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Bible Reflections View Comments

Nothing and Everything Before God
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, February 10, 2013
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One of the gifts of the Spirit received at confirmation is that of reverence or “wonder and awe at God’s presence.” In some translations of Scripture, this phrase appears as “fear of the Lord.” The alternate translation makes it clear that this is not the sort of trembling fear that might be inspired by a bully or an abusive authority figure, but rather the awesome, breathtaking power of a manifestation of God’s grandeur. Think of a natural wonder such as the Grand Canyon, an erupting volcano, a spectacular waterfall and you can get a hint of what this suggests.

Our readings today describe people who were extraordinarily sure of themselves and their missions. Yet all three recognize their complete unworthiness in the presence of the Holy One. Isaiah’s call to be a prophet begins with a vision of the heavenly court. He is both awed and bolstered by God’s transcendence. While confessing his own sin and the sin of his people, he confidently responds to the summons with, “Here I am, send me.”

Paul, having experienced a total conversion of his beliefs and activities, places himself on a par with the apostles who journeyed with the Lord throughout his time on earth. And yet he knows that even though he was chosen by God for a special mission to the gentiles, in the divine sight, he is nothing. He summarizes his ministry in these words: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.”

In the Gospel, Peter, the professional fisherman, recognizes the hand of God in Jesus’ miraculous catch of fish. And in that bright light of faith, he knows that his own skills pale by comparison. He clearly recognizes that the power that created and sustains the universe is now calling out to him from the shore telling him how to catch fish. And Peter is willing to leave behind everything he knows in order to follow this man.

Who we are in the eyes of the world, or even in our own eyes, can’t compare to the incredible paradox that before the Almighty God was are as nothing, and yet this same God tells us that we are loved and loveable simply because we are called into being by divine love. Many of us struggle with questions of personal self-esteem and professional competence on a daily basis. We know that there are many ways in which we can improve our day-to-day human lives. We can’t let those feelings and efforts get in the way of recognizing who we are when we come into the presence of God.

When we’re in right relationship with the God of the covenant, the God of Isaiah and Peter and Paul, we might be surprised at the way the rest of our priorities fall into place. God’s grace makes our often feeble efforts more effective than we could possibly imagine, not because we’re that good but because God is that good.

We tend to mix up feelings of self-worth with worthiness before God in ways that can cloud not only our growth as human beings, but also our growth in faith. For many, this can be a good topic for self-reflection and prayer. For some, professional counseling may be necessary to heal and correct past injuries.

As we approach the season of Lent, such an undertaking might be a good discipline for the season. Because the point of being called by God is to do his work. We need to let go of anything that might keep us from doing that.


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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but he soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog Ultimately there is no friend who can fully understand us, who can walk with us all the way. We must go forward and walk on our own in response to who we are and who we are called to be in God. —Thomas Merton

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CATHOLIC GREETINGS
Mary's Flower - Fleur-de-lis
More countless than the drops in an ocean are the repetitions down the ages of those gracious words: “Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.”

St. Ignatius Loyola
The founder of the Society of Jesus is also a patron of all who were educated by the Jesuits.

Anniversary
We continue to fall in love again and again throughout our years together.

Vacation
God is a beacon in our lives; the steady light that always comes around again.

Sympathy
Grace gives us the courage to accept what we cannot change.




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