THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Her Doctrine and Morals
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
7 July 2019
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The people pressed upon Jesus because He was performing many miracles, but also because they heard the words of God from Him. It was the physical wonders that they saw and were attracted to at first, then came their desire for the spiritual gifts Jesus so much desired to give to them. The grace of God often works the same way in our lives today. We are first brought to God through His many physical/material gifts, then we advance to the desire of ever-higher spiritual graces.
Many look at the life of St. Francis of Assisi and see a naturalist who saw beauty and goodness in all of God's creation. He celebrated all life, the tiny worm, the majestic tree, the birds, the fishes, all the animals, as well as his fellow men. However, when this is all that we garner from a perusal of his life, we have missed the most important aspect. The life of this wonderful man was much deeper and greater than all this. If we truly follow him in his love for all the material things that God has created we will soon discover a much greater love for spiritual beings angels, saints in Heaven, souls in purgatory, and future souls for heaven in his fellow men.
We are first drawn to God through our bodies and all the good, beautiful, and true bodies that God has created. If we continue in this direction, drawing ever closer to God, we soon behold things much greater and nobler than the material world He has given us. Children delight in the flesh but as we mature the spiritual life gives us even greater joy and happiness. Jesus came to us in the flesh so that He could lead us from the physical and temporal to the spiritual and eternal.
We physically press upon God to gain ever more in the way of material or physical blessings until He pulls away from us. Jesus got into the boat to distance Himself from the physical demands of the crowd. It was not because He did not want to be near them, but rather, because He wished to give them something greater. In withdrawing His physical presence, the crowd was then able to hear Him speak of spiritual matters. His physical distance from them made it possible for them to lift their hearts and minds above the physical to the spiritual.
In our spiritual lives, we often experience a kind of distance from God, as if He has gone away from us. This happens when we sin and turn away from Him, but it also happens when God wishes to lift our hearts up higher. Worldly difficulties or crosses lead us to prayer and prayer draws us closer to God. Gradually over time, we should think less and less of the worldly blessings or crosses, and more and more of spiritual ones. Our physical life, comforts, and concerns should fade as our spiritual life and the desire for eternal happiness grows brighter We die to this life so that we may be born into eternal life.
When we feel the distance the most and Jesus seems to be the farthest from us, all we truly need to do is look up and listen. He is at a distance from us (in the boat), but He is still watching over us and speaking to us. He is asking us to seek Him with our hearts and souls rather than with our eyes and bodies. Let us quiet our pressing desires for temporal goods and pleasures and create calmness and silence so that we may hear Him.
Prayer is not only speaking to God but also listening to Him. We may and should petition Him, worship Him, make reparations to Him for our sins, and thank Him in our prayers; but we should also allow times for us to hear Him, listening attentively in the depths of our souls. We do not desire a physical voice or sound, but rather an increase of love, understanding, wisdom. In those moments when we accept willing our physical crosses in imitation and love of Jesus and experience peace and calm, this is the grace of God, we have heard Him. When love instills a desire to sacrifice and offer ever more to Him, He is speaking to our hearts.
He does speak to us in the Church from the pulpit, from the Scriptures, from tradition, in the lives of the saints, in doctrinal, and spiritual works; but He also speaks to us in quiet prayer as we worship Him in the Blessed Sacrament or upon the cross. May we always seek to leave some of our prayer time to just quiet: our lips, our hearts, our minds, and our souls and listen.
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