Concentrate on reading the Gospels: Ruth’s writings

Ruth Vogel, SFO

When we concentrate on the words we are reading In the Gospels, we are in the presence of Jesus. We can walk with Him as He walks. We can listen to Him when He speaks. We can watch what He does. We can even, if we really concentrate, see the expression on His face, concentrate—see the expression on His face, His gestures, in short, see Him alive, a living, moving person in those pages, rather than just a succession of words.
If one can come to feel this, then is a good time to take a little while to talk to Jesus—talk to Him about what one has just read. This is one way to meditate.

The entire Church acts in the liturgy, hierarchy and people. The work of these is carrying on the teachings and example of Christ in an evangelical harmony in the parishes, dioceses, homes and society in general—this, in my opinion, is the nature of the Church. This cannot be done alone. That is why we must worship in community and togetherness.

We know that the sacred Host is Jesus, the Son of God. We believe it firmly. But how this can be so, is [a] mystery to our human minds.
Christ gave us the Mass as a perpetual gift of His re-enactment of sacrifice on the cross.

Do not take things too literally.
Do not take them out of context.
Do not reject beliefs because they are not mentioned in the Bible.
Keep in mind tradition, one of the bases for our Catholic belief.
i.e., Remember the Doctrine of the Assumption.

Listen to the Lord
St. John said, “Let us love, not in word, neither with the tongue, but in deed and in truth…”
The Franciscan Rule says, “and let them be moderate, showing all mildness to all men.” Also, Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged”
Let us not point to the devil walking at that man’s side. The Franciscan rule says, “One way the brothers can conduct themselves among the unbelievers, spiritually, is to avoid quarrels and disputes and to be subject to every living human creature for God’s sake.”

That is something we could ponder with profit” — to be subject to every living human creature for God’s sake.”

We hear something that Jesus said and we say, “That is good I like that. It reminds me of so-and-so he is just like that, isn’t he?” Stop right there and think. Who is Jesus talking to? Is He talking to so-and-so? No, not right now, He isn’t. So-and-so isn’t here right now. No one is here right now but me. So, who is Jesus talking to?

This brings me again to the point I am trying to make. We don’t really listen to what Jesus is saying. We are very impolite. We only listen from the outside of our heads. We don’t listen from inside where our minds and hearts are attuned to the little voice of conscience trying to make itself heard. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,” the little voice quavers, but is drowned out by the strident words that pour forth from our mouths.

Take the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” We immediately think, “I am not like that, I would stop and help the injured man. I am a Franciscan, I want to advance in spiritual perfection, don’t I. All right then, if I do, let me read those words of Jesus again – carefully. I am not really trying to advance in spirituality unless I look right down underneath and see Jesus standing there pointing a finger at me.

“Don’t go applying my words to anyone else,” He says, “I am talking to you.”

So, I sit down and think about my prejudices. I think about how some of these are built-in prejudices, born in me. I remember way back when I was in the second or third grade and a few school chums and I went skipping gaily along the sidewalk chanting, “Smarty, smarty, thought you had a party. No one came; but, a red headed darky.”

Did anyone say, “Stop that! That isn’t nice. That isn’t Christian!” No one did and no one thought of it. How could they, they thought the same way.

The prejudices that were born in us don’t have to stay in us. Most of us say glibly, I don’t have prejudices. I don’t have a thing against blacks, yellows, reds, Jews, or what-have-you. I treat everyone alike. Of course that doesn’t mean I want to live next door to one of them. “Ah!” Right there we stumble over our own thoughts. Look at Jesus’ words again. See Him there, still pointing his finger at us. See His eyes boring right down into our inmost hearts.

“Ask me,” he challenges. “Ask me. Would you live next door to one of them? And, after you have truthfully answered that question, let me ask you another. By what right, and by what exertion an your part, did you come up with the personal achievement of being born white instead of black? By what failure or fault on their part did they bring themselves to be born black instead of white. By world standards, they have three strikes against them at the outset simply because their skin is dark. By what right do you consider yourself superior because you were born rich or highly intelligent or endowed with a glorious singing voice; or a great talent for drawing, painting, writing; a genius at figures, or a whiz in the business world, or great in athletics; or possess a beautiful face or body; or born male, or female; or born into a good Christian family instead of the bastard child of a prostitute mother and a thieving father? It’s not under what circumstances you came screaming and kicking into the world that counts. It is all important what you do with what you received from God — mental, physical, and spiritual that tells the story.”

Jesus pauses for breath. “Remember,” He continues firmly, “there are a lot of morons in my everlasting Kingdom. There are many who would be called dummies by some of you. St. Margaret Mary wasn’t too bright. There are a lot of prostitutes and thieves and bad guys in My Heaven. Think of Matthew, my Apostle and Evangelist, and Mary Magdalene, and Dismas, and Augustine, and many more. Oh, and don’t forget that one first class playboy, Francis of Assisi. St. Augustine was not only a bad guy at one time; but, he was black. If I spoke to you in the lingo of my days on earth I would say to you Amen. Amen. I say unto you, many a man who is black on the outside is whiter inside than many a white man who is a whitewashed wall on the outside; but, splotchy and muddy and worm infested inside.”

Jesus stops and toes at the ground under His feet and thinks of the time He bent over and started to write in the dust. “He who has ears to hear let him hear,” He goes on. “Do you have ears to hear? I hope so, because I am talking to you. Why can ‘t you listen to what I am saying to you? This man over here is black outside, but he is a child of God. He is my child. You are white and you are a child of God, and you are my child and that makes you brothers. When you sing in church, ‘With God as our Father, brothers all are we; let me live with my brother, in peace and harmony.’ Stop, just mouthing words. They are empty words unless you put them into action. Start right now and work on this. It isn’t easy. Who ever told you that being my disciple is easy? When you stumble and make a mistake, and you will, you poor weak little thing! Don’t mind too much, I will understand. It takes a lot of doing, and goes on and on. The thing is to keep trying. Hang in there. Don ‘t give up. Judas gave up. He needn’t have gone the way he did. I would have forgiven him.”

“That reminds me,” Jesus’ eyes begin to dance, “I’ve heard some of you say about someone who has wronged you; forgive him, “but.” Tell me, what do you mean by that “but”? He shakes His head. “You people,” He says wonderingly, “it’s a good thing I love you.”

Jesus, We love you too. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus; what a comfort it is to repeat your name. Teach us to be polite to you. Teach us to be polite to each other. Teach us to really see you hanging on the Cross, between two thieves. Help us to understand what that really means. Help us to really see the hordes gazing maliciously up at you. Help us to hear the thud of the blows as they rain down on your body, “Yeh!” they scream. “If you be the Son of God, come down from the Cross.”

Oh, my most holy Jesus, compassionate and understanding companion of my daily life; let me never forget that my face can so easily be numbered among those in that mocking horde who watched you die in slow agony on the Cross. Jesus, help me to be polite to you. Help me to listen to what you are saying. Help me to hear your merciful words from the Cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Let me see your eyes, now sunken deep in your head from the rending, tearing death you are undergoing. Turn to Dismas and let me hear your words of everlasting comfort, not only to him; but to all of us who entreat you. “Lord, remember us in your Kingdom.” Dear Lord God, help us to hear your voice ring out and know you are speaking to us (thank God you are speaking to us). “Some day, not too far away in the vastness of time, you, my poor, weak, beloved little ones, shall be with me in paradise!”

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