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Tuesday, February 5, 2019
FEAST OF ST. agatha-chinese new year (pig)
Mark, Chapter 5, Verse 35-36
35 While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” 36 Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
This is the message of the gospel: “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” All who believe in Christ for their salvation have access to Him at any time. Christ compels us to trust in Him as He did the synagogue official. Through faith the Holy Spirit brings us the gifts of knowledge and understanding. The gift of counsel and we are driven by the spirit to a higher level of prudence. We are docil to the spirits promptings; we have foresight and circumspection and we desire holiness.
DISCERNMENT of Life
How can we know if something comes from the Holy Spirit or if it stems from the spirit of the world or the spirit of the devil? The only way is through discernment, which calls for something more than intelligence or common sense. It is a gift which we must implore. If we ask with confidence that the Holy Spirit grant us this gift, and then seek to develop it through prayer, reflection, reading and good counsel, then surely, we will grow in this spiritual endowment.
An urgent need
The gift of discernment has become all the more necessary today, since contemporary life offers immense possibilities for action and distraction, and the world presents all of them as valid and good. All of us, but especially the young, are immersed in a culture of zapping. We can navigate simultaneously on two or more screens and interact at the same time with two or three virtual scenarios. Without the wisdom of discernment, we can easily become prey to every passing trend. This is all the more important when some novelty presents itself in our lives. Then we have to decide whether it is new wine brought by God or an illusion created by the spirit of this world or the spirit of the devil. At other times, the opposite can happen, when the forces of evil induce us not to change, to leave things as they are, to opt for a rigid resistance to change. Yet that would be to block the working of the Spirit. We are free, with the freedom of Christ. Still, he asks us to examine what is within us – our desires, anxieties, fears and questions – and what takes place all around us – “the signs of the times” – and thus to recognize the paths that lead to complete freedom. “Test everything; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess 5:21).
Always in the light of the Lord
Discernment is necessary not only at extraordinary times, when we need to resolve grave problems and make crucial decisions. It is a means of spiritual combat for helping us to follow the Lord more faithfully. We need it at all times, to help us recognize God’s timetable, lest we fail to heed the promptings of his grace and disregard his invitation to grow. Often discernment is exercised in small and apparently irrelevant things, since greatness of spirit is manifested in simple everyday realities. It involves striving untrammelled for all that is great, better and more beautiful, while at the same time being concerned for the little things, for each day’s responsibilities and commitments. For this reason, I ask all Christians not to omit, in dialogue with the Lord, a sincere daily “examination of conscience”. Discernment also enables us to recognize the concrete means that the Lord provides in his mysterious and loving plan, to make us move beyond mere good intentions.
A Supernatural Gift
Certainly, spiritual discernment does not exclude existential, psychological, sociological or moral insights drawn from the human sciences. At the same time, it transcends them. Nor are the Church’s sound norms sufficient. We should always remember that discernment is a grace. Even though it includes reason and prudence, it goes beyond them, for it seeks a glimpse of that unique and mysterious plan that God has for each of us, which takes shape amid so many varied situations and limitations. It involves more than my temporal well-being, my satisfaction at having accomplished something useful, or even my desire for peace of mind. It has to do with the meaning of my life before the Father who knows and loves me, with the real purpose of my life, which nobody knows better than he. Ultimately, discernment leads to the wellspring of undying life: to know the Father, the only true God, and the one whom he has sent, Jesus Christ. It requires no special abilities, nor is it only for the more intelligent or better educated. The Father readily reveals himself to the lowly. The Lord speaks to us in a variety of ways, at work, through others and at every moment. Yet we simply cannot do without the silence of prolonged prayer, which enables us better to perceive God’s language, to interpret the real meaning of the inspirations we believe we have received, to calm our anxieties and to see the whole of our existence afresh in his own light. In this way, we allow the birth of a new synthesis that springs from a life inspired by the Spirit.
Nonetheless, it is possible that, even in prayer itself, we could refuse to let ourselves be confronted by the freedom of the Spirit, who acts as he wills. We must remember that prayerful discernment must be born of a readiness to listen: to the Lord and to others, and to reality itself, which always challenges us in new ways. Only if we are prepared to listen, do we have the freedom to set aside our own partial or insufficient ideas, our usual habits and ways of seeing things. In this way, we become truly open to accepting a call that can shatter our security but lead us to a better life. It is not enough that everything be calm and peaceful. God may be offering us something more, but in our comfortable inadvertence, we do not recognize it. Naturally, this attitude of listening entails obedience to the Gospel as the ultimate standard, but also to the Magisterium that guards it, as we seek to find in the treasury of the Church whatever is most fruitful for the “today” of salvation. It is not a matter of applying rules or repeating what was done in the past, since the same solutions are not valid in all circumstances and what was useful in one context may not prove so in another. The discernment of spirits liberates us from rigidity, which has no place before the perennial “today” of the risen Lord. The Spirit alone can penetrate what is obscure and hidden in every situation, and grasp its every nuance, so that the newness of the Gospel can emerge in another light.
The Logic of Gift and of the Cross
An essential condition for progress in discernment is a growing understanding of God’s patience and his timetable, which are never our own. God does not pour down fire upon those who are unfaithful or allow the zealous to uproot the tares growing among the wheat. Generosity too is demanded, for “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. Discernment is not about discovering what more we can get out of this life, but about recognizing how we can better accomplish the mission entrusted to us at our baptism. This entails a readiness to make sacrifices, even to sacrificing everything. For happiness is a paradox. We experience it most when we accept the mysterious logic that is not of this world: “This is our logic”, says Saint Bonaventure, pointing to the cross. Once we enter into this dynamic, we will not let our consciences be numbed and we will open ourselves generously to discernment. When, in God’s presence, we examine our life’s journey, no areas can be off limits. In all aspects of life, we can continue to grow and offer something greater to God, even in those areas we find most difficult. We need, though, to ask the Holy Spirit to liberate us and to expel the fear that makes us ban him from certain parts of our lives. God asks everything of us, yet he also gives everything to us. He does not want to enter our lives to cripple or diminish them, but to bring them to fulfilment. Discernment, then, is not a solipsistic self-analysis or a form of egotistical introspection, but an authentic process of leaving ourselves behind in order to approach the mystery of God, who helps us to carry out the mission to which he has called us, for the good of our brothers and sisters.
FEAST of Saint AGATHA
Agatha came from, Catania, a city in Sicily. I was stationed there while in the Navy and lived in a small town of Nicolosi which was situated on the Volcano (Etna) near the city of Catania. I was impressed and formed as a young man by the faith and beauty of the people of Sicily.
Agatha was born in Sicily and died there a martyr. She belonged to a rich, important family. When she was young, she dedicated her life to God and resisted any men who wanted to marry her or have sex with her. One of these men, Quintian, was of a high enough rank that he felt he could force her to acquiesce. Knowing she was a Christian in a time of persecution, he had her arrested and brought before the judge - - himself. He expected her to give in to when faced with torture and possible death, but she simply affirmed her belief in God by praying: "Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am your sheep: make me worthy to overcome the devil." Quintian imprisoned her in a brothel in order to get her to change her mind. He brought her back before him after she had suffered a month of assault and humiliation in the brothel, but Agatha had never wavered, proclaiming that her freedom came from Jesus. Quintian sent her to prison, instead of back to the brothel -- a move intended to make her more afraid, but which probably was a great relief to her. When she continued to profess her faith in Jesus, He had her tortured. He refused her any medical care, but God gave her all the care she needed in the form of a vision of St. Peter. When she was tortured again, she died after saying a final prayer: "Lord, my Creator, you have always protected me from the cradle; you have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Receive my soul." Because one of the tortures she supposedly suffered was to have her breasts cut off, she was often depicted carrying her breasts on a plate. It is thought that blessing of the bread that takes place on her feast may have come from the mistaken notion that she was carrying loaves of bread. Because she was asked for help during the eruption of Mount Etna, she is considered a protector against the outbreak of fire. She is also considered the patroness of bell makers for an unknown reason -- though some speculate it may have something to do with the fact that bells were used as fire alarms.
Prayer: Saint Agatha, you suffered sexual assault and indignity because of your faith. Help heal all those who are survivors of sexual assault and protect those women who are in danger. Amen
Things to Do
· Bake an Agatha loaf! On St. Agatha's feast day people would bake loaves attached to a picture of St. Agatha and prayers for protection from fires. The parish priests would bless the loaves, and people would keep them in their homes in case of a poor harvest and famine. The prayers would then be hung above the main door of each home to invoke St. Agatha's guardianship.
· Spanish tradition associates this feast day with ancient fertility customs. Young men would visit many farms throughout the countryside, singing songs of praise to St. Agatha and invoking God's blessing upon people, animals, and fields. However, if they did not receive the customary gifts of money or food for their services, they would call down a 'quick old age' upon the ungrateful inhabitants of that farm. Although most of us do not live in such communities where this kind of custom would be practicable or even understood, we can pray to St. Agatha for a greater openness to the transmission of new life in our culture, and actively affirm and support young couples with children whenever possible.
· St. Agatha is the patron saint against fire. Take this day to establish a fire escape plan for the family and to practice a family fire drill. Also check the smoke detectors, fire alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors to see if they are all working. Change the batteries on all the alarms! (Idea taken from A Treasure Chest of Traditions for Catholic Families by Monica McConkey. Used with permission. Write to [email protected] or see Arma Dei for more information about this great book. Treasure Chest is filled with unique ideas for activities, crafts and recipes to help families celebrate the various Seasons and Feast Days of the year.) She also has a couple of excellent websites worth a visit: Equipping Catholic Families and Arma Dei Shop.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year Facts & Quotes
· 2018 was the Year of the Dog according to the Chinese animal zodiac cycle. 2019 will be the Year of the Pig.
· The Chinese New Year is celebrated as the Spring Festival in China. It is the nation's most important festival.
· Every child receives a monetary gift for New Year. The gift is wrapped in a red envelope.
· I wish you happiness that comes from within, the best of luck to keep you pushing and peace in all days of the New Year. - Gong Xi Fa Cai, Popular New Year song
Chinese New Year Top Events and Things to Do
· Sing a popular Chinese New Year song called Gonf Xi Fa Cai.
· Clean your house. It is customary for Chinese to clean their homes in preparation for the New Year and the fresh start.
· Prepare your red envelopes for the kids. This is considered lucky money for children.
· Attend a Chinese New Year Festival in a town near you. Most large cities in the US have a Chinatown district that will host events and pageants.
· Get together with friends and create a long dragon on sticks. One person gets to create the head, and the remainder creates the long flowy tail. Remember to use bright colors.
The Way Penance
"Read these counsels slowly. Pause to meditate on these thoughts. They are things that I whisper in your ear-confiding them-as a friend, as a brother, as a father. And they are being heard by God. I won't tell you anything new. I will only stir your memory, so that some thought will arise and strike you; and so you will better your life and set out along ways of prayer and of Love. And in the end you will be a more worthy soul."
You are crying? Don't be ashamed of it. Yes, cry: men also cry like you, when they are alone and before God. Each night, says King David, I soak my bed with tears. With those tears, those burning, manly tears, you can purify your past and supernaturalize your present life.
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