From a letter to the Romans by Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr

The delights of this world and all its kingdoms will not profit me. I would prefer to die in Jesus Christ than to rule over all the earth. I seek him who died for us, I desire him who rose for us. I am in the throes of being born again. Bear with me, my brothers; do not keep me from living, do not wish me to die. I desire to belong to God; do not give me over to the world, and do not seduce me with perishable things. Let me see the pure light; when I am there, I shall be truly a man at last. Let me imitate the sufferings of my God. If anyone has God in him, let him understand what I want and have sympathy for me, knowing what drives me on.

The prince of this world would snatch me away and destroy my desire to be with God. So let none of you who will be there give him help; side rather with me, that is, with God. Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips and the world in your hearts. Give envy no place among you. And if, when I get there, I should beg for your intervention, pay no attention to me; no, believe instead what I am writing to you now. For I write to you while I yet live, but I long for death. My earthly desires have been crucified, and there no longer burns in me the love of perishable things, but a living water speaks within me, saying: “Come to the Father.”

I take no delight in corruptible food or in the pleasures of this life. I want the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was David’s seed, and for drink I want his blood, the sign of his imperishable love.

I no longer wish to live, as men count life. And I shall have my way, if you wish it so. Wish it, then, so that you too may have God’s favor. With these few words I beg you to believe me. Jesus Christ will make plain to you the truth of what I say; he is the true voice that speaks the Father’s truth. Pray for me that I may reach my goal. I have written to you not prompted by merely human feelings and values, but by God’s purpose for me. If I am to suffer, it will be because you loved me well; if I am rejected, it will be because you hated me. Remember in your prayers the church of Syria: it now has God for its shepherd instead of me. Jesus Christ alone will be its bishop, along with your love. For myself, I am ashamed to be counted among its members, for I do not deserve it, being the least of all, born out of due time. Yet, if I attain to God, by his mercy I shall be something. I greet you from my heart, and so do the churches that have welcomed me in love not as a mere passerby but as the representative of
Jesus Christ. Yes, even the churches that were not on my route humanly speaking, though spiritually on the same journey, were there to meet me in city after city.

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From a homily on Saint Agatha by Saint Methodius of Sicily

Today we honor Saint Agatha, an early virgin and martyr. She is remembered for her chastity, compassion and her desire for living for Jesus alone. Below is a homily on the Memorial of Saint Agatha delivered by Saint Methodius, Bishop of Sicily.

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The gift of God, the source of all goodness

My fellow Christians, our annual celebration of a martyr’s feast has brought us together. She achieved renown in the early Church for her noble victory; she is well known now as well, for she continues to triumph through her divine miracles, which occur daily and continue to bring glory to her name.

She is indeed a virgin, for she was born of the divine Word, God’s only Son, who also experienced death for our sake. John, a master of God’s word, speaks of this: He gave the power to become children of God to everyone who received him.

The woman who invites us to this banquet is both a wife and virgin. To use the analogy of Paul, she is the bride who has been betrothed to one husband, Christ. A true virgin, she wore the glow of pure conscience and the crimson of the Lamb’s blood for her cosmetics. Again and again she meditated on the death of her eager lover. For her, Christ’s death was recent, his blood was still moist. Her robe is the mark of her faithful witness to Christ. It bears the indelible marks of his crimson blood and the shining threads of her eloquence. She offers to all who come after her these treasures of her eloquent confession.

Agatha, the name of our saint, means “good.” She was truly good, for she lived as a child of God. She was also given as the gift of God, the source of all goodness to her bridegroom, Christ, and to us. For she grants us a share in her goodness.

What can give greater good than the Sovereign Good? Whom could anyone find more worthy of celebration with hymns of praise than Agatha?

Agatha, her goodness coincides with her name and way of life. She won a good name by her noble deeds, and by her name she points to the nobility of those deeds. Agatha, her mere name wins all men over to her company. She teaches them by her example to hasten with her to the true Good. God alone.

On Spiritual Perfection by Diadochus of Photica

The light that true knowledge gives out is the ability to distinguish unerringly what is right from what is wrong. This being so, the path of uprightness – which leads the mind towards God, the radiant sun of righteousness – takes that same mind into an unbounded light of knowledge and then leads it on to seek trustingly for love.

Those who are struggling in battle ought always to keep their souls free of the tumultuous waves of distraction. If they do this, the mind will be able to distinguish among the thoughts that come to it. The good thoughts, sent by God, they can store in the treasure-house of their memory. The evil thoughts, sent by the devil, they can throw out. In just the same way, when the sea is calm, the fisherman can see to the bottom of it and practically no fish can escape his gaze; but if it is stirred up by wind and storm, it becomes opaque when in calm times it was transparent – and when that happens, even the wiliest fisherman is wasting his time.

Clearing and purifying the mind is the task of the Holy Spirit alone – just as when a house is being burgled, the spoils can only be recovered if a strong man bursts in and despoils the burglar. Therefore we ought to keep our souls at peace so that the Holy Spirit is welcome there, so that the lamp of knowledge will always be lit – for when it is, the dark and bitter impulses of the devil will be easy to see and they will be reduced to creeping helplessness as they are caught in that holy and glorious light.

This is why St Paul says ‘Do not extinguish the Spirit’ – that is, do not sadden the Holy Spirit with evil acts and thoughts, or his light may cease to protect you. Of course the eternal and life-giving Spirit is not actually extinguished: rather, it is the sad turning away of the Spirit that leaves the mind wrapped in gloom and without the light of knowledge.

The mind has a perfect sense of taste that is able to discern and distinguish. When we are healthy, our body’s sense of taste can unerringly distinguish good from bad, so that we desire only what is good for us. The same applies to our mind, as long as it is in perfect health and not disturbed by too many cares: it can very well perceive and desire the consolations that God offers. Through the action of love, it has an unfading memory of their taste, and so it can always seek what is best. As St Paul says: My prayer is that your love may increase and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception, so that you can always recognise what is best.

I have fought the good fight

I just want to share with you a homily by Saint John Chrysostom

Though housed in a narrow prison, Paul dwelt in heaven. He accepted beatings and wounds more readily than others reach out for rewards. Sufferings he loved as much as prizes; indeed he regarded them as his prizes, and therefore called them a grace or gift. Reflect on what this means. To depart and be with Christ was certainly a reward, while remaining in the flesh meant struggle. Yet such was his longing for Christ that he wanted to defer his reward and remain amid the fight; those were his priorities.  

Now, to be separated from the company of Christ meant struggle and pain for Paul; in fact, it was a greater affliction than any struggle or pain would be. On the other hand, to be with Christ was a matchless reward. Yet, for the sake of Christ, Paul chose the separation.

But, you may say: “Because of Christ, Paul found all this pleasant.” I cannot deny that, for he derived intense pleasure from what saddens us. I need not think only of perils and hardships. It was true even of the intense sorrow that made him cry out: Who is weak that I do not share the weakness? Who is scandalized that I am not consumed with indignation?

I urge you not simply to admire but also to imitate this splendid example of virtue, for, if we do, we can share his crown as well.

Are you surprised at my saying that if you have Paul’s merits, you will share that same reward? Then listen to Paul himself: I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth a crown of justice awaits me, and the Lord, who is a just judge, will give it to me on that day – and not to me alone, but to those who desire his coming. You see how he calls all to share the same glory?

Now, since the same crown of glory is offered to all, let us eagerly strive to become worthy of these promised blessings.

In thinking of Paul we should not consider only his noble and lofty virtues or the strong and ready will that disposed him for such great graces. We should also realize that he shares our nature in every respect. If we do, then even what is very difficult will seem to us easy and light; we shall work hard during the short time we have on earth and someday we shall wear the incorruptible, immortal crown. This we shall do by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all glory and power belongs now and always through endless ages. Amen.

stpaul2015

My New Bible Companion

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I have been looking for a new way to read the Holy Bible when I came across this devotional in the ads sent though my email. I got curious and after few minutes of browsing its contents, I immediately said to myself, ‘I got to have this one!’ and here it is, finally.

It is very disheartening sometimes that we, Catholics, are looked down and even worse, ridiculed because we do not know our Bible. A lot of the people I know do not even own one! And this is the crux of the matter. Saint Jerome, perhaps the greatest Bible scholar the Catholic Church ever had, once said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” I think this well-known dictum by this great saint is the most important reason why we should read our Bible for us not to be ignorant about Christ.

Pope Francis even admonished us to “remember that the Bible was not written to be put on a bookshelf. It was written to be held in one’s hands, to be read frequently, every day, either alone or with others.”

This devotional is a must-have for every Catholic who desires to deepen his understanding of the Bible. It is the Word of God. It is God who speaks to us every time we read a passage in the Bible.

So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I encourage each and everyone of you, including myself, to read our Bible and “let our daily reading of Scripture be for us a foretaste of heaven, our roadmap to heaven, a trustworthy companion along the narrow, rough, and arduous ascent we are making toward heaven.”

God bless us all and Happy New Year!