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Disciples Have Passion

We can walk with Jesus, whose mission will be accomplished whether we like it or not, or we can grasp at our fleeting comforts, getting in his way. It doesn’t seem like much of a choice to me. If we want to follow after Jesus, we need to let go of our apathy and laziness, the comfort that comes from being disconnected from others, and begin to truly care. Discipleship is about a life of passion, about giving our lives completely over to the mission that Christ is calling us to. Either we’re fully in, or we’re not in at all.

—from the book Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship by Casey Cole, OFM

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God Is the Source of All Good

While we are quite familiar with being disappointed by the worst we see in the world, we cannot deny the extraordinary heroism of which humanity is also capable. All around us, ordinary people are performing acts of sacrifice, giving up their own lives so that others may live. It is nearly impossible to look into the world and not see love overflowing at every turn. Science cannot explain it; logic doesn’t understand it. And yet, love emanates more powerfully than any substance we can measure. Truth transcends any instrument or equation. In moments of pessimism, when we find ourselves impatient with the world, do not grow hopeless, but trust in the unexplainable love lived by so many. Trust the goodness you see. Be still, and know that God is the source of all that is Good, Beautiful, and True, and that all love exists because God wills it.

—from the book Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship by Casey Cole, OFM

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Do We Believe God Is in Control?

As disciples of Christ, those wishing to follow after him, we are left with a critical question: Do we actually believe that God is truly driving history, that God is completely in control of the coming of the kingdom and all that is good? If so, and since we clearly don’t have the vision ourselves, then it might be time for us to let go of our impatience and needless worries. Being a disciple of Christ does not mean that we get to make the decisions or have power over our situations; it means that we trust that God does and are completely content to let go of all that brings us anxiety.

—from the book Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship by Casey Cole, OFM

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Francis Is Our Model for Peace

Saint Francis began a new evangelization in his own time, not by trying to be social reformer. He simply loved Christ and lived the Gospel, and he and his brothers became thereby catalysts for social change. They became “Holy Fools” who turned the world upside down by simply living the truth of the Gospel of Christ. Like Francis and his brothers, we all can learn to love again, even in the midst of division and war. And the map Francis gave us for learning to love is the Gospel and his own life of following in the footsteps of Christ. This map has been summed up beautifully in his Peace Prayer, a prayer he did not write but certainly is the way he prayed and lived and taught by example. It is a prayer that outlines everything that made Francis the peacemaker that he was and the model for peace that he is for us today. It is a prayer that shows us how to find the truth again, if we’ve lost it, or to continue living in the truth we’ve already found and are trying to live.

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo, OFM

 

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Finding Our Inner Peace

There will always be false prophets and deceivers, “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” Jesus called them. But this does not mean that we are to go about criticizing and correcting; that only separates further. It is only necessary to be true to oneself; and if it is called for, to speak our own understanding of what the truth is without denigrating others. Peace is achieved more effectively by trying to bring out the best, not pointing out the worst, in others. And we bring out the best in others by being ourselves peaceful. Our own peaceful presence will do more than trying to persuade others that we are right and they are wrong. Peacefulness is its own persuasion. That is the best option, it seems to me, for those committed to living the Gospel. The Franciscan response to sin and division is to forgive myself and my neighbor, thereby becoming peaceful in my own center, and then to reach out to others and “work mercy” with them, even with those whom I find it difficult to love, who repel me in any way. We work together toward the good, or we perish as individuals, as societies and as civilizations.

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo, OFM

 

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Called to Be People of Truth

Without the kind of internal conversion of heart that Francis came to in his own life, we can easily find our certainties elsewhere, even from those who have elevated their own opinions and prejudices to the level of truth. And without our own inner certainties we can easily start listening to these false truths of others, often listening to the loudest, most convincing speaker rather than listening to God in the silence in which God speaks to the depths of the soul. And then we begin to imitate others’ words and actions, as if they are our own hard-won truths and ways of living that we have come to after pondering prayerfully and carefully what is said and acted upon by others. So, if we are to learn from St. Francis today and live the words of Christ in the Gospel, we need first of all to ask what part we ourselves may be playing in disseminating lies without considering more carefully whether or not they are the truth they pretend to be, or being silent when we know lies are being proclaimed as the truth. And then, seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness, like St. Francis, we try to begin again, listening to the words of the Gospel to find the truth, praying over them, and living them out in our daily lives, all the while asking God to help us to be people of the truth who try always to speak the truth.

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo, OFM

 

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God Will Show Us the Way

A preference for light and beauty is one of the reasons St. Francis is attractive to us and why he was so successfully a peacemaker in his own time. It is why today his town of Assisi has been the site of peace conferences and prayer meetings to promote peace. St. Francis is seen as the gentle saint who shows us that the way to peace and justice is the way Christ has shown us in the Gospels, namely, the way of the love of God, which is THE way; and its companion is the way of love of our neighbor as ourselves. This basic Gospel truth is the message of the Gospel St. Francis finally was able to hear in the Gospel he lived and preached. He learned that if we put those two commandments in precisely that order, we easily see how and when we sin in departing from the truth and in hurting our neighbor. All truth is from God, and God’s truth is that we are to love God, and loving God will show us how to love our neighbor. Living the Gospel must start with embracing this basic Gospel truth. Only then will we, too, begin to hear the voice of God.

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo, OFM

 

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Carry the Light of the Risen One

One of Pope Francis’s favorite distinctions is the difference between joy and mere happiness. This is something that’s good to carry with us into the Easter season. His example of Mary Magdalene points to a key aspect of joy: It often follows a time of suffering, of disappointment, of struggle overcome and transformed. If Mary hadn’t cared so much for Jesus, her sense of loss wouldn’t have been as deep, but neither would her joy at their reunion. One of the hallmarks of a true friend is someone who can accompany us through good times and bad, weeping and rejoicing as circumstances change. A genuine faith offers the same support. We are blessed if we have such friends, graced if we have such faith.

—from the book The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

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God Shows Up When We Least Expect

The story of Emmaus carries a depth of feeling that resonates with us because we’ve all experienced some level of disappointed hopes and dreams in our lives. Dream jobs turn to daily drudgery. Failed relationships leave us brokenhearted. Illness and injury break our bodies and sometimes our spirits. If we’re in the midst of such a time, Easter alleluias can sound hollow to our ears. And yet, the Word of God can speak a word of hope and promise to our despair. The Bread of Life can fill an emptiness, a hunger, that gnaws at us. Sometimes all we have to do is show up. We have to make that much of an effort. Often we go with no expectations, almost no hope. And God surprises us with the right word, the right thought, a much-needed smile or hug from someone. The message of Easter is that God shows up when we least expect it: a voice in the garden calling our name, a stranger on the road, a tap on the shoulder, breakfast on the beach or dinner after a long day at work. Sometimes the alleluias are quiet, but no less heartfelt for all that.

—from the book The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

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