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God Bless you

George Calleja (Christian Author)

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Human Dignity

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‘What does the road to Emmaus remind me of?

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Meditating and studying this part of the scripture as narrated by the Gospel of Luke 24:13-35, I find that the episode of the road to Emmaus reminds me very much what a Christian passes through upon accepting in his life the love of the Father and becoming a disciple of Christ. I can easily picture myself in such a situation, remembering my first encounter with Christ, who started to change my life and mould me into His image.

I had many personal questions about who Christ really was, why He touched my life, and what He wanted from me. I went through a phase of doubting my encounter with Christ, even questioning if such an experience was real or if it was just a feeling that would go away by time. My faith was still not strong enough, and at times I also found it difficult to understand what was going on inside me. Was Jesus really speaking to me personally? Was Jesus really interested in me? How can that be?

But as time went by, I started spending more time in prayer, exploring the depth of Christ’s love in my life, and eventually through life experiences and an increase in faith, I matured in my spiritual life. As a result, I started to believe more in Christ, and my personal experience with Him started to bear fruit. I became a person who was able to love my neighbour more, to be compassionate with the people I met. My family and friends started to recognise a change in me, they became aware of my relationship with Jesus and above all that I was a more peaceful person. Happiness was a new experience in my life which also filled me with joy.

Christ brought a new meaning to my life, that is, of living my life through the love of the Father. This road in my life, of growing in my faith through the love of Christ, does not necessarily mean that I do not pass through difficult days, temptations or feel burdened in particular moments. This road has taught me to have faith in Him, to completely trust in Him, to stand up again whenever I fall and to continue to follow Him, through His joy, love, comfort, peace and patience.

In this sense, the road to Emmaus reminds me of the road a Christian goes through in life. This road is similar to the one I went through, that is, of growing in one’s spiritual life, of discovering Christ, of learning to trust in Him, of believing in Him and of following Him to share His love throughout the nations, and to experience the living Christ.

(This reflection is taken from my book ‘Emmaus… in today’s society)

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Penance and Mortification

Looking at history we can say that those who practiced penance were often the most selfless and self-sacrificing persons. From the prophets of the Old Testament to the Apostles, to the saints and religious orders throughout Church history, asceticism remained has a mainstay of Christian life. It is an act of selfless giving of oneself to other.

Purpose of Penance

The end goal of asceticism is love. Asceticism enables love to fully mature in the human person. The very call of Christian life is love. To love means to make a total gift of self to another. That is to ‘will the good of the other’. But one cannot give what one does not have. Therefore, it is necessary to first possess oneself, in order to fully give oneself away. Here, self-mastery is required. And this self-mastery is only possible by way of asceticism, which is denying the inordinate desires of the flesh through self-denial, penance and mortification. Hence, asceticism is necessary to love and therefore, to be a Christian.
This does not mean that the body in itself is ‘bad’. Humans are created in the image and likeness of God, and is therefore inherently good in nature. But the effects of Original Sin and the germ of subsequent sins inclines the humans to evil. It is this inclination to self-love every human person is called to wage war on in this life. Thus, every Christian is called to practice asceticism in order for love, that is, to make a gift of self. It is to this end that penance and mortification must lead each one of us. Thus, resulting in the elevation of the body and the person to its ultimate end in God, Who is Love itself.

Call to Penance

The call to penance and conversion is a call right through the immemorial history of human kind. Indeed, it has been the constant appeal of Marian apparitions throughout history, especially during the past hundred years or so. Here, penance and mortification are not see only as having a sanctifying effect on the individual, but also on the Church as a whole. The more a person’s life is patterned after the life of our Redeemer – Who’s greatest work entailed the greatest sacrifice – the more that person will make up what is lacking in the body of Christ, says St. Paul.

Primacy of Interior Mortification

While exterior penance can be an important compliment to one’s spiritual progress, they are nonetheless of a secondary rank to interior mortifications, where we deny our will, our attachments, our preferences, our appetites, our ego, our desires for comfort, etc. These interior mortifications are considered by the saints to be the most meritorious, since they directly cut at the root of self-will and self-love. In penance love and humility must be present, as well as obedience and docility to the Divine will. Ultimately, exterior mortification should lead us inward toward interior mortification.

Penance: when too weak or ill

The saints remind us that penance should never interfere with one’s ability to perform one’s duties in life. They consider weakness and illness in itself as a great treasure in religious life. Therefore, let no one get discouraged if physical illness prevents a person from doing more. It is in illness that rapid progress can be made in the spiritual life. In this sense, external penances should only be regarded as an interim measure for when we are healthy, keeping the flesh at bay until we become ill again, and the abundance of grace open to us.

Obedience: The Greatest Vow

Among the vows of a religious obedience is considered by the saints to be the greatest. For it is on obedience that the other two vows depend and are brought to perfection. Obedience is the principle means of mortification, which is infused into the daily life of the religious. It is not through great works, but through the ordinary life of obedience that best serves to expiate for sin, to merit grace for souls, and ultimately to love the other most profoundly.
Obedience is of great value, that one act of disobedience caused the greatest angel in heaven to be cast into hell along with one-third of all the angels. By a further act of disobedience, humankind’s relationship with God was forever wounded. All this happened through a single act of the will. Thus, when we deny our will out of obedience to God and His representatives, we in some way make reparation for the greatest tragedy that has ever befallen both the material and spiritual world alike. For it is through religious life – that is; being subjected to a superior and a rule of life – that souls are given the clearest possible means by which the advance in virtue and become perfect. By offering no resistance of the will, the action of grace is able to form a soul with the least possible hindrance, and in this way, all its faculties will be strengthened because it no longer relies on its own reasoning and self-will, but submits to an authority outside of itself, namely, the representative appointed by God and the rules of the community.

Penance and Importance of Remaining Hidden

The saints were always very careful to hide their penances from the world as much as possible, including their own conferrer’s. A hidden sacrifice, according to the saints, is most pleasing in the eyes of God, and defence against pride and vainglory. Any instance that would draw the praises of others was to be severely shunned, for true humility demands a deep and lasting desire to be regarded as nothing, as ordinary. The more gifts and graces one receive, the more humble one must become, always recalling to how poorly one has used such gifts without any merit of one’s own. For without humility, everything we do in religious life will be in vain, including every prayer, every sacrifice.

Dimensions of Prayer Life

“Doing penance” for Francis refers to transformation in all these dimensions of one’s life. A transformation of life is a grace – God’s action in us. But we have to allow God to act in us, and that is the purpose of a serious and authentic life of prayer. First, there has to be some conscious letting go in our lives. Letting go of those things which give us our social identity, which shape who we want to be in the eyes of others. Second, as this letting go happens, we begin to relate to others and reality in new ways. We digest these experiences in Prayer, that is, seeing in God’s light, and this in turn lead us to further letting go of elements in our former identity. Third, as this purification intensifies, we also begin to see God in a new light. We undergo a Faith transformation and come to a new way of knowing, a contemplative awareness. This is the stage of illumination. And fourth, as this contemplative awareness of God deepens within us, we become more and more one with God-in-us. We discover new aspects of our life which need transformation and new directions to grow into the image and likeness of Christ. The life of Penance is an ongoing process of transformation through continuous contemplative prayer, leading to a closer union with God-within-us. This is the stage of unification.

Penance and Prayer

To avoid stagnation in penance, it must be constantly enkindled by silent contemplative prayer in which the process of letting go and resulting in transformation of behaviour and lifestyle is continually at work. More than vocal prayer, a prayer of contemplative silence must be focused in order to have an inner experience of God’s presence in and with us that urges us to change and act differently.
The inner experience of God’s presence makes us sensitive to His presence in everything. Hence, we will respond to this presence with reverence, respect, service – in one word, with love.

Contemplation and Action

Francis always viewed the following of Christ in an evangelical life-style as the only way towards union with God, which is tightly and permanently linked with a deep contemplative union. But the words action and contemplation have become classic Christian terminology for the two polarities of our lives. Spiritual maturity, however, is the ability to integrate the two into one life stance – to be service -oriented contemplatives. This integration happens slowly and by practice. It means that we learn to live constantly in the presence of God, allowing his Spirit to activate our life from within. Thus, action and contemplation live through one another, and neither of them can exist healthily by themselves.

Conclusion: Francis’ Teaching on Prayer, Poverty and Penance

Praying according to Francis, means: first, earnestly desiring and longing for the Spirit of God; and second, leaving Him (God) free to act within oneself. Which means that one must constantly made free of all those desires and attitudes in us that arise from our own egocentric spirit, our tendencies to assert and protect ourselves. That is letting go of our wilfulness and surrendering our self with its will to God, which is the highest form of poverty for Francis. Francis indicates that the quest for the Spirit of God is an adventure requiring first of all ‘a pure heart’. Because the person with a ‘pure heart’ is aware of one’s own poverty; turning that person humbly towards the Lord for fulfilment. That person cannot remain closed within oneself, as that person is wholly turned towards God – lives with an abiding spirit of adoration, in a contemplative stance, even in the midst of action, in Love. Thus prayer, poverty and penance lead a person to a complete self-giving-gift to others and ultimately to God, Who is Love – for love.

Jesus loves everyone… are you loving everyone?

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Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

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Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness…

On numerous occasions, we have heard stories about Christians who have been persecuted for being witnesses to God’s love. Today, through all kind of social media we hear of Christians’ sufferings for defending their faith, the Church, Christian values, or for working for peace on earth.

The eighth Beatitude speaks precisely about this: that all those who in their lives are persecuted for living up to the truth, will be blessed for being righteous. It is a reality that keeps happening around us, that Christians are persecuted and face different sufferings for being faithful to the truth. Jesus knows this kind of suffering will continue to take place till the very end of time, but He also knows that through the love and unity of the Holy Trinity, these same people who experience these sufferings… will be blessed.

Do you recall any episode in your life when you have been persecuted because of your faith? What was your experience of it? Or maybe, have you never been persecuted, because you have never been a real witness to your faith? Does this make you wonder if you are truly living up to your faith?

…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The blessing that Jesus preached in this Beatitude is that people who face persecution and suffering for their faith… will receive the kingdom of heaven as their own. This is the reward for these people… for all those who suffer persecution… they will receive the eternal reward of the kingdom of heaven.

Being blessed by receiving the kingdom of heaven is possible whenever the faith of the individual penetrates the mystery of being persecuted, that is, whenever one finds his hope in the faith in God. Through the strong faith in God, one suffers persecution with joy… knowing that his reward is the kingdom of God (sourced from the ‘Dictionary of Biblical Theology’).

Oh, how much I really want to receive the kingdom of heaven! The truth is that this opportunity is there for all… for me, for you, for all people who have a deep faith in God… our loving Father.

(This reflection is taken from my book ‘The Beatitudes… the blessings from the Sermon on the Mount’)

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He is peace

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Many people and nations are in search of peace. Peace is searched worldwide by everyone. Peace is not easy to find and to experience it in one’s life, but it is possible for peace to be found in one’s life.

So where can peace be found? There are many ways that people try to find peace in their life, but it is not always real peace that people claim to have found and live in their life.

There is only one real Peace in life. Jesus is peace… He is peace.

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Share Jesus love

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In different occasions in our life we have heard of people experiences of what Jesus love means to their lives.  We have heard people believing and trusting in Jesus after experiencing Him personally in their lives.

Jesus makes a big difference in people’s life.  I have experienced this personally, and for this reason I try my best to share Jesus love with others.  Through my daily living I try to share Jesus love with my family, friends, at my workplace, in the parish, at the grocer, and in other occasions during the day.

Today, Jesus is still making a big difference in people’s life.  We are encouraged to share this love of His with others.  Many people have still not heard of Him, desire to know Him, waiting for people to share about His love.  People are waiting for you to share His love with them.

There might be people reading this reflection who have still not know Jesus in a personal way, others might know Him personally.  I believe that Jesus wants us all to know Him personally.

Thank God that Jesus made a difference in your life, and so do share Jesus love with others.

If you are in doubt about this, ask Jesus to show you His love through others.

George Calleja (Christian Author)

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Share Jesus love

0

In different occasions in our life we have heard of people experiences of what Jesus love means to their lives.  We have heard people believing and trusting in Jesus after experiencing Him personally in their lives.

Jesus makes a big difference in people’s life.  I have experienced this personally, and for this reason I try my best to share Jesus love with others.  Through my daily living I try to share Jesus love with my family, friends, at my workplace, in the parish, at the grocer, and in other occasions during the day.

Today, Jesus is still making a big difference in people’s life.  We are encouraged to share this love of His with others.  Many people have still not heard of Him, desire to know Him, waiting for people to share about His love.  People are waiting for you to share His love with them.

There might be people reading this reflection who have still not know Jesus in a personal way, others might know Him personally.  I believe that Jesus wants us all to know Him personally.

Thank God that Jesus made a difference in your life, and so do share Jesus love with others.

If you are in doubt about this, ask Jesus to show you His love through others.

 

George Calleja (Christian Author)

 

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