Louis de Montfort: The Unspotted Mirror

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Louis de Montfort: The Unspotted Mirror

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

“How beautiful, meek, and charitable is Jesus, the incarnate Wisdom! Beautiful from all eternity, He is the splendor of his Father, the unspotted mirror and image of His goodness. He is more beautiful than the sun and brighter than light itself. He is beautiful in time, being formed by the Holy Spirit pure and faultless, fair and immaculate, and during his life He charmed the eyes and hearts of men and is now the glory of the angels. How loving and gentle He is with men, and especially with poor sinners whom He came upon earth to seek out in a visible manner, and whom He still seeks in an invisible manner every day.”

Louis de Montfort (1673-1716) in The love of Eternal Wisdom, 126.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Take a moment today to gaze into the unspotted mirror of Jesus. There you will see the image of His goodness and generosity. It’s “beautiful, meek, and charitable” as Montfort aptly notes.

Let us celebrate that Jesus came to seek us out in a “visible manner” on earth, though we are poor sinners, and continues to pursue us in an “invisible manner” still today.

Let Him catch and charm you to the point that you give all that you are and all that you have to His service. Whatever you keep from Him you will lose, but whatever you give Him you will gain for eternity.

His teachings on money make no sense until we grasp that He wants us to let go of everything else so our hands are free to hold on to Him. He gets that this is hard for us poor sinners.

This Christmas, draw near to our beautiful, meek, and charitable King and He will draw near to you.

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Claude de la Colombière: Avoid Becoming Attached

“You ask me to what you must avoid becoming attached: You must be attached to nothing, neither fortune, nor relations, nor directors, nor interior consolation; there must be nothing in the world which we are not ready to forego without trouble if God asks it of us.”

Claude de la Colombière (1641-1682) in a letter as recounted in The Quotable Saint, ed. by R. E. Guiley (New York, 2002) 4.

I am excited to have arrived safely home after a fruitful trip to Egypt, and I am blessed to enjoy some family time for Christmas. But why this post and how does it relate to generosity on the eve of Christmas?

For many, Christmas is about the giving of things that people may really want. This group of people needs to avoid becoming attached to things because they do not provide the satisfaction they promise.

Others find Christmas to be a painful and lonely time because they mourn the loss or separation from loved ones. This group has learned that attachment to people is not the path to lasting peace.

Christmas is about attaching to the greatest gift for all humankind, Jesus Christ. Attach to Him and find satisfaction, hope, help, peace, joy and everything that earthly attachments can’t deliver.

God often removes our earthly attachments for our growth. Most of the time, it’s really painful. So our generosity may be giving testimony to others how attaching to Christ has changed our lives and can transform theirs too.

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Clement of Alexandria: Perfect

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

“The perfect person does not only try to avoid evil. Nor does he [or she] do good for fear of punishment, still less in order to qualify for the hope of a promised reward.

The perfect person does good through love.

His [or Her] actions are not motivated by desire for personal benefit, so he [or she] does not have personal advantage as his [or her] aim. But as soon as he [or she] has realized the beauty of doing good, he [or she] does it with all his [or her] energies and in all that he [or she] does.

He [or She] is not interested in fame, or a good reputation, or a human or divine reward.

The rule of life for a perfect person is to be in the image and likeness of God.”

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215) as cited in Drinking From The Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary. Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World by Tomáš Špidlík.

My trip to Egypt has gone well. The service was fruitful. About seven hours after this posts I will arrive home to celebrate Christmas with my family.

One highlight on the trip was that a person said that attending the weekend generosity retreat with Patrick Johnson and me was like listening to Jesus.

Slowly but surely, the Holy Spirit is conforming and perfecting me into the image of His Son, Jesus. You too I pray. Our role is to surrender to this work.

Father, make us perfect people by your Spirit and be glorified in our being or abiding in Christ and in our doing good with love, all for Your glory. Amen.


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Clement of Rome: Do Righteousness with Temperance, Mercy, and Kindness

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

“Let us therefore not only call Him Lord, for this will not save us: for He saith, “Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, shall be saved, but he that doeth righteousness.” So then, brethren, let us confess Him in our works, by loving one another, by not committing adultery nor speaking evil one against another nor envying, but being temperate, merciful, kindly. And we ought to have fellow-feeling one with another and not to be covetous. By these works let us confess Him, and not by the contrary. And we ought not rather to fear men but God.”

Clement, Bishop of Rome (c. 100) in 2 Clement 4:1-4

When we do righteousness, the early church bishop reminds us to do it with temperance, mercy, and kindness. What do these words mean? 

Temperance is moderation or self-restraint. Practicing it is living with intentionality or self-discipline. Extending mercy is not giving people what they deserve. Showing kindness is then giving them what may bless or surprise them with generosity. 

So, with Clement, as I approach the end of a fruitful Egypt trip, and as we come to the celebration of the arrival of our Savior—Christmas—let us be people who do what is right with a measure of discipline, behaving toward others not as they anticipate but with generosity.

We do this because our works are the greatest confession of our faith and the demonstration of our fear of God. Do you fear God?

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Boniface: Our Duty

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Acts 20:24

“In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course.” 

Boniface (672-754) in a letter to Cuthbert, Archbishop of Canterbury. This quote came to mind as I have spent time with people by the Red Sea in Egypt, and there are always ships out in the water.

Do you feel pounded by life’s different stresses? I do frequently. So what’s our role if we want to live generously? With Boniface, I believe it is to give our lives to keep the ship on course.

Many feel that the Church has lost it’s way. It’s off course. If so, who’s responsible? Think before you answer. No finger-pointing. What if we each gave our lives to helping her (the Church) get back on track?

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Mathetes to Diognetus: Sojourners

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. John 17:16

“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners.

As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives.

They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

To sum up all in one word — what the soul is in the body, Christians are in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world.”

The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, 5-6 (c. 130). Mathetes, “a disciple of the Apostles,” was likely a student of Paul or one of the Apostle’s associates. Special thanks to my dear friend John Stanley for sharing this with me. I posted a portion of this back in 2015, and shared a larger excerpt today from Egypt where I shot this photo of the Red Sea at sunrise.

Notice the beautiful simplicity and generous lifestyle celebrated here. The early church Christians lived as sojourners in this world. Likewise, let us be people who pass our days on earth as citizens of heaven. Let us enrich the lives of others, and always repay evil with good. Don’t get comfortable here as you were made for heaven.

As a frequent traveler, this post was especially meaningful for me. I have come to realize that Christians dispersed everywhere in the world are my brothers and sisters. My prayer is that our interaction helps them live like sojourners who show there’s more to life for than what this world offers through their words and actions.

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Gregory the Great: Three States

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13

“There are in truth three states of the converted: the beginning, the middle, and the perfection. In the beginning they experience the charms of sweetness; in the middle the contests of temptation; and in the end the fullness of perfection.”

Gregory the Great (540-604) in Catholic Viewer’s Guidebook, edited by Mike Aquilina and Veronica Burchard (Sophia Institute Press, 2015) 65. Gregory is the fourth of the four Doctors of the Western Church.

Growth in generosity only happens when we resist the “contests of temptations” on the path to perfection or maturity. How are you tempted? For some, it’s fear. For others, it’s security. And for some, it’s materialism.

What state are you in? The only way to beat temptation is with fasting, prayer, confession, and living in light of what is true! When you do, you will be blessed by the Father. The path to maturity takes time and the opposition is real.

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Augustine of Hippo: Listen to God’s Advice

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 1 Timothy 6:7

“So, let us not love money. But if you already have it, this is what should be done with it. Be rich, you people who have it. But rich in what way? In good works. Let them give readily, he says, let them share, At this, avarice is pulling in its horns. Listen to what follows: Let them give readily, let them share…

It’s just as if you’d drenched him with a bucket of cold water; he goes numb, he shivers, he clasps his arms to himself, and he says, “I’m not going to throw away all my work.” You poor fish, do you want to throw away your work? You’re going to die, see? And just as you brought nothing here, so you can take nothing away from here. Since you’ve taken nothing away with you, won’t you have thrown away your work.

So listen to God’s advice. Don’t panic because he said, Let them give readily, let them share. Listen to what follows. Wait for it, don’t shut the door in my face, don’t bang down the receiver of your mind; wait for it. Do you want to see why. Let them give readily, let them share doesn’t mean you will throw everything away, and in fact is the only way to avoid throwing everything away.”

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) in Sermon 39.5, translated by Edmund Hill in Essential Sermons (New York: New City Press, 2007) 54.

Augustine’s sermons are awesome. Check out this book on Amazon to read them. He’s the third of four doctors of the Western Church that I’ve explored afresh while traveling in North Africa. He was from a town that would be in Algeria today.

While it’s unimaginable to throw away our work, people do it every day. As a matter of fact, most people do it. It’s the wide road they take linked to money. They store it up in the wrong place. Where is your money stored? Storing up money on earth is throwing away your work.

Instead, listen to God’s advice. Giving is the only way to avoid throwing away your work and throwing away everything you have. And pray for me as I spend some strategic time of fellowship with a group of God’s servants Sharm El-Sheikh the next few days.

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Ambrose of Milan: Good Opinion

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4

“There are some who aim at the credit of generosity for pride alone, because they wish thereby to gain the good opinion of the multitude for leaving nothing to themselves; but whilst they are seeking rewards in this life, they are laying up none for the life to come, and having received their reward here they cannot hope for it there.”

Ambrose of Milan (c. 339-397) in Concerning Repentance, 2.9.84.

While it is the season of year-end giving in America, most countries in the world provide no tax advantages for charitable giving. The temptation in societies where giving is celebrated with incentives links to pride. People are tempted to give for the wrong reasons.

While I am all for getting tax credits to maximize stewardship capacity, or in plain terms, to be able to give more, we must watch our motives. Think about it. Who should get the credit of all generosity? God, of course! He provides everything for us to enjoy and share.

The thing to remember, however, is the implications of glory-seeking motives. Jesus did not sugar-coat it. When we get this wrong, we store up nothing in eternity. We get no lasting gain for our giving. Let’s aim to get a “good opinion” from our God who sees everything.

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Jerome of Stridon: Simple

The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Psalm 116:6

“Let your dress be neither elegant nor slovenly, and let it not be noticeable by any strangeness that might attract the notice of passers-by and make people point their finger at you.”

Jerome of Stridon (347-420) in “Letter to Eustochium” 384. After citing the four doctors of the Eastern Church, I decided to read fresh material from the four doctors the Western Church. Jerome is one of them.

I shot the header photo last night of the stormy Mediterranean Sea in Alexandria. It was so beautiful. I saw it after enjoying sweet fellowship with friends and before heading to evening church.

Does your dress have room for more simplicity? Back in the USA where I live, people aim to get the attention of passers-by. Alternatively, Jerome reminds us to have the opposite aim.

Where do you stand? Do you want people to remember you for what you wear or for what you share? The world is watching, but more importantly, God is watching every decision you make.

Choose “simple” with regard to clothing and “generous” linked to giving.

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