold his God for money, and in exchange for a few vile coins delivered up Your precious Blood. His ingratitude went so far that he persecuted even to death Him who had raised him to the height of the apostolate…. O Jesus, how great was Your goodness toward this hard-hearted disciple! Although his wickedness was so great, I am much more impressed by Your gentleness and meekness, O Lamb of God! You have given me this meekness as a model. Behold, O Lord, the man whom You allowed to share Your most special confidences, the man who seemed to be so united to You, Your Apostle, Your friend, the man who ate Your bread, and who, at the Last Supper, tasted with You the sweet cup, and this man committed this monstrous crime against You, his Master! But, in spite of all this at the time of betrayal, You, O meek Lamb, did not refuse the kiss of that mouth so full of malice. You gave him everything, even as You gave to the other Apostles, in order not to deprive him of anything that might melt the hardness of his evil heart” (cf. St. Bonaventure).

O Jesus, by the atrocious suffering inflicted on Your heart by that infamous treachery, grant me, I beg of You, the grace of a fidelity that is total, loving, and devoted.

The Transfiguration

 ◊  Saint Peter Damian, pray for us

by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., Divine Intimacy, #105

PRESENCE OF GOD – O Jesus, grant that Your grace may triumph in me and make me worthy to participate in Your glorious Transfiguration!

1. The soul of Jesus, personally united to the Word, enjoyed the Beatific Vision, which has as its connatural effect the glorification of the body. But this effect was impeded by Jesus, who, during the years of His life on earth, wanted to resemble us as much as possible by appearing “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3). However, in order to confirm the faith of the Apostles who were shaken by the announcement of His Passion, Jesus permitted some rays from His blessed soul to shine forth for a few brief instants on Thabor, when Peter, James, and John saw Him transfigured: “His face did shine as the sun and His garments became white as snow.” The three were enraptured by it, and yet Jesus had revealed to them only one ray of His glory, for no human creature could have borne the complete vision.

Glory is the fruit of grace: the grace possessed by Jesus in an infinite degree is reflected in an infinite glory transfiguring Him entirely. Something similar happens to us: grace will transform us “from glory to glory” (2 Cor 3:18), until one day it will bring us to the Beatific Vision of God in heaven. But while grace transfigures, sin, on the other hand, darkens and disfigures whoever becomes its victim.

Today’s Gospel (Mt 17:1–9) brings out the close connection between the Transfiguration and the Passion of Jesus. Moses and Elias appeared on Thabor on either side of the Savior. They conversed with Him, and as St. Luke explains, talked specifically about His coming Passion: “They spoke of His decease, that He should accomplish in Jerusalem” (Lk 9:31).

The divine Master wished to teach His disciples in this way that it was impossible—for Him as well as for them—to reach the glory of the Transfiguration without passing through suffering. It was the same lesson that He would give later to the two disciples at Emmaus: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and so to enter into His glory?” (Lk 24:26). What has been disfigured by sin, cannot regain its original supernatural beauty except by way of purifying suffering.

2. In ecstasy before the vision on Thabor, Peter cried out with his usual eagerness, “It is good for us to be here,” and offered to make three tabernacles: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elias. But his proposal was interrupted by a voice from heaven: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him!” and the vision disappeared.

Spiritual consolations are never an end in themselves, and we should neither desire them nor try to retain them for our own satisfaction. Joy, even that which is spiritual, should never be sought for itself. Just as in heaven, joy will be the necessary concomitant of possessing God, so too on earth, it should be nothing but a means, enabling us to give ourselves with greater generosity to the service of God. To Peter, who wanted to stay on Thabor in the sweet vision of the transfigured Jesus, God Himself replied by inviting him to listen to and follow the teachings of His beloved Son. The ardent Apostle would soon learn that following Jesus meant carrying the Cross and ascending Calvary with Him.

God does not console us for our entertainment but rather for our encouragement, for our strengthening, for the increase of our generosity in suffering for love of Him.

The vision disappeared; the Apostles raised their eyes and saw nothing “nisi solurn Jesum,” save Jesus alone, and with “Jesus alone, they came down from the mountain. This is what we must always seek and it must be sufficient for us: Jesus alone, God alone. Everything else—consolations, helps, friendships (even spiritual ones), understanding, esteem, encouragement (even from Superiors)—may be good to the extent that God permits us to enjoy them. He very often makes use of them to encourage us in our weakness; but if, through certain circumstances, His divine hand takes all these things away, we should not be upset or disturbed. It is precisely at such times that we can prove to God more than ever—by deeds and not by words only—that He is our All and that He alone suffices. On these occasions the loving soul finds itself in a position to give God one of the finest proofs of its love: to be faithful to Him, to trust in Him, and to persevere in its resolution to give all, even if, by removing His gifts, He has left it alone. The soul may be in darkness, that is, subject to misunderstanding, bitterness, material and spiritual solitude combined with interior desolation. The time has come to repeat, ”Jesus alone," to come down from Thabor with Him, and to follow Him with the Apostles even to Calvary, where He will suffer, abandoned not only by men, but even by His Father.

“You only do I love, my God. You only do I wish to seek and to follow; I am ready to follow You alone. I wish to be entirely at Your disposal. I beg You to order and command whatever You will, but cure me, open my eyes, that I may see Your slightest gesture. Cure me completely, that I may recognize You. Tell me which way to turn my attention in order to see You; and I hope that I shall be able to do all that You command me” (St. Augustine).

Permit me to follow you, O Jesus, not only to Thabor, but especially to Calvary. I am attracted by the light and splendor of Thabor; I want to see Your face, O my God, if only for an instant! Calvary is night, solitude, mournful sorrow which terrifies me, but in the darkness there stands a Cross on which I contemplate You, crucified for love. I glimpse Your face, not transfigured by glory, but disfigured by sorrow, the result of our sins!

O Jesus, destroy sin in me, the sin which has disfigured Your face and disfigured my soul created to Your image and likeness. But to bring about this destruction, I must share Your Calvary, Your Cross. Deign then, O Lord, to unite to Your Passion all the sufferings, little or great, of my life, that they may purify me and prepare me to rise from light to light, until I am completely transformed in You.

The light and glory of Thabor encourage me. Thank You, O Lord, for having allowed me, if only for a few moments, to contemplate Your splendor and to enjoy Your divine consolations. Fortified and encouraged by this, I come down from the mountain to follow You , You alone, to Calvary.