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“If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” John 1:6-7

The month of July is devoted to our Lord’s Precious Blood. Jesus became incarnate by taking on our human nature. His blood is from human nature, and our redemption was at a cost – the shedding of His Blood on Calvary. Jesus gave back every drop when He redeemed us with His Precious Blood. Sin offends God. The gravity of this fact lies in that our sin required the Blood of Christ, the Son of God, to forgive that sin. Through the Sacraments this Blood flows into our souls to cleanse and purify us and to enrich us with His grace. Oh the purity acquired for us in the Precious Blood of Christ!  Venerate and realize how truly precious it is and to become more sensitive to how awful sin is, since it cost Jesus the shedding of His blood and His life.

His Blood also means life. In John chapter six Our Lords says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”

St. Teresa of Jesus, in her work entitled The Interior Castle, explains that worldly persons living in mortal sins are not able to retire into their own hearts, since they are accustomed “to be with reptiles and other creatures living outside the castle” where the King lives. She therefore admonishes them by saying, “O souls, redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ, take these things to heart; have mercy on yourselves…remove the darkness from the crystal of your souls.” (Interior Castle, Book 1:2)

One day while St. Therese of Lisieux was looking at an image of Jesus on the Cross she became focused on the blood. In her autobiography she recounts: “I was struck by the blood flowing from one of the divine hands. I felt a great pang of sorrow when thinking that this blood was falling to the ground without anyone’s hastening to gather it up. I was resolved to remain in spirit at the foot of the Cross and to receive the divine dew. I understood I was then to pour it out upon souls. The cry of Jesus on the Cross sounded continually in my heart: “I thirst!” These words ignited within me an unknown and very living fire. I wanted to give my Beloved to drink and I felt myself consumed with a thirst for souls. As yet is was not the souls of priests that attracted me, but those of great sinners; I burned with the desire to snatch them from the eternal flames.”

We can offer this Precious Blood for great sinners. By actively participating in Mass and by uniting with the offering of the priest, we can offer the Blood of Christ for sinners. We can make visits to the Blessed Sacrament adoring the Real Presence of Our Lord, and through our prayers for sinners, we can ask that souls will come to live a life of grace by living a sacramental life and will live according to their great dignity that God has given to them.

“Every time a creature offers up this Blood by which he was redeemed, he offers a gift of infinite worth, which can be equaled by no other!” (St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi)

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Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is often referred to as the Real Presence. This is because Christ in His fullness abides in the Eucharist. In it dwells both His human and divine natures. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1374 explains this presence:

 “The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.” In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” “This presence is called ‘real’ – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”

St. Teresa of Jesus was devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and this especially shows through in her teachings on the Sacred Humanity of Christ. She exhorted her nuns to meditate on the life of Christ and even wrote that to abandon the humanity of Jesus was a hindrance to prayer. She teaches this because God chose to reach out to His people through the human person. Consequently devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus encourages Carmelites to reflect on the humanity of Jesus who loves with a human heart.

So after Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, He did not leave earth. Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament in the same way that He is present in Heaven. Therefore His physical heart is there in the Blessed Sacrament.

All this then makes one see why St. Teresa would write, “Certainly, I think that if we were to approach the most Blessed Sacrament with great faith and love, once would be enough to leave us rich. How much richer from approaching so many times as we do. The trouble is we do so out of routine, and it shows.” [Meditations on Song of Songs, 3:13]

It shows. We do see the bread and wine and behind them we believe that Christ is present, since faith supplies what the senses fail to perceive. But how routine has our reception of the Blessed Sacrament become? The Sacrament does confer grace; how could one be in the Presence of Christ and not be affected?  The grace received is the grace to love. Through our faith in the Eucharist, charity grows in us both towards God and others. Does it show?

St. Teresa gives advice on how to receive the Eucharist with greater devotion and profit:  “After having received the Lord, since you have the Person Himself present, strive to close the eyes of the body and open those to the soul and look into your own heart… You should acquire the habit of doing this every time you receive Communion.” [Way of Perfection, 34:12] And “ If you immediately turn your thoughts to other things, if you pay no attention and take no account of the fact that He is within you, how will He be able to reveal Himself to you? This, then, is a good time for our Master to teach us, and for us to listen to Him. [Way of Perfection, 34: 10]

She also wrote that, “From certain things He told me, I understood that after he ascended to heaven He never came down to earth to commune with anyone except in the most Blessed Sacrament.” [Spiritual Testimonies, 13] Therefore it is important to receive the Eucharist in a state of grace. To this she also wrote that, “I understood well how much more priests are obliged to be good than are others, how deplorable a thing it is to receive this most Blessed Sacrament unworthily.” [Life, 38: 23]

Our devotion to the Eucharist and the Sacred Heart of Jesus can be also fostered in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, whether exposed or reserved in the tabernacle. This is a great way to strengthen our faith and to draw closer in our union with Christ. Many communities, especially religious communities, have Eucharistic Exposition and Adoration available for the faithful. Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament is a great way to foster holiness. St. Teresa made certain that the Blessed Sacrament was in each of her foundations. This was often the first task that she attended to when making new foundations as she writes in her Foundations chapter 29,  “We took the Blessed Sacrament and had it reserved in the church with great and well-organized solemnity. It caused much devotion.”

Since we have such a blessing in the Real Presence let us, “Behold Him here without suffering, full of glory, before ascending into heaven, strengthening some, encouraging others, our companion in the most Blessed Sacrament; it doesn’t seem it was in His power to leave us for even a moment.” [Life, 22: 6]

Need more reasons to visit the Blessed Sacrament? Look here for 24 more reasons.

 

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Mary Magdala goes to the tomb early in the morning while it is still dark. Preoccupied with Jesus, nothing keeps her from seeking him. When she gets to the tomb she sees that the stone has been rolled away, and the tomb is empty. She runs to tell the others.

“We, too, (like Mary) have a keen desire to find the Lord: perhaps we have been seeking Him for many long years. Further, this desire may have been accompanied by serious preoccupation with the question of how we might rid ourselves of the obstacles and roll away from our souls the stone which has prevented us thus far from finding the Lord, from given ourselves entirely to Him, and from letting Him triumph in us. Precisely because we want to find the Lord, we have already overcome many obstacles, sustained by His grace; divine Providence has helped us roll away many stones, overcome many difficulties. Nevertheless, the search for God is progressive, and must be maintained during our whole life. For this reason, following the example of the holy women, we must always have a holy preoccupation about finding the Lord, a preoccupation which will make us industrious and diligent in seeking Him, and at the same time confident of the divine aid, since the Lord will certainly take care that we arrive where our owns strength could never bring us, because He will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” (Divine Intimacy,  p. 420, Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.)

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The Way of the Cross is a devotion in which the faithful follow the journey of Christ’s last day on earth. Through this devotion the Church has walked from the Mount of Olives to the hill on Calvary with Christ for many years. The Holy Land was a place of particular devotion to the Medieval Christians. Pilgrims would go to Jerusalem, walk the same path of sorrow, with stops along the way to meditate on the events of his passion, and consider the suffering of Christ.

The cross was a burden that Christ took upon himself. That burden is corrupt human nature, sin and suffering that all men are subject to in this life. However the “meaning of the way of the cross is to carry this burden out of the world.” (Hidden Life, p. 91 The Collected Works of Edith Stein, ICS Publications)

Jesus falls on the way to Calvary three times, and the “triple collapse under the burden of the cross corresponds to the triple fall of humanity: the first sin, the rejection of the savior by his chosen people, the falling away of those who bear the name of Christian.” (Hidden Life, p. 92)

The sin of our first parents brought sin and death, but Jesus freed mankind from sin and weakness by traveling this way of the cross. He embraced his passion and crucifixion so that through baptism, with the promises made to renounce sin and Satan, and through our sufferings we may rise with him in the newness of life free of self centeredness and full of joy and service to others.

Isaiah’s prophesies of the Lord’s passion were clear to all who had eyes to see. It was “our sufferings that he endured” and “he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins”. He was also “ harshly treated” and “a grave was assigned him among the wicked” although “he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood.” (Isaiah 53) Yet many of the chosen people rejected him as the Messiah. Even today many still reject Christ as savior. Thus the reason for the second fall.

It is the third fall that is of particular concern for our time. There seems to be so much falling away from the faith. Who doesn’t know of someone who once believed and now no longer practices the faith or even believes in God anymore? This is the cause of much heartache, especially when the person who has fallen away is held so dear and loved so much.

Therefore it is for this third fall that we are called to assist the Lord by helping him bear the cross. Jesus was not alone while he made this way to Calvary carrying the cross. There was Simon of Cyrene, Veronica and his mother to accompany him, as well as all the people who love him, and it was “the strength of these cross bearers” that helped “him after each of his falls.” (Hidden Life, p. 92)

Since by Christ’s example we know that suffering is the proof of God’s love for all mankind, we can love the cross and bear with our own sufferings and trials for the love of God and help him carry this burden out of the world. By bearing this burden we become united to God, to glorify him and prove our love for him and for others.

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Next to Mary St. Joseph is the second greatest saint. He is a saint we can imitate. Through our devotion to this great saint we can renew our desires to be faithful. What was St. Joseph like? What is there to imitate?

St. Joseph, according to what we know of him in Scripture, never said anything. He is a man of great silence. Instead we see him simply doing the Lord’s commands. The angel told him to take Mary as his wife and to not be afraid. This is what this just man did. He loved Mary and was self-sacrificing and generous.

He was also obedient. In Matthew’s Gospel we are told that “when Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” and took Mary as his wife. Joseph was also obedient to the commands of the legitimate secular authorities. Luke chapter 2 says, “ That a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled.” “And Joseph also went up from Galilee… to Judea, to the city of David… to be enrolled with Mary.” He was also familiar with poor and lowly conditions as he witnessed the birth of Jesus that took place in Bethlehem where Mary “gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2: 1-7)

St. Joseph spoke the holy name of Jesus. Luke 2:21 tells us that at his circumcision, “ he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived”. By doing this St. Joseph proclaimed the mission of his foster son as Savior! Jesus will save us from our sins. We too can speak His name like St. Joseph remembering that “there is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved”. (Acts 4:12)

Like St. Joseph and Mary we can marvel at what was said about Jesus and at what He says when we read the sacred scriptures and hear Him preached. St. Joseph, along with Mary, most certainly did this. When they took the infant Jesus up to the Temple, Simeon referred to the child as the salvation which God had “prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of the people of Israel”. (Luke 2:31-32) The child was also to be a “sign that is spoken against.” (verse 34)  It is God’s will that all be saved and have access to the Father through His son, Jesus Christ, and to become sharers in the Divine nature. It is at this moment that St. Joseph was reminded of his mission to be the first guardian of this mystery. Later when Jesus was twelve years old and “ supposing him to be in their company… they sought him.” (Lk 2: 43-44) Then after much searching they found him in the temple. Mary speaks. Again Joseph is silent. “Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” (verse 48)  Mary’s concern is for St. Joseph. Jesus reminds St. Joseph once again, as he contemplates the situation, that he is the guardian of that mystery foretold by Simeon – that Jesus is to save people and to be that “light to the Gentiles” – when Jesus replies that he “must be in my Father’s house.” We too, like St. Joseph, are guardians of this Divine mystery.

St. Joseph was the head of the Holy Family, and it was his job to protect his family by fleeing from dangerous situations. When Herod was searching for the child to destroy him, St. Joseph rose and took the infant Jesus and his mother to Egypt. As a father it was St. Joseph’s mission to protect, lead and head the family. Later when things had calmed down with Herod, he took the child and his mother back to Nazareth.  “The child grew and become strong, filled with wisdom: and the favor of God was upon him.” (Luke 2: 40) During these hidden years the whole family lived the hidden human virtues we are all called to live. Simple, humble virtues like: work, religion, family life and activities. These virtues are ways to sanctify our daily lives. There is nothing great here, just ordinary things done daily and lived authentically. St. Joseph can help us with his intercession to live our ordinary family days with devotion and growth in the human virtues, especially the virtue of work.

We can imitate St. Joseph and renew our desires to be faithful. We can strive to be obedient, generous and self-sacrificing. We can be devoted to our family by protecting them and growing daily in the human virtues. We can be silent and marvel at all that Jesus has said and done and is still doing for the salvation of souls. Finally we can guard the mission of Jesus by proclaiming his holy name and praying for the salvation of souls.

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presentationatthetemplebyandreamantegnaca1460

She presents him in the Temple and accompanies him on his mission. She submits herself to the laws of purification even though she does not need to be purified.

We are in need of interior purification. However, our pride often seeks to exempt us from the law. We make excuses. Often we falsely believe that parts of the law of God just do not pertain to us.

According to the law, Mary was to go to the Temple forty days after the birth of her son and participate in the purification rite. She brings the child with her. This is the first time Jesus, the Light of the World, enters the Temple.

Candles are blessed on this day by the Church. These lit tapers symbolize the life of a Christian – a life of grace that is filled with faith. Since Jesus is the Light of the World, or as Simeon proclaimed, “a light to the revelation of the Gentiles”, these candles should be a reminder to us that we too must be a light for others revealing Christ in us.

Mary is always united to her Son. We too should always be united to Jesus. Our union with him is proportional to our purity. For this Feast of the Presentation let us ask the Immaculate Heart of Mary for that pure love, free of sin and detached from all created things, and for a heart directed towards God and always tending toward him.

candlemas

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'The Adoration of the Shepherds' Guido Reni

‘The Adoration of the Shepherds’  Guido Reni

God enters the world as a small infant. There is no room for him. . . no crib.

We are ungrateful children and haven’t known the value of Jesus’ visit. Light came to disperse the darkness; His message has gone unheeded. For on that cold winter night the angels did sing, but in vain. Our indifference has stifled their glad tidings. We were astonished, but only for a moment.

Jesus came into the darkness, the darkness of sin and death, but the darkness did not receive His light. Oh! if this Advent our darkness would desire and comprehend His light! Even if we don’t, the day will come when His justice will burst upon us in all its brilliance, and He will disperse all the spiritual darkness in man’s heart.

During Advent reflect on the state of our world before Christ’s coming. It was a world filled with darkness and sin. Then let us fill our hearts with gratitude towards Jesus who came down from heaven so that He might know our miserable state experiencing all of it, except for sin, and saving us from death.

Then let us reflect on His mysterious coming that He desires to accomplish in hearts. Let us open our hearts to receive Him more fully than ever before. He desires to enter there, to dwell there and transform us. Let us consent to receive this Divine guest. He knocks and asks to be let in. He delights to be born in our hearts. Do not refuse Him. Receive Him and let Him in.

This Advent let Him in and preserve Him within you as a great treasure. Let Him rest there where He can shape your thoughts and guide your actions to be like His. Welcome Him with love and care more than before.

The Virgin, weighed
with the Word of God
comes down the road:
if only you’ll shelter her.

~St. John of the Cross

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