|Ponder Jesus's Love
Let us ponder Jesus' love for us and his zeal for our well-being, and let us be calm because of that, not doubting that he will help us with more than fatherly protection against all our enemies.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary
In her short life Elizabeth manifested such great love for the poor and suffering that she has become the patroness of Catholic charities and of the Secular Franciscan Order. The daughter of the King of Hungary, Elizabeth chose a life of penance and asceticism when a life of leisure and luxury could easily have been hers. This choice endeared her in the hearts of the common people throughout Europe.
At the age of 14 Elizabeth was married to Louis of Thuringia (a German principality), whom she deeply loved; she bore three children. Under the spiritual direction of a Franciscan friar, she led a life of prayer, sacrifice and service to the poor and sick. Seeking to become one with the poor, she wore simple clothing. Daily she would take bread to hundreds of the poorest in the land, who came to her gate.
After six years of marriage, her husband died in the Crusades, and Elizabeth was grief-stricken. Her husband's family looked upon her as squandering the royal purse, and mistreated her, finally throwing her out of the palace. The return of her husband's allies from the Crusades resulted in her being reinstated, since her son was legal heir to the throne.
In 1228, Elizabeth joined the Secular Franciscan Order, spending the remaining few years of her life caring for the poor in a hospital which she founded in honor of St. Francis. Elizabeth's health declined, and she died before her 24th birthday in 1231. Her great popularity resulted in her canonization four years later.
"Today, there is an inescapable duty to make ourselves the neighbor of every individual, without exception, and to take positive steps to help a neighbor whom we encounter, whether that neighbor be an elderly person, abandoned by everyone, a foreign worker who suffers the injustice of being despised, a refugee, an illegitimate child wrongly suffering for a sin of which the child is innocent, or a starving human being who awakens our conscience by calling to mind the words of Christ: 'As long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me' (Matthew 25:40)" (Vatican II, Pastoral
Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 27, Austin Flannery translation).
Daily Prayer - 2015-11-17
My soul longs for your presence, Lord.
When I turn my thoughts to You,
I find peace and contentment.
Fill me with Your Holy Spirit Lord,
so that I may have inner freedom.
Let your Spirit instil in my heart
a desire to know and love you more each day.
Knowing that God loves me unconditionally,
I look honestly over the last day, its events and my feelings.
Do I have something to be grateful for? Then I give thanks.
Is there something I am sorry for? Then I ask forgiveness.
The Word of God
Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious
Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes,
a man of advanced age and noble appearance,
was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork.
But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement,
he spat out the meat,
and went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture,
as people ought to do who have the courage to reject the food
which it is unlawful to taste even for love of life.
Those in charge of that unlawful ritual meal took the man aside privately,
because of their long acquaintance with him,
and urged him to bring meat of his own providing,
such as he could legitimately eat,
and to pretend to be eating some of the meat of the sacrifice
prescribed by the king;
in this way he would escape the death penalty,
and be treated kindly because of their old friendship with him.
But Eleazar made up his mind in a
worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age,
the merited distinction of his gray hair,
and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood;
and so he declared that above all
he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God.
He told them to send him at once
to the abode of the dead, explaining:
"At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense;
many young people would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar
had gone over to an alien religion.
Should I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life,
they would be led astray by me,
while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age.
Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men,
I shall never, whether alive or dead,
escape the hands of the Almighty.
Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now,
I will prove myself
worthy of my old age,
and I will leave to the young a noble example
of how to die willingly and generously
for the revered and holy laws."
Eleazar spoke thus,
and went immediately to the instrument of torture.
Those who shortly before had been kindly disposed,
now became hostile toward him because what he had said
seemed to them utter madness.
When he was about to die under the blows,
he groaned and said:
"The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that,
although I could have escaped death,
I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging,
but also suffering it with joy in my soul
because of my devotion to him."
This is how he died,
leaving in his death a model of courage
and an unforgettable example of virtue
not only for the young but for the whole nation.
R. (6b) The Lord upholds me.
O LORD, how many are my adversaries!
Many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
"There is no salvation for him in God."
R. The Lord upholds me.
But you, O LORD, are my shield;
my glory, you lift up my head!
When I call out to the LORD,
he answers me from his holy mountain.
R. The Lord upholds me.
When I lie down in sleep,
I wake again, for the LORD sustains me.
I fear not the myriads of people
arrayed against me on every side.
R. The Lord upholds me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God loved us, and sent his Son
as expiation for our sins.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
- - -
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
"Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house."
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
"He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner."
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
"Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it
four times over."
And Jesus said to him,
"Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost."
Some thoughts on today's scripture
- Jesus has come "to seek out and to save the lost". This final verse is the lens through which we are asked to contemplate this entire story. Zacchaeus is a high-ranking tax collector in the pay of the Roman occupiers. To his follow-Jews he is a traitor and, in their words, a sinner. Yet he is the man whom Jesus chooses to be his host during his stay in Jericho. What does this say about Jesus? About his ministry? About his priorities? Do I share these or am I among the naysayers and critics?
- How would Zacchaeus later tell his friends the story of his conversion?
I begin to talk to Jesus about the piece of scripture I have just read.
What part of it strikes a chord in me? Perhaps the words of a friend - or some story I have heard recently - will slowly rise to the surface in my consciousness. If so, does the story throw light on what the scripture passage may be trying to say to me?
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning,
is now and ever shall be,
world without end.
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Memorial)
If I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over. (Luke 19:8)
Try to imagine this scenario for a moment: You are Zacchaeus the tax collector, and you hear that Jesus is in town. You run out of your house and climb all the way up a tree to see him. When you see him and hear him speak to you, you are so moved that you promise to give half your possessions to the poor and to restore fourfold anyone you've defrauded.
Now, what would you think if Jesus were to say to you, "That's all right, Zacchaeus. You don't have to go so far. Just give back what you owe, and make sure you come to the synagogue every Sabbath. I don't want you to overdo it"?
We all sense that Jesus would never react that way. It's not that he demanded extravagant restitution as punishment for Zacchaeus' acts of dishonesty. And it's not that he needed Zacchaeus to balance the scales in an extreme way. No, Jesus was delighted with Zacchaeus because he saw how sincere this man was. Zacchaeus was called a true "descendant of Abraham" because he was acting freely, responding to the love that Jesus had for him (Luke 19:9). Jesus saw that Zacchaeus was acting out of love, not fear—that his restitution was an act of gratitude, not obligation.
That's the way the mercy of God works. It is so extravagant and generous that it changes us. It convinces us to love and to give just as freely as Jesus has given to us. As St. Paul once said, our experience of this love "impels us" in a way that everyday logic can never do (2 Corinthians 5:14).
Spend some time in prayer today rejoicing in the extravagant, extreme, and unbounded love that Jesus has for you. Put yourself in Zacchaeus' shoes, and let your encounter with the Lord move you to praise and worship him. "He loves me! He forgives me! He welcomes me with open arms!" Let these truths ring in your heart today. Let his love expand your heart so that you can love just as freely and generously.
"Lord, show me your love and your mercy. Come, Jesus, and teach me to be just as extravagant as you are!"
2 Maccabees 6:18-31
Eleazar was being forced to choose life, or death, for himself and it is a foreshadowing of Christ who was also offered freedom "if only". If only what? If only you give up everything you've ever lived for? If only you do as they say? Our one year old boy wants us to do everything he says or else the temper tantrum will ensue, like in Mass yesterday (yes there is Mass every day!). He wanted me to follow him out the door, instead I brought him back and the twisting and turning and screaming and crying in that little chapel began. But it's not that different than at home. And this is where we are getting to with our Lord
Jesus. Eleazar chose death, but in a manner that gave glory to God. Nowadays we hear of terrorists that die who in their own eyes are dying for a good cause, but terribly wrong, because nobody is taking their lives or forcing them to do anything. There is a difference and the difference for the good is Jesus, the one who works miracles, and the strongest of all? The one in the heart that gives life, and He gives life eternal by giving first our lives as we know it. Glory to God for we remain steadfast, Glory to God, because if only we get one chance to give Glory to God it is now, wiht this one life we have been given!
The Lord upholds me. This we pray today. Upheld by love, and the love of life, the protection of life, the giving of life for life. The Lord upholds me. The only enemy is the one that destroys families and life,
family life. We are speaking then, not of people, but the evil that possesses people, in sin and rooted in pride. The Lord upholds me, yet, do I uphold the Lord? Where is the Holy Bible in my house? In a drawer? On a shelf with the rest of the books? Do you even have a bible? For Catholics it is usually asked to be set on an altar, a holy sacred place in your home...your heart.
In comes Jesus, and in comes Jesus into the home of a rich tax collector/ government worker. It is said that in a country there are those that work for the government and their salaries were disclosed to the shock of many, thousands of dollars per day, to cover their pedicures, and massages, and haircuts and this is only what was disclosed. The people are disgusted with them, because the people suffer in poverty while they live in luxury. Yet, the Lord
reaches out to the people that are disgusting. He seeks and finds the lost. He seeks and saves. His has always been a search and rescue from the clutches of eternal death. Notice the Lord calls Zacchaeus by name. Imagine the Lord calling you by name "My Child, come down here right away, let's go eat at your house". What's with the Lord always wanting to come into your home, and then what's with the Lord desiring to eat with His people? Sharing. Then, ultimately He shares Himself. This is the emobidiment of His life of giving. As if to say, to this starving world in darkness, I offer my body for its salvation. You may eat of me, and you will never run out of me, because I am eternal life. We consume eternity in consuming Him. When we speak about the home of ourselves we are speaking about the temple, the temple of
your body that houses the Spirit. He wants in, for whatever else is in there is not Him. Then rightly so, invite Him in. Inside He will come when you ask Him, because the Lord does not force Himself. They say the Lord is a complete gentleman. Rightly so we are to be the virgin, pure and undefiled Holy Church. This courting is a love relationship like no other. For if there is ever a more romantic and ecstatic love in the world, it is that of the Lord and His elect. Two words came to mind as perhaps a message today as a prophecy of the Lord our God, "Shocking Gratitude". Zack today was shocked and zapped by God's attention, for the Lord hadn't asked for anything else than to be welcomed into his home, and Zack was so thankful to be reached with mercy, love and grace that He was converted into mercy, love, and grace. This is the
exact effect our Lord should have in our daily lives. Learn what it means when He desires mercy more than sacrifice. Speaking of sacrifice, we are about 40 days till Christmas, join me and my family in a 40 day sacrifice, like lent, and offer it for the peace of the world for the day the Lord is born is born the prince of peace. Mostly, you'll be inviting Him in a special way, making room for more. More adoration. Don't be left wondering "if only". Have faith, the Lord is reaching out to you....
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