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Do you want to be great?

By 23 September, 2018January 3rd, 2023No Comments
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By F. Luis Casasús, General Superior of Idente missionaries
Commentary on the XXV Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 23 2018,  Madrid.
(Book of Isaiah 50,5-9a; Letter of James 2,14-18; Saint Mark 8,27-35 )


One day, Mother Teresa was going around begging for food for the orphans that she was taking care of. She went to a local bakery to ask for bread for the starving children in the orphanage. The baker, outraged at people begging for bread from him, spat in her face and refused.
Mother Teresa calmly took out her handkerchief, wiped the spit from her face and said to the baker: Okay, that was for me. Now what about the bread for the orphans? The baker, shamed by her response, gave her the bread she wanted.
Your or mine reaction might have been a derogatory word, to lecture him on compassion, or just leaving with a look of contempt. But none of these is centered on the original and inspired intention to do well to the children. Our temperament can spoil the best desires to serve others.
This is why St. James counsels us: Give in to God, then; resist the devil, and he will run away from you. The nearer to God, the nearer he will come to you. Clean your hands, you sinners, and clear your minds, you waverers. Look at your wretched condition, and weep for it in misery; be miserable instead of laughing, gloomy instead of happy. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up (James 4: 7-10).
As the Second Reading puts it, we need a wisdom that comes from the Spirit and it makes for peace and it is full of compassion, and there is no trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it.
In the seventh century, when the emperor Heraclius recovered the relic of the Holy Cross from the Persians, he wanted to enter Jerusalem with the utmost pomp, carrying the recovered Cross on his shoulders, but suddenly stopped at the entrance to the Holy City and was not able to go forward. The Cross was too heavy for him. The patriarch Zachary, who was walking in the procession, suggested that while the emperor was arrayed in splendid imperial garb, he was far from imitating the humility with which Jesus bore the Cross when he entered Jerusalem. Heraclius laid aside his cloak and crown, put on simple clothing, walked barefoot with the procession and devoutly replaced the Cross in Calvary.
This story shows how subtle pride can be. The emperor was doing something great and pious: he was bringing the lost Cross back to Jerusalem. However, he was doing it to exalt himself.
This is also what today’s Gospel narrates. The disciples were travelling through Galilee with Jesus, who was dramatically announcing His Passion and Death and, simultaneously…they were discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. When we are competitive, we become insensitive to the pain and suffering of others.
What about us? We publicly humiliate and discredit people, perhaps pretending we are correcting or teaching them; on other occasions we try to nourish our fame by casting a shadow over by gossiping and grumbling, expressing our surprise or indignation about the lack of sensitivity or the rudeness of our authorities, peers and subordinates. Maybe we are right in our remarks, but we forget that we are called to serve, and that includes our enemies or those we see as hopeless cases.
Ambition serves oneself primarily, even if that ambition benefits others, such as rebuilding a church or organizing an activity for children, or visiting the sick. At the end of the day, it is about my achievements in life, my pride and fame.
Pride is the basis of greed. With pride a person derives deep satisfaction from their own achievements or from possessions they think highly of, such as power, knowledge, reputation or, sometimes, money. Greed is a selfish desire achieved because of pride. This are the words of Pope Francis: Evil always has the same root, all evil: greed, vanity and pride. And all three do not allow peace of conscience; all three do not allow the healthy concern of the Holy Spirit in, they prevent you from living well: uneasy with fear. Greed, vanity and pride are the root of all evil (Sept. 22, 2016). Particularly, Greed often stems from Pride. A clear connecting example is found in Acts 4. Ananias and Sapphira were proud and they wanted to make a good impression, name for themselves. They made a show of their great offering. They went to the bank and exchanged their bills for coins so that they could drop their offering in the bucket so that everyone would hear their great sacrifice. But, they were also greedy…and they were dead.
This is clearly diagnosed in today’s Second Reading: Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war.
Yes, certainly, there is a deep connection between pride, greed and envy. The First Reading is a dramatic example of something that Saint Thomas Aquinas once said, pride it is the progenitor of envy. Another manifestation of our pride is seen in our obstinacy, that may be easily confused by the individual with courage or authority. We want things to be done exactly as we envisioned it and we are intolerant of those who think differently from us, for fear that they will hinder us from achieving our objectives. So we view others as threats to our ambition.
Pride and Greed are two of the cardinal (or capital) sins. They affect our spirit so profoundly that it takes more than our efforts and good will to overcome their detrimental consequences. This explains the centrality and the need for Purification, carried out by the Holy Spirit in our spiritual lives. We are unable to grasp by ourselves the purpose of life or the meaning of
events around us. This is why Jesus gives us the clue: Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Mt 6:33).
Thus in order that we might turn to Jesus for guidance, we must first recognize our misery. Saint James tells us: Look at your wretched condition, and weep for it in misery; be miserable instead of laughing, gloomy instead of happy. In other words, we have to welcome the divine grace and the spiritual direction of our rectors to pinpoint our Dominant Defect, our primary difficulty in living a state of prayer. This completely aligned with Jesus’ teaching: It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.
His permanent calling, our vocation, is therefore the heart of our meditation in the Motus Christi spiritual retreats. When we speak about vocation, we are speaking about service, the focus is not about our achievements, but about those whom we serve and how we can serve them better and make their lives meaningful and fulfilling. Then, it makes sense to “learn by doing,” since, from the beginning of the Church —and the Institute— we have learned the meaning of growth in grace by responding to the needs of others.
Jesus loved the children because they did not put up barriers between themselves and God. Filial conscience involves not only a sense of gratitude, of having received an inheritance (life, talents, culture…) but the awareness of having a lofty mission, in spite of our weakness. Here is a recent and moving example:
During the recent heavy monsoon rains, when the city of Chennai (India) was submerged, many residents rose to the occasion to offer aid to those who were hit the hardest. There were many unlikely volunteers doing such selfless work. They included three young boys, homeless themselves, who went to a relief center and insisted that they be allowed to be part of the relief efforts. These boys have now been recognized for their service. They have been presented them with the ‘Indian of the Year’ award, in New Delhi. It is striking, and sad too, that these children, who received a trophy recognizing their efforts, do not have a safe place to keep it. Eight-year-old Arjun, one of the three, narrates how it all started. He lives on a pavement, near to the stadium, with his family. During the flooding, Arjun and his family took shelter under a leaky railway bridge nearby. One day Arjun saw volunteers carry large amounts of supplies into the flood relief center. Arjun, along with his cousins Arumugam and Ashok, volunteered to become a part of this relief effort. They wanted to help people. As we are children, we were given the easy job of packing water packets. Later, when we asked for more responsibilities, they hesitated because of our age. We insisted that we be given more to do and they conceded, said Arjun, smiling. Due to the floods, these boys’ families were in dire straits but that did not deter them from reaching out to the other flood-hit. Actually we had nothing, but luckily, the boys were given food. We used to manage with whatever we had, said Arumugam’s mother. Filial conscience is a universal feeling. An often-repeated claim is that children who have had a bad experience in their family life cannot experience in a positive way this form of sonship, but when they consistently receive a testimony of generosity from a teacher, an apostle or an older friend, filial conscience arises from its ashes.
Another well-known example is that one of the cornerstone of Confucianism: 孝敬, (Xiàojìng, filial piety), understood as respect for parents, relatives and ancestors and their will. This filiation is central in the teaching of Christ, because the fact is fundamental in His
experience. We He was only 12 years old, He declares that He must be about His Father’s business, and at the last He commends His spirit into His Father’s hands.
This is the greatness that can be found in children. They are truly dependent on their parents. They cannot live without them unless they pay a heavy price for it. Their dependence is so total. In the same way, paradoxically for the world, the greatness of a person is found in his total dependence on God.

Tips to make the most of the Holy Mass

8. Liturgy of the Word. The Church teaches that when Scripture is proclaimed and explained in the Liturgy, it is Christ Himself who proclaims the Word. The ministers give voice to the Word, but Christ Himself speaks His Word to us. For this reason, it is important that readers prepare well to truly be instruments of God.
In the readings, as explained by the Homily, God speaks to his people, opening up to them the mystery of redemption and salvation, and offering them spiritual nourishment. Christ himself is present in the midst of the faithful through his word. By their silence and singing the people make God’s word their own, and they also affirm their adherence to it by means of the Profession of Faith. Finally, having been nourished by it, they pour out their petitions in the Prayer of the Faithful for the needs of the entire Church and for the salvation of the whole world.
The Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to promote meditation, and so any sort of haste that hinders recollection must clearly be avoided. During the Liturgy of the Word, it is also appropriate to include brief periods of silence, accommodated to the gathered assembly, in which, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the word of God may be grasped by the heart. It may be appropriate to observe such periods of silence, for example, before the Liturgy of the Word itself begins, after the First and Second Reading, and lastly at the conclusion of the Homily.