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TODAY’S BIBLE READING I (1 KINGS 19:9, 11-13)

STAND ON THE MOUNTAIN BEFORE THE LORD.

Elijah went into the cave and spent the night in it. Then he was told, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” Then the Lord himself went by. There came a mighty wind, so strong it tore the mountains and shattered the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake. But the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there came the sound of a gentle breeze.

And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 
 

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“GRANT THAT THE FLAMES OF VICE MAY NOT CONSUME US”

Let us pray: O God, who allayed the flames of fire for the three children, mercifully grant that the flames of vice may not consume us, your servants. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

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ST JOHN OF THE CROSS – CATCHING “A GLIMPSE OF THE GLORY OF UNION WITH GOD IN ETERNITY”

ABOUT THE WRITTEN LEGACY OF ST JOHN OF THE CROSS, “MYSTICAL DOCTOR”

“… [St] John is considered one of the most important lyric poets of Spanish literature. His major works are four: ‘The Ascent of Mount Carmel’, ‘The Dark Night’, ‘The Spiritual Canticle’ and ‘The Living Flame of Love’.

THE HOLY SPIRIT FIRE

THE HUMBLE SOUL’S PURIFICATION

In ‘The Spiritual Canticle’ St John presents the process of the soul’s purification and that is the gradual, joyful possession of God, until the soul succeeds in feeling that it loves God with the same love with which it is loved by him. ‘The Living Flame of Love’ continues in this perspective, describing in greater detail the state of the transforming union with God.

ILLUMINATING THE STATE OF DARK NIGHT IN OUR SOULS

The example that John uses is always that of fire: just as the stronger the fire burns and consumes wood, the brighter it grows until it blazes into a flame, so the Holy Spirit, who purifies and ‘cleanses’ the soul during the dark night, with time illuminates and warms it as though it were a flame. The life of the soul is a continuous celebration of the Holy Spirit which gives us a glimpse of the glory of the union with God in eternity.

THE JOURNEY OF THE HUMBLE SOUL TO FREEDOM OF ATTACHMENTS

‘The Ascent of Mount Carmel’ presents the spiritual itinerary from the viewpoint of the gradual purification of the soul, necessary in order to scale the peaks of Christian perfection, symbolised by the summit of Mount Carmel.

This purification is proposed as a journey the human being undertakes, collaborating with divine action, to free the soul from every attachment or affection contrary to God’s will.
Purification which, if it is to attain the union of love with God must be total, begins by purifying the life of the senses and continues with the life obtained through the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity, which purify the intention, the memory and the will.

PURIFICATION OF THE INTENTION, THE MEMORY AND THE WILL

The ‘Dark Night’ describes the ‘passive’ aspect, that is, God’s action in this process of the soul’s ‘purification’ [as persistent humble human endeavour (see above) is a pre-requirement]… ‘passive’ precisely because it is brought about by the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit who, like a burning flame, consumes every impurity.”
– Benedict XVI (Pope em.), General audience on St John of the Cross, 2011

 
 

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JOHN THE BAPTIST: “HE MUST INCREASE, BUT I MUST DECREASE”

THE ROLE OF JOHN THE BAPTIST IN THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND

JOHN THE BAPTIST AND JESUS

‘THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS’

“… [T]he news of the preaching and the baptism of John had reached Jerusalem. Naturally the priests, and especially the Pharisees among them, who made such great pretensions to piety and faithfulness to God, were interested and perhaps disturbed. John himself was, of course, the son of a priest. But what was this repentance he was preaching and, above all, what was this new rite of baptism which he was administering?

‘WHO ART THOU?’

Anxious to know the answers to these questions they sent priests and Levites to question him. ‘Who art thou?’ they asked. John replied, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ‘Art thou Elias?’ they asked. And he said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Art thou the Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No’ (John 1:19-21). Then they asked him why he baptised, since he was neither the Christ, nor Elias, nor a prophet. John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but in the midst of you there has stood one whom you do not know. He it is who is to come after me, who has been set above me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to loose’ (John 1:26-27). Just before this he had said to them, ‘I am the voice of one crying in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord”(John 1:23).

‘BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD’

John is a man sent to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. The Lord Who is to come is greater than he. That is all that John tells the Pharisees. But the next day in the midst of his followers he speaks again. He sees Jesus approaching and he points Him out to his own disciples, ‘Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me there comes one who has been set above me, because he was before me.’ And I did not know him. But that he may be known to Israel, for this reason I have come baptising with water. I beheld the spirit descending as a dove from heaven, and it abode upon him. And I did not know him. But he who sent me to baptise with water said to me, ‘He upon whom thou wilt see the spirit descending, and abiding upon him, he it is who baptises with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God’ (John 1:29-34).

JOHN PREACHES REPENTANCE, BUT IT IS JESUS WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS

John, a prophet of God, gives his testimony that Jesus is the Lord, the Son of God Whose way he has been sent to prepare. John baptises with water, but Jesus will baptise with the Holy Spirit of God. John preaches repentance for sin, but Jesus takes away the sins of the world.

JESUS’ DISCIPLES

The following day Jesus is passing by once again, while John the Baptist is standing with two of his disciples, John and Andrew. Again the Baptist says, ‘Behold the lamb of God.’ John and Andrew follow after Jesus. Jesus, seeing this, stopped and asked them, ‘What is it you seek?’ They said to Him, ‘Rabbi… where dwellest thou?’ And He replied, ‘Come and see’ (John 1:35-39). In this way Jesus gained His first two disciples. Andrew went and found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messias’ (which interpreted is Christ) (John 1:41). Jesus, upon meeting Simon, changed his name to Peter. We are not told the reason for the change of name until later (see Matthew 16:17 ff.) but the action of Jesus is at least a sign of some special favour.

The following day Jesus added to the group of His followers Philip and Nathanael. Nathanael recognises Jesus as the ‘Son of God… King of Israel’ (John 1:40). Jesus rewards his faith by saying to him, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man’ (John 1:51).

In these words Jesus intimates that God will be with Him in His work as He was with Jacob at Bethel, when Jacob saw a ladder reaching from heaven to earth and the angels of God ascending and descending. Moreover Jesus refers to Himself as the ‘Son of Man,’ His favourite name for Himself. He seems to be alluding to the ‘Son of Man’ of Whom the prophet Daniel spoke, prophesying that He would come on the clouds of heaven to judge the world.

THE WEDDING AT CANA

After this Jesus and His new disciples went to Cana to attend a wedding feast. Mary the mother of Jesus was also there. Here Jesus worked the first of His many miracles. During the feast the host ran out of wine for the feasting. At the request of Mary Jesus changed water into wine. By His presence at the wedding feast and by this kindly miracle of turning water into wine for the feasting, Jesus gave the seal of His approval to the ancient institution of marriage. By the miracle, as St John says, ‘he manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him’ (John 2:11).

JESUS DRIVES THE MERCHANTS AND MONEY CHANGERS FROM THE TEMPLE

After the feast Jesus went to Capharnaum with His mother and His disciples. A few days later He went up to Jerusalem for the Passover. When He entered the precincts of the Temple He found men selling oxen, sheep and doves for the sacrifices, and money changers at their tables. The business of buying and selling, of haggling over prices, of changing money, caused a great noise and confusion, making it difficult to pray with devotion. Jesus was indignant at this profanation of His Father’s house. Making a whip of cords, He drove the merchants and money changers from the Temple. ‘Take these things away,’ he said, ‘and do not make the house of my Father a house of business’ (John 2:16).

‘WHAT AUTHORITY?’

The Jews naturally wanted to know on what authority Jesus acted in this way. ‘What sign dost thou show us, seeing that thou dost those things?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews scoffed at his answer. ‘Forty-six years has this temple been in building, and wilt thou raise it up in three days?’ But, as St John the Evangelist tells us, Jesus was referring to the ‘temple of his body.’ In answer to their request for a sign Jesus referred them to the sign of His resurrection from the tomb which was to come later. But, at the moment, neither the disciples of Jesus nor the Jews generally understood this.

THE SIGNIFICANCE

This action of Jesus, while at the moment it was mysterious, was highly significant. He took upon Himself an authority which His apparent position among His countrymen did not justify. He presumed to give orders about the conduct of Temple business. He referred to the Temple as His Father’s house, as if it were His more than it was that of the Jews. When asked to justify Himself, He did not appeal to the miracles which St John indicates He was already working in Jerusalem. Rather, like the prophets of old, He appealed to a mysterious sign which was yet to be accomplished.

JESUS SPEAKS ABOUT THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM HE WOULD INSTITUTE

This action of Jesus and the miracles He was working attracted attention and many believed in Him. Others were curious and would know more about Him. One of these was Nicodemus, a Pharisee. He came to Jesus secretly at night. The secrecy of his visit seems to be that already the Pharisees were hostile to Jesus. But Nicodemus, even though somewhat fearful of the Pharisees, came to inquire further enlightenment of Jesus.

In the course of their conversation Jesus tells him that ‘unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ (John 3:5-6). Nicodemus did not understand these words of Jesus. Jesus was referring to the Sacrament of Baptism which He would institute. He was speaking of the spiritual, superntural life which the Spirit of God would give to men through the Sacrament of Baptism. This life of the soul is given to men only through a mystical union of men with the life-giving death of Jesus. This Jesus insinuates when he says to Nicodemus, ‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting’ (John 3:14).

JOHN THE BAPTIST CONTINUES BAPTISING AT AENNON

After this Jesus and His disciples left Jerusalem and went to some unnamed place in Judea. There they baptised new disciples. John the Baptist and his disciples were at nearby Aennon, also baptising. The disciples of John the Baptist became alarmed at the activity of the disciples of Jesus. They complained to John, ‘Rabbi, he who was with thee beyond the Jordan, to whom thou hast borne witness, behold he baptises and all are coming to him’ (John 3:26).

JOHN WITNESSES JESUS’ IDENTITY FOR THE LAST TIME

In reply to their complaint John gave his last witness to the identity of Jesus. ‘No one,’ he said, ‘can receive anything, unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but have been sent before him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegrOom, who stands and hears him, rejoices exceedingly at the voice of the bridegroom. This my joy, therefore, is made full. He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:27-30).

John acknowledges that Jesus is the Christ, that is, the Messias, the Anointed One of God. Jesus is the bridegroom who will take humanity to himself as a bride. John the Baptist is only the friend of the bridegroom, who rejoices at the marriage of the bridegroom to the bride. John is not displeased because the disciples of Jesus are more successful than his own disciples. Jesus must increase; John must decrease. John has almost finished his work and will soon depart from the scene. He has prepared the way for the Lord. Jesus, the Lord, is just beginning His work. His work is still to be done; He must increase.

JOHN IS PUT INTO PRISON

Shortly after this, Herod the tetrarch, annoyed because John the Baptist had publicly reproved him for taking unto himself Herodias, the wife of his brother, arrested John and cast him into prison at Machaerus.

Upon hearing this Jesus Himself withdrew into Galilee.
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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LET US HELP THE HOLY SOULS IN PURGATORY (IT IS THE GREATEST CHARITY WE CAN PERFORM ON EARTH)

A SHORT NOTE FOR THE BENEFIT OF OUR SEPARATED BRETHREN:

Some terms are not used in the Bible; rather, those tenets of faith are described in the Scriptures without using the relevant term, such as “Holy Trinity” or “Purgatory”, the latter referring to the “fire that cleanses some souls so they can enter heaven”. These souls are saved, they will enter heaven eventually; Purgatory is not a place as such, it is a s t a t e of the soul. Holy Scripture teaches that God will render to every man according to his works; that nothing defiled shall enter heaven; and that some will be saved, ‘as one who has gone through fire’ (Mt 16:27; Apoc 21:27; 1 Co 3:15).

“THE GREAT IMPORTANCE OF DEVOTION TO THE HOLY SOULS

Devotion to the Holy Souls is so pleasing to God and so beneficial to our own souls. The least pain of Purgatory is far worse than the greatest suffering we can imagine upon this earth. This is why a moment in Purgatory can even seem to be hundreds of years. The Holy Souls cannot help themselves nor alleviate their sorrows in the slightest way. However great their sufferings may be, they can no longer merit, nor can they obtain new graces.

At death the time of working and meriting has ended once and for all and the soul remains in that state in which it has departed from this life. The punishments of Purgatory have one purpose alone and that is to satisfy God’s justice and to cleanse the souls from all stain of sin. Let us listen to the pleadings of our suffering brothers and sisters (who could also be our friends and relatives) and let us help them by all the means in our power.

If we fail in this, our hard-heartedness will most certainly be displeasing to Our Lord, for those who have no mercy on the suffering souls in Purgatory will also be wanting in mercy when they in their turn perhaps have to spend time in the purifying flames of Purgatory. ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’

THE LONGING OF THE HOLY SOULS TO BE WITH GOD

The Holy Souls long to be with God and to enjoy the Beatific Vision. Their sufferings are indescribable in human terms, but what causes their greatest agony is the absence of God, Who is now the sole object of their desires.

On earth we cannot really understand Who God is, but the Holy Souls begin to know Him, His goodness, His mercy and His love. After this clearer view and their thirst for union, they yearn for God unceasingly. Whilst on earth so many people do not realise that this life is just a journey and do not even give God or eternity a thought, but if once opened to the Beatific Vision, even for a brief moment, the eyes of the soul can never again close without inexpressable pain. To shut out that most beautiful sight is agony.

IT IS VERY PROFITABLE TO HAVE DEVOTION TO THE HOLY SOULS

God often grants more graces through their intercession than through the prayers of the Saints. St Catherine of Bologna, whenever she wished to obtain any grace, had recourse to the Souls in Purgatory and her prayers were immediately heard. She even declared that by asking the intercession of these souls, she obtained many favours which she had not obtained through the intercession of the Saints.

Then if we want to be even more certain of obtaining what we request, we should pray for and at the same time ask the intercession of the Holy Souls who have loved Our Lady the most whilst upon earth. These are the ones She most wishes to release and we will surely see that our prayer is heard.

GOD WANTS US TO HELP THE HOLY SOULS

God is so pleased with those who help the Holy Souls, because He longs for them to be with Him for all eternity. By helping to deliver a soul from Purgatory, we give God as much pleasure as if we had released He Himself from a dark prison. Did He not say: ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these My least brethren, you did it to Me.’

WE SHOULD STILL PRAY FOR THEM EVEN MANY YEARS AFTER THEIR DEATH

What suffering for the Holy Souls to see that they have been forgotten by those whom they loved during life and for whom, perhaps, they made sacrifices. We think far too little about our deceased friends and their memory often perishes soon after their death. But we should remember, and this has been confirmed by St Pio of Pietrelcina, that since with God there is an eternal present, the prayers we say for them now (even many years after their death) will have been taken into account by God at the moment of their death. That is why we should never cease in our prayers for them.

CHARITY COVERS OVER A MULTITUDE OF SINS

Those who help the poor souls in any way, perform not one, but all of the seven works of mercy at the same time, in a more perfect manner and deserving greater reward than if these acts of charity had been performed for a soul living on earth. In showing mercy to the holy souls, we have the great hope that God will also be merciful to us in our hour of need.

THE GRATITUDE OF THE HOLY SOULS

The Holy Souls, in their turn, will not be ungrateful to their benefactors who will most assuredly be remembered in their own prayers to God. It is their Guardian Angel who will make known to them how we have assisted them and will urge them to show their gratitude by praying for us. God so wants to relieve the Holy Souls of their sufferings and is pleased to answer the prayers which they offer for their benefactors.

THE SABBATINE PRIVILEGE

This is the early liberation from Purgatory on the first Saturday after death, through Our Lady’s intercession, for those who wear Her Brown Scapular, faithfully fulfilling the requisite obligations.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO AVOID PURGATORY?

God grants all souls all the graces and lights necessary so that they may go straight to Heaven. Those who abandon themselves completely into His hands and strive to do His holy Will in all things, will, at the end of their earthly lives, close their eyes upon the sun so as to open them to the true Light.

WAYS IN WHICH WE CAN ASSIST THE HOLY SOULS IN PURGATORY

God Himself has placed in our hands the keys of Purgatory so that we may help to alleviate their pains and hasten their arrival in Paradise, where they will love and praise God for all eternity. What a consoling thought it is that we are able to help, even after their death, those whom we have loved in this life, thus proving our sincere love and gratitude to them. There are many ways in which we can assist them.

THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS

There is nothing more efficacious in satisfying the justice of God and in obtaining the remission of the temporal punishments due to sin as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, during which Jesus Christ renews the Sacrifice He once offered on Calvary. St Cyril said: ‘This Sacrifice affords them extraordinary relief.’

HOLY COMMUNION

Another way in which we can help the Holy Souls very much is by fervently offering up our Holy Communion for them. In doing this we offer to the Heavenly Father all the merits of Christ’s Passion and Death in satisfaction for the temporal punishment still due to them.

INDULGENCES

The Council of Trent confirmed that the use of Indulgences are of great benefit to the Christian people. We can obtain both plenary and partial indulgences for the Holy Souls in many ways. Let us ask Our Blessed Lady to help us to obtain as many as we possibly can for our brothers and sisters suffering in the fires of Purgatory.

PRAYERS

Our prayers for the Holy Souls are very efficacious because they proceed from our true disinterested charity and because we are asking not for temporal but for spiritual favours. After the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the prayers which help them the most are the Holy Rosary and the Way of the Cross.

OFFERING UP SACRIFICES FOR THEIR RELIEF

Let us offer many little sacrifices for the Holy Souls during the day. These should be as hidden as possible and offered to God with love. One example is that we could abstain from eating or drinking something which we like. In addition to exterior mortifications we can also offer for the Holy Souls the interior mortifications of the overcoming of our sinful inclinations and subduing our evil passions. Let us also cheerfully embrace all the crosses which God sends to us each day and offer these in satisfaction for the Souls in Purgatory.

ALMSGIVING

We are able to assist the Holy Souls in Purgatory by almsgiving, which can be compared to a shower of rain falling into Purgatory and mitigating its devouring flames or even extinguishing them altogether.

(This leaflet is dedicated to St Michael the Archangel. He is the one who leads souls to Purgatory and then on to their eternal home after their purification. Everyone should honour him in a special way and the best way of doing this is by spreading devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory.)”
– This is the content of a leaflet by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, House of Contemplation, Blessed Virgin of Mt Carmel, Lanherne, St Mawgan, Newquay, Cornwall TR8 4ER

 
 

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TODAY’S BIBLE READING (GENESIS 19:15-29)

THE LORD RAINED BRIMSTONE AND FIRE ON SODOM AND GOMORRAH.

When dawn broke the urged Lot, “Come, take your wife and these two daughters of yours, or you will be overwhelmed in the punishment of the town.” And as he hesitated, the men took him by the hand, and his wife and his two daughters, because of the pity the Lord felt for him. They led him out and left him outside the town.

As they were leading him out he said, “Run for your life. Neither look behind you nor stop anywhere on the plain. Make for the hills if you would not be overwhelmed.” “No, I beg you, my lord,” Lot said to them, “your servant has won your favour and you have shown great kindness to me in saving my life. But I could not reach the hills before this calamity overtook me, and death with it. The town over there is near enough to flee to, and is a little one. Let me make for that – is it too little? – and my life will be saved.” He answered, “I grant you this favour too, and will not destroy the town you speak of. Hurry, escape to it, for I can do nothing until you reach it.” That is why the town is named Zoar.

As the sun rose over the land and Lot entered Zoar, the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord. He overthrew these towns and the whole plain, with all the inhabitants of the towns, and everything that grew there. But the wife of Lot looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Rising early in the morning Abraham went to the place where he had stood before the Lord, and looking towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and across the plain, he saw the smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

Thus it was that when God destroyed the towns of the plain, he kept Abraham in mind and rescued Lot out of disaster when he overwhelmed the towns where Lot lived.

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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TODAY’S BIBLE READING (ACTS 2:1-11)

PENTECOST SUNDAY

When the day of Pentecost came they were all together in one place. And suddenly out of the sky came a sound like a strong rushing wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared tongues as if of fire which parted and came to rest upon each one of them. All were filled with Holy Spirit and began to speak other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

Staying in Jerusalem were religious Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered, all excited because each heard them speaking in his own language. Full of amazement and wonder, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that we hear them in our own native language? Here are Parthians, Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and foreigners who accept Jewish beliefs, Cretians and Arabians; and all of us hear them proclaiming in our own language what God, the Saviour, does.

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 
 

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