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TRUE DISCIPLESHIP IS A SCARY VENTURE – IN THE TIME OF THE APOSTLES AS WELL AS TODAY

Following and imitating Jesus Christ in today’s surroundings

Whose fear is it, anyway?

“True discipleship is a scary venture; it was so in the time of the Apostles, and it remains so today. Discipleship, which is another way of saying that one embraces the baptismal call to follow in the footprints of Jesus Christ, requires resisting the mongering that our culture so often encourages.

The messages so frequently displayed in advertisements and on television promote a culture of fear that seeks to convince women and men today that they are inadequate, unlovable, and imperfect without buying this or that product, without paying for this or that service. The advertising agencies around the globe realise that human beings make too many of their choices out of fear and capitalise on that dynamic.

When individuals wish to take control and seize authority, it is to the weapon of fear that they turn, planting the seeds of insecurity and doubt into the hearts and minds of the population.

Working to overcome fear 

Jesus, as truly human, understood the experience of fear. Weeping in the garden on the night he was betrayed, the Lord expresses solidarity with those who face physical harm and emotional stress.

But Jesus, as truly divine, also understood that following the Father’s Will means working to overcome the inhibitive fear that too often prevents us from doing what is right and speaking the truth when necessary. Hence, Jesus’s first words to his followers – then and now – are always ‘Do not be afraid,’ because when we surrender to fear we are unable to live the Gospel.”

– This is an excerpt from “Do Not Be Afraid!” by Daniel P. Horan, published in Messenger of Saint Anthony, issue June 2015. For subscriptions please contact: Messenger of St Anthony, Basilica del Santo, via Orto Botanico 11, 1-35123 Padua, Italy

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TODAY’S CONSUMERISM: ENTRAPMENT IN TOO MANY ‘CHOICES’ IS ACTUALLY A FORM OF SLAVERY

“We are more than just consumers

In an inspired remark at the Mass for All Souls Day, our parish priest Fr Paul Redmond at Christ the King, Bramley, invited us to reflect on the fact that when we die and meet God ‘face to face, the full purpose and meaning of our own mysterious lives will be revealed to us’.

When we die and meet God face-to-face, the full purpose and meaning of our lives will be revealed to us

Meanwhile, we struggle on, trying to relate to others and manage our human desires for basic material goods, for other human beings and for God.

The difficulty seems to be that we are now living in times of such ferocious reductionism that our abilities to manage our desires are constantly being diminished. No need to worry about God in our secular world, only our abuse of others is a serious problem (especially in war and sexual abuse), though we can scarcely agree on what are the basic human needs of shelter, food and clothing for each and every person.

And yet, as St Augustine spelled out, our insatiable desires have the power to burn us up if not managed properly.

Our insatiable desires have the power to burn us up if not managed properly

An editorial in the recent Concilium theology magazine asked: ‘How can we humans order our desires rightly when we are bombarded with advertising that constantly tells us that we need more of everything all the time?’

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded

We are all increasingly reduced to being regarded as consumers today. All values are reduced to monetary measures as the ‘economy now rules all’. Parents are even being urged by government to ask first and foremost ‘can they afford to have another child’? Students, patients and passengers are all called ‘consumers’. Personal contribitions, even of charitable volunteers, are now measured in quantitative cash values. As Pope Francis spells out in Evangelii Gaudium : ‘human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a throwaway culture which is now spreading’.

Everything human is being given a price tag

Not only are humans being regarded as literally ‘disposable’, increased consumerism is being driven by economic globalism, which is leading to a widening divide between those getting richer and those becoming poorer. Trade and commerce are driven by a continuing commodification of human life where nearly everything that human beings can be or do is increasingly a marketable product. Everything human is being given a price tag. This is far from the mysterious meaning and purpose of the human vocation, that personal ‘calling by God’ of each and every person whose human dignity is sacred from the outset.

Resisting the tyranny of market domination

Resisting this ‘tyranny’ of market domination, as Pope Francis labels it, is a huge challenge. Notably, the new supermarkets of Aldi and Lidl are overtaking the ‘big four’. In Leeds, Morrisons in Kirkstall offers 28,000 choices of goods on the shelves; the new Aldi store in Bramley only 8,000. St Augustine warned that entrapment in too many ‘choices’ is actually a form of slavery which diminishes our capacity to make really important choices.

I find myself hard to grasp (St Augustine)

When he wrote ‘I find myself hard to grasp’ he was challenging that  reduction of our lives to the economy of ever-expanding choices and inviting us to open up to God’s mysterious purposes.

– This article by John Battle was published in the Catholic Universe newspaper, issue 7th November, 2014. (Bold and headings added afterwards.) For subscriptions to the Catholic Universe newspaper please contact http://www.thecatholicuniverse.com (external link)

 

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TODAY’S GOSPEL READING (MATTHEW 19:16-22)

(Week 20 of the year: Monday)

IF YOU WISH TO BE PERFECT, SELL WHAT YOU OWN AND YOU WILL HAVE TREASURE IN HEAVEN

There was a man who came to Jesus and asked, “Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is one alone who is good. But if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said, “Which?” “These,” Jesus replied. “You must not kill. You must not commit adultery. You must not bring false witness. Honour your father and mother, and: you must love your neighbour as yourself.”

The young man said to him, “I have kept all these. What more do I need to do?” Jesus said, “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard these words he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 
 

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TODAY’S PSALM (PSALM 113B)

R. Sons of Israel, trust in the Lord.

1. Our God, he is in the heavens;
he does whatever he wills.
Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands. (R.)

2. They have mouths but they cannot speak;
they have eyes but they cannot see;
they have ears but they cannot hear;
they have nostrils but they cannot smell. (R.)

3. With their hands they cannot feel;
with their feet they cannot walk.
Their makers will become like them:
so will all who trust in them. (R.)

4. Sons of Israel, trust in the Lord;
he is their help and their shield.
Sons of Aaron, trust in the Lord;
he is their help and their shield. (R.)

ALLELUIA

Alleluia, alleluia!
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our mind,
so that we can see what hope his call holds for us.
Alleluia!

 

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“EACH OF US IS A KEY FIGURE IN GOD’S PLAN”

“Most of us lead rather unexciting lives. From childhood on, through high school and perhaps through college, we have followed a pretty conventional path. We have settled into a job or profession, sometimes without too much choice in the matter. We have married, bought a home, founded a family and are tied to a routine in which every day is quite like every other day.

‘WE HAVE FOLLOWED A PRETTY CONVENTIONAL PATH’

We are neither rich nor famous. Nothing very thrilling ever happens to us. Life is just a continuing round of work, bill-paying, minor crises and moderate pleasures. We read about other people whose names make the news, people who are doing important things, and we feel vaguely dissatisfied. Our own life seems drab and insignificant by comparison.

‘NOTHING VERY THRILLING EVER HAPPENS TO US’

We can see nothing in our future except more of what we have in our present. We wonder whether we have somehow missed the boat. Perhaps we were meant for greater things than this rut of mediocrity in which we seem to be imprisoned. It is all very discouraging.

‘WE WONDER WHETHER WE HAVE SOMEHOW MISSED THE BOAT’

There are very few of us who wholly escape such jaundiced moments of self-depreciation. They may not occur often, but we do encounter periods when we feel disheartened at what appears to be the pointlessness of our life.

‘WE DO ENCOUNTER PERIODS WHEN WE FEEL DISHEARTENED’

It seems that we need to remind ourselves of our essential importance in God’s scheme of things. Each of us is a key figure in God’s plan; otherwise He would not have created us. And our importance, in God’s eyes, is not to be measured by spectacular achievements, but precisely by the day-to-day fulfilment of the duties which we sometimes find so deadly dull.

GLORY ENOUGH FOR ALL

It is a fruitless undertaking to attempt to evaluate the comparative value of human accomplishments. It does seem obvious, however, that some of the achievements which rate high in news value may be scaled pretty low by God’s standards. The first men to land on the moon will have demonstrated a high degree of courage and of physical stamina, but they will not necessarily have added much to the sum of total human happiness.

ADDING TO THE SUM OF TOTAL HUMAN HAPPINESS

Moreover, there is no man (or woman) who can with honesty preen himself upon the success of his endeavours, whether he be the President of the United States or the world’s greatest artist. He never can say, ‘I did it all by myself.’ Too many other people have had a part in his making.

WE CANNOT TAKE ALL THE CREDIT

His parents have transmitted to him his brains and his talents and have formed his character and implanted ideals. Selfless and dedicated teachers have cultivated his mind and have imparted knowledge. Numberless friends and acquaintances along the way have bestowed encouragement and support.

LIKE A GREAT RIVER IS FORMED BY THE CONFLUENCE OF TRIBUTARY STREAMS…

Like a great river which is formed by the confluence of many tributary streams, a ‘great’ man is the fortunate focus of the contribution of many people. He has added his own bit to the total, unquestionably. He has used his assets well. But he has not arrived at his objective alone and unaided.

NOT ALONE AND UNAIDED

God’s plan for the universe undoubtedly calls periodically for men and women of beyond-average talent and accomplishment. This is true even on the natural level and aside from the heroism of the saints. When such men and women are needed, God can be depended upon to see that they are produced.

However, when it comes to the assignment of merit, God has only one rule: the ultimate glory goes to him who does the best he can with such abilities and opportunities as he possesses, however humble that ‘best’ may be.

A VERY IMPORTANT ROLE

By the usual standards of money, power, romance, fame and success, ours may be a very undistinguished life. Yet, to God and to the final realisation of His plan, ours may be a very important role. We cannot measure or even know the eventual effect of our influence upon our fellows. But we do know that our day-to-day relationships with family, friends, co-workers and even casual acquaintances, can constitute a vocation of a very high order.

The simple kindness and considerateness which we show toward others, may, in the end, be of greater consequence for humanity than the conquest of space.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966

 

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TODAY’S GOSPEL READING (MATTHEW 6:24-34)

DO NOT WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW.

Jesus said to his disciples: “No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and money.

“That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. Surely life means more than food, and the body more than clothing! Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are? Can any of you, for all his worrying, add one single cubit to his span of life? And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his reglia was robed like one of these. Now if that is how God clothes the grass in the field which is there today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you men of little faith? So do not worry; do not say, ‘What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?’ It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set yor hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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ARE WE TURNING TO GOD ONLY WHEN WE NEED SOMETHING?

A BREATH-TAKING QUESTION

“‘What wouldst thou have me do for thee?’ This is the question which Jesus put to the blind man who besought mercy of our Lord as He passed by on His way to Jerusalem. It was a breath-taking question. It was a blank check on the infinite power of God. ‘Anything you want you may have,’ Jesus is saying. ‘What is your choice?’

The blind man had his answer ready. He was obsessed by a single consuming desire – to be able to gaze upon the world about him. ‘Lord, that I may see!’ he begged. Instantly his prayer was granted. ‘Receive thy sight,’ Jesus replied, ‘thy faith has saved thee.’

‘THY FAITH HAS SAVED THEE’

If Jesus suddenly were to appear before us with a similar question, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ what would our answer be? Better health? Success on the job? Money to pay off the bills? Solution of a personal or family problem?

It is to be hoped that we would have the discernment to pass over all such lesser needs and to ask for the gift which surpasses all others in importance: the grace of final perseverance, the grace of a happy death. ‘Lord, that I may love You, and love You to the end!’ This surely would be our answer if we had but one opportunity to draw upon God’s bounty.

Fortunately we are not limited to one opportunity. Jesus does not appear visibly before us, but His ears are permanently attuned to us. His invitation is never withdrawn, His benevolence is never exhausted. ‘What wouldst thou have me do for thee?’

JESUS’ INVITATION IS NEVER WITHDRAWN

God knows our wants, of course, even better than we know them ourselves. It would seem that in temporal matters the more perfect prayer of petition would be simply, ‘Give me whatever You know to be best for me, Lord; whatever is most in accord with Your will.’

Still, it pleases God to have us turn to Him in our particular needs. In every prayer of petition there is an implied act of adoration. By our requests we acknowledge God’s infinite goodness and power. We would not be turning to Him if we did not believe He cares for us and that He can help us.

GOD’S INFINITE WISDOM

If our entreaty is to be effective, however, it must also include an acknowledgement of God’s infinite wisdom. We must concede that, in the end, only God knows what is best for us and for those whose lives are intertwined with ours. His must be the final decision as to whether another grace must be substituted instead.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF PRAYER: THE HIERARCHY OF IMPORTANCE

As we well know, petitions are the least essential of our prayers. In the hierarchy of importance, prayers of adoration are at the top of the list. These are the prayers in which we salute God’s infinite greatness and holiness. We concede our own nothingness apart from Him. We assure Him of our faith in Him, our trust in Him and, above all, of our love for Him.

Next come prayers of thanksgiving for the love and the care which God has lavished upon us. Adoration and gratitude then naturally lead to prayers of contrition, as we grieve for our pettiness and our disobedience to a God so holy and good.

It is only after these three steps that we are prepared for prayer of petition. This does not mean that every time we give ourselves to prayer we must mechanically tick off praise, thanksgiving and contrition before daring to ask God for anything. It means only that we must maintain a sense of proportion in our prayers and not think that when we have asked for our daily bread, we can let the rest of the Lord’s prayer go by the board.

PRAYERS PLEASING TO GOD

In our petitions, too, there is a gradation of importance. Unselfish prayers, prayers offered for the needs of other persons, are especially pleasing to God. In praying for ourselves, it is our spiritual petitions which God most welcomes. When we plead, ‘Please, God, help me to keep from sin.’ ‘Please, God, help me to do Your will always,’ or ‘Please, God, help me to grow in love for You,’ there is no need to add the condition, ‘If it be Thy will’. In such petitions, we KNOW that our will is at one with God’s. Offered with sincerity and perseverance, these requests infallibly will be granted.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966

 

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