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Bible Reflections View Comments

May God Give You Peace
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, July 7, 2013
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I was looking for a small gift for a friend the other day and ended up browsing the Quotable line of magnets, mugs, and other items. I found a wonderful quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

It came to mind as I was looking at the readings for this Sunday. We can be so focused on what we don’t have that we miss what we do have. We can be so consumed by what we haven’t done that we take for granted all that we have in fact accomplished. And always we hold on to grudges and resentments, sometimes not even realizing that we’re doing it. We spend far too much of our time criticizing, whether we’re pointing fingers at our own weakness or at other people’s failures. We are, in Emerson’s words, encumbered by old nonsense.

In the Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples out to spread the message of the kingdom. To do this well, they needed to be wholly committed to their task. And they needed to make sure that their focus was on spreading the Good News. This is why Jesus counsels them not to dwell on those who reject the message. The act of shaking the dust of unrepentant towns from their feet is less an act of rejection than it is a way of setting themselves free of destructive attitudes of revenge and retribution.

Just before today’s passage from Luke, we read that Jesus and his disciples were passing through a town in Samaria that rejected them. Luke tells us Jesus’s response was simply to go on to the next town. James and John, loyal followers that they were, wanted to call down fire on the townspeople. When the disciples return to him with stories of their success, it becomes clear that they are a bit intoxicated with their first taste of the power of God working through them. Jesus again says, “Do not rejoice that the powers are subject to you. Rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”

Power is always a danger among those who lead. If that power is not consciously turned toward doing good for others, the temptation to take out one’s frustrations, old hurts, and unhealed wounds on those who stand in opposition or are simply weaker can be difficult to overcome.

Pope Francis has been consistently preaching to the cardinals, bishops, and priests in Rome—and throughout the Church—to remain humble and guard against the urge to misuse power for their own advancement. Like Jesus with his disciples, he is reminding them to stay focused on the commitment to Christ and to God’s people that lies at the heart of every true vocation. This applies to us as well, whatever our state in life.

More than anything else, the message of the kingdom of God is one of peace. We are called to be at peace with God, with others, with ourselves. Jesus tells us, “Peace is my gift to you.” Like any gift, it is ours to receive. But in order to open our hands to God, we have to let go of the things of this world.



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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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