Do You Love Me? May 29, 2020


Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Saint Paul VI, Pope—Optional Memorial

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”  John 21:17

Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him.  Why three times?  One reason was so that Peter could “make up” for the three times he denied Jesus.  No, Jesus did not need Peter to apologize three times, but Peter needed to express his love three times and Jesus knew it.

Three is also a number of perfection.  For example, we say God is “Holy, Holy, Holy.”  This triple expression is a way of saying that God is the Holiest of all.  By Peter being given the opportunity to tell Jesus three times that He loved Him it was an opportunity for Peter to express His love in the deepest of ways.

So we have a triple confession of love and a triple undoing of Peter’s denial going on.  This should reveal to us our own need to love God and seek His mercy in a “triple” way.

When you tell God that you love Him, how deep does that go?  Is it more a service of words, or is it a total and all-consuming love?  Is your love of God something that you mean to the fullest extent?  Or is it something that needs work?

Certainly we all need to work on our love, and that is why this passage should be so significant to us.  We should hear Jesus asking us this question three times also.  We should realize that He is not satisfied with a simple, “Lord, I love You.”  He wants to hear it again, and again.  He asks us this because He knows we need to express this love in the deepest way.  “Lord, You know everything, You know that I love You!”  This must be our ultimate answer.

This triple question also gives us the opportunity to express our deepest longing for His mercy.  We all sin.  We all deny Jesus in one way or another.  But the good news is that Jesus is always inviting us to let our sin be a motivation for deepening our love.  He doesn’t sit and stay angry at us.  He doesn’t pout.  He doesn’t hold our sin over our heads.  But He does ask for the deepest of sorrow and a complete conversion of heart.  He wants us to turn from our sin to the fullest extent.

Reflect, today, upon the depth of your love for God and how well you express it to Him.  Make a choice to express your love for God in a triple way.  Let it be deep, sincere and irrevocable.  The Lord will receive this heartfelt act and return it to you a hundredfold.

Lord, You do know that I love You.  You also know how weak I am.  Let me hear Your invitation to express my love for You and my desire for Your mercy.  May I offer this love and desire to the fullest extent.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Novena to the Holy Spirit
Prayed in preparation for Pentecost
Day Eight – Friday, May 29

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Saint of the Day – Saint Paul VI, Pope

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Lifting Your Eyes to Heaven May 28, 2020


Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”  John 17:20–21

“Lifting His eyes to Heaven…”  What a great phrase!

As Jesus lifted His eyes to Heaven, He prayed to His Father in Heaven.  This act, of lifting His eyes, reveals one unique aspect of the presence of the Father.  It reveals that the Father is transcendent.  “Transcendent” means that the Father is above all and beyond all.  The world cannot contain Him.  So, in speaking to the Father, Jesus begins with this gesture by which He acknowledges the transcendence of the Father.

But we must also note the imminence of the Father’s relationship with Jesus.  By “imminence” we mean that the Father and Jesus are united as one.  Their relationship is one that is profoundly personal in nature.

Though these two words, “imminence” and “transcendence,” may not be a part of our daily vocabulary, the concepts are worth understanding and reflecting upon.  We should strive to be very familiar with their meanings and, more specifically, with the way that our relationship with the Holy Trinity shares in both.

Jesus’ prayer to the Father was that we who come to believe will share in the unity of the Father and the Son.  We will share in God’s life and love.  For us, this means we start by seeing the transcendence of God.  We also lift our eyes to Heaven and strive to see the splendor, glory, greatness, power, and majesty of God.  He is above all and beyond all.

As we accomplish this prayerful gaze to the Heavens, we must also strive to see this glorious and transcendent God descend into our souls, communicating to us, loving us, and establishing a deeply personal relationship with us.  It’s amazing how these two aspects of God’s life go together so well even though, at first, they can appear to be complete opposites.  They are not opposed but, rather, are wedded together and have the effect of drawing us into an intimate relationship with the Creator and sustainer of all things.

Reflect, today, upon the glorious and all-powerful God of the Universe descending into the secret depths of your soul.  Acknowledge His presence, adore Him as He lives within you, speak to Him and love Him.

Lord, help me to always lift my eyes to Heaven in prayer.  May I constantly turn to You and Your Father.  In that prayerful gaze, may I also discover You alive in my soul where You are adored and loved.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Novena to the Holy Spirit
Prayed in preparation for Pentecost
Day Seven – Thursday, May 28

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Image: Christ in Gethsemane by Heinrich Hofmann

Surviving This World May 27, 2020


Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop—Optional Memorial

“I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.”  John 17:14–17

“Consecrate them in the truth.  Your word is truth.”  That’s the key to survival!

Scripture reveals three primary temptations we face in life: The flesh, the world and the devil.  All three of these work to lead us astray.  But all three are conquerable with one thing…the Truth.

This Gospel passage above specifically speaks of the “world” and the “evil one.”  The evil one, who is the devil, is real.  He hates us and does all he can to mislead us and ruin our lives.  He tries to fill our minds with empty promises, offers fleeting pleasure, and encourages selfish ambitions.  He was a liar from the beginning and remains a liar to this day.

One of the temptations that the devil threw at Jesus during His forty day fast at the beginning of His public ministry was a temptation to obtain all the world has to offer.  The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the Earth and said, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”

First of all, this was a silly temptation given the fact that Jesus already was the Creator of all things.  But, nonetheless, He allowed the devil to tempt Him with this worldly enticement.  Why did He do this?  Because Jesus knew we would all be tempted with the many enticements of the world.  By “world” we mean many things.  One thing that comes to mind, in our day and age, is the desire for worldly acceptance.  This is a plague that is very subtle but affects so many, including our Church itself.

With the powerful influence of the media and the global political culture, there is pressure today, more than ever, for us as Christians to simply conform to our age.  We are tempted to do and believe what is popular and socially acceptable.  And the “gospel” we are allowing ourselves to hear is the secular world of moral indifferentism.

There is a powerful cultural tendency (a global tendency due to the Internet and media) to become people who are willing to accept anything and everything.  We have lost our sense of moral integrity and truth.  Thus, the words of Jesus need to be embraced more today than ever.  “Your Word is Truth.”  The Word of God, the Gospel, all that our Catechism teaches, all that our faith reveals is the Truth.  This Truth must be our guiding light and nothing else.

Reflect, today, on how much of an influence the secular culture has on you.  Have you given into secular pressure, or the secular “gospels” of our day and age?  It takes a strong person to resist these lies.  We will resist them only if we stay consecrated in the Truth.

Lord, I do consecrate myself to You.  You are the Truth.  Your Word is what I need to stay focused and to navigate through the many lies all around me.  Give me strength and wisdom so that I may always remain in Your protection away from the evil one.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Novena to the Holy Spirit
Prayed in preparation for Pentecost
Day Six – Wednesday, May 27

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Saint of the Day – Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop

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Image: Jesus Tempted by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Glorification May 26, 2020


Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Saint Philip Neri, Priest—Memorial

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you.”  John 17:1

Giving glory to the Son is an act of the Father, but is also an act to which we should all be attentive!

First of all, we should recognize the “hour” that Jesus speaks of as the hour of His Crucifixion.  This may, at first, seem like a sad moment.  But, from a divine perspective, Jesus sees it as His hour of glory.  It’s the hour when He is glorified by the Father in Heaven because He perfectly fulfilled the Father’s will.  He perfectly embraced His death for the salvation of the world.

We must also see this from our human perspective.  From the standpoint of our daily lives, we must see that this “hour” is something that we can continually embrace and bring to fruition.  The “hour” of Jesus is something that we must constantly live.  How?  By constantly embracing the Cross in our lives so that this cross is also a moment of glorification.  In doing this, our crosses take on a divine perspective, becoming divinized so as to become a source of the grace of God.

The beauty of the Gospel is that every suffering we endure, every cross we carry, is an opportunity to manifest the Cross of Christ.  We are called, by Him, to constantly give Him glory by living His suffering and death in our lives.

Reflect, today, upon the hardships you endure.  And know that, in Christ, those hardships can share in His redeeming love if you let Him.

Jesus, I surrender my cross and my hardships over to You.  You are God and You are able to transform all things into glory.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Novena to the Holy Spirit
Prayed in preparation for Pentecost
Day Five – Tuesday, May 26

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Saint of the Day – Saint Philip Neri, Priest

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Being Resolved May 25, 2020


Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Saint Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor—Optional Memorial

Saint Gregory VII, Pope, Religious—Optional Memorial

Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Virgin—Optional Memorial

“Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you believe now? Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone.”  John 16:30–32

Have you come to believe in Jesus?  How deep is that faith?  And why do you believe?  Are you ready and willing to hold on to that faith no matter what comes your way?  Are you ready to follow Him even if it’s difficult and unpopular?  Are you ready to suffer as a result of your faith?  These are important questions.  They are questions that we must answer both when it’s easy to be a Christian as well as when it’s hard.

It’s easy to be a Christian and to follow Jesus when everyone else is doing it.  For example, at a baptism or wedding it’s normal to want to belong and to let others know of our support and belief in what they are doing.  But what about those moments when your faith is ridiculed or put down?  Or when you have to make the difficult choice to turn from cultural pressures and stand out for your faith?  These are more challenging times to be a follower of Christ.

In today’s Gospel, there were many who had been analyzing Jesus’ teaching, listening to Him and talking about Him.  It seems clear that the consensus was that Jesus was a man of holiness and a great prophet.  Many were even coming to believe He was the Messiah.  So there was a sort of positive momentum present that made it easier for many people to say that they believed in Him and they believed that He came from God.

Jesus quickly points out to them that, though they believe now, there will be a time that comes soon when most everyone will abandon Him, when they are scattered, and they will leave Him alone.  This is obviously a prophesy of His coming persecution and Crucifixion.

One of the greatest tests of our faith is to look at how faithful we are when following Christ is not all that popular.  It is in these moments, more than the easy moments, that we have an opportunity to manifest our faith and deepen our resolve to be a Christian.

Reflect, today, on how deep your commitment to Christ goes.  Are you ready to follow Him to the Cross?  Are you willing to give up everything to Follow Him?  Hopefully the answer is a definitive yes.  It must be a “Yes” that directs our lives no matter the situation of life we find ourselves in.

Lord, I do believe.  Help me to let that faith in You stay strong at all times.  Help me to say yes to You and to live that yes always.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Novena to the Holy Spirit
Prayed in preparation for Pentecost
Day Four – Monday, May 25

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Saint Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor

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Image: Jesus Speaks Near the Treasury by James Tissot

Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord. Sunday, May 24, 2020

Readings for the Ascension

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (Year A)

Jesus completes His mission on Earth and ascends into Heaven to take His seat on His glorious throne for all eternity.  Or does He?  The answer is yes and no. Yes, He does take His seat on His glorious throne, but no, He does not complete His mission on Earth. The Ascension is both the end and the beginning.  It’s a transition to the next phase in the perfect plan of the Father.  And understanding the way this plan unfolds should leave us in wonder and awe.

Sure, the Apostles were probably somewhat frightened and confused.  Jesus was with them, then He died, then He rose and appeared various times, and then He ascended to the Father before their eyes.  But He also told them that it is good that He goes.  In fact, He said that it’s better that He goes.  They must have been confused.  Jesus also told them His Advocate would come to lead them into all Truth.  So the Apostles went from joy, to fear, to relief and more joy, to confusion and sorrow, to curiosity and uncertainty.

Sound familiar?  Perhaps that’s the way some find their lives to be.  Ups and downs, twists and turns, joys and sorrows.  Each phase reveals something new, something challenging, something glorious or something sorrowful.  The good news is that the Father’s plan is unfolding perfectly.

The part of the perfect plan we find ourselves in with this solemnity is the part where Jesus begins to direct His mission of establishing the Kingdom of God from Heaven.  His throne is, in a sense, the driver’s seat of our lives.  From Heaven, Jesus suddenly begins to descend continuously into our lives fulfilling His mission in and through the Apostles, as well as all of us.  The Ascension does not mean Jesus is gone; rather, it means Jesus is now present to each and every person who turns to Him and surrenders their life to His mission.  From Heaven, Jesus is able to be present to all.  He is able to live in us and invites us to live in Him.  It’s the new beginning of the Church.  Now all the Apostles need to do is wait for the Holy Spirit to descend.

Reflect, today, upon the abiding and intimate presence of our Lord in your life.  Know that Jesus invites you to share in His mission.  From His glorious throne He wants us to “preach everywhere.”  He wants to invite each one of us to do our part.  The part of the Father’s plan entrusted to each one of us is not entrusted to another.  We all have a share in that plan.  What is your part?  How does Jesus direct His mission through you?  Ponder this question today and know that He accompanies you as you say “Yes” to your part in the glorious unfolding of His perfect plan.

Lord, I do find that my life is filled with many ups, downs, twists and turns.  There are joys and sorrows, moments of confusion and clarity.  In all things, help me to continually say “Yes” to Your plan.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Novena to the Holy Spirit
Prayed in preparation for Pentecost
Day Three – Sunday, May 24

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Image: Ascension by Benjamin West

Speaking Clearly May 23, 2020


Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Readings for Today

“I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father.”  John 16:25

Why does Jesus speak in “figures of speech” rather than speaking clearly?  Good question.

We see this same fact in the many parables that Jesus spoke.  Most likely, when people would hear His parables they would walk away asking, “What do you think He meant by that?”  So why does Jesus speak in a veiled language rather than speaking clearly and directly?

The answer has to do with us and our lack of openness to the Truth.  If we were fully open to the Truth, and if we were completely ready to embrace the Truth no matter what it was, Jesus would be able to speak to us clearly and we would respond immediately.  But this is so rarely the way it happens.  The key to understanding this is to understand the connection between knowledge of God’s will and the willingness to immediately fulfill that will.

So often, we want Jesus to tell us His will, mull over it, consider it, and then come back with our response.  But it doesn’t happen that way.  Rather, if we want Jesus to speak to us clearly, we must say yes to Him even before we know what He wants.  Willingness to embrace His will is a prerequisite to understanding His will.

Of course our Blessed Mother is the perfect example of this in her fiat.  Prior to the angel coming to her, she continually said “Yes” to the will of God.  Then, when the angel came to her and told her what would happen, she asked for clarity.  And she did indeed get that clarity as a direct response to her question.  “The Holy Spirit will overshadow you and the power of the Most High will come upon you…” the angel said.  But the only reason the angel, as a messenger of God, spoke so clearly was because she had already shown her heart to be fully compliant with God’s plan no matter what it would be.

Reflect, today, upon how clearly you hear God speak to you.  Do you want Him to be clearer to you?  Do you want Him to speak to you with greater clarity?  If so, work on surrendering your will over more completely to that which you do not even know.  Say “Yes” to that which God wants of you tomorrow, and say “Yes” to it today.  Building this habit of saying yes immediately will open the door to greater clarity in all God wants to say.

Lord, the answer is “Yes.”  I choose Your will today, tomorrow and always.  I choose nothing but Your will.  As I say “Yes” to You, help me to grow in greater clarity of all you ask of me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Novena to the Holy Spirit
Prayed in preparation for Pentecost
Day Two – Saturday, May 23

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Image: The Exhortation to the Apostles by James Tissot

Anguish Turns to Joy May 22, 2020


Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Saint Rita of Cascia—Optional Memorial

“When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”  John 16:21–22

Anguish in life is common.  In small ways, we will experience anguish each and every day.  And, from time to time, we will experience the very heavy pains of a particular anguish in our lives.

Does an experience of anguish mean you are not in God’s grace?  Does it mean that God has left you?  Or does it mean that you are doing something wrong?  Certainly not.  In fact, all we have to do is look at the life of Jesus to see this is not the case.  He was in constant anguish throughout His earthly life as He continually entered more deeply into the mission of His Father.  Just prior to His public ministry He was in anguish for forty days in the desert.  Throughout His public ministry, He experienced the anguish and exhaustion of His earthly life.  He experienced the criticism of others, misunderstanding, ridicule, rejection, harsh treatment, and so much more.  In the end, we know His fate on the Cross.

Our Blessed Mother had the “sword of sorrow” pierce her heart.  She was misunderstood and ridiculed from the beginning as a result of her mysterious pregnancy out of wedlock.  She carried a perfect love of her Son and anguished over His future as He grew.  She watched many love Him and others harass Him.  She watched His mockery of a trial and His Crucifixion.

But think of their lives now.  They now reign from Heaven as the glorious Queen of All Saints and the King of the Universe.  They live in glory now for eternity.  Their anguish has turned to perfect joy.

Reflect, today, upon your own trials in life.  The Scripture passage above reveals the promise that God makes to those who endure them with faith.  If you feel as though you have been dealt an unfair hand or have been treated unfairly, you are in good company.  The key is to walk through this life with grace and dignity.  Do not let the trials of this life or its pains get you down.  Know that as you remain faithful walking down the path God has set for you, the end result is that you will rejoice!  This is simply a fact.  Hold on to that hope and keep your eyes on the finish line.  It’s worth it in the end.

Lord, I surrender my anguish and burdens to You.  I unite them to Your Cross and trust that You will be there in all things walking with me through my life.  May I keep my eyes on the goal and rejoice in Your steadfast love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Novena to the Holy Spirit
Prayed in preparation for Pentecost
Day One – Friday, May 22

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Saint of the Day – Saint Rita of Cascia

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Image:  Virgin and Child by Elisabetta Sirani 

Sorrow to Joy  May 21, 2020


Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Saint Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr and Companions, Martyrs—Optional Memorial

“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”  John 16:20

Grief, mourning and even weeping is a part of life.  Children will often weep at the slightest difficulty, but all of us face grief and sorrow throughout life.

In this passage above, Jesus informs His Apostles that sorrow and grief will be a part of their lives.  This is a very sober but realistic statement on the part of our Lord.  It’s an act of love, on His part, to be up front with His Apostles about the coming hardships they will face.

The good news is that Jesus follows this statement with the hopeful news that their “grief will become joy.”  This is the most important part of what Jesus says.

The same is true in our lives.  Jesus does not promise us that our lives will be free from hardship and pain.  He does not tell us that following Him means that all will be easy in life.  Instead, He wants us to know that we will follow in His footsteps if we choose to follow Him.  He suffered, was mistreated and ultimately killed.  And this would be tragic if He did not ultimately rise from the dead, ascend into Heaven and transform all prior grief and pain into the very means of the salvation of the world.

If we follow in His footsteps, we need to see every bit of grief in our lives as potentially a means of grace for many.  If we can face the hardships of life with faith and hope, nothing will ultimately keep us down and everything will be able to be used for God’s glory and will result in great joy.

Reflect, today, upon these words of Jesus.  Know that He was not only speaking them to His Apostles, but also to you.  Do not be scandalized or shocked when life deals you some difficulty.  Do not despair when suffering is placed before you.  Surrender all things to our Lord and let Him transform it into the joy that He promises in the end.

Lord, I surrender to You all suffering in my life.  My grief, hardships, sorrow and confusion I place in Your hands.  I trust that You are all-powerful and desire to transform all things into a means of Your glory.  Give me hope in times of despair and trust when life is hard.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Novena to the Holy Spirit
Prayed in preparation for Pentecost
Beginning Friday, May 22

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Saint of the Day – Saint Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr and Companions, Martyrs

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The Spirit of Truth May 20, 2020


Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Saint Bernardine of Siena, Priest—Optional Memorial

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”  John 16:12–13

As we continue to get closer to the wonderful Solemnity of Pentecost, we continue to focus in on the Holy Spirit.  This passage specifically points to the Holy Spirit as the “Spirit of Truth.”

It’s interesting how Jesus introduces the Holy Spirit under this title.  He explains that He has much more to tell them, but they cannot bear it now.  In other words, the “Truth” is too much for them to bear unless the Holy Spirit is alive within them and teaching them.  This gives us two wonderful insights worth pondering.

First, if we have not truly opened our lives to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we can be certain that we cannot bear the Truth.  We cannot understand the deep truths of God and we cannot believe them unless the Holy Spirit is alive within us.  That’s a frightening thought in that, when the Holy Spirit is not fully immersing someone, that person is left in the dark regarding all Truth.  And, sadly, they will not even realize they are in the dark!

If that does not make sense then perhaps you, too, suffer a bit from a lacking of the Spirit of Truth.  Why?  Because when the Spirit of Truth is alive within, you will know that you know the Truth.

Secondly, when you have fully opened your mind and heart to the Holy Spirit, you will become hungry for the Truth.  The Holy Spirit will “guide you to all truth.”  And one of the effects of being guided into all truth is that you will be amazed with the journey.  You will be in awe at the understanding of things that open up in your mind.  You will be able to make sense of things in a new way.  The Holy Spirit is the perfect “guide” and the journey toward the Truth is glorious.

Reflect, today, upon the Truth as it resides in the mind of the Father in Heaven.  How open are you to the Truth?  How fully do you embrace all that God wants to reveal to you?  Open yourself more fully to the Holy Spirit and seek all that He wishes to reveal to you.

Holy Spirit, come consume my life.  Teach me and guide me into all Truth.  Holy Spirit, Divine Lord, Merciful Father, I trust in You.

 

Novena to the Holy Spirit
Prayed in preparation for Pentecost
Beginning Friday, May 22

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Saint of the Day – Saint Bernardine of Siena, Priest

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Image: Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles by Duccio di Buoninsegna