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Wednesday 29th June, 2022

Proclaiming the Gospel

 

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”  Matthew 16:18 

 

The Church, throughout the ages, has been hated, misunderstood, slandered, ridiculed, and even attacked. Though sometimes ridicule and rebuke come as a result of the personal faults of Her members, most often the Church has been and continues to be persecuted because we have been given the mission of clearly, compassionately, firmly, and authoritatively proclaiming, with the voice of Christ Himself, the truth which liberates and sets all people free to live in unity as children of God. 

Ironically, and sadly, there are many in this world who refuse to accept the Truth. There are many who instead grow in anger and bitterness as the Church lives out Her divine mission. 

 

What is this divine mission of the Church? Her mission is to teach with clarity and authority, to pour forth God’s grace and mercy in the Sacraments, and to shepherd God’s people so as to lead them to Heaven. It is God who gave the Church this mission and God who enables the Church and Her ministers to carry it out with courage, boldness and fidelity. 

 

Today’s Solemnity is a very appropriate occasion to reflect on this sacred mission.  Saints Peter and Paul are not only two of the greatest examples of the Church’s mission, but they are also the actual foundation upon which Christ established this mission. 

 

First, Jesus Himself in today’s Gospel said to Peter, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” 

 

In this Gospel passage, “the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” are given to the first pope of the Church. St. Peter, the one entrusted with the divine headship of the Church on Earth, is given the authority to teach us all we need to know in order to attain Heaven.  It’s clear from the earliest days of the Church, that Peter passed these “Keys to the Kingdom,” this “ability to authoritatively bind and loose,” this divine gift that today is called infallibility, on to his successor, and he on to his successor and so forth until today. 

There are many who get angry at the Church for clearly, confidently and authoritatively proclaiming the liberating truth of the Gospel. This is especially true in the area of morality. Often, when these truths are proclaimed, the Church is attacked and called every sort of slanderous name in the book. 

The primary reason that this is so sad is not so much that the Church is attacked, Christ will always give us the grace we need to endure persecution.  The primary reason this is so sad is that most often those who are the angriest are, in fact, those who need to know the liberating truth the most.

Everyone needs the freedom that comes only in Christ Jesus and the full and unaltered Gospel truth that He has already entrusted to us in Scripture and that He continues to make clear to us through Peter in the person of the Pope. Furthermore, the Gospel does not ever change, the only thing that changes is our ever deeper and clearer understanding of this Gospel. Thanks be to God for Peter and for all of his successors who serve the Church in this essential role. 

 

St. Paul, the other Apostle we honor today, was not himself entrusted with the keys of Peter, but was called by Christ and strengthened by his ordination to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. St. Paul, with much courage, traveled throughout the Mediterranean to bring the message to all he met. In today’s Second Reading, St. Paul said of his journeys, “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear” the Gospel. And though he suffered, was beaten, imprisoned, ridiculed, misunderstood and hated by many, he was also an instrument of true freedom to many. Many people responded to his words and example, radically giving their lives over to Christ. We owe the establishment of many new Christian communities to St. Paul’s tireless efforts. When facing the opposition of the world, Paul said in today’s epistle, “I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.” 

 

Both St. Paul and St. Peter paid for their faithfulness to their missions with their lives. The First Reading spoke of Peter’s imprisonment; the epistles reveal Paul’s hardships. In the end, both became martyrs. Martyrdom is not a bad thing if it is the Gospel for which you are martyred. 

 

Jesus says in the Gospel, “Fear not the one who can bind your hand and foot, rather fear him who can throw you into Gehenna.” And the only one who can throw you into Gehenna is yourself because of the free choices you make. All we ultimately need to fear is wavering from the truth of the Gospel in our words and deeds. 

 

The truth must be proclaimed in love and compassion; but love is not loving nor is compassion compassionate if the truth of the life of faith and morals is not present. 

 

On this feast of Saints Peter and Paul, may Christ give all of us, and the entire Church, the courage, charity, and wisdom we need to continue to be the instruments that set the world free.

 

Lord, I thank You for the gift of Your Church and the liberating Gospel it preaches.  Help me to always be faithful to the truths You proclaim through Your Church.  And help me to be an instrument of that truth to all in need of it.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 27th June, 2022

Calming the Storm

 

 

They came and woke Jesus, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.  Matthew 8:25-26

 

Imagine you were out on the sea with the Apostles.  You were a fisherman and spent countless hours on the sea throughout your life.  Some days the sea was exceptionally calm and other days there were big waves.  But this day was unique.  These waves were huge and crashing and you feared that things would not end well.  So, with the others on the boat, you woke Jesus in a panic hoping that He would save you.

 

What would have been the best thing for the Apostles to do in this situation?  Most likely, it would have been for them to allow Jesus to remain asleep.  Ideally, they would have faced the fierce storm with confidence and hope.  “Storms” that seem overwhelming may be rare, but we can be certain they will come.  They will come and we will feel overwhelmed.

 

If the Apostles would not have panicked and would have allowed Jesus to sleep, they may have had to endure the storm a bit longer.  But eventually it would have died down and all would have been calm.

Jesus, in His great compassion, is OK with us crying out to Him in our need as the Apostles did on the boat.  He is OK with us turning to Him in our fear and seeking His help.  When we do, He will be there as a parent is there for a child who wakes during the night in fear.  But ideally we will face the storm with confidence and hope.  We will ideally know that this too will pass and that we should simply trust and stay strong.  This seems to be the most ideal lesson we can learn from this story.

 

Reflect, today, on how you react to hardship and problems in your life.  Be they big or small, do you face them with the confidence, calm and hope that Jesus wants you to have?  Life is too short to be filled with terror.  Have confidence in the Lord no matter what you face each day.  If He seems to be asleep, allow Him to remain asleep.  He knows what He is doing and you can be certain that He will never allow you to endure more than you can handle.

 

My sleeping Lord, whatever may come my way I trust You.  I know You are always there and will never give me more than I can handle.  Jesus, I do trust in You.

Friday 24th June, 2022

The Heart of Perfect Love and Self-Giving

 

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. Matthew 11:29

 

Happy Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!

 

To some, this can seem like an old and outdated celebration in the Church.  It can be seen as one of those ancient feasts that have little meaning in our lives today.  Nothing could be further from the truth!

 

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is exactly what we need to know, experience and receive in our lives today.  His heart, that heart which was pierced by the lance and from which flowed blood and water, is the sign, symbol and source of the burning love of His very soul.  The blood is an image of the Most Holy Eucharist and the water is an image of the cleansing waters of Baptism.  

 

This celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a celebration of Jesus pouring out on us His whole life and all of His love.  He held nothing back which is symbolized by the pouring forth of the last drop of this blood and water from His Heart as He lay there dead on the Cross.  Though it’s a very graphic image, it’s graphic to make a point.  The point, again, is that He held nothing back.  We need to realize that Jesus continues to give us everything if we are willing to receive it.  

 

If you are finding that you need to know His love more deeply in your life this day, try spending time reflecting on this Scripture: “…but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out” (John 19:33-34).  Spend time reflecting upon that last self gift, the gift of that water and blood flowing from His wounded Heart.  It is a sign of His infinite love for you.  Reflect upon it being poured out especially for you.  See it, be immersed in it, and be open to it.  Let His love transform and fill you.  

 

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.  I thank You, dear Lord, for giving all to me.  You held nothing back from me and You continue to pour out Your life for my good and for the good of the whole world.  May I receive all You give to me and hold nothing back from You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Thursday 23rd June, 2022

Fidelity to God After a Fall

 

 

He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.  Luke 1:63-64

 

Zechariah provides a great witness to all of us of one who sinned by lacking faith in God, but after suffering the humiliation of his sin, he became truly faithful and ended up “blessing God.”

We are familiar with his story.  His wife became pregnant with John the Baptist by a miracle in her old age.  When it was revealed to Zechariah by an angel that this would take place, he failed to have faith in this promise and doubted.  The result was that he was struck mute until the moment that John was born.  It was at that moment when Zechariah acted in fidelity to the revelation of God by naming his baby “John” as the angel had requested.  This act of fidelity on Zechariah’s part loosened his tongue and he began to speak the praises of God.

 

This witness of Zechariah should be an inspiration to all who seek to follow the will of God in their lives but have failed.  There are many times when God speaks to us, we hear Him, but we fail to believe in what He says.  We fail in fidelity to His promises.  The result is that we suffer the effects of that sin.

 

At first, the effects of sin in our lives can seem like a punishment.  Indeed, in many ways they are.  It’s not a punishment from God; rather, it’s a punishment of sin.  Sin has devastating consequences in our lives.  But the good news is that those consequences of sin are permitted by God as a way of drawing us back to fidelity to Him.  And if we allow them to humble us and change us like Zechariah did, we will be able to turn from a life of infidelity to the will of God to a life of fidelity.  And a life of fidelity will enable us to ultimately sing the praises of our God.

 

Reflect, today, upon the ways that you have not been faithful to God in your life.  But think of it in the context of hope.  Hope that God will receive you back and transform your life if you return to Him.  God is waiting and His mercy is abundant.  Allow His mercy to fill you with a heart that blesses the goodness of God.

 

Lord, help me to see my past sins not so much in despair, but as reasons to return to You in greater fidelity.  No matter how many times I have fallen, help me to get back up and to faithfully sing Your praises.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 22nd June, 2022

Bearing Good Fruit

 

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.  By their fruits you will know them.  Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”  Matthew 7:15-16

 

The obvious answer to this question of Jesus is “No, people do not pick grapes from thornbushes.”  In other words, an evil person cannot bear good fruit.

 

This statement from our Lord can give us much guidance in the area of discernment.  First of all, it’s important to be aware of the very simple fact that “false prophets” do exist.  This can be understood as anyone who actively misleads another under the guise of doing good.  Some may do this unknowingly, but normally the one who acts as a wolf in sheep’s clothing does so out of the intention of some form of selfish gain.  The selfish gain by which they are motivated could be many things, but the basic principle of selfishness usually applies.  

 

By way of a secular example, take a used car salesman who deceptively tells a potential car buyer that a particular car is wonderful, when the salesman actually knows the car has serious mechanical problems.  His goal is the sale of the car for a selfish profit with little care about the harm done to the unexpectant buyer.

 

Similarly, many of us may be tempted to “sweet talk” people or say what we think others want to hear in order to get them to do what we want.  This is deceptive and misleading.

 

When it comes to discernment, the key Jesus gives us is to look at the fruit of what someone says or does.  Inevitably, when something comes from the Heart of our Lord and is in accord with His will, the fruit will be good.  But when it is deceptive or misleading, cloaked in superficial “goodness,” the end result, the fruit that is born, is at most only sour grapes.

 

Reflect, today, upon anything in your life you are striving to decide or discern.  If you truly want to know the Lord’s will in your daily decisions, try to look beyond the immediate choice to the effects that this choice will have down the road.  If you sincerely see goodness as a result of certain choices, know that this is a good sign that it is good and from the Lord.  If you see negative effects of certain decisions, producing bad fruit, then it is a good sign that the decision you are contemplating is not from God.  Choose the good fruit and you will be choosing the will of God.

 

Lord of true fruitfulness, give me the grace of discerning Your holy will in my life.  Help me, especially, to see the good fruit that comes as a result of following You always.  As You bear good fruit in my life, dear Lord, help me to continue down that holy path toward an abundance of every good gift.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 21st June, 2022

Do to Others…

 

 

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 7:12

 

This familiar phrase was a command from God established in the Old Testament.  It’s a good rule of thumb by which to live.

 

What would you have others “do to you?”  Think about that and try to be honest.  If we are honest, we must admit that we want others to do a lot for us.  We want to be respected, to be treated with dignity, to be treated fairly, etc.  But on an even deeper level, we want to be loved, understood, known and cared for.  

 

Deep down, we should all try to recognize the natural longing that God gave us to share in a loving relationship with others, and to be loved by God.  This desire goes to the heart of what it means to be human.  We as humans are made for that love.  This Scripture passage above reveals that we must be ready and willing to offer to others that which we desire to receive.  If we can recognize within us the natural desires for love, we should also strive to foster a desire to love.  We should foster a desire to love to the same extent that we seek it for ourselves.

 

This is harder than it sounds.  Our selfish tendency is to demand and expect love and mercy from others while at the same time we hold ourselves to a much lower standard regarding how much we offer.  The key is to put our attention on our duty first.  We must strive to see what we are called to do and how we are called to love.  As we see this as our first duty and as we strive to live it, we will discover that we find much greater satisfaction in giving than in seeking to receive.  We will find that “doing onto others,” regardless of what they “do to us,” is what we actually find fulfillment in.

Reflect, today, on the natural desire you have in your heart for the love and respect of others.  Then, make this the focus of how you treat those around you.  

 

Lord of perfect desires, help me to do to others what I desire they do to me.  Help me to use the desire in my own heart for love as the motivation for my love of others.  In giving of myself, help me find fulfillment and satisfaction in that gift.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 20th June, 2022

Are You Judgmental?

 

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”  Matthew 7:1-2

 

Being judgmental can be a difficult thing to shake.  Once someone falls into the habit of regularly thinking and speaking in a harsh and critical way, it’s very difficult for them to change.  In fact, once someone starts down the road of being critical and judgmental, chances are that they will continue down that road becoming more critical and more judgmental.

 

This is one of the reasons Jesus addresses this tendency in such a strong way.  After the passage above Jesus states, “You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first…”  These words and Jesus’ strong condemnation of being judgmental is not so much because Jesus is angry or harsh toward the judgmental person.  Rather, He wants to redirect them from the road they are heading down and help to free them of this heavy burden.  So an important question to ponder is this: “Is Jesus talking to me?  Do I struggle with being judgmental?”

 

If the answer is “Yes,” fear not and do not get discouraged.  Seeing this tendency and admitting it is very important and is the first step toward the virtue which is opposite of being judgmental.  The virtue is mercy.  And mercy is one of the most important virtues we can have today.

 

It seems that the times we live in demand mercy more than ever.  Perhaps one of the reasons for that is the extreme tendency, as a world culture, to be harsh and critical of others.  All you need to do is read a newspaper, browse social media, or watch the nightly news programs to see that our world culture is one that is continually growing in the tendency to analyze and criticize.  This is a real problem.

 

The good thing about mercy is that God uses either our judgmentalness or our mercy (depending upon which is more manifest) as the measuring rod of how He treats us.  He will act with great mercy and forgiveness toward us when we show that virtue.  But He will also show His justice and judgment when this is the path we take with others.  It’s up to us!

 

Reflect, today, on mercy and judgmentalness in your life.  Which one is greater?  What is your primary tendency?  Remind yourself that mercy is always far more rewarding and satisfying than being judgmental.  It produces joy, peace and freedom.  Put mercy in your mind and commit yourself to seeing the blessed rewards of this precious gift.

 

Merciful Lord, please do fill my heart with mercy.  Help me to set aside all critical thinking and harsh words and replace them with Your love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 17th June, 2022

Your Treasure and Your Heart

 

 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”  Matthew 6:19-21

 

So where is your heart?  The answer to that question is answered above.  Your heart is wherever your treasure is.  So, that begs the question, “What is your treasure?”

 

This particular passage points to the danger of becoming overly attached to material wealth.  But the same goes for anything in this life we can tend to become attached to.  What is it you are attached to?  What is your treasure?

 

Ideally, our hearts are attached only to that which God wants them attached.  If that’s the case, then the things we love are the treasures that God wants us to love.  And by loving those things, we are loving the God who gives them and calls us to love them.

 

Our treasure should certainly include our family and those others who we are called to love and care for with a special affection.  Our treasure should also be our life of prayer and worship.  That’s the most direct way we love God in this world.  Our treasure could also be particular acts of service we are inspired to do, or anything that makes up the will of God.

 

Do you love these things?  Are they your treasure?  The problem is that way too often we tend to love much more than that which God calls us to love.  We become deeply attached to the idea of getting rich and having many things.  But our unhealthy “loves” can extend even beyond wealth and material things.  

 

Reflect, today, upon those things that you may have made far too much of a “treasure” in your life.  What is it that you are overly attached to in this passing world?  Is it money?  Or is it something else?  Allow God to show you and then allow Him to free you from it.  That is the first step toward a life of the greatest of riches!

 

Lord of true riches, help me to keep my heart fixed on You.  Help me to keep You and Your will as my greatest treasure.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 16th June, 2022

The Lord’s Prayer

 

 

“This is how you are to pray: Our Father who art in heaven…”  Matthew 6:9

 

The following is an excerpt from the My Catholic Worship! book, Chapter Eleven, on the Lord’s Prayer:

The Lord’s Prayer is indeed a summary of the entire Gospel.  It is called “The Lord’s Prayer” in that Jesus Himself gave it to us as a way of teaching us to pray.  In this prayer, we find seven petitions to God.  Within those seven petitions we will find every human longing and every expression of faith found within the Scriptures.  Everything we need to know about life and prayer is contained in this wonderful prayer.

 

Jesus Himself gave us this prayer as the model of all prayer.  It is good that we repeat the words of the Lord’s Prayer regularly in vocal prayer.  This is also done in the various sacraments and liturgical worship.  However, saying this prayer is not enough.  The goal is to internalize each and every aspect of this prayer so that it becomes a model of our personal petition to God and an entrustment of our entire life to Him.

 

The Foundation of Prayer

 

The Lord’s Prayer begins not with a petition; rather, it begins with us acknowledging our identity as children of the Father.  This is a key foundation for the Lord’s Prayer to be prayed properly.  It also reveals the foundational approach we must take in all prayer and in the entire Christian life.  The opening statement preceding the seven petitions is as follows: “Our Father who art in Heaven.”  Let’s take a look at what is contained in this opening statement of the Lord’s Prayer.

 

Filial Boldness: At Mass, the priest invites the people to pray the Lord’s Prayer by saying, “At the Savior’s command and formed by divine teaching we dare to say…”  This “daring” on our part comes from the foundational understanding that God is our Father.  Each Christian is to see the Father as my Father.  We must see ourselves as God’s children and approach Him with the confidence of a child.  A child with a loving parent is not afraid of that parent.  Rather, children have the greatest trust that their parents love them no matter what.  Even when they sin, children know they are still loved.  This must be our fundamental starting point for all prayer.  We must start with an understanding that God loves us no matter what.  With this understanding of God we will have all the confidence we need to call on Him.

 

Abba: Calling God “Father” or, more specifically, “Abba” means we cry out to God in the most personal and intimate of ways.  “Abba” is a term of endearment for the Father.  This shows that God is not just the Almighty or the All-Powerful.  God is so much more.  God is my loving Father and I am the Father’s beloved son or daughter.

 

“Our” Father: To call God “our” Father expresses an entirely new relationship as a result of the New Covenant that was established in the blood of Christ Jesus.  This new relationship is one in which we are now God’s people and He is our God.  It’s an exchange of persons and, therefore, deeply personal.  This new relationship is nothing other than a gift from God to which we have no right.  We have no right to be able to call God our Father.  It’s a grace and a gift. 

 

This grace also reveals our profound unity to Jesus as the Son of God.  We can only call God “Father” in so far as we are one with Jesus.  His humanity unites us to Him and we now share in a deep bond with Him.

 

Calling God “our” Father also reveals the union we share with one another.  All who call God their Father in this intimate way are brothers and sisters in Christ.  We, therefore, are not only deeply connected together; we also are enabled to worship God together.  In this case, individualism is left behind in exchange for fraternal unity.  We are members of this one divine family as a glorious gift of God.

 

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 14th June, 2022

A Hidden Life for God

 

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”  Matthew 6:1

 

Very often when we do something good, we want others to see.  We want them to be aware of how good we are.  Why?  Because it feels good to be recognized and honored by others.  But Jesus tells us to do the complete opposite.

 

Jesus tells us that when we do a work of charity, fast or pray we should do it in a hidden way.  In other words, we should not do it so as to be noticed and praised by others.  It’s not that there is anything wrong with others seeing our goodness.  Rather, Jesus’ teaching goes to the heart of our motivations for our good actions.  He’s trying to tell us that we should act in a holy way because we want to grow close to God and serve His will, not so that we can be recognized and praised by others.

This offers us a great opportunity to look deeply and honestly at our motivations.  Why do you do what you do?  Think about the good things you try to do.  Then think about your motivation in doing those things.  Hopefully you are motivated to do holy things simply because you want to be holy and want to serve the will of God.  Are you content with God and God alone seeing your good actions?  Are you OK with no one else recognizing your selflessness and acts of love?  Hopefully the answer is “Yes.”

 

Holiness is especially found in your hidden life.  There, where you are seen only by God, you must act in a way that pleases God.  You must live a life of virtue, prayer, sacrifice and self-giving when only God sees.  If you can live this way in your hidden life, you can also be certain that your hidden life of grace will affect others in a way that only God can orchestrate.  When you strive for holiness in a hidden way, God sees that and uses it for good.  This hidden life of grace becomes the foundation for who you are and how you interact with others.  They may not see all you do, but they will be affected by the goodness within your soul.

 

Lord of holiness, help me to live a hidden life of grace.  Help me to serve You even when no one sees.  From the solitude of those moments, bring forth Your grace and mercy for the world.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 14th June, 2022

Love Your Enemies 

 

 

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.”  Matthew 5:44-45a

 

This is not an easy command from our Lord.  But it is a command of love.

 

First, He calls us to love our enemies.  Who are our enemies?  Hopefully we do not have “enemies” in the sense of those who we have willfully chosen to hate.  But we may have people in our lives who we are tempted to have anger toward and who we have a difficult time loving.  Perhaps we can consider anyone we struggle with as our enemies.

 

To love them does not necessarily mean we must become best friends with them, but it does mean we must work toward having a true affection of care, concern, understanding and forgiveness toward them.  This can be hard to have toward everyone but it must be our goal.

 

The second part of this command will help.  Praying for those who persecute us will help us grow in the proper love and affection we need to foster.  This aspect of love is quite straightforward even though it is also quite difficult.

 

Think about those whom you have a very difficult time loving.  Those toward whom you have anger.  It could be a family member, someone at work, a neighbor or someone from your past with whom you have never reconciled.  It is in keeping with this Gospel passage to honestly admit that there is at least someone, or perhaps more than one person, with whom you struggle, either externally or internally.  Admitting this is simply an act of honesty.  

 

Once you identify this person or persons, think about whether you pray for them.  Do you spend time regularly offering them to God in prayer?  Do you pray that God pours forth His grace and mercy upon them?  This may be hard to do but it is one of the healthiest acts you can do.  It may be difficult to show love and affection toward them, but it is not hard to consciously choose to pray for them.

 

Praying for those with whom we have a hard time is key to letting God foster a true love and concern in our hearts toward them.  It’s a way of letting God reform our emotions and feelings so that we will no longer have to hold on to feelings of anger or even hate.  

 

Commit yourself this day to prayer for the person you struggle with the most.  This prayer will most likely not change your love for them over night, but if you commit to this form of prayer every day, over time God will slowly change your heart and free you of the burden of anger and hurt that may keep you from the love He wants you to have toward all people.

 

Lord of perfect love, I pray for the person for whom You want me to pray.  Help me to love all people and help me to especially love those who are hard to love.  Reorder my feelings toward them and help me to be free of any anger.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 13th June, 2022

Turning the Other Cheek

 

 

“But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.”  Matthew 5:39

 

This is a hard teaching to embrace!

 

Did Jesus really mean this?  Often, when put in the situation where someone wrongs us or hurts us we can tend to immediately rationalize away this Gospel passage and presume it doesn’t apply to us.  Yes, it’s a hard teaching to believe and an even harder one to live.

 

What does it mean to “turn the other cheek?”  First, we should look at this on a literal level.  Jesus did mean what He said.  He is the perfect example of this.  Not only was He slapped on the cheek, He was also brutally beaten and hung on a cross.  And His response was, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  Therefore, Jesus does not call us to do anything that He Himself was not willing to do.

 

Turning the other cheek does not mean that we need to cover up another’s abusive actions or words.  We ought not pretend that they have done nothing wrong.  Jesus Himself, in forgiving and in asking the Father to forgive, acknowledged the grave injustice He received at the hands of sinners.  But the key is that He did not allow Himself to be drawn into their malice.

 

Often times, when we feel like another flings mud at us, so to speak, we are tempted to fling it right back.  We are tempted to fight and push the bully back.  But the key to overcoming the malice and cruelty of another is to refuse to be drawn down into the mud.  Turning the other cheek is a way of saying that we refuse to degrade ourselves to foolish bickering or arguing.  We refuse to engage irrationality when we encounter it.  Instead, we choose to allow another to reveal their malice to themselves and to others by peacefully accepting it and forgiving.  

 

This is not to say that Jesus wants us to perpetually live in abusive relationships that are more than we can handle.  But it does mean that we will all encounter injustice from time to time and we need to handle it with mercy and immediate forgiveness, and not become drawn into returning malice for malice.  

 

Reflect, today, on any relationships that are difficult for you.  Especially reflect upon how ready you are to forgive and to turn the other cheek.  Doing this may just bring you the peace and freedom you seek in that relationship.

 

My forgiving Lord, help me to imitate Your great mercy and forgiveness.  Help me to forgive those who have hurt me and help me to rise above any injustice I encounter.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 27th May, 2022

Anguish Turns to Joy

 

 

“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.

 

My compassionate 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.

Thursday 26th May, 2022

Sorrow to Joy

 

“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 of all hopefulness, 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.

Wednesday 25th May, 2022

The Spirit of Truth

 

 

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.

Tuesday 24th May, 2022

Come Holy Spirit!

 

 

“But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”  John 16:7

 

The hearts of the Apostles were conflicted.  They were filled with grief, but they were also trying to trust what Jesus said to them.  Jesus told them He was ascending to His Father and that it was better for them that He go.  Why?  Because if He goes, He will send the Holy Spirit to them.  

 

On a human level, it would have been quite hard for the Apostles to let go of their daily interactions with Jesus.  They certainly missed seeing Him with their eyes, touching Him and hearing Him.  But Jesus made it clear that even though He was leaving He would be with them always.  And He would also send the Holy Spirit upon them to lead them, give them courage, and teach them all truth.  They would now be His presence in the world by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

We never had the privilege of seeing Jesus in the way the Apostles did.  But we do have the same privilege of Him being with us always.  And we have the same privilege of receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit.  This is good.  It is very good.  But it is a good that we often miss.  We may have been confirmed, but we may also still fail to let the Holy Spirit in and transform our lives.  

 

In less than two weeks, we will celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost.  This is the annual celebration of the fulfillment of this promise of Jesus.  On that day we commemorate the fact that the Holy Spirit has come and that we are now in the time of the Holy Spirit.  

 

Reflect, today, and over the next couple of weeks about the Holy Spirit.  Humbly admit to yourself if you need to let the Holy Spirit become more alive in your life.  Trust that Jesus wants you to receive Him in His fullness.  And be not afraid to let this union take place.

 

Holy Spirit, please come to me.  Help me to fan into flame Your presence in my life.  May I receive You who was promised by Jesus in Your fullness.  Holy Spirit, Divine Jesus, Merciful Father, I trust in You.

Monday 23rd May, 2022

Jesus Prepares Us

 

 

“They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.”  John 16:2–4

 

Most likely, as the disciples listened to Jesus tell them they would be expelled from the synagogues and even killed, it went in one ear and out the other.  Sure, it may have disturbed them a bit, but they most likely moved on rather quickly not worrying too much about it.  But this is why Jesus said, “I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.”  And you can be certain that when the disciples were persecuted by the scribes and Pharisees, they did remember these words of Jesus.  

 

It must have been a heavy cross for them to receive such persecution from their religious leaders.  Here, the people who were supposed to point them to God, were wreaking havoc in their lives.  They would have been tempted to despair and lose their faith.  But Jesus anticipated this heavy trial and, for that reason, warned them that it would come.  

 

But what’s interesting is what Jesus did not say.  He did not tell them they should fight back, start a riot, form a revolution, etc.  Rather, if you read the context to this statement, we see Jesus telling them that the Holy Spirit will take care of all things, will lead them and will enable them to testify to Jesus.  To testify to Jesus is to be His witness.  And to be a witness to Jesus is to be a martyr.  Thus, Jesus prepared His disciples for their heavy cross of persecution by the religious leaders by letting them know that they would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to give witness and testimony to Him.  And once this began to take place, the disciples began to recall all that Jesus had told them.

 

You, too, must realize that being a Christian means persecution.  We see this persecution in our world today through various terrorist attacks upon Christians.  Some see it also, at times, within the “Domestic Church,” the family, when they experience ridicule and harsh treatment for trying to live out their faith.  And, sadly, it’s even found within the Church itself when we see fighting, anger, disagreement and judgment.  

 

The key is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit plays a significant role right now in our world.  That role is to strengthen us in our witness to Christ and to ignore any way the evil one would attack.  So if you feel the pressure of persecution in any way, realize that Jesus spoke these words not only for His first disciples, but also for you.

 

Reflect, today, upon any way that you experience persecution in your life.  Allow it to become an opportunity for hope and trust in the Lord through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  He will never leave your side if you trust in Him.

 

Lord, when I feel the weight of the world or persecution, give me peace of mind and heart.  Help strengthen me by the Holy Spirit that I may give joyful witness to You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 20th May, 2022

You Are Chosen

 

 

“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.”  John 15:16

 

Children love to play games.  When a game is organized between two teams, kids will often line up and wait to be chosen.  Each child hopes to be chosen first.  It is affirming to be wanted for the team.  When a child is chosen last this can be difficult and hurtful.

 

This reveals the desire within each of us to belong and to be wanted.  The good news is that God does choose each one of us.  He wants us as a member of His family and He wants us to belong to Him.  This is essential to understand and, when it is understood, it is very affirming.

 

It is a good spiritual practice to regularly reflect upon the fact that God chose us even before we were born.  He knew us from all eternity and set His eyes upon us, longing to bring us into His fold.  We need to understand this, accept it and believe it.  We do belong.

 

God not only chooses us to belong to Him, He also chooses us for His mission.  He wants to use us to go and bear fruit for His Kingdom.  He wants to use us for a sacred purpose and a divine calling.  Being a member of His “team” means that our lives have purpose and meaning.  No matter how “unqualified” we may feel at times to make a difference, we must remember that God does not see us that way. 

 

Rather, He sees the infinite potential within each of us and chooses to use that potential for the building up of His Kingdom.

 

Reflect, this day, on two short phrases:  “I have chosen you” and “Go and bear fruit.”  Accepting your call from God will change your life and will also change the lives of those whom you are called to serve.

My welcoming Lord, I know You have chosen me.  I accept Your call in my life.  I accept the fact that You have appointed me to fulfill Your mission in a unique and glorious way.  Help me to continually say “Yes” to Your call.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 19th May, 2022

Unlimited and Unconditional Love

 

 

“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.”  John 15:9

 

There are three beautiful insights we should take from this passage.  

 

First, the love of the Father for the Son is perfect in every way.  It is unconditional and all-consuming.  It’s total and selfless.  In receiving the Father’s love, Jesus receives all He needs.  

Second, the love Jesus receives from the Father cannot be contained.  It cannot be kept to Himself.  The love of the Father is such that it overflows from Jesus’ heart.  It is this overflowing love that pours forth from Jesus to us.  

 

Third, a key thing to ponder in this is that this overflowing love, now given to us, cannot be contained within us either.  It must overflow from our hearts to others.  Therefore, if we are to be true recipients of the love of the Father and the Son, we must in turn let that love pour forth onto others in an “unlimited” and “unconditional” way.

 

Think about it.  “Unlimited.”  “Unconditional.”  Is this truly possible?  Is it possible to be so radical and total in our love of others?  Yes, it’s possible only if the love we speak of originates in the heart of the Father, given to the Son, and then poured out upon us to distribute freely.  

 

Reflect, today, upon the fact that the love you are called to share with others originates in the Heart of the Father in Heaven.  The first and most important step in learning to love with the Father’s Heart is to let God love you.  This can be very hard to do.  It can be hard to let God love you, to receive that love, and to let it affect you deeply.  But if you can continually let God love you with His perfect love, you will start to see that this love automatically flows forth from you as if it were an overflowing river of grace and mercy.

 

Loving Father and Son, I do love You and know that I am loved by You.  Help me to be open to Your love. Help me to let that love sink in so that it may also overflow from my heart to others.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 18th May, 2022

Being Pruned

 

 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”  

John 15:1–2

 

Are you willing to let yourself be pruned?  Pruning is necessary if a plant is to produce an abundance of good fruit or beautiful flowers.  If, for example, a grapevine is left to grow without pruning, it will produce many small grapes that are good for nothing.  But if care is taken to prune the vine, the maximum number of good grapes will be produced.

 

Jesus uses this image of pruning to teach us a similar lesson in bearing good fruit for His Kingdom.  He wants our lives to be fruitful and He wants to use us as powerful instruments of His grace in the world.  But unless we are willing to go through the purification of spiritual pruning from time to time, we will not be the instruments that God can use.  

 

Spiritual pruning takes the form of letting God eliminate the vices in our lives so that the virtues can be properly nourished.  This is especially done by letting Him humble us and strip away our pride.  This can hurt, but the pain associated with being humbled by God is a key to spiritual growth.  By growing in humility, we grow ever more reliant upon the source of our nourishment rather than relying upon ourselves, our own ideas and our own plans.  God is infinitely wiser than us and if we can continually turn to Him as our source, we will be far stronger and better prepared to let Him do great things through us.  But, again, this requires that we let Him prune us.

 

Being spiritually pruned means we actively let go of our own will and our own ideas.  It means we give up control over our lives and let the master grower take over.  It means we trust Him far more than we trust ourselves.  This requires a true death to ourselves and a true humility by which we acknowledge we are completely reliant upon God in the same way a branch is reliant upon the vine.  Without the vine, we shrivel and die.  Being firmly attached to the vine is the only way to life.

 

Pray this day that you will let the Lord prune away all that is not of Him in your life.  Trust in Him and His divine plan and know that this is the only path to bearing the good fruit God wants to bear through you.

 

Lord, I pray that You prune away all my pride and selfishness.  Purify me of my many sins so that I can turn to You in all things.  And as I learn to rely upon You, may You begin to bear an abundance of good fruit in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 17th May, 2022

A Troubled Heart

 

 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”  John 14:27

 

What a wonderful reminder that we all need to hear on a regular basis.  “Do not let your heart be troubled.”  And “Do not let your heart be afraid.”  How often do you follow that advice?

 

Interestingly, it’s actually more than advice.  It’s a command of love from our Lord.  He wants to be clear and wants us to know that a fearful and troubled heart is not of Him.  To be troubled and fearful is a great burden and weighs us down.  Jesus desperately wants us to be free of these burdens.  He wants us to be free so that we can experience the joy of life.  

 

So what is it that burdens you in life the most?  Is there something in your life that you obsess about, are angry about, can’t let go of or that tends to dominate your life?  Or perhaps your burden is more subtle.  Perhaps there is nothing that overwhelms you but, instead, is a constant burden in a small way, always there in the background.  These burdens can be quite difficult when they last from year to year.

 

The first step to freedom is to see the burden for what it is.  Identify it and seek to identify the underlying cause.  If the cause of your burden is your own sin, repent of it and seek Confession.  This is the best way to experience immediate freedom.  

 

If, however, your burden is the result of another’s actions or some situation in life that is out of your control, then you are in a unique position to surrender to our Lord, giving Him complete control of this situation.  Freedom is found in total surrender, trust and abandonment to His will.

 

Spend some time today reflecting upon that which burdens you the most in life.  What is it that weighs heavily upon you?  It is this, more than anything else, that Jesus wants to enter into and lift for you.  He wants you free so that you can experience the joy that He has to offer you in life.  

 

Lord of true joy, I want to be free.  I want to experience the joy You have in store for me.  When the burdens of life weigh me down, help me to turn to You in my need.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 16th May, 2022

Indwelling of the Trinity

 

 

“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”  John 14:23

 

Children seem to get it.  They seem to understand that God dwells in their hearts.  Of course if you asked them how they know this they may look at you with a confused look and not know how to respond.  But, nonetheless, somehow they do understand that God dwells within them.

 

So what would you say if someone asked you, “How do you know that God comes and makes His dwelling within you?”  Perhaps you also may be at a loss for words to describe this incredible mystery of our faith.   Do you believe this to be true?  That God wants to make your heart and soul His dwelling place?  If so, how does this happen?

 

By the gift of faith we, like little children, just know that God wants to dwell within us.  We know that He wants to possess our souls, speak to us, strengthen us, lead us and guide us.  We know, by the gift of faith, that God is real and desires the deepest and most intimate relationship with us.  We just know.

 

The good news is that faith leads to understanding.  This means that the more we are attentive to the voice of God speaking within us, leading and guiding us, the more we begin to understand His indwelling presence.  As St. Augustine said, “Faith is to believe what you do not see. The reward of faith is to see what you believe.”  Faith in God’s indwelling presence leads us to the answer of the question above.  The answer is one that God and God alone can give to us.  We can share our faith with others, give witness to His presence in our lives, and give those around us the answer to that question through faith.  How do I know God dwells within me?  The answer: Because I see Him there, I speak to Him there, and He speaks to me.  

 

Reflect, today, upon the Lord living within you.  Let Him speak to you and, in that ever deepening conversation, allow His Indwelling Presence to grow and to become manifest to others.  God wants to not only dwell within you, He also wants to shine through you.

 

Most Blessed Trinity, come live in my heart.  Make my heart Your dwelling place.  Help me to see You there, to meet You there, to converse with You and to love You in my soul.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 13th May, 2022

Our Father’s House

 

 

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”  John 14:2–3

 

From time to time it’s important that we focus in on the glorious reality of Heaven!  Heaven is real and, God willing, one day we will all be united there with our Triune God.  If we properly understood Heaven, we’d long for it with a deep and burning love and we’d look forward to it with a powerful desire, being filled with peace and joy every time we think of it.

 

Unfortunately, however, the thought of leaving this Earth and meeting our Maker is a frightening thought for some.  Perhaps it’s the fear of the unknown, the realization that we will leave our loved ones behind, or possibly even a fear that Heaven will not be our final resting place.  

 

As Christians, it’s essential that we work at fostering a great love of Heaven by gaining a proper understanding of not only Heaven itself, but also the purpose of our lives on Earth.  Heaven helps order our lives and helps us stay on the path that leads to this eternal beatitude.

 

In the passage above, we are given a very consoling image of Heaven.  It’s the image of the “Father’s house.”  This image is a good one to reflect upon because it reveals that Heaven is our home.  Home is a safe place.  It’s a place where we can be ourselves, relax, be with loved ones, and feel as if we belong.  We are God’s sons and daughters and He has decided that we belong there with Him.  

 

Reflecting on this image of Heaven should also console those who have lost a loved one.  The experience of saying goodbye, for now, is very difficult.  And it should be difficult.  The difficulty of losing a loved one reveals that there is true love in that relationship.  And that is good.  But God does want the feelings of loss to also be mingled with joy as we ponder the reality of our loved one being with the Father in His home for eternity.  They are happier there than we will ever be able to imagine, and we will one day be called to share in that joy.

 

Reflect, today, upon this image of Heaven: our Father’s House.  Sit with that image and let God speak to you.  As you do, let your heart be drawn to Heaven so that this desire will help to direct your actions here and now.

 

Lord of Heaven and Earth, I do long to be with You eternally in Heaven.  I long to be comforted, consoled and filled with joy in Your home.  Help me to always keep this as my goal in life and to grow, daily in a desire for this final resting place.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 12th May, 2022

Slaves of Christ

 

 

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.”  John 13:16

 

If we read between the lines we can hear Jesus telling us two things.  First, that it’s good to see ourselves as slaves and messengers of God, and second, that we are to always give the glory to God.  These are important points to live in the spiritual life.  Let’s look at both.

 

Normally, the idea of being a “slave” is not all that desirable.  We are not as familiar with slavery in our day and age, but it is real and has caused extreme damage throughout the history of our world in many cultures and at many times.  The worst part about slavery is the cruelty with which the slaves are treated.  They are treated as objects and property which is completely contrary to their human dignity.

 

But imagine the scenario where a person is a slave to one who loves him perfectly and has as his primary mission to help that “slave” realize his true potential and fulfillment in life.  In this case, the master would “command” the slave to embrace love and happiness and would never violate his human dignity.

 

This is the way it is with God.  We should never fear the idea of being a slave of God.  Though this language may carry baggage from abuses of human dignity of the past, slavery to God should be our goal.  Why?  Because God is the one we should want as our master.  In fact, we should desire God as our master even more than we desire to be our own master.  God will treat us better than we treat ourselves!  He will dictate to us a perfect life of holiness and happiness and we will be humbly submissive to His divine will.  And what’s more, He will give us the necessary means to achieve all that He dictates to us if we let Him.  Being a “slave of God” is a good thing and should be our goal in life.

As we grow in our ability to let God take control of our life, we must also regularly enter into an attitude of thanks and praise of God for all that He does in us.  We must point all the glory to Him for letting us share in His mission and for being sent by Him to fulfill His will.  He is greater in every way, but He also wants us to share in that greatness and glory.  So, the good news is that when we glorify and thank God for all He does in us and for all the dictates of His law and His commands, we will be elevated by God to participate in and share in His glory!  This is one fruit of the Christian life that blesses us beyond what we could ever come up with ourselves.  

 

Reflect, today, upon letting yourself become a complete slave of God and His will today.  That commitment will start you down a path of tremendous delight.

 

My Lord and Master, I submit myself to Your every command.  May Your will be done in me and only Your will.  I choose You as my Master in all things and trust in Your perfect love for me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 11th May, 2022

Evangelizing Through Unity

 

 

Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.”  John 12:44–45

 

Now on a literal level, this is hard to comprehend.  How is it that those who looked at Jesus were looking also at the Father?  How is it that seeing Jesus was seeing the Father in Heaven?  

 

The answer is quite simple.  The unity that the Father and the Son share is a perfect unity.  They remain distinct Persons but they are also united as one.  They are united in their perfect love and in the perfect communion of their wills.

 

For that reason, knowing Jesus is also knowing the Father.  But the truth is that the Father’s presence is veiled just as the divinity of the Son is veiled.  Though we do not have the experience of seeing Jesus walk the Earth as the first disciples did, we find the same reality every time we come before the Holy Eucharist.  When we enter a church and genuflect before the tabernacle, it’s important to always be exceptionally cognizant of the fact that we are in the full divine presence of God the Son.  And for that reason, we are also in the full and divine presence of the Father!  Their presence is real and absolute.  It’s just that they are hidden from our five senses.  

 

But one key thing to ponder here is the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Prayerfully reflecting upon their unity is a very healthy meditation for our prayer life.  Why?  Because we are called to share in Their unity, and we are called to share in unity with one another.

 

Unity is hard.  It takes a tremendous amount of love.  It means being fully present to the other, seeking to fully understand, accept and know them.  And the Trinity is our model for this.  Be it parents and children, spouses, friends or others, we are called to a deep and abiding unity.  

 

Think about someone you know well.  And think about someone that person knows well and loves.  To a certain degree, you may feel you know that other person just by knowing the one who knows them.  For example, say you have a very close friend who has a child and your friend shares much with you about their child.  What you’re experiencing is the unity of that parent and child in your relationship with your friend.  

 

So it is with God.  As we come to know God the Son, we automatically come to know God the Father.  And the good news is that if we know God, and then let another get to know us, the effect is that we will be letting them come to know God through us.  This is one of the wonderful ways to evangelize and bring God to those whom we know and love.  

 

Reflect, today, upon your relationship with God and how that relationship shines through in all other relationships you have.  Commit yourself more fully to knowing and loving God so that others around you may also benefit from your love of Him.

 

Lord of perfect unity, help me to come to know and love You and, in that relationship, to come to know and love the Father and the Holy Spirit.  And as I grow in love for You Most Holy Trinity, help me to bring that love into every relationship I have so that I may be an instrument of Your love to others.  Most Holy Trinity, I trust in You.

Tuesday 10th May, 2022

The Language of Jesus

 

 

Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe.”  John 10:24–25

 

This statement of Jesus may have left His followers confused.  They wanted to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and so they asked Him to tell them plainly if He was the Messiah.  And how did He respond?  He tells them that He already told them and they failed to believe.  This is an interesting situation.

 

The first thing to say about this is that Jesus was not being critical.  He was helping them to understand His language.  He was helping them to understand that the answer to their question was not a matter of Jesus simply telling them, “I am the Messiah!”  Rather, the answer to their question had to come to them from the Father in Heaven, spoken to their hearts as they listened to Jesus and witnessed His miracles.  The answer was to be given to them by the gift of faith that had to be received from within.  This gift of faith would give them the certainty they so desired.

 

The same is true with us.  Perhaps you’ve wanted God to come down from Heaven at times and tell you “plainly” the answer to this or that question.  But He does not do that.  He does it in His perfect way with His perfect language.  It’s the language of faith and it requires a complete submission of our minds and wills to God to hear and understand.  This is the only way to become converted in the way God wants us to be. 

 

Reflect, today, on how well you listen to God speak.  You most likely can learn to listen to Him more clearly, discerning His voice of Truth.  As you hear Him, let yourself become completely convinced of all that He says.  And let that deep conviction rule your life.

 

Lord of all Truth, I so often do not let myself hear You plainly through the gift of faith.  I so often want the easy answer to the difficult questions.  Help me to grow in patience so that I may know You and allow You to become my true Shepherd.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 9th May, 2022

The Voice of the Shepherd 

 

 

“…the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”  John 10:3–5

 

What are you most familiar with in life?  What voice or voices echo in your mind most of the time?  There are many influences we receive on a regular basis.  Some are good and some are not so good.  Oftentimes we can talk ourselves into believing that the many “voices” or influences that we encounter on a daily basis do not affect us.  We are pressured by the voice of the media, pop culture, love of money, a desire for recognition and so much more.  These are powerful influences and, whether we want to believe it or not, they do affect us.

 

The Gospel above gives us insight into this internal struggle in that it contrasts the voice of the Shepherd with the voice of a stranger.  The sheep are easily taught and conditioned.  They learn the voice of their shepherd because it was common practice for shepherds to regularly speak to their sheep.  Once the sheep became used to the shepherd’s voice, they would turn and follow him when he called.

 

So it is with us.  We will follow the voice of that which we are most familiar with.  Whatever it is that we immerse ourselves in each and every day will grow on us and draw us, even unknowingly, to follow.  

This begs the question, “What are you most familiar with?”  Ideally, we spend sufficient time in God’s Word, learning His language, tone and voice.  Ideally, we dedicate some portion of our day, every day, to silent contemplation of God.  As we do this, we build a habit of hearing Him speak and we become comfortable with and comforted by His voice.  

 

Once this habit is established in us, it will be much easier to go about our busy day hearing God whenever He chooses to speak.  We will immediately recognize it is Him and we will follow.

Reflect, today, upon that which calls to you the loudest.  Don’t let the many other voices in our world drown out God’s voice.  Instead, prepare yourself for the moments He chooses to speak.  And when He does speak, let that voice grab your attention so that you can follow.

 

My speaking Lord, help me to know and love Your gentle voice throughout my daily life.  May that voice overwhelm all others that compete for my attention.  I choose You, dear Lord, as my one Shepherd and guide.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 6th May, 2022

The Conviction of Jesus

 

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you.”  John 6:52–53

 

Certainly this passage reveals much about the Most Holy Eucharist, but it also reveals the strength of Jesus to speak the truth with clarity and conviction.

 

Jesus was facing opposition and criticism.  Some were upset and challenging His words.  Most of us, when we find ourselves under the scrutiny and wrath of others, will back down.  We will be tempted to be overly concerned about what others say about us and about the truth we may be criticized for.  But Jesus did exactly the opposite.  He did not give in to the criticism of others.

 

It’s inspiring to see that, when Jesus was faced with the harsh words of others, He responded with even greater clarity and confidence.  He took His statement about the Eucharist being His Body and Blood to the next level by saying, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you do not have life within you.”  This reveals a man of the utmost confidence, conviction and strength.

 

Of course, Jesus is God, so we should expect this from Him.  But nonetheless, it is inspiring and reveals the strength we are all called to have in this world.  The world we live in is filled with opposition to the truth.  It’s opposed to many moral truths, but it is also opposed to many of the deeper spiritual truths.  These deeper truths are things such as the beautiful truths of the Eucharist, the importance of daily prayer, humility, abandonment to God, putting God’s will above all things, etc.  We should be aware of the fact that the closer we grow to our Lord, the more we surrender to Him, and the more we proclaim His truth, the more we will feel the pressure of the world trying to steal us away.

 

So what do we do?  We learn from the strength and example of Jesus.  Whenever we find ourselves put in a challenging position, or whenever we feel as though our faith is being attacked, we must deepen our resolve to be all the more faithful.  This will make us stronger and turns those temptations we face into opportunities for grace!

 

Reflect, today, upon the way that you react when your faith is challenged.  Do you back down, give into fear and allow the challenges from others to affect you?  Or do you strengthen your resolve when challenged and allow persecution to purify your faith?  Choose to imitate the strength and conviction of our Lord and you will become a greater visible instrument of His grace and mercy.

 

My confident Lord, give me the strength of Your conviction.  Give me clarity in my mission and help me to serve You unwaveringly in all things. May I never cower when faced with the challenges of life but always deepen my resolve to serve You with all my heart.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 5th May, 2022

Drawn to Jesus

 

 

Jesus said to the crowds: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.”  John 6:44

 

This Scripture passage reveals to us a wonderful spiritual principle we need to understand and live if we are to grow close to God.  It’s the principle of being drawn to Jesus by the Father.

 

First of all, it’s important to understand the first part of what Jesus says: “No one can come to me unless…”  This tells us that coming to Jesus in faith, growing in that faith, and growing in our love of God is not something we can do on our own.  Coming to faith is a response to God’s action in our life. 

 

This is important to understand if we wish to establish an authentic relationship with Christ because it reveals to us the fact that we have to let God take the first step in that relationship.  When we let Him do this, it’s our responsibility to then respond.   

 

Of course this does not mean we just sit back in a passive way waiting for God to reach out.  God is constantly reaching out, constantly speaking and constantly drawing us to Himself.  So our first responsibility is to tune into His gentle “wooing.”  This comes in the form of gentle promptings of grace inviting us to turn more completely to Him and to surrender more fully each and every day.  

In our busy world, it’s so very easy to let ourselves become distracted by the many competing voices.  It’s easy to hear the pulling, and even pushing, of the world and all its enticements.  The world has become quite good at penetrating our short attention spans and offering quick satisfactions that ultimately leave us empty.

 

But God’s voice and His invitation are quite different.  They are found in interior silence.  However, we need not be in a monastery in order to achieve this interior silence.  Rather, it’s achieved by faithful periods of prayer each day, and a formed habit of turning to God in all things.  It’s achieved when we respond to God’s calling, and then do it again, and again, and so forth.  This builds a habit of being drawn, hearing, responding and being drawn in even closer so as to respond again.

 

Reflect, today, upon how well you listen to God.  Try to find at least a few minutes (or more) of silence today.  Close your eyes and listen.  Listen to God speaking to you.  When He draws you, respond to Him with much generosity.  This is the best choice you can make each day!

 

Lord of sustaining silence, please draw me in, draw me close and help me to recognize Your voice.  As I hear You calling, help me to respond to You with much generosity.  My life is Yours, dear Lord.  Help me to desire You all the more.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 4th May, 2022

Never Rejected, Always Loved!

 

 

“I will not reject anyone who comes to me.”  John 6:37

 

This little line says much about our Lord’s Divine Mercy.  It is a line repeated often in St. Faustina’s Diary of Divine Mercy and it’s a statement that many people need to hear.

 

Why is this important to hear?  Because, very often, we can carry the burden of rejection.  Without even realizing it, there are many who have experienced rejection in their life and, as a result, are afraid to be vulnerable in a relationship out of fear of being hurt.  Once you have been hurt in a relationship, you proceed with caution.  This hurt can come from a family member, spouse, friend or anyone we’ve tried to reach out to in love only to receive hurt and rejection.  And that hurts.

 

Jesus’ words are especially important because they help to reassure us that Jesus is trustworthy.  It is true that we can come to Him, open our hearts to Him, become completely vulnerable to Him, and He will treat us with the utmost tenderness, respect, kindness and care.  Jesus will treat us with more care than we even treat ourselves!

 

Reflect upon these words of Jesus today.  Say them over and over.  “I will not reject anyone who comes to me.”  Know that He wants you to come to Him and to open your heart to Him completely.  Doing so will allow Him to manifest His love for you and enable you to trust Him beyond what you ever imagined possible.

 

My welcoming Lord, I want to come to You in my sufferings and rejection.  I know You are the Divine Healer and will bring comfort to my soul.  Help me to trust You and to let You love me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 3rd May, 2022

Jesus Calls the Weak

 

 

Philip said to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”  Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?”  John 14:8–9

 

We honor two of the Apostles today, Philip and James the Lesser.  We know very little about James other than that he was chosen by our Lord for the apostolic ministry.  We also have one of his letters which is contained in the New Testament.  After the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to James who eventually went to Jerusalem and led the Church for a few decades, eventually being stoned as a martyr.

 

Philip is known from some of his comments that appear to reveal a weakness of faith.  In addition to the comment above, recall when Jesus was preparing to multiply the fish and loaves and asked Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” (John 6:5).  Philip’s response was, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit” (John 6:7).  But Jesus was testing Philip and, unfortunately, he failed the test.

 

But Philip did not continue to fail in his faith.  Recall, also, that Philip is the one who was inspired to baptize the Ethiopian eunuch in the Acts of the Apostles.  Eventually, tradition states that Philip preached in Greece, Phrygia, and Syria.  He and Saint Bartholomew were said to have been crucified upside down.  Tradition holds that Philip preached upside down from the cross until his death.

In the end, James and Philip gave their lives for Christ, holding nothing back.  But it took time for them to grow in faith and confidence in Jesus.  This is a significant witness for our lives.

Ideally, our response to Jesus every day will be that of a complete submission to Him and perfect trust in His divine will.  Ideally, we will not lack faith.

 

However, it’s most likely the case that all of us can look back at many moments in our lives and point to ways in which we have failed in our faith and trust in our Lord.  Though this is sin, it’s good to look at these moments of weakness in the light of the mercy of God.  Jesus saw the weakness of Philip, addressed it, but continued to love him and continued to call him down the path chosen for him.  Jesus does the same with each one of us.

 

Reflect, today, upon any ways that you can identify with the doubts and weaknesses of the Apostle Philip.  See those weaknesses for what they are: your sin.  But allow yourself to grow in hope today as we honor Philip and James.  The Lord never gave up on them and He will not give up on you.  He continued to call them to a holy and sacred ministry, and He will continue to do the same for you.

 

Lord, I thank You for never giving up on me, even when I sin and turn away from You.  Help me to persevere in my faith in You and to answer the call to radically follow You wherever You lead.  Sts. James and Philip, pray for us.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 29th April, 2022

Being Tested

 

 

When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do.  John 6:5–6

 

God always knows what He is going to do.  He always has a perfect plan for our lives.  Always.  In the passage above, we read a snippet from the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.  Jesus knew He was going to multiply the few loaves and fish they had and feed over five thousand people.  But before He did this, He wanted to test Philip, and so He did.  Why does Jesus test Philip and why does He test us at times?

 

It’s not that Jesus is curious about what Philip will say.  And it’s not that He is just playing games with Philip.  Rather, He is seizing this opportunity to let Philip manifest His faith.  So, in fact, this “testing” of Philip was a gift to him because it gave Philip the opportunity to pass the test.

 

The test was to let Philip act on faith rather than just on human logic alone.  Sure, it’s good to be logical.  But very often the wisdom of God supersedes human logic.  In other words, it brings logic to a whole new level.  It brings it to a level where faith in God is brought into the equation.

 

So Philip, in that moment, was being called to offer a solution given the fact that the Son of God was there with them.  And he fails the test.  He points out that two hundred days’ wages would not be enough to feed the crowd.  But Andrew somewhat comes to the rescue.  Andrew states that there is a boy who has a few loaves and some fish.  Unfortunately he adds, “but what good are these for so many?”  

 

This little spark of faith in Andrew, however, is enough faith for Jesus to have the crowds recline and to perform the miracle of the multiplication of the food.  It seems that Andrew at least had a small insight into the fact that these few loaves and fish were important to mention.  Jesus takes this from Andrew and takes care of the rest.

 

Reflect, today, upon the precious gift of even a little faith.  So often we find ourselves in difficult situations where we don’t know what to do.  We should strive to have at least a little faith so that Jesus has something to work with.  No, we may not have the full picture of what He wants to do, but we should at least have a small inkling of the direction God is leading.  If we can at least manifest this little faith then we too will pass the test.  

 

Lord, help me to have faith in Your perfect plan for my life.  Help me to know that You are in control when life seems out of control.  In those moments, may the faith I manifest be a gift to You so that You can use it for Your glory.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 28th April, 2022

No Rationing of the Spirit

 

 

He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.  John 3:34

 

At wartime, when soldiers have a scarce amount of food, they have to ration it.  They only eat small measured portions each day so that the food will last as long as possible.  If they do not, they may run out and starve.  

 

What if this were the case with God and His grace?  What if the Holy Spirit were to say to us, “Now I’m only going to help you to a limited degree.  Once you use up the grace I’m offering you, you’re on your own.”  Ouch!  That would be problematic.

 

Of course the good news is that God acts in the completely opposite way with us.  He commits to a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit and offers all the grace we could ever need or want.  The problem is that we often “ration” His grace anyway.  We don’t do this because we believe God is limited.  Rather, we often do it because we are afraid to let God unleash His almighty power in our lives.

 

Reflect, today, upon what your life would look like if you let God do whatever He wanted with you.  What would change?  How would your daily life, your relationships, your words, your actions and your future be different?  Intellectually speaking, we know it’s right to fully embrace the will of God in all things.  But when it actually comes to doing it, there is often much hesitancy. It may be fear of the unknown.  Or it may be that we do not fully want to change.  Whatever the case may be, God is offering you an unlimited amount of grace by the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  It’s up to you to decide if you will ration or not.

 

Lord of superabundance, I do want to let You do whatever You want in my life.  I want to be fully immersed in Your grace.  Help me to say “Yes” to You no matter what that leads to and help me to trust in this glorious “Yes” You are calling me to make.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 27th April, 2022

What Do You Prefer?

 

 

And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.  John 3:19

 

What a strange thing to be so true.  God the Father sent the Son into the world to be Light for us all.  He is the Light that dispels all darkness.  But, according to the Gospel above, “people preferred darkness to light.”  They preferred their own sins to freedom from sin.  Why is that?

 

As an example of this reality, all we have to do is watch the news or read the newspaper.  It seems that 90% of what is reported in the news media is a sensationalistic presentation of darkness.  We hear of one murder after another or one scandal after another.  Why does the media focus upon this so much?  Because it’s what sells.  And why does it sell?  Because we too often are drawn to darkness more than we are to light.  

 

Certainly that is not the case for everyone.  So many are quite disinterested in the darkness of the world and the sensationalistic sins all around us.  But the fact that the darkness of evil is so front and center all the time should offer us a certain warning about our fallen human nature.  We tend to be drawn into mud and too often are all too happy there.

 

Easter is a time to examine what it is you are drawn to.  Do you let yourself be drawn into the Light?  Are you attracted by those things that brighten your day?  Are you drawn to the many ways that God is present and active in the world all around you?  Hopefully you are.  But there is most likely some degree of pull toward disorder, sin and darkness.  There can be an interior conflict that everyone experiences.  It’s good to be aware of this, to identify it as part of our fallen human tendency, and to seek to shed all interest in the chaos and evil all around us.  

 

As a follower of Christ, we are called to keep our eyes on Him and on Him alone.  We are called to penetrate the darkness with our faith and to let our whole being be attracted to and drawn toward Christ Jesus.  Perfection means that even our passions and desires are ultimately drawn to Christ as the Light of our life.  

 

Reflect, today, upon that which you are drawn toward the most.  Commit yourself to the Light this Easter Season.  Move your eyes from the temptation to become drawn in and fascinated by the evil around us, to the joyful vision of our Resurrected Lord alive and at work all around us.  Let this Light guide your daily life.

 

Lord of Light, help me to live in Your light.  Help me to keep my eyes firmly focused upon the glory of Your Resurrection.  May the joy of that gaze keep me from the countless distractions of evil all around me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 26th April, 2022

The Effects of the Holy Spirit

 

 

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “‘You must be born from above.’  The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  John 3:7–8

 

Do you sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life?  In this passage, Jesus offers an image of how the Holy Spirit works in us.  He analogizes the Holy Spirit to the wind.  We can hear the wind blowing but cannot see it.  We do, however, perceive the effects of the wind.  For example, when you see a tree swaying, you know that the wind is blowing.

 

So it is with the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Though we may not be able to tangibly perceive where the Holy Spirit comes from, we will be able to see the effects of the Spirit.  When we perceive a new strength within us, or an increase in virtues, or an ability to forgive, etc., we are aware of the fact that the Holy Spirit is present, leading us, transforming us and guiding us.

 

Additionally, we do not know where the wind goes once it passes.  So it is with the Holy Spirit.  If our lives are under the power and care of the Holy Spirit, we do not know where we will be led.  The Holy Spirit leads us in the moment but does not typically reveal our whole future.  We must be content to be led by the daily gentle presence of God, allowing ourselves to be moved here and there.  This requires much trust and abandonment.  

 

Reflect, today, upon the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.  Look for the effects of the Holy Spirit to discern whether or not you are being truly led by God.  Allow yourself to be led and moved by the Breath of God and anticipate great things in your life.  

 

Come Holy Spirit, renew within me the grace of my Baptism and lead me each and every day in accord with Your divine will.  I abandon myself to Your glorious care and trust in the promptings of Your presence in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 25th April, 2022

Being an Evangelist

 

 

“These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  Mark 16:17–18

 

Did Jesus mean this literally?  Yes.  He certainly did.  And throughout the history of the Church we have seen great miracles and mighty deeds performed by His followers in His name as God willed it in various times and places.  So, yes, He meant what He said.

 

But there is also another level of meaning we should not miss.  Though this is not literally going to be lived out by everyone who believes, it will be lived out according to a deeper and spiritual meaning. 

There are four basic things Jesus promises will happen here.  He promises that those who have faith will: 1) be victorious over the evil one, 2) communicate in a new way, 3) face worldly dangers and be protected, and 4) be a source of healing for others.

 

First, the evil one is real and is constantly trying to frighten us and overwhelm us.  But, by analogy, the evil one is like a 3-pound dog who has a vicious and obnoxious bark, and little bite.  The “barking” may be frightening at times, but the power of Christ is like a steel-toed shoe that can easily handle this menace.

 

Second, we are called to “speak new languages” in that we are called to communicate the words and truth of God in a way that is beyond our natural abilities.  We are called to speak and communicate in the language of God and to become His mouth for a world in need.

 

Third, there will be many struggles we face in this life.  Not only from the evil one, but also from the world and from our own distorted struggles.  Again, Jesus promises the grace to overcome the many dangers and struggles we will face in life if we but let Him.

 

Lastly, Jesus came to heal, especially our souls, and he wants us to be instruments of healing for those whom we encounter every day.  

 

St. Mark, whom we honor today, was a great evangelist for Christ.  Reflect, today, upon the fact that we are all called to share in the mission of evangelization.  Ponder these callings in life as outlined above and if one stands out and speaks to you in a unique way, listen to it carefully.  It may be God calling  you to share more fully in His divine mission.

 

Lord, I do believe and I do choose to let You use me as an instrument of Your grace.  May the faith You have given me be also a source of grace for a world in need.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 8th April 2022

The Crucifixion Draws Near

 

 

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?”  John 10:31–32

 

As we draw closer to Holy Week, and to Good Friday, we begin to see that hatred was growing toward Jesus.  Just as we saw in yesterday’s reflection, this makes no sense.  To hate Jesus and to desire to stone Him to death is an act of the greatest irrationality.  But this is what happened.  Little by little, those who were against Jesus grew in boldness until that ultimate day came when He laid down His life for us and willingly embraced His death.

 

Over the next two weeks it’s good to face this irrationality and persecution head on.  It’s good to see the hatred of so many and to name it for what it is.  No, it’s not a pleasant thought, but it is reality.  It’s the world we live in.  And it’s a reality we will all face in our lives.

 

When confronting evil and persecution, we should do so as Jesus did.  He faced it without fear.  He faced it with the truth and never accepted the lies and calumny that so many threw at Him.  

The fact of the matter is that the closer we grow toward God, the greater the persecution and hatred we will encounter.  Again, this may not make sense to us.  It’s easy to think that if we are close to God and strive for holiness everyone will love and praise us.  But it wasn’t that way for Jesus and it will not be that way for us either. 

 

One key to holiness is that in the midst of persecution, suffering, hardship and sorrow, we stand firm in the truth.  It’s always tempting to think that we must be doing something wrong when things do not go our way.  It’s easy to be confused by the lies and calumny that the world throws at us when we try to stand for goodness and the truth.  One thing God wants of us, in the midst of our own crosses, is to purify our faith and resolve to stand firm in His Word and Truth.  

 

When we face some cross or some persecution it can be like getting hit in the head.  We may feel like we are in a daze and can give into panic and fear.  But these are the times, more than any other, when we need to stand strong.  We need to remain humble but deeply convicted about all that God has said and revealed to us.  This deepens our ability to trust God in all things.  It’s easy to say we trust God when life is easy, it’s hard to trust Him when the cross we face is quite heavy.  

 

Reflect, today, upon the fact that no matter what your cross may be, it is a gift from God in that He is desiring to strengthen you for some greater purpose.  As Saint John Paul the Great said over and over during his pontificate, “Do not be afraid!”  Face your fears and let God transform you in the midst of them.  If you do so, you will discover that your greatest struggles in life actually turn out to be your greatest blessings.

 

My courageous Lord, as we draw near to the commemoration of Your own suffering and death, help me to unite my crosses to Yours.  Help me to see in my daily struggle Your presence and strength.  Help me to see the purpose you have for me in the midst of these challenges.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 7th April, 2022

The Power of Destructive Speech

 

 

Jesus said to the Jews: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” So the Jews said to him, “Now we are sure that you are possessed.”  John 8:51–52

 

It’s hard to imagine anything worse that could be said about Jesus.  Did they really think He was possessed by the evil one?  It appears so.  What a sad and bizarre thing to say about the Son of God.  Here is God Himself, in the person of Jesus, offering a promise of eternal life.  He reveals the sacred Truth that obedience to His Word is the pathway to eternal happiness and that everyone needs to know this Truth and live it.  Jesus speaks this freely and openly, but the response from some hearing this message is deeply disappointing, slanderous and malicious.

 

It’s hard to know what was going on in their minds to cause them to say such a thing.  Perhaps they were jealous of Jesus, or perhaps they were just seriously confused.  Whatever the case may be, they spoke something that was seriously damaging.  

 

The damage of such a statement was not so much toward Jesus; rather, it was damaging to themselves as well as to those around Him.  Jesus could personally handle whatever was spoken about Him, but others could not.  It is important to understand that our own words can do great damage to ourselves and to others.

 

First of all, their words did damage to themselves.  By speaking such an erroneous statement publicly, they start down the path of obstinacy.  It takes great humility to retract such a statement in the future.  So it is with us.  When we verbalize something that is damaging toward another, it’s hard to retract it.  It’s hard to later apologize and mend the wound we have caused.  The damage is primarily done to our own heart in that it’s hard to let go of our error and humbly move forward.  But this must be done if we want to undo the damage.  

 

Secondly, this comment also did damage to those who were listening.  Some may have rejected this malicious statement but others may have pondered it and started to wonder if in fact Jesus was possessed.  Thus, seeds of doubt were sown.  We must all realize that our words affect others and we must strive to speak them with the utmost care and charity.

 

Reflect, today, upon your own speech.  Are there things you have spoken to others that you now realize were erroneous or misleading?  If so, have you sought to undo the damage by retracting your words and apologizing?  Reflect, also, upon the fact that it’s easy to be drawn into the malicious conversation of others.  Have you allowed yourself to be influenced by such conversations?  If so, resolve to silence your ears to such errors and look for ways to speak the truth.

 

Lord of all Truth, give me the grace of speaking holy words that always give You glory and reflect the eternal Truths alive in Your Heart.  Help me to also be aware of the lies all around me in this world of sin.  May Your Heart filter out the errors and allow only the seeds of Truth to be planted in my own mind and heart.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 5th April, 2022

Freedom From Sin

 

Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.  A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains.  So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.”  John 8:34–36

 

Jesus wants to set you free, but do you want to be set free?  On an intellectual level this should be an easy question to answer.  Of course you want your freedom!  Who wouldn’t?  But on a practical level this question is harder to answer.  Practically speaking, many people are very comfortable living in sin.  Sin offers a deceptive satisfaction that can be hard to turn away from.  Sin can make you “feel” good in the moment, even though the long-term effects are that it strips your freedom and joy.  But so often that momentary “satisfaction” is enough for many people to keep coming back.

 

So what about you?  Do you want to be free so as to live as a son or daughter of the Most High God?  If you answer “Yes” then be prepared for this to be painful, but in a delightful way.  Overcoming sin requires purification.  The process of “letting go” of sin requires true sacrifice and commitment.  It requires you to turn to the Lord in absolute trust and abandon.  In doing so, you experience a sort of death to yourself, to your passions and to your own selfish will.  This hurts, at least on the level of your fallen human nature.  But it’s like a surgery that has the goal of removing cancer or some infection.  The surgery itself may hurt, but it’s the only way to be freed of the malady you have.  The Son is the Divine Surgeon and the way He sets you free is through His own suffering and death.  Jesus’ Crucifixion and death brought life into the world.  His death destroyed the disease of sin, and our willing acceptance of the remedy of His death means we must let Him destroy the disease of sin within us through His death.  It must be “cut out” so to speak and removed by our Lord.  

 

Lent is a time, more than any, in which you must honestly focus on your sin for the reason of identifying those things that keep you bound, so that you can invite the Divine Physician to enter your wounds and heal you.  Do not let Lent go by without honestly examining your conscience thoroughly, and repenting of your sins with all your heart.  The Lord wants you to be free!  Desire it yourself and enter the process of purification so that you will be relieved of your heavy burdens.

 

Reflect, today, upon your attitude toward your own personal sins.  First, can you humbly admit to your sin?  Don’t rationalize them away or blame another.  Face them and accept them as your own.  Second, confess your sins.  Reflect upon your attitude toward the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  This is the Sacrament of freedom.  It is so very easy.  Just go in, admit all your sins, express sorrow and be set free.  If you find this difficult then you are trusting your own feelings of fear rather than the truth.  Third, rejoice in the freedom that the Son of God offers you.  It’s a gift beyond anything we deserve.  Reflect on these three things today and for the rest of Lent, and your Easter will be one of true thanksgiving!

 

Lord, I do desire to be set free from all sin so that I may live in the freedom of being Your child.  Help me, dear Lord, to face my sin with honesty and openness.  Give me the courage I need to admit my sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that I may rejoice in all that You have bestowed upon me through Your suffering and death.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 5th April, 2022

The Abiding Presence of God

 

“The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone.”  John 8:29

 

Most young children, if left at home all alone, would react with fear. They need to know that their parents are around. The idea of being somewhere all by themselves is frightening. It would be just as frightening for a child to get lost in a store or another public place. They need the security that comes with a parent being near.

 

The same is true in the spiritual life. Interiorly, if we sense we are all alone we may react with fear. To feel as though there is an interior abandonment from God is a frightening thought. But on the contrary, when we sense that God is very present and alive within us, we are greatly strengthened to face life with courage and joy.

 

This was Jesus’ experience in the passage above in which He speaks much about His relationship with the Father. The Father is the One who sent Jesus into the world for His mission and Jesus acknowledges that the Father will not leave Him alone.  Jesus says this, knows it and experiences the blessing of that relationship in His human and divine Heart. 

 

The same can be said of each one of us. First, we must come to realize that the Father has sent us. We each have a mission in life. Do you realize that? Do you realize that you have a very specific mission and calling from God? Yes, it may entail very ordinary parts of life such as chores around the house, the daily grind of work, the building up of your family relationships, etc. Our daily lives are filled with ordinary activities that make up the will of God.

 

It may be possible that you are already fully immersed in the will of God for your life.  But it is also possible that God wants more from you.  He has a plan for you and it’s a mission that He has not entrusted to another. It may require that you step out in faith, be courageous, move out of your comfort zone, or face some fear. But whatever the case may be, God has a mission for you.

The comforting news is that God does not just send us, He also remains with us. He has not left us alone to fulfill the mission He has entrusted to us. He has promised His continued help in a very central way.

 

Reflect, today, about the mission that Jesus was given: the mission to give His life in a sacrificial way. Also reflect upon how God wants you to live out this same mission with Christ of sacrificial love and self-giving. You may already be living it wholeheartedly, or you may need some new direction.  Say “Yes” to it with courage and confidence and God will walk with you every step of the way.

 

My sacrificial Lord, I say “Yes” to the perfect plan you have for my life. Whatever it may be I accept without hesitation, dear Lord.  I know that You are always with me and that I am never alone. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 4th April, 2022

The “Hour” of Jesus

 

But no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.  John 8:20

 

This short line comes at the end of today’s Gospel after Jesus, once again, directly confronted the Pharisees.  He confronts them, in this situation, by speaking the truth of His union with the Father and the power and authority He had on account of this union.  The Pharisees attempt to confront and challenge Him but He speaks the truth right back to them in clear language.  Their response to Jesus’ words is not recorded but it’s clear that they do not know what to say and it’s clear that they remain skeptical and desirous of trapping Jesus.

 

This passage quoted above reveals to us the profound truth that neither the malice of the Pharisees nor that of anyone else could ultimately triumph since Jesus’ “hour had not yet come.”  What does this mean?  Here are two truths we should take from this line.

 

First, malice cannot overpower the will of God.  Since God the Father did not permit Jesus’ arrest at that time, those with evil intentions were powerless to do so.  Jesus was able to speak clearly and openly, challenging the Pharisees with the truth, and they could do nothing to stop it.  Though His words stung them to the heart, they could do no more than listen and grow in anger and obstinacy toward our Lord.  But they could not harm Him.  This shows that God is ultimately in control of even the malice of others and will only allow malice to appear to triumph when He sees some greater purpose for allowing such a thing to happen.  

 

Secondly, it reveals that there is a coming “hour” when Jesus will be handed over to sinful men.  But in John’s Gospel, this hour is not an hour of shame and disgrace for Jesus; rather, it is an hour of total triumph over sin and death.  From a worldly perspective we know that His hour of arrest, persecution and Crucifixion takes on the public appearance of horror and disgrace for Jesus.  It appears as if He lost and the Pharisees won.  But from the perspective of God, which is the only true perspective, Jesus triumphs gloriously.  In fact, the Father ultimately permits the malice of the Pharisees to be the instrument of Jesus’ glorification through the sufferings He endured in this hour.  From the divine perspective, His hour does not become one of defeat; rather, it becomes one of ultimate victory.

Reflect, today, upon the coming hour of Jesus.  Soon we will enter into the glories of Holy Week and ponder, once again, that the Father did permit Jesus to enter into the most cruel suffering and death imaginable.  We will be confronted with the apparent scandal of His arrest and the illusion of the victory of the malicious leaders of the day.  But their victory is only an illusion since the permissive will of the Father had other intentions.  Begin preparing for this annual celebration of the hour of Jesus and enter into it with the utmost confidence and faith.

 

My glorious Lord, I glorify You for Your wisdom and power and rejoice in the perfect will of the Father in Heaven.  The Father sent You on a mission of redemption and salvation and permitted You to ultimately suffer and die.  But through this suffering He brought final victory over death and all evil.  Give me faith to know and believe this truth with my whole heart.  Bless this coming Holy Week, dear Lord, and permit me to rejoice in Your glorious victory.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 1st April, 2022

The Temptation with Familiarity

 

Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, “You know me and also know where I am from.  Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.”  John 7:28

 

Sometimes the more familiar we are with someone the harder it is to actually see their goodness and the presence of God in their lives.  Often, we are tempted to look at them and presume we “know all about them.”  As a result, what we can often do is simply highlight their faults and weaknesses in our minds and see them only through the lens of these faults and weaknesses.  

 

This is what happened with Jesus.  When Jesus went up to the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, there were some there who knew Him.  They probably knew Him as this ordinary son of a carpenter.  Perhaps they were even from His home town.  As a result of this familiarity with Jesus they immediately doubted He could be the Messiah.  But they were, of course, very mistaken.

 

This presents a great lesson for us.  It’s the lesson of being judgmental and overly critical of others we know well.  The more we know about someone the more we will be aware of their faults and weaknesses.  And if we are not careful, we will focus in on those qualities rather than on the good qualities God wants us to see.

 

This is what happened with Jesus.  No, He did not have any actual bad qualities.  He was perfect.  But there were most likely many parts of His life that invited the false judgment and criticism of others.  His self-confidence, the authority He manifested in His teaching, the extraordinary compassion He had toward sinners, etc., were all exceptional qualities that some could not understand.  And, as a result, they chose to be critical.  “We know where He is from,” they said.  In other words, they did not think that someone they knew could be filled with greatness.

 

What do you think about those around you?  What do you think about those closest to you?  Are you able to see beyond any apparent weakness they have and see the hand of God at work?  Are you able to see beyond the surface and see the value and dignity of their lives?  When you can see the goodness of others, point it out, and be grateful for it, you will actually be seeing and loving the manifest goodness of God.  God is alive and active in every soul around you.  It is your responsibility to see that goodness and love it.  This takes true humility on your part but, in the end, it’s a way of loving God in your midst.

 

Reflect, today, upon how you look at those who are closest to you and spend some time trying to ponder the ways that God is alive in their lives.  If you do this, you will be loving God in your very midst.

 

My ever-present Lord, I do love You.  Help me to see and love You in others.  And help me to shed any temptation I have toward being judgmental and humbly be drawn into the goodness of all Your sons and daughters.  I love You, dear Lord, may I also love You in others.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 31st March, 2022

The Testimony of the Works of God

 

“The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.”  John 5:36

 

The works performed by Jesus offer testimony to His mission given Him by the Father in Heaven.  Understanding this will help us to embrace our own mission in life.

 

First of all, let’s look at the fact that Jesus’ works offered testimony.  In other words, His works spoke a message to others about who He was.  The witness of His actions revealed His very essence and His union with the will of the Father.

 

So this begs the question, “Which works offered this testimony?”  One might immediately conclude that the works Jesus was speaking of were His miracles.  When people witnessed the miracles He performed they would have been convinced that He was sent from the Father in Heaven.  Right? Not really.  The fact of the matter is that there were many who saw Jesus perform miracles and remained stubborn, refusing to accept His miracles as proof of His divinity. 

 

Though His miracles were extraordinary and were signs to those who were willing to believe, the most profound “work” that He performed was that of His humble and genuine love.  Jesus was genuine, honest and pure of heart.  He exuded every virtue one could have.  Therefore, the testimony that His ordinary actions of love, care, concern and teaching gave were what would have won over many hearts first and foremost.  In fact, for those who were open, His miracles were, in a sense, only icing on the cake.  The “cake” was His genuine presence revealing the mercy of the Father.

 

You cannot perform miracles from God (unless you were given an extraordinary charism to do so), but you can act as a witness to the Truth and share the Heart of the Father in Heaven if you humbly seek to be pure of heart and allow the Heart of the Father in Heaven to shine through you in your daily actions.  Even the smallest action of genuine love speaks volumes to others. 

 

Reflect, today, upon your call to give testimony to the Father in Heaven.  You are called to share the love of the Father with everyone you meet.  If you embrace this mission, in great and small ways, the Gospel will be made manifest to others through you, and the will of the Father will be more fully accomplished in our world.

 

My genuine and holy Lord, I pray that I act as a witness to the love flowing from Your Heart.  Give me the grace to be real, genuine and sincere.  Help me to become a pure instrument of Your merciful Heart so that all my works will give testimony to Your mercy.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 30th March, 2022

Unity with God

 

 

Jesus answered the Jews: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”  For this reason they tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.  John 5:17–18

 

Jesus was clearly guilty of grave sins in the opinion of those who sought to put Him to death.  He did not follow their Sabbath laws in the way they thought He should and He revealed that He was equal to the Father.  This would be a serious sin on Jesus’ part if He was wrong, but obviously He wasn’t.

 

At the heart of this passage is the unity of the Father and the Son.  The verses following this passage reveal even more clearly that the Father and the Son are one and that Jesus’ whole life is caught up in the fulfillment of the will of the Father.  It is precisely this oneness of will that brings about their unity.

 

This reveals much to us about the relationship of the Father and the Son, and it also reveals much to us about our own relationship with the Father and the Son.  First of all, the Father and the Son are distinct Persons, each possessing a perfect intellect and will.  However, their oneness came about through the fact that their minds were in perfect harmony, knowing all things equally, and perfectly believing what they know.  As a result of their perfect shared knowledge, they both embraced every detail of the plan of the Father as it was laid out from the foundation of the world. 

 

As for us, we can take from this understanding of the unity of the Father and the Son, the glorious lesson on how we enter into unity with God.  This happens first by seeking the mind of God.  We must probe the glorious mysteries contained therein and must make them our own knowledge.  Second, we must believe what we come to know through an act of our will.  As we discover the truth, we must choose it for our lives.  The challenge is that there are numerous competing voices vying for our attention.  As we sort through them, choosing only that which God reveals, we naturally become attracted to the mind and will of God and make them our own.  In this act, we also become one with God.

 

Reflect, today, upon the unity you are called to live with the Father and the Son.  It is this unity that brings fulfillment to your life.  It’s what you were made for.  Seeking, believing and embracing anything else is simply living by a lie.  Seek the mind and will of God in all things and your whole being will be drawn into greater unity with God.

 

Father in Heaven, I thank You for the gift of Jesus Your Son and I thank You for the unity that you both share.  Draw me into that glorious unity established by Your minds and wills.  Make me one with You so that You also are my Father.  Father in Heaven, Jesus the Son, I trust in You.

Tuesday 29th March, 2022

Paralyzed by Sin

 

 

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”  Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.  John 5:8–9

 

Let’s look at one of the clear symbolic meanings of this passage above.  The man Jesus healed was paralyzed, being unable to walk and take care of himself.  Others neglected him as he sat there by the pool, hoping for kindness and attention.  Jesus sees him and gives him His full attention.  After a short dialogue, Jesus cures him and tells him to rise and walk. 

 

One clear symbolic message is that his physical paralysis is an image of the result of sin in our lives.  When we sin we “paralyze” ourselves.  Sin has grave consequences on our lives and the clearest consequence is that we are left unable to rise and then walk in the ways of God.  Grave sin, especially, renders us powerless to love and live in true freedom.  It leaves us trapped and unable to care for our own spiritual lives or for others in any way.  It’s important to see the consequences of sin.  Even minor sins hinder our abilities, strip us of energy, and leave us spiritually crippled to one extent or another. 

 

Hopefully you know this and it is not a new revelation to you.  But what must be new to you is the honest admission of your current guilt.  You must see yourself in this story.  Jesus did not heal this man only for the good of this one man.  He healed him, in part, to tell you that He sees you in your broken state as you experience the consequences of your sin.  He sees you in need, looks at you and calls you to rise and walk.  Do not underestimate the importance of allowing Him to perform a healing in your life.  Do not neglect to identify even the smallest sin which imposes its consequences upon you.  Look at your sin, allow Jesus to see it, and listen to Him speak words of healing and freedom.

 

Reflect, today, upon this powerful encounter this crippled man had with Jesus.  Put yourself into the scene and know that this healing is also done for you.  If you have not done so already this Lent, go to Confession and discover Jesus’ healing in that Sacrament.  Confession is the answer to the freedom that awaits you, especially when it is entered into honestly and thoroughly.

 

Most merciful Lord, please forgive me for my sins.  I desire to see them and to acknowledge the consequences they impose upon me.  I know that You desire to free me from these burdens and to heal them at the source.  Lord, give me courage to confess my sins to You, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 28th March, 2022

An Interesting Miracle

 

 

Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”  The royal official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”  Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”  John 4:48–50

 

Indeed the child does live and the royal official is overjoyed when he returns home to find that his child was healed.  This healing took place at the same time that Jesus said he would be healed. 

One interesting thing to note about this passage is the contrast of Jesus’ words.  At first, it almost sounds as if Jesus is angry when He says, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”  But then He immediately heals the boy telling the man, “Your son will live.”  Why this apparent contrast in Jesus’ words and action?

 

We should note that Jesus’ initial words are not so much a criticism; rather, they are simply words of truth.  He is aware of the fact that many people lack faith, or are at least weak in faith.  He is also aware of the fact that “signs and wonders” are beneficial for people at times so as to help them come to believe.  Though this need to see “signs and wonders” is far from ideal, Jesus works with it.  He uses this desire for a miracle as a way of offering faith.

 

What’s important to understand is that the ultimate goal of Jesus was not the physical healing, even though this was an act of great love; rather, His ultimate goal was to increase the faith of this father by offering him the gift of his son’s healing.  This is important to understand because everything we experience in life from our Lord will have as its goal a deepening of our faith.  Sometimes that takes on the form of “signs and wonders” while at other times it may be His sustaining presence in the midst of a trial without any visible sign or wonder.  The goal we must strive for is faith by allowing whatever our Lord does in our lives to become the source of our faith’s increase.

 

Reflect, today, upon your own level of faith and trust.  And work to discern the actions of God in your life so that those actions produce greater faith.  Cling to Him, believe He loves you, know that He holds the answer you need and seek Him in all things.  He will never let you down.

 

My loving Lord, please increase my faith.  Help me to see You acting in my life and to discover Your perfect love in all things.  As I see You at work in my life, help me to know, with greater certainty, Your perfect love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 15th March, 2022

The Exaltation of the Humble of Heart

 

 

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”  Matthew 23:12

 

Humility seems like such a contradiction.  We are easily tempted to think that the way to greatness involves letting everyone know all that we do well.  There is a constant temptation for most people to put forward their best face and to hope others will see that and admire it.  We want to be noticed and praised.  And we often try to make that happen by the little things we do and say.  And often we tend to exaggerate who we are.

 

On the flip side, if someone criticizes us and thinks ill of us it has the potential of being devastating.  If we hear that someone said something negative about us we may go home and be depressed or angry about it the rest of the day, or even the rest of the week!  Why?  Because our pride is wounded and that wound can hurt.  It can hurt unless we have discovered the incredible gift of humility.

 

Humility is a virtue that enables us to be real.  It enables us to cut through any false persona we may have and simply be who we are.  It enables us to be comfortable with our good qualities as well as our failures.  Humility is nothing other than being honest and true about our lives and being comfortable with that person.

 

Jesus gives us a wonderful lesson in the Gospel passage above that is very hard to live but is absolutely key to living a happy life.  He wants us to be exalted!  He wants us to be noticed by others.  He wants our light of goodness to shine for all to see and for that light to make a difference.  But He wants it done in truth, not by presenting a false persona.  He wants the real “me” to shine forth.  And that is humility.

 

Humility is sincerity and genuineness.  And when people see this quality in us they are impressed.  Not so much in a worldly way but in an authentic human way.  They will not look at us and be envious, rather, they will look at us and see the true qualities we have and enjoy them, admire them and want to imitate them.  Humility enables the real you to shine through.  And, believe it or not, the real you is someone who others want to meet and get to know.

 

Reflect, today, on how genuine you are.  Make this time of Lent a time when the foolishness of pride is shattered.  Let God strip away every false image of yourself so that the true you can shine forth.  Humble yourself in this way and God will take you and exalt you in His way so that your heart can be seen and loved by those around you.

 

Lord of perfect humility, make me humble.  Help me to be sincere and honest about who I am.  And in that honesty, help me to let Your Heart, living in mine, shine through for others to see.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 14th March, 2022

Judging the Actions, Not the Heart

 

“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.” 

 Luke 6:37

Have you ever met someone for the first time and without even talking to this person suddenly came to the conclusion of what you think of them?  Perhaps it was that they seemed a bit standoffish, or had a certain lack of expression, or seemed distracted.  If we are honest with ourselves we’d have to admit that it’s very easy to come to an immediate judgment of others.  It’s easy to immediately think that because they seem distant or standoffish, or lack that expression of warmth, or are distracted, that they must have a problem.

 

What’s hard to do is to completely suspend our judgment of others.  It’s hard to immediately give them the benefit of the doubt and to presume only the best.  

 

On the flip side, we may encounter people who are very good actors.  They are smooth and courteous; they look us in the eye and smile, shake our hand and treat us in a very gracious way.  You may walk away thinking, “Wow, that person really has it all together!”

 

The problem with both of these approaches is that it’s really not our place to form a judgment for good or for ill in the first place.  Perhaps the one who makes a good impression is simply a good “politician” and knows how to turn on the charm.  But charm can be deceptive. 

 

The key here, from Jesus’ statement, is that we must strive to be non-judgmental in every way.  It’s simply not our place.  God is the judge of the good and the bad.  Sure we should look at good actions and be grateful when we see them and even offer affirmation for the goodness we see.  And, sure, we should notice poor behavior, offer correction as needed, and do it with love.  But judging the actions is much different than judging the person.  We ought not judge the person, nor do we want to be judged or condemned by others.  We do not want others to presume they know our hearts and motives.    

Perhaps one important lesson we can take from this statement of Jesus is that the world needs more people who are non-judgmental and non-condemning.  We need more people who know how to be true friends and love unconditionally.  And God wants you to be one of those persons.  

 

Reflect, today, upon how often you do judge others and reflect upon how good you are at offering the kind of friendship others around you need.  In the end, if you offer this sort of friendship you will most likely be blessed with others who offer this sort of friendship right back!  And with that you will both be blessed!

 

Lord, give me a non-judgmental heart.  Help me to love each person I encounter with a holy love and acceptance.  Help me to have the charity I need to correct their wrongdoing with kindness and firmness, but to also see beyond the surface and see the person You created.  In turn, give me the true love and friendship of others so that I may trust and enjoy the love You wish me to have.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 11th March, 2022

Being Real, Being Honest, Being Sincere

 

 

“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:20

 

Who wants to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?  Certainly all of us do!  That should be our primary goal in life.  And, along with that goal, we should seek to bring as many people with us as possible.

 

Too often we fail to see this as an ultimate goal in life.  We fail to keep our eyes on Heaven as the primary reason we are here on Earth.  It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day satisfactions of what we may call the “mini goals” of life.  These are goals such as entertainment, money, success, and the like.  And we can often make these mini goals our only goals at times.  

 

So how about you?  What is your goal?  What is it you strive for and seek throughout your day?  If you honestly examine your actions throughout each day you may be surprised that you are actually seeking unimportant and passing mini goals more than you realize.

 

Jesus gives us one bit of clear direction in this passage above on how to attain that ultimate goal of life—the Kingdom of Heaven.  The path He points to is righteousness.

 

What is righteousness?  It’s simply being real.  Being authentic.  Not fake.  And most especially, it’s being real in our love of God.  The Pharisees struggled with pretending they were holy and good followers of the will of God.  But they were not very good at it.  They may have been good at the acting job, and they may have convinced themselves and others, but they could not fool Jesus.  Jesus could see through the fake veneer and perceive that which was underneath.  He could see that their “righteousness” was only a show for themselves and others.

 

Reflect, today, upon your own righteousness—your honesty and sincerity in striving for holiness.  If you want to daily keep Heaven as your ultimate goal, then you must also strive to make each daily mini goal an honest attempt at holiness.  We must daily seek Christ with all sincerity and truth in all the small things of life.  We must then let that sincerity shine through, showing what truly lies beneath.  To be righteous, in the truest sense, means we sincerely seek God throughout our day and make that sincerity the constant goal of our life.

 

Lord of true righteousness, make me righteous.  Please help me to be sincere in all that I do and all that I seek in life.  Help me to love You and to love You each and every moment of the day.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 10th March, 2022

Ask, and All Good Things Will Be Given You

 

 

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…”

 

“How much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.”  Matthew 7:711

 

Jesus is very clear that when we ask, we will receive, when we seek, we will find, and when we knock, the door will be opened to you.  But is that your experience?  Sometimes we can ask, and ask, and beg, and it appears that our prayer goes unanswered, at least in the way we want it to be answered.  So what does Jesus mean when He says to “ask…seek…knock” and you will receive?

 

The key to understanding this exhortation from our Lord is that, as the Scripture above states, through our prayer, God will give “good things to those who ask.”  He doesn’t promise us whatever we ask for; rather, He promises that which is truly good and good, in particular, for our eternal salvation.

This begs the question, “Then how do I pray and what do I pray for?”  Ideally, every prayer of intercession we utter should be for the Lord’s will to be done, nothing more, and nothing less.  Only His perfect will.

 

That can be harder to pray for than one might first expect.  Too often we tend to pray that “my will be done” rather than that “Thy will be done.”  But if we can trust, and trust on a profound level, that God’s will is perfect and provides us with all “good things,” then seeking His will, asking for it and knocking at the door of His heart will produce an abundance of grace as God desires to bestow it.

Reflect, today, upon the way you pray.  Try to change your prayer so that it seeks the good things God wants to bestow rather than the many things you want God to bestow.  It may be hard at first to detach from your own ideas and your own will, but in the end, you will be blessed with many good things from God.

 

Lord of true goodness, I do pray that Your will be done in all things.  I desire to surrender to You above all, and to trust in Your perfect plan.  Help me, dear Lord, to abandon my own ideas and desires, and to seek Your will always.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 9th March, 2022

Responding to the Call to Repent

 

 

“At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”  Luke 11:32

 

What an interesting way for Jesus to call the people to repentance.  Simply put, the people of Nineveh repented when Jonah preached to them.  However, the people in Jesus’ time did not.  The result is that, at the end of time, the people of Nineveh will be given the responsibility of condemning those who failed to listen to Jesus.

 

The first thing we should take from this is that condemnation for refusing to repent of one’s sins is real and serious.  Jesus is speaking about eternal damnation to the people who fail to listen to His preaching.  As a result of this very strong teaching of Jesus, we should sincerely look at our own willingness to repent, or lack thereof. 

 

Secondly, it’s important to point out that the people Jesus chastised were far more blessed with the prophetic message than the people of Jonah’s time.  Remember that Jonah was a man who, at first, ran from God and from his mission.  He did not want to go to Nineveh and only did so after being brought there in the belly of a whale against his will.  It’s hard to imagine that Jonah would have subsequently preached with a wholehearted zeal.  But, nonetheless, his preaching was effective.

 

The people of Jesus’ time were blessed with hearing the actual words of the Savior of the World.  But so are we!  We have the Gospels, the teachings of the Church, the witness of the great saints, the shepherding of the Holy Father, the Sacraments and so much more.  We have countless methods of obtaining the Gospel message in our technological age and, yet, we can easily fail to heed Christ’s message. 

 

Reflect, today, upon your own willing response to the words of Jesus.  He speaks to us in powerful ways and yet we so often fail to listen.  Our failure to listen leads to a failure of complete repentance from our sins.  If this is you, reflect also upon the words of severe condemnation that await those who are obstinate.  This realization should fill us with a holy fear and motivate us to listen to the preaching of our Lord.

 

Savior of the World, I know You speak to me in countless ways.  You preach through Your Scriptures, Your Church and in my life of prayer.  Help me to heed Your voice and accept all You say with perfect obedience and submission.  I love You, my dear Lord, and I repent of my sin.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 8th March, 2022

Forgiving Others and Being Forgiven

 

 

“If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”  Matthew 6:14–15

 

This passage presents us with an ideal we must strive for.  It also presents us with the consequences if we do not strive for this ideal.  Forgive and be forgiven.  Both must be desired and sought after.

When forgiveness is properly understood, it is much easier to desire, give and receive.  When it is not properly understood, forgiveness can be seen as a confusing and heavy burden and, therefore, as something undesirable.

 

Perhaps the greatest challenge to the act of forgiving another is the sense of “justice” that can appear to be lost when forgiveness is given.  This is especially true when forgiveness is offered to someone who fails to ask forgiveness.  On the contrary, when one does ask for forgiveness, and expresses true remorse, it is much easier to forgive and to abandon the feeling that the offender should “pay” for what was done.  But when there is a lack of sorrow on the part of the offender, this leaves what can feel like a lack of justice if forgiveness is offered.  This can be a difficult feeling to overcome by ourselves.

 

It’s important to note that forgiving another does not excuse their sin.  Forgiveness does not mean that the sin did not happen or that it is OK that it happened.  Rather, forgiving another does the opposite.  Forgiving actually points to the sin, acknowledges it and makes it a central focus.  This is important to understand.  By identifying the sin that is to be forgiven, and then forgiving it, justice is done in a supernatural way.  Justice is fulfilled by mercy.  And the mercy offered has an even greater effect on the one offering mercy than the one it is offered to. 

 

By offering mercy for the sin of another, we become freed of the effects of their sin.  Mercy is a way for God to remove this hurt from our lives and free us to encounter His mercy all the more by the forgiveness of our own sins for which we could never deserve on our own effort. 

 

It’s also important to note that forgiving another does not necessarily result in reconciliation.  Reconciliation between the two can only happen when the offender accepts the forgiveness offered after humbly admitting their sin.  This humble and purifying act satisfies justice on a whole new level and enables these sins to be transformed into grace.  And once transformed, they can even go so far as to deepen the bond of love between the two.

 

Reflect, today, upon the person you most need to forgive.  Who is it and what have they done that has offended you?  Do not be afraid to offer the mercy of forgiveness and do not hesitate in doing so.  The mercy you offer will bring forth the justice of God in a way that you could never accomplish by your own efforts.  This act of forgiving also frees you from the burden of that sin, and enables God to forgive you of your sins.

 

My forgiving Lord, I am a sinner who is in need of Your mercy.  Help me to have a heart of true sorrow for my sins and to turn to You for that grace.  As I seek Your mercy, help me to also forgive the sins that others have committed against me.  I do forgive.  Help that forgiveness to enter deep into my whole being as an expression of Your holy and Divine Mercy.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 7th March, 2022

Serving Christ in Others 

 

 

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:40

 

Who is that “least brother?”  It’s interesting that Jesus specifically points to the person considered the least, as opposed to a more general statement that includes all people.  Why not say, “Whatever you do to others…?”  This would include all whom we serve.  But instead Jesus pointed to the least brother.  Perhaps this should be seen, especially, as the most sinful person, the weakest, the most gravely ill, the incapacitated, the hungry and the homeless, and all those who have pronounced needs in this life.

 

The most beautiful and touching part about this statement is that Jesus identifies Himself with the person in need, the “least” of all.  By serving those in special need, we are serving Jesus.  But for Him to be able to say that, He has to be intimately united with these people.  And by showing such an intimate connection to them, Jesus reveals their infinite dignity as persons.

 

This is such an important point to grasp!  In fact, this has been a central theme in the constant teachings of St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis.  An invitation to constant focus upon the dignity and value of the person must be the central message we take from this passage.  

 

Reflect, today, upon the dignity of each and every person.  Try to call to mind anyone you may fail to look at with perfect respect.  Who is it you look down upon and roll your eyes at?  Who is it you judge or disdain?  It is within this person, more than any other, that Jesus waits for you.  He waits to meet you and to have you love Him in the weak and the sinner.  Reflect upon their dignity.  Identify the person who fits this description the most in your life and commit yourself to love and serve them.  For in them you will love and serve our Lord.

 

Dear Lord, I do understand and believe that You are present, in hidden form, in the weakest of the weak, the poorest of the poor and in the sinner in our midst.  Help me to diligently seek You out in each and every person I encounter, especially those in most need.  As I find You, may I love You and serve You with my whole heart.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 4th March, 2022

A Day to Fast and Abstain

 

“The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”  Matthew 9:15

 

Fridays in Lent…are you ready for them? Every Friday in Lent is a day of abstinence from meat. So be sure to embrace this little sacrifice today in union with our entire Church. What a blessing it is to offer sacrifice as an entire Church! 

 

Fridays in Lent (and, in fact, throughout the year) are also days in which the Church asks us to do some form of penance. Abstinence from meat certainly falls into that category, unless you dislike meat and love fish. The most important thing to understand about Fridays in Lent is that they should be a day of sacrifice. Jesus offered the ultimate sacrifice on a Friday and endured the most excruciating pain for the atonement of our sins. We should not hesitate to offer our own sacrifice and to strive to spiritually unite that sacrifice to Christ’s. Why would we do that? 

 

At the heart of the answer to that question is a basic understanding of redemption from sin. It’s important to understand the unique and profound teaching of our Catholic Church on this. As Catholics, we do share a common belief with other Christians throughout the world that Jesus is the one and only Savior of the world. The only way to Heaven is through the redemption won by His Cross. In a sense, Jesus “paid the price” of death for our sins. He took on our punishment. 

 

But with that said, we must understand our role and responsibility in receiving this priceless gift. It’s not simply a gift that God offers by saying, “OK, I paid the price, now you’re completely off the hook.” No, we believe He says something more like this, “I have opened the door to salvation through my suffering and death. Now I invite you to enter that door with me and unite your own sufferings with mine so that my sufferings, united with yours, will bring you to salvation and freedom from sin.” So, in a sense, we are not “off the hook;” rather, we now have a way to freedom and salvation by uniting our lives, sufferings and sins to the Cross of Christ. As Catholics, we understand that salvation came at a price and that the price was not only the death of Jesus, it’s also our willing participation in His suffering and death. This is the way that His Sacrifice transforms our particular sins.

 

Fridays in Lent are days in which we are especially invited to unite ourselves, voluntarily and freely, with the Sacrifice of Jesus. His Sacrifice required of Him great selflessness and self-denial. The small acts of fasting, abstinence and other forms of self-denial you choose dispose your will to be more conformed to Christ’s so as to be able to more completely unite yourself with Him, receiving the grace of salvation. 

 

Reflect, today, upon the small sacrifices you are called to make this Lent—especially on Fridays in Lent. Make the choice to be sacrificial today and you will discover that it is the best way to enter into a deeper union with the Savior of the World.

 

Most sacrificial Lord, I choose, this day, to become one with You in Your suffering and death. I offer You my suffering and my sin. Please forgive my sin and allow my suffering, especially that which results from my sin, to be transformed by Your own suffering so that I can share in the joy of Your Resurrection. May the small sacrifices and acts of self-denial I offer You become a source of my deeper union with You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 3rd March, 2022

The World or Your Soul?

 

“What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”  

Luke 9:25

Many people dream of winning the lottery.  And oftentimes, the dream is for many millions of dollars.  Imagine what you would do if you became an instant millionaire or an instant billionaire.  Do you find yourself daydreaming about this?

 

If so, perhaps the question above is a good one to ponder.  What good is it if you win the biggest lottery in history, become the wealthiest person on the face of the Earth, but lack the grace of God in your life and lack faith?  Would you trade your faith for being exceptionally wealthy and gaining the whole world?  Many people probably would or else Jesus would not have asked this question.

 

Very often in life we have the wrong priorities.  We seek instant satisfaction and gratification over eternal fulfillment.  It’s hard for many people to live with an eternal perspective.  

 

Some may say, “Well, I choose both!  I want the whole world and the salvation of my soul!”  But Jesus’ question presupposes that we cannot have both.  We must pick which one we choose to pursue. 

 

Choosing a life of faith and the salvation of our souls requires that we let go of many things in this world.  Even if God were to bless us with much in this world, we must strive to live in such a way that we are ready and willing to “give it up” if it were beneficial to our eternal salvation, or the salvation of others.  This is hard to do and requires a very deep love of God.  It requires that we are convinced, on the deepest level, that the pursuit of holiness is more important than anything else.

 

Reflect, today, upon this profound question from Jesus.  Know that He poses it to you.  How do you respond?  Do not hesitate to make God and His abundant mercy the central focus of your life.  Lent is one of the best times of the year to seriously look at the most fundamental desire and goal of your heart.  Choose Him above all else and you will be eternally grateful you did.

 

My eternal Lord, as we enter into this Lenten season, give me the grace I need to look at my priorities.  Help me to honestly discern that which is the most fundamental and central driving motivation of my life.  Help me to choose You above all else so that You will help everything in my life to become ordered in accord with Your holy will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 2nd March, 2022

Being Set Free for Love

 

Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.  (see Psalm 51)

 

Mercy.  That’s what it’s all about.  As we begin Lent, a great place to start is with a better understanding of mercy.

 

Often when we think about Lent, we think of it with a sort of dread.  “I have to give something up,” we often think. But if that is our thought, then we are missing the point.  Do I “have to” give something up?  Well, yes and no.  It’s true that God wills this and has spoken this practice of self-denial and self-discipline to us through His Church.  That is true.   But it’s much more of an invitation to grace than the imposition of a burden.  

 

Giving something up is really all about entering into God’s abundant mercy on a deeper level.  It’s about being freed from all that binds us, and it helps us experience the new life we so deeply seek.  Giving something up could refer to something as simple as fasting from a food or drink.  Or, it can be any intentional act that requires a certain self-denial. But this is good!  Why?  Because it strengthens us in our spirit and our will.  It strengthens us to be more resolved to say “Yes” to God on that complete level.  

 

So often in life we are controlled by our emotions and desires.  We have an impulse for this or that or to do this or that, and we often let those impulses or desires control us. Entering into a practice of self-denial helps strengthen us to control our disordered tendencies rather than being controlled by them.  And this applies to much more than just food and drink.  It applies to many things in life including our life of virtue, especially our charity.

 

Mercy is all about charity.  It’s about love in the way God wants us to love.  It’s about being free to let love consume us and take us over so that, in the end, all we want to do is love. This can be a hard practice to establish in our lives but is the source of our joy and fulfillment.  

 

Mercy, in particular, is an act of love that, in a sense, is not deserved by another.  It’s a free gift that is given purely from the motivation of love.  And this is exactly the love God gives us.  God’s love is all mercy.  And if we want to receive that mercy, then we also have to give it.  And if we want to give it, we need to properly dispose ourselves to giving mercy.  This is accomplished, in part, by our little acts of self-denial.  

 

So make this a great Lent, but don’t get stuck thinking that the Lenten sacrifices are burdensome. They are one essential piece of the pathway to the life God wants to bestow upon us.

 

My sacrificial Lord, may this Lent be truly fruitful in my life.  May it be a grace and a joy to embrace all that You wish to bestow upon me.  Jesus, I do trust in You.

Tuesday 1st March, 2022

What is God Calling You to Give Up?

 

Peter began to say to Jesus, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Mark 10:28

 

Some are called to give up much and follow Christ.  For example, there are those called to the monastic life or a cloister as a religious sister.  They truly give up everything of this world to seek out and follow the invitation of Christ to follow Him in this radical way.  

 

All of us, however, are called to give up “everything” to follow Christ in our own unique way.  By giving up everything, we are called to completely surrender our own will and preferences in life to serve Christ in accord with His divine plan.  This may take on many forms but, in the end, it’s always a call to give up everything.

 

The good news is that “giving up everything” is nothing other than giving up our own selfish ideals and preferences in life.  The even better news is that the life God has in store for us is far better than we can dream of or imagine.  So, by saying “No” to our own will and doing things our own way, we are in fact saying “Yes” to doing things in the perfect way of God.

 

Why wouldn’t we want to seek only His will each and every day of our lives?  Why wouldn’t we want to serve Him and His perfect plan? This may take on the form of service to our families.  Giving to them when we do not feel like doing so.  It may mean striving to find joy in small acts of service and love.  It may mean, for some, giving up all normal attachments in life so as to seek His will in a more radical way.  Whatever the specific calling in life may be for you, it’s worth embracing God’s will.  

 

Reflect, today, on how ready and willing you are to say “Yes” to Christ no matter what He asks of you.  Are you willing to say “Yes” even to that which He has not yet revealed to you?  Say “Yes” today to whatever your future holds and God will bless you in abundance.

 

My trustworthy Lord, no matter what it is You call me to do in life, the answer is “Yes.”  I want to serve Your will selflessly and completely.  Help me to live that calling with generosity and love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 17th February, 2022

The True Depths of Christian Love

 

 

Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Mark 8:34

 

The first most fundamental question posed to us through this Scripture is this: Do you wish to come after Jesus?  Unless this question is answered first, the rest of what Jesus says will have no effect upon us.  So let’s look at that question.

 

Intellectually speaking, everyone reading this has most likely answered that question in the affirmative numerous times.  Each time you go to Mass, spend time praying, or read the Scriptures you are, in one way or another, saying, “Yes, I want to come after You, Lord.”  Most likely, we have all even said specific prayers by which we make the conscious choice to follow Christ.  But we should see much more than the need to simply make an intellectual choice in this passage.

 

The phrase, “Whoever wishes” seems to reveal even more than a decision, it also reveals a desire.  It reveals that a desire to follow Christ is not usually the first step in the process, it’s the last.  The first step is to come to an understanding of the truth and to profess it.  Secondly, we must will what we have chosen.  Thirdly, once grace begins to work on us to transform us, we begin to “wish” or “desire” all that Jesus wants of us and all that He calls us to embrace. 

 

So what will we find ourselves “wishing” if we are following Christ with our whole being?  We will find that we desire what Jesus reveals next; namely, we will desire to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  Do you desire that?

 

It’s easy to desire to love and be loved, at least on a more superficial level.  Hopefully, we all enjoy kind and caring words, both giving them and receiving them.  But the true love of Christ, following His example of love, requires a desire for selfless and sacrificial love.  This is the perfection of love!  We are called, ultimately, to love without even considering the cost or the demands that Christian love places upon us.  Or, to take it even further, we are called to love even that which is painful and difficult when it is the will of God.  His will most certainly includes acts of sacrifice.  True love, ultimately, desires even this.

 

Reflect, today, upon this most fundamental question.  Do you wish to come after Jesus and, therefore, are you ready and willing to embrace and even desire all that this entails?  You make the choice; God will place the desire in your heart.  Say “Yes” to Him and His Cross.  In the end, you will be eternally grateful you did.

 

My sacrificial Lord, I want to desire Your Cross.  I want to come to a level of love through which I desire to give myself completely to You, without counting the cost, and even desiring those acts which require great sacrifice.  You embraced Your Cross without reserve out of love for us.  Help me to imitate Your perfect example.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 17th February, 2022

Freedom From Fear

 

Jesus began to teach the Apostles that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.  He spoke this openly.  Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  Mark 8:31-32

 

Why would Peter take Jesus aside and rebuke Him?  Was it a rebuke of anger at Jesus?  No, it was most likely a rebuke based in the fear that Peter was experiencing in his heart.

 

This passage says that Jesus “began to teach” the Apostles that He would soon suffer greatly, be rejected and killed.  This would have been difficult for the Apostles to accept and understand.  At first, they would have experienced all the emotions and thoughts that we all go through as we are processing some difficult news.  We may start with denial, then become angry, look for a way out, panic, be confused, etc.  Going through stages of grief and acceptance are normal and it appears that this is what Peter was experiencing.

 

Out of his interior struggle in coming to an acceptance of what Jesus was starting to reveal to them, Peter tried to put up a block.  In Matthew’s account of this story we hear the actual words of Peter, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you” (Mt. 16:22). 

 

Peter’s words were certainly words of concern for Jesus, but it’s important to note that, just because Peter was concerned about Jesus, this doesn’t mean that his words were helpful.

 

As the story continues, Jesus rebukes Peter sternly, but it’s done out of love for Peter to help rid him of his fear and confusion.  It’s understandable that Peter is fearful of the prediction of the Cross. 

 

It’s understandable when any one of us experiences fear in the face of some grave cross or hardship.  The key here is to know that Jesus does not want us to sit in fear.  He does not want us to run from the crosses we are given based on our human weakness.  Instead, He wants us to turn to Him and try to think as He thinks, to act as He acts, and to face our hardships as He did by embracing His Cross.

Reflect, today, upon your own reaction to the difficult things God calls you to do.  Yes, you can be certain that He does daily call you to actions that require great sacrifice and great love.  This can be experienced as painful.  But you should never allow the pain of any cross to deter you from carrying it.  Pray that you have courage to face your crosses and, if needed, be open to the loving rebuke of Jesus when you find that you need a rebuke to set you on the path to freedom from fear.

 

Lord of strength, I know that You courageously and fearlessly faced the holy sacrifice of Your glorious Cross.  As I am invited to follow in Your footsteps, I find that fear can overwhelm me as it did Peter.  Please strengthen me in those times and give me the grace I need to say “Yes” to You no matter what You ask.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 16th February, 2022

One Step at a Time

 

 

Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on him and asked, “Do you see anything?”   Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”  Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.  Mark 8:23-25

 

This story is very unique for one reason.  It’s unique because the first time Jesus tried to cure the blind man it only worked half way.  He could see after Jesus’ first attempt to heal his blindness, but what he saw were “people looking like trees and walking.”  It took Jesus laying His hands on the man’s eyes a second time for him to be fully cured.  Why is that?

 

Consistently, throughout the Gospels, when Jesus cures someone it is done as a result of the faith they have and manifest.  It’s not that Jesus couldn’t heal someone without faith; rather, it’s that this is what He chose to do.  He made healing contingent upon complete faith.

 

In this miracle story, it appears that the blind man has some faith, but not much.  As a result, Jesus does something very telling.  He allows the man to be healed only part way so as to illustrate his lack of faith.  But He also reveals to us that a little faith can lead to more faith.  The man, once he could see a little, clearly began to believe some more.  And once his faith grew, Jesus laid hands on him again, bringing his healing to completion.

 

What a great illustration for us!  Some people may have complete faith in God in all things.  If that is you, then you are truly blessed.  But this passage is especially for those who have faith, but struggle nonetheless.  To those who fall into this category, Jesus is offering much hope.  The action of healing the man twice in a row tells us that Jesus is patient and merciful and will take the little we have, and the little we offer, and use it the best He can.  He will work to transform our little faith so that we can then take another step closer to God and grow in faith.

 

The same could be said of sin.  Sometimes we have imperfect sorrow for sin and sometimes we sin and have no sorrow for it, even though we know it’s wrong.  If that is you, then try to take at least one small step forward toward the healing of forgiveness.  Try, at very least, to desire that you will grow in a desire to be sorry.  That may be the bare minimum, but Jesus will work with it.

 

Reflect, today, upon this blind man.  Ponder this twofold healing and twofold conversion the man undergoes.  Know that this is you and that Jesus wants to take you one step further in your faith and in your repentance of sin.

 

Lord of mercy, I thank You for the incredible patience You have with me.  I know my faith in You is weak and must increase.  I know my sorrow for my sins must also increase.  Please do take the little faith I have and the little sorrow I have for my sins and use them to draw me one step closer to You and Your merciful heart.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 15th February, 2022
What’s Your Leaven?

 

Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”  Mark 8:15

 

What is this “leaven” Jesus is speaking of?  After giving this warning to His disciples, Jesus then gives an explanation to them of what He means and what He doesn’t mean.  But even the explanation seems to be over their heads.  So He concludes by saying, “Do you still not understand?”  To this day, Jesus is still asking this question to each one of us.

 

This was certainly Jesus trying to get them to think, to listen and to look deeper.  He was warning them, “Watch out!”  Watch out for this leaven.  It’s a warning of love to help them see and understand a very real danger.

 

Everyone who bakes bread knows the effect of just a little leaven (such as yeast) in the dough.  Add just a little bit and it affects the whole loaf.  If a child is helping with the baking, this child may return several times, watching the dough rise little by little.  It can become a fascinating thing to watch.  And it all resulted from just this little yeast.

 

So what is this leaven of the Pharisees and Herod?  It’s the evil words, evil intent and errors that they spread.  For the Pharisees, it may be that it’s just a little misconception or misrepresentation of what Jesus said or did.  They may twist His words or may simply give non-verbal opinions to others.  This is contagious and has potential to affect everyone.  Little by little their small seeds of doubt and dissent take a toll on others.

 

We may tend to be thinking about all of “those” people we know who do this.  But we’d miss an important opportunity for growth if we failed to first look at ourselves.  Do I do this sometimes?  Do I say things that mislead in small or subtle ways?  Or do I mislead others by my non-verbal negative attitudes?  Am I a “negative person” sometimes?

 

No need to feel guilty or get down on ourselves if we feel convicted.  Rather, we should look at this little lesson of Jesus to realize the great power of our words.  The smallest of words can do great harm over time.  

 

But that’s not all we should focus on.  It’s just as important to realize that the small loving words we say also have potential to make a huge difference over time.  Perhaps it’s just that small smile we give or a kind action that we think goes unnoticed.  These little actions and words are the leaven of the Gospel.  They do make a difference and they can become contagious, also.  

 

Reflect, today, upon the small things in life.  Know that these small sins and small acts of love make a huge difference in the end.

 

My attentive Lord, help me to be honest and see what sort of leaven I sow each and every day.  Help me to be purged of the bad and filled with the good.  May You inspire me to be that good leaven in all the many daily interactions I have.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 14th February, 2022

Jesus Sighed…Deeply

 

 

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”  Mark 8:11-12

 

Jesus “sighed from the depth of His spirit.”  It is clear this was no ordinary sigh.  It was a sigh that was more than emotion.  It was from the “depth of His spirit.”  What was going on with Jesus?

 

This sigh reveals a pain and suffering in Jesus that was spiritual in nature.  It was a pain and suffering that came as a result of being rejected by others.  But it wasn’t just that He was hurt or offended, because He wasn’t.  The suffering He felt was from His love.  It came as a result of Him loving the Pharisees deeply and realizing that they were rejecting the grace He wanted to offer them.  This hurt not because Jesus was sensitive to being hurt; rather, it hurt because of His boundless love for them.

It’s interesting that we rarely think of Jesus’ love for the Pharisees.  Often, we only think of Him being harsh to them and condemning them.  But every strong word He directed toward them was aimed at converting them out of love.  It was an attempt, on His part, to shake them out of their indifference and rejection of grace.  It was an act of love.

 

Reflect, today, upon the “Pharisees” in your life.  Perhaps you do not encounter those who are proud or haughty, or maybe you do.  The Pharisees in your life are those who reject the free gift of love you try to offer.  They are those who are so hurt, confused or bitter that they find it very hard to let love in.  They throw up every sort of defense there is to avoid letting your love in.  And when you see this rejection, it hurts.  It may then tempt you to have anger or condemnation.

 

But how should you react?  You should do as Jesus did!  You should sigh, and “sigh deeply.”  You should feel the hurt of their rejection and feel holy sorrow for them.  At times, you may need to confront them as Jesus did.  But never out of your wounded pride.  You should confront only because you judge that it’s the best way to win them over.  You will know that this is an act of love when you feel that deep sigh within your spirit.

 

Loving Lord, help me to love with a pure and holy love.  Help me to feel a holy sorrow over my sins and the sins of others when I encounter their sins.  Let that holy sorrow compel me to love more deeply.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 11th February, 2022

The Authority of God

 

“Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)  And immediately the man’s ears were opened.  

Mark 7:34-35

How often do you hear Jesus say this to you?  “Ephphatha! Be opened!”  Or how often do you hear Him speak to you with such authority?

 

Did Jesus say this only because this man was physically deaf and He wanted to physically cure him?  Or is there a deeper significance?  By healing this man unable to hear physical sounds, Jesus was revealing something to us about what He wants to do for us.  Jesus is giving us a clear and deeper message in this healing.  Certainly there are many messages we can take from this passage.  Let’s look at one.

 

The message is in Jesus’ command: “Be opened!”  These are powerful words commanding action.  They are not optional words.  They are clear and definitive.  “Be opened” is not a question, not an invitation, it is a command.  This is significant!

 

These two little words reveal the fact that Jesus has made up His mind to act.  They reveal that He is not hesitant in the least in this choice.  He has made up His mind and has spoken His will.  And this action, on His part, is what makes a difference.  These two little words reveal that God is not indecisive when He speaks.  He is not shy or uncertain.  He is absolute and clear.

 

This understanding should give us great comfort.  Comfort in the sense that Jesus is ready and willing to exercise His all-powerful authority.  He does have all-power and He is not afraid to exercise this authority when He wants to.  Most importantly, He wants to exercise His authority when it will bring about the greatest good in our lives.

 

It should give us great comfort in the sense that we can trust that this all-powerful God is all-powerful and is in control.  If He is even in control of the natural world (physical hearing), then He is most certainly in control of the spiritual world, too.  He is able to do all things good.

 

When we find that we are in the presence of one who is not only all-powerful, but also all-loving and all-merciful, we should be able to breathe a huge sigh of relief and turn our absolute t

 

Reflect, today, upon these two little words.  Let this holy and divine authority of Jesus take control over your life.  Let Him command you.  His commands are perfect love and mercy.  They are words that will direct you to your ultimate good.  And this all-powerful God is worthy of all your trust.

 

All-powerful Lord, I do trust You and I know that You can do all things.  I know that You desire to have perfect authority in my life.  Help me to turn my life fully over to You and to trust You enough to direct and to command every action of my life.  Jesus, I fully trust in You!

Thursday 10th February, 2022

A Manifestation of Faith

 

Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Mark 7:25-27

 

Why did Jesus talk to this woman that way?  She comes to Him, probably in fear and trembling, falls down at His feet, and begs Him to help her daughter.  At first, one might expect Jesus to reach out in gentleness and compassion, ask her about her daughter, and say to her, “Oh, most certainly I will help your daughter.  Bring me to her.”  But that’s not what He says.  He tells her, that “it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”  Ouch!  Really?  Did He really say that?  Why would He say such a thing?

 

First of all, we have to know that whatever Jesus says is an act of love.  It’s an act of the greatest kindness and mercy.  We know this because this is who Jesus is.  He is love and mercy itself.  So how do we reconcile this apparent contradiction?

 

The key to understanding this interaction is to look at the final result.  We must look at how this woman responded to Jesus and how the conversation ended.  When we do this, we see that the woman responds with incredible humility and faith.  What Jesus says is true.  In a way, we can interpret what He says to mean that no one has a right to His grace and mercy.  No one, including her and her daughter, “deserve” to have God act in their lives.  Jesus knows this and, by saying what He says, gives this woman a wonderful opportunity to manifest her deep faith for all to see.  His words allow her to shine forth as a beacon of faith, hope and trust.  This is Jesus’ goal and it worked.  It worked because, when she came to Him, He was immediately aware of the fact that she did indeed have a deep faith.  He knew that she would respond with humility and trust.  The woman did and thus we are able to witness the manifestation of her faith and humility.

 

Reflect, today, upon the beautiful faith of this humble woman.  Try to put yourself in her shoes and hear Jesus speak these same words to you.  How would you respond?  Would you respond with anger or agitation?  Would your pride be wounded?  Or would you respond with an even deeper humility, acknowledging the fact that all God gives is a gift which we have no right to receive.  Responding this way is most likely the act of faith God is waiting for from each of us and is the key to that outpouring of His mercy we so need.

 

Lord of true humility, please humble me.  Strip away my pride.  Help me to fall at Your feet.  Help me to trust You so deeply that You are compelled, by my love of You, to open Your storehouse of grace and pour it down upon me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 9th February, 2022

Why Do We Do What We Do?

 

“Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”  Mark 7:15

 

Conversely speaking, that which comes from within is what makes a person holy!

 

Often, we are more concerned about that which is on the outside than that which is on the inside.  We often worry excessively about how we are perceived by others, how we look, or what our reputation is in the eyes of the world.  This Gospel specifically addresses the charge of the Pharisees that eating certain foods defiles someone.  Jesus isn’t buying that.  He is pointing our attention to our hearts.  What is there in our hearts?  And what is it that comes forth from the heart?  This is what makes us who we are.

 

Though this deals with the worries that certain foods will defile, it also deals with much more.  It addresses the tendency of purely external observances of God’s law. Thus, it addresses the tendency of the Pharisees to be excessively worried about how they are perceived by others.  Their external observance of the law reveals the fact that they seem to be overly concerned about what others think about them and what others say about them.  They want to look holy.  They want to look like they are beyond the smallest of indiscretions.  But it’s all an appearance and not reality.

 

For that reason, Jesus puts the attention on the internal.  God sees what is in our hearts.  Even if no one else sees this we should never forget the fact that God sees all. That’s all that matters.  That which is in our hearts can either do great damage to us or do great good.  There are those who, in the public perception, are way off base.  But from God’s perspective they are right on target. Conversely, there are those in public opinion who are shining stars, but from God’s perspective are way off base.  There is only one thing that matters: What does God think?

 

Reflect, today, upon that which is inside your heart.  This introspection should also challenge you to look at your motivations.  Why do you do what you do and why do you make the decisions you make?  Are they choices that come from an honest and sincere heart?  Or are they choices that are based more on how you will be perceived?  Hopefully your motives are pure.  And hopefully those pure motives come from a heart that is deeply united to the heart of Christ.

 

Lord of all purity, please make my motives pure.  Help me to live only out of a pure heart.  Help me to always realize that holiness is found only in serving You and not in serving my public image.  I love You my Lord.  Jesus, I trust in You!

Tuesday 8th February, 2022

The Danger of Hypocrisy

 

“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”  Mark 7:6-8

 

Once again, Jesus spoke the hard truth that the Pharisees needed to hear.  He told them directly that they were hypocrites and that they were the ones of whom Isaiah spoke in the quoted passage.  It most certainly was a tense scene.

 

Setting aside the drama of the encounter, let’s look more clearly at the actual quote from Isaiah.  It says four things: 

 

1. This people honors me with their lips.
2. Their hearts are far from me.
3. They worship in vain.
4. They present their own human laws as if they were God’s.

 

What would the ideal transformation of these hypocritical errors look like?  If the Pharisees were to completely change, what may Jesus say of them?  Perhaps He would say the following:

 

1. Your worship of me is holy because you truly embrace my divine will in your life.

2. Therefore, the honor you give me with your lips flows from your pure heart of faith and love.

 

So what is the key message we should take from this for our own lives?  We should take from it two simple facts.  First, the will of God must take hold of our lives and become the basis and foundation of everything.  His will, His law, His precepts are our rock foundation.  God has established His truth as the basis of human life and we must strive to humbly embrace His law.  

 

His law includes all publicly revealed teachings of our faith, found in Scripture and in the Church, and it includes all that we hear God speaking to us in our own lives.  The Pharisees, in their lack of humility, could not see these truths.  Instead, they held onto their own ideas and convictions alone.  God chastised them harshly for this out of love.

 

Secondly, we should realize that when we embrace the divine law, and His particular will for our lives, we will be pure of heart and will be freed to love Him with outward expressions.  We will worship Him from our hearts and this will flow through our words and actions.  But this will never happen if we do not start with His divine law.

 

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you are willing to humbly embrace all of the truths that God has revealed and whether you are willing to make them the foundation of your life.  If you do this, all else will flow forth in love and worship.

 

Lord of all Truth, help me to love Your holy and divine law.  Help me to embrace it with my whole heart.  I do believe in You and in all that You have spoken through the ages.  I believe in what You speak to my heart regarding my own life.  Give me the grace to embrace Your holy will and, in that embrace, to be transformed both interiorly and exteriorly.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 7th February, 2022

“Scurrying” for Jesus"

 

As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him.  They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.  Mark 6:54-55

 

Jesus caused the people to “scurry.”  That’s an interesting word to use and an interesting response from the people.  What does “scurried” mean and what does it tell us about the people?

To “scurry” means one moves quickly and intentionally with short and hurried steps.  It’s a very specific word identifying a very specific action.  The people are not just moving toward Jesus in a quick way, they are scurrying.

 

When you think of this image of scurrying, it seems to reveal a certain intensity with which people were seeking out Jesus.  The description of them hurrying to Him with these short and rapid steps reveals that they were intent on getting to Him while they seemed to have something else on their minds.  What was on their minds?  Healing.  They knew that Jesus would be a source of true healing for those who were sick and so the people, with great intensity, brought them to Jesus wherever He was.

 

In a sense, this must be our approach to Jesus in regard to our life of faith.  We must recognize Him as the source of all healing, especially spiritual, and we must keep our minds focused on Him as the Divine Physician.  Our longing and intensity with which we seek Him out must consume our full attention. 

 

Reflect, today, upon this interesting image given to us in these Holy Scriptures.  Try to put yourself into this scene of the Gospel, pondering whether you need to be more intentional and intense in your desire to be with Jesus.  He is the source of all grace and mercy, and He is the Divine Physician who waits for you to come to Him with your every need.  Scurry toward Him and let Him pour forth His grace.

 

My healing Lord, increase my longing for You and my desire to be with You.  Help me to know that You are the Divine Physician my soul desires.  Help me to trust in You always, coming to You for the fulfillment of all my needs and longings.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 4th February, 2022

The Effects of a Guilty Conscience

 

But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.” Mark 6:16

 

Jesus’ fame had become widespread among the people and many were talking about Him.  Some thought He was John the Baptist raised from the dead, others thought He was Elijah the prophet, others simply thought He was a new prophet.  They were all trying to figure out who this incredible man was who spoke with such wisdom and authority.

 

It’s interesting to note that Herod, who had beheaded John the Baptist, immediately concluded that Jesus must be John raised from the dead.  He speaks this conviction not so much as only a hunch, but as if he knew it to be a fact.  This is his definitive conclusion about Jesus.  Why does Herod arrive at this mistaken conviction?

 

Of course we do not know for certain why Herod arrived at this conviction, but we can speculate and arrive at a likely conclusion.  It appears that Herod felt very guilty about beheading John the Baptist and this guilt led him to this conclusion.

 

Oftentimes, when someone sins, as Herod did, and feels deep guilt without repenting of that sin, there arises various unhealthy effects such as a certain paranoid thinking process.  Herod is most likely paranoid, and he most likely is so as a result of his sin and his refusal to repent of his sin.

 

We can see this same tendency within all of us.  The refusal to repent of our sins often causes many other problems in our lives.  Unrepented sin can cause paranoid thinking, anger, self-justification and many other emotional and psychological issues.  Sin, though spiritual in nature, has an effect upon our whole person which is what we have a glimpse of in the person of Herod.  This is a good lesson for all of us.

 

Reflect, today, upon any similar tendencies you have in your life.  Do you find yourself getting paranoid about what others say or do?  Do you enter into a self-justification of your actions?  Do you get angry and project that anger on others who do not deserve it?  Reflect upon any of these tendencies you see and then look deeper at the source of them.  If you see that the root cause of these unhealthy tendencies is some unrepented sin in your own life, then repent of it honestly and completely so that our Lord can free you of the effects of sin.

 

Most gentle Lord, I do repent of all sin.  I pray that I may see my sin honestly and sincerely.  And as I see my sin, help me to confess it to You so that I may be free not only of the burden of my sin, but also of the effects of that burden.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 3rd February, 2022

A Three-Step Process

 

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.  Mark 6:7

 

The first thing that is worth pointing out in this passage is that Jesus “summoned” the Twelve.  This means He brought them to Himself.  Sure, we can read this as simply meaning that He, in a sense, called a meeting with them.  But we should look deeper.  We should see in this summoning the fact that Jesus was not only calling a meeting, but rather, He was drawing them to His very person.  In this act of summoning, the Apostles were personally encountering Jesus, receiving His grace and power, and being changed themselves.

 

From there He sent them out two by two.  This is also significant.  Jesus knows our human weakness.  He knows that by ourselves we will most likely fail, but with the Christian support of another we are greatly strengthened.  This is because Jesus’ mission is not only something we do ourselves, it’s something that is communal as well.  We are each one piece in His mission. However, to fulfill that mission, we need the love and support of others.  We need to go two by two into the battle.

 

So what about this authority that Jesus gave them?  It’s often not appreciated for what it is.  Jesus very much does want to give us authority over the evil one and his minions since they are far more powerful than us.  So, if we are to have a chance in the battle, we need Jesus’ authority.  This is not only some supernatural power to cast out demons; rather, it’s much more extensive.  So what is this authority and how do we exercise it?

 

First, it’s the power of true Christian charity.  Charity, or love, overwhelms the evil one and renders him powerless in our lives.  Selflessness, sacrifice, humility, faith, truth, etc., are among the most powerful weapons in our battle.  The evil one does not know what to do with these.  We do not necessarily have to engage in some sort of dramatic spiritual warfare to do battle.  Simply love God and live that love in your daily life and you will, in a sense, be casting out demons left and right!  We will have the victory in our Christian living because God will take care of all the rest.  It’s His mission and He is the one summoning and sending us.  So do not be afraid to follow His lead!

 

Reflect, today, upon this three step process that Jesus initiates with His Apostles and know that He desires the same with you:  1) He summons you, daily, to Himself; 2) He sends you forth to bring His love to others; 3) He gives you the authority and power you need to fulfill His will.  Be open to this process and our Lord will use you abundantly.

 

My summoning Lord, give me the love, courage and strength I need to live out Your divine plan.  I hear You summoning me and I choose to respond with generosity.  I willingly accept the authority of that grace into my life so that You can accomplish all that You desire.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 2nd February, 2022

Fulfilling Our Mission

 

 

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”  Luke 2:29-32

 

We celebrate, today, the glorious event of Jesus being presented in the Temple by Mary and Joseph.  Simeon, a “righteous and devout” man, had been waiting for this moment throughout his life.  The passage above is what he spoke when the moment finally arrived.

 

This is a profound statement that came from a humble and faith-filled heart.  Simeon was saying something like this: “Lord of Heaven and earth, my life is now complete.  I’ve seen Him.  I’ve held Him.  He is the one.  He is the Messiah.  There is nothing more I need in life.  My life is fulfilled.  I am now ready to die.  My life has reached its purpose and culmination.”

 

Simeon, like any other ordinary human being, would have had many experiences in life.  He would have had many ambitions and goals.  Many things he worked hard for.  So for him to say that he was now ready to “go in peace” simply means that the purpose of his life was fulfilled and that all he has worked for and striven for has come to culmination in this moment.

 

That’s saying a lot!  But it’s really a great witness for us in our daily lives and gives us an example of what we should strive for.  We see in this experience of Simeon that life must be about encountering Christ and fulfilling our purpose in accord with God’s plan.  For Simeon, that purpose, revealed to him through the gift of his faith, was to receive the Christ Child in the temple at His presentation and to then consecrate this Child to the Father in accordance with the law.  

 

What is your mission and purpose in life?  It will not be the same as Simeon but it will have similarities.  God has a perfect plan for you that He will reveal to you in faith.  This calling and purpose will ultimately be about you receiving Christ in the temple of your heart and then praising and worshiping Him for all to see.  It will take on a unique form in accord with the will of God for your life.  But it will be as significant and important as Simeon’s calling, and will be integral to the entire divine plan of salvation for the world.  

 

Reflect, today, upon your own calling and mission in life.  Don’t miss your call.  Don’t miss your mission.  Continue to listen, anticipate, and act in faith as that plan unfolds so that you, too, may one day rejoice and “go in peace” confident that this calling has been fulfilled.

 

Lord, I am Your servant.  I seek Your will.  Help me to respond to You in faith and openness and help me to say “Yes” to You so that my life will achieve the purpose for which I was made.  I thank You for the witness of Simeon and pray that I, too, will one day rejoice that my life has been fulfilled.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 1st February, 2022

Extraordinary Faith 

 

“If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.  Mark 5:28-29

 

These are the thoughts and experience of the woman who had suffered greatly for twelve years with hemorrhages.  She sought out many doctors and had spent all she had in an attempt to be healed.  Sadly, nothing worked.

 

It’s possible that God permitted her suffering to continue all those years so that she would be given this particular opportunity to manifest her faith for all to see.  It’s interesting that this passage actually reveals her interior thinking as she approaches Jesus.  “If I but touch his clothes…”  This interior thinking is a beautiful illustration of faith.

 

How would she have known that she would be healed?  What was it that led her to believe this with such clarity and conviction?  Why, after spending twelve years working with every doctor she could come by, would she suddenly realize that all she needed to do is to touch Jesus’ clothes in order to be healed?  The answer is simple.  Because she was given the gift of faith.

 

This illustration of her faith reveals that faith is a supernatural knowledge of something that only God can reveal.  In other words, she knew she would be healed, and her knowledge of this healing came to her as a gift imparted by God.  Once imparted, she had to act on this knowledge and, in so doing, she gave a wonderful witness to all who would read her story. 

 

Her life, and in particular this experience, should challenge us all to realize that God also speaks profound truths to us, if we only listen.  He is constantly speaking and revealing the depth of His love to us, calling us to enter into a life of manifest faith.  He wants our own faith to not only be the foundation of our lives, but also to be a powerful witness to others.  

 

Reflect, today, upon the interior conviction of faith that this woman had.  She knew God would heal her because she allowed herself to hear Him speak.  Reflect upon your own interior attentiveness to the voice of God and try to be open to the same depth of faith witnessed by this holy woman.

 

My compassionate Lord, I love You and I desire to know You and to hear You speak to me each and every day.  Please increase my faith so that I may know You and Your will for my life.  Please use me as You wish to be a witness of faith for others.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 31st January, 2022

Total Transformation

 

As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind.  And they were seized with fear.  Mark 5:15

 

This short passage comes after a very dramatic story.  A young man, who lived out among the tombs, was fully possessed by many demons.  The demons identified themselves as “Legion” stating that there were many of them.  It’s clear from the story that this man was wild, out of his mind, and fully under the control of these demons.  

 

As the story goes on, Jesus addressed the demons, rebuked them, and cast them out, sending them into a herd of swine.  The swine went running down a slope and drowned in the lake.  Afterwards, the man was totally transformed as he sat there conversing with others.

 

One interesting thing to note in this story is that, when the townspeople came out and saw this man sitting there “in his right mind,” they were shocked and “seized with fear.”  They did not know what to think about this situation.  Why is that?

 

Perhaps there are a number of reasons.  Let’s look at one of them.  This young man was so dysfunctional, being possessed by a legion of demons, that the townspeople had written him off.  They gave up on him and most likely wanted nothing to do with him.  They were afraid of him.  But when they saw this man completely transformed, sitting there looking normal and rational, the people didn’t know what to think.  They were shocked.  And their shock took on a form of fear in that they were afraid of what they did not understand.

 

This reveals something interesting to us.  It reveals that, if we fail to understand the power of God, we will actually find ourselves fearful of His power when confronted by it.  The townspeople should have been filled with great joy and excitement at the total transformation of this man.  However, instead of great joy and excitement, they were fearful.  They were fearful because they did not understand God’s almighty power.

 

Reflect, today, upon the power and glory of God.  He desires to do great things and to bring total transformation to your life.  He desires to cast out the evil one lurking within our world, bringing instead His mercy and peace.  As you reflect upon God’s power, allow yourself to more clearly understand Him.  If you understand Him, you will be more fully ready to rejoice in His good works.

 

Most powerful and glorious God, I rejoice in Your almighty power.  I rejoice in Your greatness and glory.  Help me to see the many ways that You are at work in our world and in the lives of those around me.  As I see Your transforming power at work, fill my heart with gratitude for all that You do.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 28th January, 2022

It Only Takes a Little

 

 

“To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it?  It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.  But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants…”  Mark 4:30-32

 

It is amazing to think about.  This tiny seed has so much potential.  That little seed has within it the potential to become the largest of plants, a source of food, and a dwelling place for the birds of the air.

 

Perhaps this analogy that Jesus uses does not impress us as much as it should because we know that all plants begin with a seed.  But try to think about this wonder of the physical world.  Try to think about how so much potential is packed into that little seed.

 

This reality reveals the fact that Jesus wants to use each one of us for the building up of His Kingdom.  We may feel as though we cannot do much, that we are not as gifted as others, that we will not be able to make much of a difference, but that’s not true.  The truth is that each one of us is packed with unbelievable potential that God wants to bring to fruition.  He wants to bring forth from our lives glorious blessings for the world.  All we must do is allow Him to work.

 

Like a seed, we must allow ourselves to be planted in the fertile soil of His mercy through faith and surrender to His divine will.  We must be watered by daily prayer and allow the rays of the Son of God to shine on us so that He can bring forth from us all that He desires and has planted from the foundation of the world.  

 

Reflect, today, upon the incredible potential that God has placed within your soul.  He made you with the intention to bring forth His Kingdom through you and to do so in an abundant way.  It is your responsibility to simply believe this and to allow God to do what He desires to do in your life.

 

Lord of unending potential, I love You and thank You for all that You have done in my life.  I thank You, in advance, for all that You still desire of me.  I pray that I may daily surrender to You so that You can come and nourish me with Your grace, bringing forth from my life an abundance of good fruit.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 27th January, 2022

One Good Reason for Mercy

 

He also told them, “Take care what you hear.  The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you.”  Mark 4:24 

 

tainly we would all like to be treated with mercy.  We wish to be shown kindness, compassion, care, honesty, and the like.  One thing this passage above reveals is that we will be dealt with, by God, in the same way we deal with others.

 

Ideally, we will show mercy and goodness to others simply because it’s the right thing to do.  God calls us to a life of abundant charity and we should desire to live that life.  But if we struggle with charity toward others, perhaps one motivating factor could be to realize that we will be treated in the same way that we act toward others.

 

Though this may put a certain “holy fear” in our hearts and encourage us to act with mercy, it should also call us to desire to go beyond the basics and to offer love and compassion in an abundant way.

Think about it.  If you spend your whole life striving to forgive, to show love, to reconcile, to help those in need, etc., you, too, can be assured of these gifts being lavished upon you now and in the end.  You can be assured that God will not withhold anything from you.  Instead, He will joyfully pour out upon you more than you could ever expect or hope for.

 

Reflect, today, upon your own calling to a life of abundant generosity.  There are countless ways that you are called to be generous toward others.  Commit yourself to this life of goodness and then anticipate all that God will pour forth upon you.

 

Lord of endless generosity, help me to be radically generous in my love and compassion toward others.  Help me to forgive, to show kindness, to be merciful and to do it all in abundance.  I love You my dear Lord.  Help me to also love those You have put in my life with a perfect and total love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 26th January, 2022

Sowing the Word of God…Despite the Results

 

“Hear this! A sower went out to sow.”  Mark 4:3

 

This line begins the familiar Parable of the Sower.  We are aware of the details of this parable in that the sower sows seed on the path, on rocky ground, among thorns and ultimately on good soil.  The story reveals that we must strive to be like that “good soil” in that we must receive the Word of God into our souls, allowing it to be nurtured so that it may grow in abundance.

 

But this parable reveals something more that could easily be missed.  It reveals the simple fact that the sower, in order to plant at least some seed in good and fertile soil, must act.  He must act by going forth spreading seed in abundance.  As he does this, he must not become disheartened if the majority of the seed he has sown fails to reach that good soil.  The path, the rocky ground, and the thorny ground all are places where seed is sown but ultimately dies.  Only one of the four places identified in this parable produces growth.

 

Jesus is the Divine Sower and His Word is the Seed. Therefore, we should realize that we are also called to act in His person by sowing the seed of His Word in our own lives.  Just as He is willing to sow with the realization that not every seed will produce fruit, so also we must be ready and willing to accept this same fact.  

 

The truth is that, very often, the labor we offer to God for the building up of His Kingdom produces little or no manifest fruit in the end.  Hearts become hardened and the good we do, or the Word we share, does not grow.

 

One lesson we must take from this parable is that the spreading of the Gospel requires effort and commitment on our part.  We must be willing to toil and labor for the Gospel despite whether or not people are willing to receive it.  And we must not allow ourselves to become discouraged if the results are not what we had hoped for.

 

Reflect, today, upon the mission you have been given by Christ to spread His Word.  Say “Yes” to that mission and then look for ways, each and every day, to sow His Word.  Expect much of the effort you give to unfortunately bear little fruit in a manifest way.  However, have deep hope and confidence in the fact that some of that seed will reach the soil that our Lord desires it to reach.  Commit yourself to the sowing; God will worry about the rest.

 

My divine Sower, I make myself available to You for the purpose of the Gospel.  I promise to serve You, each and every day, and I commit to being a sower of Your divine Word.  Help me not to become too focused on the results of the effort I give; rather, help me to entrust those results only to You and to Your divine providence.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 25th January, 2022

Persecution and Discord Transformed

 

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I replied, “Who are you, sir?”  And he said to me, “I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.”  Acts 22:7-8

 

We celebrate, today, one of the greatest conversions ever known.  The conversion of Saul of Tarsus is so significant that it is given the glorious status of a Feast within our Church.  Why?  We could certainly come up with many reasons.  Let’s look at two of them.

 

First, Saul’s conversion resulted in one of the greatest evangelists our Church has ever known. Saul, who later goes by the name Paul, was a man of incredible zeal and wholehearted commitment to the faith. He was zealous before becoming a follower of Christ Jesus and he carried that zeal into his conversion giving his all to the proclamation of the Gospel.

 

His ministry as an Apostle of Christ resulted not only in the foundation of numerous Christian communities, it also resulted in fourteen letters attributed to him or his followers becoming part of our Sacred Scripture.  His writings are deep, profound and very personal.  His love, zeal and care for the Christian communities he founded shone forth as he was revealed as a true shepherd of God.

Secondly, his conversion comes after a fierce persecution of the newly founded Christian Church.  Saul goes forth from town to town, rounding up new Christians and persecuting them.  The most well-known account of this persecution is when he consents to the stoning of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, earlier in the Acts of the Apostles.

 

The Scripture passage quoted above, which comes from the First Reading of the Mass for today, reveals Jesus appearing to Saul asking him why he is persecuting Him.  Saul, in a confused manner, does not understand that his persecution of the Church is actually a persecution of Jesus Himself.  This revelation Saul receives sets him on a powerful path of conversion.

 

One truth this reveals is that, at times, we encounter division and even persecution within the Church from one person to another.  This should not shock us or undermine our faith.  Jesus was quite aware of this fact with St. Paul and chose to use him despite his horrible persecution of Christians.  This passage should call us to look at all persecution and discord more as an opportunity than anything.  It’s an opportunity for Jesus to bring great good out of something that is deeply painful.

 

Reflect, today, upon your own experience of discord and division within the Church or even within your own family.  Though it is important to acknowledge the pain and hurt this produces, do not lose hope that God can turn all things into good and use everything for His glory.

 

Lord, I see the hurt, confusion and division within Your Church and even within my own family.  I see conflict and discord within the whole of society.  As I see and encounter these hardships, give me hope so that I can trust in Your divine plan as You permit all things for Your glory.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 24th January, 2022

The Sin Against the Holy Spirit

 

 

“Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them.  But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” Mark 3:28-29

 

Now this is a frightening thought.  Normally when speaking of sin we quickly focus in on the mercy of God and His abundant desire to forgive.  But in this passage we have something that could at first appear quite contrary to the mercy of God.  Is it true that some sins will not be forgiven by God?  The answer is yes and no. 

 

This passage reveals to us that there is a particular sin, the sin against the Holy Spirit, that will not be forgiven.  What is this sin?  Why would it not be forgiven?  Traditionally, this sin has been seen as a sin of final impenitence, or presumption.  It’s the situation where someone sins gravely and then either fails to have any sorrow for that sin or simply presumes on God’s mercy without truly repenting.  Either way, this lack of sorrow closes the door to God’s mercy.

 

Of course it must also be said that whenever a person’s heart is changed, and he/she grows in sincere sorrow for sin, God is there to immediately welcome that person back with open arms.  God would never turn away from someone who humbly returns to Him with a contrite heart.  

 

Reflect, today, upon the abundant mercy of God, but also reflect upon your own duty to foster true sorrow for sin.  Do your part and you will be assured that God will lavish His mercy and forgiveness upon you.  There is no sin too great when we have hearts that are humble and contrite.

 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.  I do acknowledge my sin and I am sorry for it.  Help me, dear Lord, to continually foster within my heart a greater sorrow for sin and a deeper trust in Your Divine Mercy.  I thank You for Your perfect and unfailing love for me and for all.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 21st January, 2022

Being Called Up the Mountain with Jesus

 

 

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. 

 Mark 3:13

 

This Scripture passage reveals Jesus summoning His Apostles up the mountain so as to give them the commission to preach and to cast out demons in His name.  One significant aspect of this Scripture passage is that Jesus summoned the Apostles “up the mountain.”

 

Everything Jesus did in life was filled with significance.  This particular action displays great symbolic value.  The commission of the Apostles to preach and to cast out demons only took place after they went up the mountain at Jesus’ invitation.  Why did He do this only after calling His Apostles up a mountain?

 

A mountain is a symbol of our journey toward God.  It’s an indication that we are to go up toward Him.  And it reveals that we are only equipped to go forth and fulfill God’s will after we have first gone up to meet Him.

 

The “mountain” we are called to go up is first and foremost prayer.  We are to daily go up to meet our Lord, seeking Him through a life of deep surrender.  Jesus calls us to Himself where He waits for us so as to be alone with Him basking in His glorious presence.  

 

Unless we go up that mountain with our Lord, we will be ill-equipped to fulfill His divine commission.  We will be insufficiently prepared to bring His love and mercy to a world in need.

 

Reflect, today, upon the invitation Jesus offers you to follow Him up the mountain of prayer.  Respond to that invitation so that you can then be sent forth by Him to fulfill His divine command of love.

 

My inviting Lord, I do accept Your gentle invitation to go up the mountain of faith and prayer.  I desire to seek You out and to be with You.  As I meet You in prayer, give me the grace I need to then go forth and fulfill Your divine will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 19th January, 2022

Trusting in the Authority of the Church

 

And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, “You are the Son of God.” He warned them sternly not to make him known. Mark 3:12

 

In this passage, Jesus rebukes the unclean spirits and commands that they refrain from making Him known to others.  Why does He do this?

 

In this passage, Jesus commands the unclean spirits to remain silent because their testimony to the truth of who Jesus is cannot be trusted.  They cannot be trusted.  The key thing to understand here is that the demons often deceive others by speaking some truth in a slightly erroneous way.  They mix the truth with error.  Therefore, they are not worthy of speaking any truth about Jesus.

 

This should give us insight into the proclamation of the Gospel in general.  There are many whom we hear preach the Gospel, but not everything we hear or read is fully trustworthy.  There are countless opinions, advice givers, and preachers in our world today.  Sometimes the preacher will say something quite true but then will knowingly or unknowingly mix that truth with small errors.  This does great damage and leads many astray.  

 

So the first thing we should take from this passage is that we must always listen carefully to what is preached and try to discern whether or not what is said is fully in union with what Jesus has revealed.  This is the main reason we should always rely upon the preaching of Jesus as it is revealed through our Church.  Jesus guarantees that His truth is spoken through His Church.  Therefore, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the lives of the saints, and the wisdom of the teaching authority of the Magisterium must always be used as a basis for all we listen to and preach to others.

 

Reflect, today, upon how completely you trust our Church.  Sure, our Church is filled with sinners; we are all sinners.  But our Church is also filled with the fullness of the truth and you must enter into a deep trust of all that Jesus has and continues to reveal to you through His Church.  Offer a prayer of gratitude this day for the teaching authority of the Church and recommit yourself to a full acceptance of that authority.

 

My Lord of all Truth, I thank You for the gift of Your Church.  Today, I especially thank You for the gift of the clear and authoritative teaching that comes to me through the Church.  May I always trust in this authority and offer a full submission of my mind and will to all that You have revealed, especially through our Holy Father and the saints.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 19th January, 2022

Freedom From the Confusion of Sin

 

They watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him.  Mark 3:2

 

It didn’t take long for the Pharisees to allow envy to cloud their thinking about Jesus.  The Pharisees wanted all the attention.  They wanted to be looked up to and honored as the authentic teachers of the law.  So when Jesus showed up, and many were astounded by the authority with which He taught, the Pharisees immediately began to criticize Him.

 

The sad reality we witness in their actions is that they appear to be blind to their own malice.  The envy that fills them keeps them from realizing that they are actually acting with extreme irrationality.  This is an important and very difficult lesson to learn.

 

Sin confuses us, especially spiritual sin such as pride, envy and anger.  Therefore, when someone becomes consumed with one of these sins, that person most likely does not even realize how irrational he becomes.  Take the example of the Pharisees.

 

Jesus is put in a situation where He chooses to heal someone on the Sabbath.  This is an act of mercy.  It is done out of love for this man to relieve him of his suffering.  Though this is an incredible miracle, the disturbed minds of the Pharisees look only for a way to twist this act of mercy into something sinful.  What an appalling scene.

 

Though this may not at first be that inspiring of a thought upon which to reflect, it’s necessary to reflect on it.  Why?  Because we all struggle, to one extent or another, with sins like this.  We all struggle with letting envy and anger sneak in and distort the way we relate to others.  Then, too often we justify our actions just as the Pharisees did.

 

Reflect, today, upon this most unfortunate scene.  But reflect upon it with the hope that the poor example of the Pharisees will help you to identify any of the same tendencies in your own heart.  Seeing these tendencies they struggle with should help free you from falling into the irrational thinking that comes as a result of sin.

 

My most merciful Lord Jesus, please do forgive me for all my sins.  I am sorry and I pray that I will be able to see all that clouds my thinking and acting.  Free me and help me to love You and others with the pure love I am called to have.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 18th January, 2022

The Lord’s Day is For You!

 

 

“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”  Mark 2:27

 

This statement spoken by Jesus was said in response to some of the Pharisees who were criticizing Jesus’ disciples for picking heads of grain on the Sabbath as they walked by the fields.  They were hungry and did what was natural to them.  However, the Pharisees used it as an opportunity to be irrational and critical.  They made the claim that by picking the heads of grain, the disciples were breaking the Sabbath law.

 

First of all, from the point of basic common sense, this is silly.  Would our loving and all-merciful God really be offended because the disciples picked heads of grain to eat as they walked by the field?  Perhaps a scrupulous mind may think so, but every bit of natural common sense should tell us God is not offended by such an action.

 

Jesus’ final statement about this sets the record straight.  “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”  In other words, the whole point of the Sabbath Day was not to impose a scrupulous burden upon us; rather, it was to free us to rest and worship.  The Sabbath is a gift from God to us.

This takes on practical implications when we look at the way we celebrate the Sabbath today.  Sunday is the new Sabbath and it’s a day of rest and worship.  Sometimes we can look at these requirements as burdens.  They are not given to us as an invitation to follow the commands in a scrupulous and legalistic way.  They are given to us as an invitation to the life of grace. 

 

Does this mean that we do not need to always attend Mass and rest on Sundays?  Certainly not.  These precepts of the Church are clearly the will of God.  The real question has to do with the way we look at these commands.  Rather than falling into the trap of seeing them as legalistic requirements, we must strive to live these commands as invitations to grace, given to us for our own well-being.  The commands are for us.  They are required because we need the Sabbath.  We need Sunday Mass and we need a day to rest each week.  

 

Reflect, today, upon the way you celebrate the Lord’s Day.  Do you see the call to worship and rest as an invitation from God to be renewed and refreshed by His grace?  Or do you see it only as a duty that has to be fulfilled.  Try to take on the right attitude, this day, and the Lord’s Day will take on a whole new meaning for you.

 

My inviting Lord, I thank You for establishing the New Sabbath as a day to rest and worship You.  Help me to live every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation in the way You desire.  Help me to see these days as a gift from You to worship and to be renewed.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 17th January, 2022

Making All Things New

 

 

No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak.  If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse.  Mark 2:21

 

We’ve all heard this analogy from Jesus before.  It’s one of those statements that we can easily hear and then dismiss without comprehending.  Do you understand what it means?  

 

This analogy is followed by the analogy of pouring new wine into old wineskins.  Jesus states that no one does this because it will burst the old wineskins.  Therefore, new wine is poured into new wineskins.

 

Both of these analogies speak to the same spiritual truth.  They reveal that if we wish to receive His new and transforming Gospel message, we must first become new creations.  Our old lives of sin cannot contain the new gift of grace.  Therefore, in order to fully receive the message of Jesus, we must first become created anew.

 

Recall the Scripture: “To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Mark 4:25).  This teaches a similar message.  When we are filled with the newness of grace, we are graced all the more.

 

What is that “new wine” and “new patch” that Jesus desires to give you?  If you are willing to let your life be made new, you will discover that more will be poured upon you as you receive more.  Abundance will be given when abundance has already been received.  It’s as if someone won the lotto and decided to give it all away to the wealthiest person he can find.  This is how grace works.  But the good news is that God desires that all of us become spiritually rich in abundance.

 

Reflect, today, upon this teaching of Jesus.  Know that He wants to pour an abundance of grace into your life if you are willing to let yourself be first created anew.  

 

My Lord of all generosity, I desire to be made anew.  I desire to live a new life in grace so that even more grace can be lavished upon me through Your sacred words.  Help me, dear Lord, to embrace the life of abundance that You have in store for me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 14th January, 2022

The Draw of Jesus 

 

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home.  Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.  Mark 2:1-2

 

There were so many people coming to Jesus that there was no room for everyone, not even around the door to the house He was in.  This is an interesting situation.  On a practical note, why wouldn’t Jesus have noticed this dilemma and done something about it?  Why not move out into a larger area where everyone could see and hear Him?

 

It’s hard to answer that question but there is one thing of which we can be certain.  We can be certain that those who came to listen to Him, even if they could not get in, were greatly rewarded for their faith.  This passage reveals a very important spiritual principle.  It reveals that the spiritual longing to be near Jesus was, in and of itself, transforming.

 

Often times we will have a similar experience.  We may find that we long to hear Jesus speak to us, but we cannot seem to hear Him.  It may be that He appears silent to us or that we do not know where to find Him.  But do not be disheartened if this is your experience.  The fact of the matter is that your desire to be with Him is itself a great gift and has potential to transform your life.  

 

Reflect, today, upon what may be termed “the silence of God.”  There may be times in your life when God seems to be distant and is nowhere to be found.  When this happens, you should realize that this is a way for God to call you even closer to Himself.  It’s a way for God to whisper so as to gain your full attention.  If this is a “struggle” that you experience at times, turn your attention to our Lord all the more intensely and allow the desire for Him to grow.  It is this desire to be near Jesus that may actually produce much greater fruit in your life than if you were to hear Him loud and clear.

 

My silent Lord, please increase within me a desire to be near You.  Help me to long for You with all my heart.  In that longing, help me to shed all that is not of You and to give You my full attention.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 13th January, 2022

It’s About Conversion, Not Popularity

 

 

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere. Mark 1:44-45

 

The man who went away and “began to publicize the whole matter” did so understandably.  He had been suffering from the awful disease of leprosy and most likely was losing hope.  He came to Jesus, knelt down humbly before Him and expressed his profound faith.  He said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”  Jesus, of course, did wish to make him clean and immediately healed the leper.  

 

What’s interesting is that, after healing the man, Jesus told him not to tell anyone.  But, in his excitement, the man went off telling everyone.  The result was that Jesus’ fame and reputation exploded and curiosity about Him spread everywhere.  People sought Him out with such interest that, as this passage says above, “It was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.”  

 

This story should naturally raise a few questions in our minds.  One interesting fact to ponder is that Jesus appeared to have no interest in being “popular.”  He could have easily went from town to town and, as He entered a new town, announced, “Attention everyone…I am here!”  People would have immediately flocked to Him.  But, instead of embracing His instant fame, He went off to deserted places.  People came to Him in these hard-to-get-to deserted places.  

 

Jesus went off to deserted places waiting for people to seek Him out because His life was all about fostering authentic conversion of souls, not cultural popularity.  He wasn’t interested in the esteem of worldly opinion, He was only interested in changing hearts.  Therefore, by withdrawing into deserted places, He was able to let the Father in Heaven bring to Him those who were open to authentic conversion.

 

The same is true with us.  The “popular Jesus” is not always the “real Jesus.”  In other words, the authentic Gospel message is not normally that which our popular culture will hold up as exciting.  Jesus and His authentic Gospel message will not always make headlines in the national news.  Rather, if we want to find Him, we must diligently seek Him in the hidden and quiet places where He waits for us.  

Reflect, today, upon the image of Jesus waiting for you in the silence.  Where is that silent “deserted place” in which He waits?  Where is He waiting for you to come and meet Him?  Seek Him out and when you do discover Him, you will be eternally grateful that you made the effort.

 

My hidden Lord, I do seek You, but I also realize that I never seek You enough.  You are there, waiting for me in countless ways.  You are calling me into a deeper silence and solitude.  In the deserted places of life, You desire to minister to my soul.  Help me to listen to You and to make the journey to You.  And as I find You, help me to truly embrace the conversion of heart You have in mind for me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 12th January, 2022

The Purpose of Jesus’ Mission 

 

 

Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.  Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”  He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.  For this purpose have I come.”  Mark 1:35-38

 

Why did Jesus come?  What was the purpose of His life on Earth?  This passage reveals that He came to preach to all people the Good News.  

 

But do understand that statement properly.  This does not mean that Jesus’ life is only about what He taught.  It’s not as if He were a great man of wisdom who came to share His wisdom with us.  Though that statement is true, it fails to reveal the full truth of Jesus and His mission.

 

So what was He all about?  He was about preaching Himself as THE Truth that is spoken.  Jesus IS the full revelation of the Father in Heaven and is the revelation of ALL Truth.  Therefore, Jesus’ statement means that He came to share Himself, in His fullness, with all people.  He came to share Himself with those He preached to, literally, as He traveled from village to village.  It means that He continues to share Himself with all of us every time we listen to and receive His Living Word:  The Living Word of His very life.

 

Reflect, today, upon the fact that Jesus desires to “travel” to the village of your mind and heart.  He wants to seek you out and bring not only His words of eternal life, but also His very self.  Let yourself be ministered to by Jesus and allow Him to speak to you with clarity and truth.  

 

My Lord of all Truth, I seek You and am open to letting You seek me.  Help me to be open to all that You wish to reveal to me and help me to receive You as the Living Gospel.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 11th January 2022

Jesus’ Authority is Clear

 

Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught.  The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.  Mark 1:21-22

 

As we enter into this First Week in Ordinary Time, we are given the image of Jesus teaching in the synagogue.  And as He teaches, it’s clear that there is something special about Him.  He is one who teaches with a new authority.  

 

This statement in Mark’s Gospel contrasts Jesus with the scribes who apparently teach without this unmistakable authority.  This statement should not go unnoticed.

 

Jesus exercised His authority in His teaching not so much because He wanted to, but because He had to.  This is who He is.  He is God and when He speaks He speaks with the authority of God.  He speaks in such a way that people know His words have transforming meaning.  His words effect change in people’s lives.  

 

This should invite each one of us to reflect upon the authority of Jesus in our lives.  Do you notice His authority spoken to you?  Do you see His words, spoken in Sacred Scripture, having an effect upon your life?  

 

Reflect, today, upon this image of Jesus teaching in the synagogue.  Know that the “synagogue” represents your own soul and that Jesus desires to be there speaking to you with authority.  Let His words sink in and change your life.

 

My authoritative Lord, I open myself to You and Your voice of authority.  Help me to allow You to speak with clarity and truth.  As You do, help me to be open to allowing You to change my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 10th January, 2022

The Life of Ordinary?

 

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen.  Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Then they left their nets and followed him.  Mark 1:16-18

 

Christmas season is now completed and we enter into the First Week in Ordinary Time.  It’s time to return to the “ordinary” of life.  But is the Christian life ordinary?  Is there anything truly “ordinary” about following Jesus?

 

Today’s Gospel reveals the extraordinary and radical call from Jesus to follow Him.  Simon and Andrew are the two who respond to the call in this passage, but their response is also an invitation to all of us to step out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary.

 

This passage especially reveals two things: 1) the immediate response of these Apostles, and 2) their complete response.  They clearly did not hold back or hesitate in responding to the invitation from Jesus to follow Him.

 

What about you?  Do you hear Jesus calling you?  Do you hear Him speak to you, calling you to come after Him?  Hopefully, as our Lord speaks to each one of us, we will respond immediately and in a complete way.  Hopefully we will not hesitate to embrace the glorious calling we each have been given.  

Reflect, today, upon the fact that you, too, have been called to an extraordinary life of grace which requires total abandonment and commitment.  You have been called to respond immediately and freely to Jesus’ invitation.  As you begin this liturgical season of Ordinary Time, jump into the extraordinary life of grace and embrace it with your whole heart.

 

Lord, I love You and thank You for the extraordinary life of grace You have called me to live.  Help me to respond to Your invitation with complete submission of my mind and will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Friday 7th January, 2022

Falling Prostrate Before Jesus
Friday after Epiphany

 

 

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”  Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.”  Luke 5:12–13a

 

Once again, we have the image of falling prostrate before our Lord.  This time it’s by a leper.  But just this past week, as we celebrated the Epiphany, we were reminded of the three Magi from the East who also came to adore Christ and fell prostrate before Him.

 

Perhaps we all would like to see ourselves as the Magi, coming to seek out Christ as individuals who are prestigious and admired by others in society.  The Magi would certainly have been seen that way.  However, we should not fail to also see ourselves as similar to this leper who came to Jesus in his weakness and frailty, falling down before our Lord begging for mercy.  No, we may not have leprosy, literally, but we do all come to Jesus sick and in need of His mercy and healing touch.

Notice what Jesus did.  He “stretched out His hand, touched him,” and then healed him. Jesus did not hesitate, He did not treat the leper with any disdain, nor did He lack the least bit of compassion.  Jesus immediately poured forth His healing grace into the leper’s life.  

 

As we draw close to the conclusion of the Christmas season with the coming celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, we should be reminded that we have all been touched by Christ in Baptism.  This “touch” continues throughout our lives.  It is a touch that sanctifies and transforms.  It’s a touch that heals and consoles.  Let yourself experience Jesus’ mercy by coming to Him with humility as you acknowledge your need for grace.  Do not be afraid to abandon yourself before Him, knowing for certain that He will not hesitate for a moment to reach out and offer you the abundance of His mercy.

 

Lord, if You wish, You can make me clean.  If You wish, You can heal me, forgive me, strengthen me and love me.  I thank You in advance because I know that You do desire and choose to bless me in these and in every other way that I need.  Thank You for Your mercy and grace and thank You for accepting me in my weakness.  I love You, my Lord, and I do choose to fall down prostrate before You in love and adoration.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 6th January 2022

The Prophetic Role of Christ 
Thursday after Epiphany

 

 

Jesus said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.  Luke 4:21–22a

 

Jesus had just arrived in Nazareth, where He had grown up, and entered the Temple area to read the Scripture.  He read the passage from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”  After reading this, He sat down and proclaimed that this prophecy from Isaiah was fulfilled.  

The reaction from the people of His town is interesting.  They “all spoke highly of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His mouth.”  At least, this is the initial reaction.  But if we read on we see that Jesus challenges the people and, as a result, they were filled with fury and tried to kill Him then and there.

 

Often times, we have the same reactions to Jesus.  At first, we may speak well of Him and graciously receive Him.  For example, at Christmas we may sing carols and celebrate His birthday with joy and festivities.  We may go to church and wish people a merry Christmas.  We may set up a manger scene and decorate with Christian symbols of our faith.  But how deep is all of this?  Sometimes Christmas celebrations and traditions are only superficial and do not reveal any true depth of Christian conviction or faith.  What happens when this precious Christ-Child speaks words of truth and conviction?  What happens when the Gospel calls us to repentance and conversion?  What is our reaction to Christ in these moments?

 

As we continue the final week of our Christmas season, reflect, today, upon the fact that the little Child we honor at Christmas has grown up and now speaks words of truth to us.  Reflect upon whether or not you are willing to honor Him not only as an infant, but also as the Prophet of all Truth.  Are you willing to listen to His whole message and receive Him with joy?  Are you willing to allow His words of Truth to penetrate your heart and transform your life?

 

Lord, I love You and desire that all You have spoken would penetrate my heart and draw me into all truth.  Help me to accept You not only as a little child born in Bethlehem, but also as the great Prophet of Truth.  May I never be offended by the words You speak, and may I always be open to Your prophetic role in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 5th January, 2022

Reflecting on the Experience of Grace
Wednesday after Epiphany

 

After the five thousand had eaten and were satisfied, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.  And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray.  Mark 6:45–46

 

What were the people thinking as Jesus left them?  They had been with Him for a few days without food, Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed them all, they were astounded at the miraculous feeding, and then Jesus left them and went off by Himself to pray.  Imagine their thoughts and the conversation that the people would have had at this experience!

Perhaps some would have tried to come up with some rational explanation as to the multiplication of food, others would have believed in a miracle wholeheartedly, and others would have been uncertain about what to think.  This is the experience we often have when we encounter the power and grace of God in our lives.

 

We may not see actual physical miracles every day.  In fact, we may never encounter one in this lifetime.  But if we are open, we will experience the power of God alive in our lives on a regular basis.  Most often it will be subtle and hidden, but at times it will be clear and transforming.  The first question is whether or not we have the eyes of faith to see God at work, and the second question is whether or not we let His activity transform us.  

 

As the crowds dispersed, this second question would have been posed to them interiorly by God.  They just witnessed the power of God, and now that they had this experience, they were each called to let it transform them.  They were called to walk away, savor what happened, believe in it and allow it to sink in.  

 

Reflect, today, upon the presence of God in your life.  How has God spoken to you, helped you and been there in your time of need.  It’s easy to quickly forget what God does.  The goal is to hold on to all that He has done and allow that activity to continue ministering to our hearts.  Ponder, this day, His workings of the past so that those acts of love by God may continue to bear fruit in your life today.

 

Lord, I know that You have been alive and active in my life in countless ways.  Help me to hold on to those gifts of grace always.  Help me to let Your presence in my life be a continual source of trust in Your perfect plan.  And when it appears as if You have left, help me to know that You are always near and always working in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Monday 6th December, 2021
Monday of the Second Week of Advent

Astonishment at the Mercy of God

 

Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, “We have seen incredible things today.”  Luke 5:26

 

They were “astonished” because Jesus cured the paralytic after he was lowered through the roof of a house in which Jesus was teaching.  Jesus cured him and they were amazed.

 

But this was not what amazed and astonished people the most.  What was most astonishing was that Jesus also said to the paralytic, “As for you, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20).  Jesus then confirmed that He had the power to forgive sins by performing this physical miracle.

 

True, most people went home that day speaking first about the physical healing.  But you can be certain that, as they pondered this experience, they were even more deeply moved by the forgiveness of sins.  Perhaps they did not fully understand what this all meant.  But, nonetheless, His words of forgiveness were quite powerful and transforming.

 

Reflect, today, upon your desire to receive God’s forgiveness in your life.  Do you long to hear these words spoken to you?  Do you long to experience the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus in your life?  The reason He came from Heaven to Earth was to offer you the forgiveness of your sins.  Miracles do not matter in the end.  What matters is mercy and forgiveness.  When you receive this gift of His mercy you will also glorify God with a joyous and holy astonishment as you see this incredible gift unfold in your life.

 

Lord, I do desire Your mercy and forgiveness in my life.  Help me to lower myself before You so that I can hear You say, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 3rd December, 2021
Friday of the First Week of Advent

I Want to See

 

 

“Let it be done for you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.”  But they went out and spread word of him through all that land.  Matthew 9:29b–31

 

This statement from Jesus is directed to two blind men who come to Him, beg for mercy and healing, believe in faith that Jesus will heal, and then are healed.  But what’s quite fascinating is that Jesus tells them not to speak about their healing to others.  Why would He say this?

 

First of all, the request of Jesus would have been impossible to follow.  Everyone who knew these blind men would have known they were blind.  And then, out of the blue, they could see.  How could such a thing be contained?

 

Jesus most certainly knew that they could not contain such a miracle but, nonetheless, spoke these words to these men.  To understand why Jesus said this we must understand the motive He had for healing them.

 

Jesus’ healing of these men was done purely out of love for them.  They cried out for mercy and Jesus wanted to offer mercy.  He did not do it as a way of gaining public praise or notoriety.  He did it out of love for these blind men.

 

He also did this miracle to teach that He can heal the blindness of our hearts.  He wanted these men to come to faith in Him and “see” Him for who He was.  Therefore, this miracle was something deeply personal and was done out of concern for these two men to strengthen their faith.

 

What’s interesting to note, however, is that these men could not contain the joy they had at receiving this gift from our Lord.  They had to cry out in gratitude and share their story.  We can be certain that Jesus was not offended at this but saw it as a necessary result of their faith.

 

How about you?  Do you see God at work in your life and then seek to spread the joy of His work in your life?  Do you regularly witness to His action and healing?  Do you seek to allow others to see all that God has done for you?

 

Reflect, today, upon the joy in the hearts of these blind men at their healing.  And ponder your own joy at God’s activity in your life.  If your joy is not overflowing, perhaps it’s a good day to ask the Lord, with a deep faith, to help you see!

 

Lord, do help me to see and help me to share the joy of seeing You with others.  May that joy flow from my life for all to see.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 2nd December, 2021
Thursday of the First Week of Advent

Listen, Understand, Act

 

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.”  Matthew 7:24–25

 

Perhaps one of the hardest things to do in life is to listen.  Are you a good listener?  Do you know how to listen?  Most likely this is a struggle for you since it is a struggle for most people.  

 

Listening is more than hearing.  Listening implies that one hears AND comprehends.  Furthermore, in this Scripture passage, Jesus makes it clear that “listening” is not enough.  Once we’ve listened (heard and understood), we must act.  Acting on the Word of God involves a total embrace and surrender to His Word and will.  It means you allow the Word of God to dictate your actions and to set your feet “solidly on rock.”

 

The imagery Jesus uses is quite descriptive.  A house built on sand is very different than a house built on solid rock.  One can only imagine the problems that await a house built on sand.  Every storm that comes will cause great anxiety and worry.  Fear will always be present as the sandy foundation slowly erodes away.  But if the house is on solid rock, there is great confidence in the midst of a storm.

 

Reflect, today, upon the foundation of your life.  Advent is a time when we examine whether or not the foundation of our life is Jesus.  He entered our world and took on flesh so that He could be that rock foundation.  And the path to that rock foundation is to listen, comprehend and act.  Set your “house” on Him in this way and no storm will erode the foundation of your life.

 

Lord, may your human life become the foundation of my life.  May my life be built upon You who are the Rock Foundation.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 1st December, 2021
Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

Jesus Cares About the Details

 

 

Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.”   Matthew 15:32

 

The first thing this passage reveals could easily be missed.  It reveals Jesus’ deep concern for the crowds of people.  He not only cared for their souls, He also cared for their bodies in that He did not want them to go away hungry.  This reveals Jesus’ total care for His followers.

 

We know the rest of the story.  Jesus multiplies the loaves and fish and feeds the multitude.  And though this is an incredible miracle on a physical level, it is just as miraculous on a personal and spiritual level.

 

Personally speaking, the miracle is that God, the Almighty, the Omnipotent One is deeply concerned about the small detail of feeding the crowd their next meal.  This reveals that God is not only concerned for our eternal salvation, He is also concerned about our daily needs.

 

Note that the passage quotes Jesus as saying, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd…”  And “I do not want to send them away hungry…”  This very personal and human concern of Jesus should offer us great comfort in knowing that His care is deep and exhaustive.  

 

The concern Jesus has for the physical need of food for His followers also points to His spiritual concern for His followers’ souls.  If He cares this much about the body, He cares all the more for the soul and deeply desires to nourish their souls with the food of eternal life.

 

Reflect, today, upon Jesus’ deep and all-consuming care for you.  Know that there is no detail of your life that escapes His notice.  Though that may be hard to believe at times, know that it is absolutely true! Surrender all to Him in trust and know that He is there to reach out to you in your every need.

 

Lord, thank You for Your unfailing and perfect concern for every detail of my life.  Thank You for Your perfect attentiveness to my needs.  May I always trust in Your perfect care for me and surrender to Your loving providence.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 30th November, 2021

Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

Preparation for Advent

 

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.  He said to them, ”Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:18–20

 

What a wonderful feast we celebrate today as we begin our Advent season. Today we honor St. Andrew the Apostle who gives us a perfect example of how to begin our Advent celebration.

This passage above reveals a lot for us to ponder.  Andrew, along with his brother Peter, was a fisherman.  Both of these fishermen were hard at work when suddenly this stranger, Jesus, walked by them and called to them.  They immediately left their livelihood and followed after Jesus.

Don’t miss what happened here.  Specifically, there are two things that happened:  1) Jesus walked by these two fishermen and said, “Come after me.” 2) In response, these two men immediately “left their nets and followed Him.”

 

This story of the call of St. Andrew is quite appropriate for the beginning of Advent, because Advent must be a time when we hear Jesus call us anew.  It must be a new beginning and a new conversion for us.  As Advent begins, we should hear Jesus call to us, “Come after Me!”  We should hear Him invite us with an invitation to give ourselves completely to His divine plan and purpose.  Listen to Him.  Do you hear Him calling?

 

Our response, at the beginning of Advent, must be the same as St. Andrew.  We must, without hesitation, leave everything to follow Him.  What exactly does that mean?  It means that we must let go of anything and everything that keeps us from responding to Christ.  It means we must be ready and willing to do whatever Jesus asks of us.  And we must be ready to do it the moment He asks.

Reflect, today, upon the fact that Advent is a time to start anew.  It’s a time to let yourself be called to Christ.  Listen to Him calling you and respond to Him with your whole heart.  

 

Lord, I love You above all things.  Help me to hear Your gentle yet firm voice calling me to follow You.  Give me the courage I need to respond to Your gentle invitation with complete abandonment.  May this Advent be a time of new beginnings and deeper resolve to follow You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 29th November, 2021
Monday of the First Week of Advent

Faith in the Most Holy Eucharist

 

“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”  Mt. 8:8

 

This familiar line is taken from the faith of a Roman centurion.  He asked Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus agrees to come cure him, and the centurion exclaims this profound faith in Jesus stating two things: 1) He’s not worthy of Jesus’ presence in his home and, 2) His confidence that Jesus can heal his servant simply by saying the word.  

 

Jesus, of course, is quite impressed with this man’s faith and obliges him with the physical healing of his servant from a distance.  But Jesus does much more than a healing.  He also holds this man up as a model of faith for all.

 

This beautiful statement of faith from the centurion is used within the Mass to speak of two matters of faith in regard to the Eucharist: 1) We are not worthy to receive Holy Communion and, 2) We invite Jesus anyway to come and heal our souls.

 

Advent is a time when we especially ponder the great mystery of the Incarnation.  It’s a time when we especially ponder the mystery of God coming and dwelling with us in physical form.  Though this happened over two thousand years ago, it continues to take place at each and every Mass.  And at each and every Mass we are called to express the same faith as this Roman centurion.

 

Reflect, today, upon your faith in the coming of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.  Each Mass is a manifestation of the God-Man who came to live among us and live within us.  If we but have the faith of this centurion, we, too, will be blessed by our God beyond measure.

 

Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief.  Help me to see my unworthiness each time I prepare for Holy Communion.  And in that humble admission, may I also invite Your healing presence in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 26th November, 2021

Relying Upon the Word of God

 

“Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Luke 21:32–33

 

As we approach the final days of this liturgical year, we continue to read about the end of the world. Today we read that both Heaven and earth, as they currently are, will pass away. This is worth pondering.

 

We know that life is full of change. It has been said that the one thing that never changes is change itself. Everything else changes. But when it comes to earth, it is hard to believe that it will one day “pass away.” Some scientists believe that the earth has existed for over four and a half billion years. That’s a long time! Now consider the fact that Jesus prophesied the end of this earth as we know it today. When will it happen? Only God knows.

 

Heaven, as it exists today, is also prophesied by our Lord to pass away. Heaven, as it is right now, is a pure spiritual reality in which the only corporeal bodies present are those of Jesus and our Blessed Mother. The rest of Heaven consists of the Divine Essence, the souls of those who have been redeemed and the angels of God. But if Heaven even passes away, what awaits?

First of all, the only reason that these two realities, Heaven and earth, will pass away in their current form is because, at the Final Judgment, there will be a “New Heavens and a New Earth,” as spoken of in the Book of Revelation. At that time, Heaven and earth will be united as one, and this new creation will exist for eternity.

 

But is there anything that is currently eternal? Anything that will never experience change? We humans will be changed at the resurrection of the dead, the angels will encounter a new home, so to speak, and God will establish a new and permanent Kingship. But, according to Jesus’ teaching today, the one thing that will remain are His words: “…my words will not pass away.” Again, this is worth pondering.

 

In a world filled with change and uncertainty, we need some form of stability. And that stability is the Truth found in the Word of God. The Word of God, as revealed to us through the Scriptures, must become our rock foundation upon which our whole lives are built and exist. Pondering, praying with, meditating on, and believing the Word of God enables us to stand on firm and unchanging spiritual ground as we go through the change of this life and even the changes that will come at the end of time. Though this may seem somewhat mysterious in nature, it is a helpful truth to understand and believe. Everything will pass away except Jesus’ words. Thus, the most secure thing we can do in life is to cling to His words and never let go.

 

Reflect, today, upon the importance of truly immersing yourself in the Word of God. How much time do you spend each week reading it, praying with it and allowing it to become your daily food? The Word of God is not simply a book of teachings meant to inspire you or guide you. The Word of God is a Living Word. It is God in His unchangeable form. God, in His essence, will never change, and engaging Him through the revelation of His written Word is one essential way by which you will be able to experience true stability in life and prepare for each and every change to come until the final order of life is permanently established.

 

My Eternal Word, You are unchanging and eternal. You are the rock foundation upon which I must always rely. As I continue to experience the many changes encountered in this life, please enter my soul through Your written Word, so that I will find the stability I need. As I stand firm in You, I look forward with joy to the New Heavens and New Earth that await. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Gratitude for Immeasurable Blessings

 

“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” Luke 17:17–19

 

He was saved by faith through the expression of gratitude! What a wonderful story to ponder today as we celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving!

 

Though Thanksgiving Day is not specifically a Church holy day, gratitude is certainly central to our Christian faith, as is illustrated by today’s Gospel in which ten lepers were healed by Jesus. And their communal reaction is something of which to take note. Nine of them were healed and went about their business, not returning to the source of their healing to thank Him. But one did. This one leper, who was suddenly no longer a leper, returned to Jesus, glorified Him, fell at His feet and thanked Him. This one leper was a foreigner, a Samaritan, but he manifested a faith that we must all strive to imitate. The faith of this Samaritan was evident by the fact that he knew he needed to not only be grateful for the grace of healing but that he also needed to express it.

 

As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we are reminded that of all the things for which we must be grateful, nothing is more important than our gratitude to God for the immeasurable graces He has given us. But as the story goes, it is clearly very easy to overlook the importance of our response to God’s blessings. Only ten percent of the lepers responded with such an expression. Therefore, it is helpful today to examine the many reasons we should be thankful and should work to express that gratitude to God.

 

First, God created us out of love. This is no small gift. It is the first gift He has given us and one we often take for granted. God did not need to create us. He did not need to create you. But He did. And the gift of life, the gift of an immortal soul, is something that we must never overlook and always rejoice in.

 

Second, God entered our fallen state through the Incarnation within the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Doing so elevated our fallen human nature to a height never known before. Humanity and divinity were united in the Person of the Incarnate Son of God and Son of Man, and we must be grateful for this unmerited and awe-inspiring gift.

 

Third, we know the rest of the story. God, in the Person of the Incarnate Son, suffered, died and rose again. In so doing, He made it possible for every sin of ours to be wiped away. As we die with Him, we are invited to rise with Him. And as we rise with Him, we are invited to share in His glory in Heaven.

Lastly, in each and every life, there are countless graces given to us every day. But as spoiled children, we often overlook these blessings and take them for granted. Examples here do not suffice. It is essential that if you want to have a grateful heart that you learn to see these blessings in your own life. Too often we focus on our struggles and pain. But the blessings are abundant, and the more we turn to our Lord in total surrender, the more the blessings flow.

 

Reflect, today, upon the attitude that you have toward the many blessings God has bestowed upon you. Begin by considering the central blessings of God’s creation and His saving acts of love. From there, try to ponder the many small ways that God has been with you, guided you, strengthened you, and blessed you abundantly. If you do not see these clearly, then use this day to consciously listen so that God can reveal them to you. As you see your blessings, respond as this one leper. Turn to Jesus, glorify Him, fall at His feet in prayer and thank Him. Doing so will fill you with the same saving faith granted to this one leper.

 

My most generous Lord, You have bestowed upon me blessings beyond my imagination. I realize that I will never fully understand how good You have been to me and will never be able to express my gratitude adequately enough. Please do fill me with a grateful heart. Help me to see Your action in my life and to respond to You as this one leper. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 24th November, 2021

Responding with Grace

 

 

“Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” 

Luke 21:14–15

 

This line is embedded in today’s Gospel in which Jesus makes it clear that His followers will be persecuted. Many of them will be seized, sent to prison, hated and even be put to death. For some, this will even happen at the hands of their own family. But Jesus tells them this to prepare them and to let them know that these persecutions will enable them to give testimony to Jesus. The Gospel passage above explains how they are to do this.

 

First of all, giving “testimony” especially means they are to be a witness to Christ. And one of the best ways such a witness is fulfilled is through the various forms of martyrdom. To be a martyr is to be a witness. And those who suffer persecution for the sake of Christ, and then respond to that persecution in accord with the wisdom and inspiration of Jesus, are true martyrs. It’s helpful to note that if one is persecuted and responds with anger or returns the violence in accord with their own irrational will, then they are no martyr. They simply become what they have received. They become angry and bitter people. Being a martyr requires both unjust treatment and a response to that mistreatment in accord with God’s will. For that reason, though persecution is never initiated by God, it does offer the Christian an opportunity to deeply conform themself to Christ by responding as He dictates.

 

Jesus says that responding to persecution requires that we not prepare a defense beforehand. In part, this is because there is great temptation one experiences when persecuted by another. It is very understandable that when a person experiences persecution in any way, they will encounter anger and be tempted to fight back in a way that is uncharitable and only furthers the disorder. Responding to persecution in accord with the will of God requires great attentiveness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, great humility, and unwavering charity directed at the one doing the persecution. Therefore, Jesus makes the promise that He will be with you in such situations and will give you “a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” What a grace! But this grace is only available to those who rely completely upon Christ, and not upon their own disordered passions and emotions.

 

Reflect, today, upon this promise from Jesus. Some will encounter little persecution in their lives at various times. But others will encounter severe persecution in various ways, even from their family. Reflect upon any ways that you have experienced the unjust treatment of another and then reflect upon your response. Were you able to immediately forgive? Were you able to set aside your anger, wounded pride and desire for revenge? Were you able to keep your eyes on Christ and rejoice that you have been found worthy to share in the ridicule, persecutions and sufferings that Jesus endured? Pray that you will always be open to the grace of this promise of Jesus so that you will always respond to everyone in accord with the wisdom of God.

 

My persecuted Lord, though You were perfect in every way, You endured much cruelty in Your earthly life. The injustice You endured is beyond our comprehension. But Your response to such persecution was perfect. You were able to transform all ill-treatment into grace and mercy, offered especially for those who mistreated You. Give me the grace I need to imitate Your perfect response and to always rely upon Your wisdom and guidance alone. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 23rd November, 2021

Remain At Peace in All Things

 

 

While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, “All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Luke 21:5–6

 

In a literal way, this prophecy of our Lord came true. In 70 A.D., the Temple upon which they were commenting was destroyed. After prophesying this, Jesus then goes on to warn the disciples that there will be many confusions that will come. There will be false prophets, wars and insurrections, powerful earthquakes, famines, plagues, “and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” Why does Jesus prophesy all of these things?

 

The answer was simple. He was not trying to scare them. He was not simply trying to satisfy their curiosity. Instead, He was warning them and preparing us all so that we do not become misled or terrified when they come. He says, “See that you not be deceived” and “do not be terrified.”

As the old saying goes, “Life is not a bowl of cherries.” While we live in this fallen world, chaos, confusion, deception, abuse, scandal, conflict and the like will be all around us. And when we do come face-to-face with any such difficulty, there is a temptation to fear, anger and despair. Be it family conflicts, civil unrest or even divisions within the Church itself, God wants us to remain at peace and to trust Him always.

 

Take Jesus’ own life as an example. He was arrested, falsely accused, sentenced to death and crucified. And through it all, He remained at peace, knowing that His suffering would become the very source of new life. God can use all things for good for those who love and serve Him.

Reflect, today, upon the undeniable fact that your life will involve difficulty. Sometimes that difficulty is self-imposed as a result of your sin, and sometimes it is unjustly imposed on account of the sin of another. Truth be told, we should only be concerned about our own sin. If other challenges come your way that are out of your control, then use those challenges as opportunities to trust. Entrust all things to God, every suffering, every persecution, every tragedy, every struggle, everything. If God the Father could bring about the greatest good ever known through the brutal murder of His own divine Son, then He can certainly do the same with all that you offer to Him in trust. Trust at all times and in all circumstances, and our all-powerful Lord will bring good from everything.

 

My most powerful Lord, You warned us of the many hardships that would come our way before Your glorious return. You did so to help prepare us and to strengthen us in those moments of testing. Please give me the grace I need to always trust in You and to surrender over to You every cross I carry. I do believe, dear Lord, that You can bring good from everything, even those things that are most difficult in life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 22nd November, 2021

A Total Offering to God

 

“I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”  Luke 21:1–4

 

We must all see ourselves as this poor widow by offering our “whole livelihood” to Christ. Everything we have is a gift from God, and it must be offered back to God, sacrificially, as our gift to Him. The material offering made by this poor widow was two small coins worth very little. The truth is that even if you were the richest person in the world and donated all that you had to God, it would greatly pale in comparison to the gift given to us by our Lord. We are all poor in the big picture of God’s grace and His Kingdom. The most any one of us can offer is symbolized by these two small coins.

 

As you look at your own life, how willing are you to give everything you have to our Lord for His glory and service? The only appropriate “offering” we are called to give to our Lord is the “sacrifice” of our entire life. This spiritual truth is something very difficult for those who are very wealthy in the things of this world. Material wealth offers an easy way to live in comfort. Money can provide every modern convenience, entertainment, fun, worldly security and much of what this world has to offer. But money cannot buy fulfillment. It cannot satisfy us in the truest sense. This is why many people who live very luxurious lives are not truly happy.

 

Happiness is found in sacrifice. Specifically, it is found in sacrificial love by which we dedicate everything we are and all that we have to the sole purpose of the glory of God and the furtherment of His Kingdom. Sadly, when one is rich in the things of this world, it is easy to think that offering a portion of their wealth, such as a tithe, means that they can keep and use the rest any way they want. But that’s not true. Giving of ourselves completely to God and to His service does not necessarily mean that we donate all of our money to the Church. But it does mean that we offer everything to God. For many, when this complete offering is done every day, God will lead them to use their material resources for the raising of their family, to take care of their basic needs, and, at times, to even enjoy various comforts in life. But the real question is whether or not you truly live as though all you have and all you are is God’s and is to be used for His glory and the furtherment of His will.

 

Reflect, today, upon this poor widow. She was greatly blessed to have very little. This made it easier for her to remain detached from money and other forms of material wealth. And in that detachment, she gave all to God. She entrusted all to Him, and Jesus noticed and praised her. Reflect upon our Lord’s reaction to you and to the offering of your life to Him. If you are holding back from our Lord, then use the witness of this poor widow to inspire you to daily dedicate everything to the service of God in accord with His holy will.

 

My wealthy Lord, Your riches are all that matter in life. You bestow the riches of eternal salvation and countless other graces upon those who have given all to You. I do give my life to You, dear Lord. I give all that I have and all that I am. Please receive the offering of my life and use me in accord with Your holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 19th November, 2021

Consoled by Fervent Preaching

 

And every day he was teaching in the temple area. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words. Luke 19:45–46

 

Jesus had just entered Jerusalem for the upcoming Feast of Passover. He arrived in that holy city and then returned again the next day and entered the Temple area. As He witnessed the corruption of those selling animals for the Temple sacrifices, Jesus responded with fervent preaching in an attempt to cleanse the Temple from this corruption. He quoted the Prophet Isaiah and cried out, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” Luke’s Gospel points out the reaction of the chief priests, the scribes and the leaders of the people. They were “seeking to put him to death.” However, as the Gospel further relates, “they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words.”

 

It’s important to consider this passage within its context. The words that Jesus spoke were words that sought to cleanse the Temple of corruption. With the approval of the temple priests, who benefitted from the temple tax, there were many people who were using the practice of divine worship to make a profit for selfish gain, turning the Temple into a marketplace. Jesus could see this clearly, and many of the people would have also sensed the corruption of these practices. Though they needed to purchase animals for the ritual sacrifices and Passover meal, many of them were most likely disturbed by this abuse. Therefore, as Jesus spoke with fervor and condemnation, it angered those who were responsible for the corruption but left the people with consolation. Hence, they were “hanging on his words.”

 

The Gospel is always consoling, and, for those who are open, it leads them to hang on every word that is spoken. It refreshes and invigorates, clarifies and motivates. Usually when we think of the Gospel, we think of words that are gentle and inviting—words of mercy to the sinner and compassion for those who are struggling. But sometimes the pure Gospel message from our Lord fiercely attacks sin and evil. And though this may be shocking to the evil doers, to those with pure faith, these words also refresh and strengthen.

 

Today, we need the full Gospel message. Many need to hear Jesus’ gentle invitation to conversion by which their heavy burdens are lifted. But many others need to hear His firm words of condemnation. And the Church as a whole needs both of these messages to be proclaimed if we are to fully participate in the apostolic ministry of our Lord. Only our Lord has the right to condemn, chastise, and call others to repentance. But we are all called to share in this mission of our Lord. And though we do not have the right to judge the hearts of others, when we see objective evil and disorder within our world and even within our Church, we must cry out with our Lord, “My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” And when we do hear the holy and inspired words of God’s messengers who boldly and courageously proclaim the truth and call others to repentance, it should inspire, invigorate and console us as we find ourselves hanging on their every word.

 

Reflect, today, upon the Gospel messages that need to be preached in our day and age that are both inspired by God and are also fervently directed at corruption within the world and even within our Church. Allow yourself to support such holy preaching and to be inspired by it. Hang on these holy words of God’s prophets today. As you do, God will protect them and inspire them to continue His holy mission of purification.

 

My purifying Lord, the corruption within our world, and at times even within our Church, requires Your holy preaching and purifying action. Please send Your messengers to those in need so that all may be cleansed as You cleansed the Temple. May I share in this mission in the ways in which You call me, and may I always hang on every word spoken from Your merciful and fervent heart of love. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 18th November, 2021

Holy Sorrow

 

“For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:43–44

 

Jesus spoke these words as He looked at Jerusalem from a distance, preparing to enter that holy city for the last time in preparation for His passion and death. As He spoke these words, the Gospel says that Jesus wept over the city. Of course, it wasn’t primarily tears over the future physical destruction of the Temple and invasion by Roman forces. It was first and foremost tears over the lack of faith of so many which was the true destruction He mourned.

 

As mentioned above, the city of Jerusalem was indeed sieged by the military commander Titus in the year 70 A.D. Titus was acting under the authority of his father, the emperor, and destroyed not only the Temple but also much of the city itself, as well as the Jewish inhabitants.

 

As Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem, so as to enter the Temple one last time to offer His life as the definitive Sacrificial Lamb for the salvation of the world, Jesus knew that many within this holy city would not accept His saving sacrifice. He knew that many within that city would become the instruments of His pending death and would have no remorse for killing the Savior of the World. And though this one point can easily be missed, it should be emphasised that Jesus’ reaction was not fear, it was not anger, it was not disgust. Rather, His reaction was holy sorrow. He wept over the city and its inhabitants despite what many of them would soon do to Him.

 

When you suffer injustice, how do you react? Do you lash out? Condemn? Get defensive? Or do you imitate our Lord and allow your soul to be filled with holy sorrow? Holy sorrow is an act of love and is the appropriate Christian response to persecution and injustice. Too often, however, our response is not holy sorrow but anger. The problem with this is that reacting in unholy anger does not accomplish anything good. It does not help us to imitate Jesus, and it doesn’t help those with whom we are angry. Though the passion of anger can be used for good at times, it becomes a sin when it is selfish and a reaction to some injustice done to us. Instead of this unholy anger, seek to foster holy sorrow in imitation of Jesus. This virtue will not only help your soul grow in love of those who have hurt you, it will also help them to see more clearly what they have done so that they can repent.

 

Reflect, today, upon your own approach to the evil you face in your life. Consider carefully your interior and exterior reaction. Do you mourn with love over sins you witness and experience? Do you mourn, with a holy sorrow, over your own sins and the sins of others? Work to foster this form of love within you and you will find that it can become a motivation for you to help transform the sins you commit and the sins of others you endure.

 

My sorrowful Lord, You endured the sins of many. You were treated with cruelty and injustice. To all of these sins, including those that you foresaw, You reacted with the love of holy sorrow. And that sorrow led you to true compassion and concern for all. Please give me the grace to imitate this same love of Yours so that I, too, may share in the holiness of Your sorrowful heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 17th November, 2021

Your Apostolic Calling

 

“A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return. He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’ His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’” Luke 19:12–14

 

There are three categories of people in this parable. The first includes those who received a gold coin and followed the master’s request to “engage in trade” until he returned. The second has those who received the same command but were lazy and failed to produce any good fruit from that which our Lord has given them. And the third includes those who “despise” our Lord and do not want Him as their King.

 

Upon the king’s return, this first category of people are represented by the two servants who took the gold coins, engaged in trade, and made five and ten more. These are those who have much apostolic zeal. God not only calls us to use the gifts we have received to expand His Kingdom on earth, He also expects it of us. His expectation is a command of love. For those who understand this command, they see it as a glorious invitation to make an eternal difference in the lives of many. They do not see the apostolic works to which they are called as a burden. Rather, they see them as a joy, and that joy fuels their efforts. The result will have exponential effects for God’s Kingdom.

 

The second category of people is illustrated by the one servant who kept the one gold coin “stored away in a handkerchief” out of fear. These are the people who avoid evangelizing and furthering the Kingdom of God out of fear. Fear is paralyzing. But giving in to fear is a sin. It’s a lack of faith and trust in God. Serving God will inevitably require courage on our part. It will demand that we step out of our comfort zone and do that which we may not immediately feel comfortable doing. But as that servant in the parable foretold, God is a demanding God. And He will not accept fear as an acceptable excuse not to zealously help to build the Kingdom of God.

 

The third category of people is the category in which you definitely do not want to fall. These are those who actively work to undermine God’s Kingship and reject Him as God. The world is filled with these people. The only thing we need to say about those who fall into this category is that which our Lord said of them. “Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.”

 

Reflect, today, upon which category of people your life most fully resembles. Most likely it is one of the first two. Do you have great zeal for God’s Kingdom? Are you willing to do all that you can to help build His Kingdom? Are you willing to do so even at the cost of great personal sacrifice? If so, then rejoice and know that an abundant reward awaits. But if you are one who struggles with fear, specifically, if you struggle with a fear to evangelize, to share the Gospel and to live your faith openly with humility and love, then spend more time with this parable and the fate of that one servant who hid the coin in the handkerchief. Engage in the apostolate. Commit yourself to the furtherance of God’s Kingdom. Dispel all fear and know that you will never regret putting your whole heart and soul into the service of God and the building of His Kingdom.

 

My demanding Lord, You have entrusted me with much, and You demand that I use all that You have given me to help build Your Kingdom of grace. What a privilege it is to be called by You and used by You for this apostolic mission. Please free me from all fear, dear Lord, so that I will never hesitate to serve You in the ways that You call me to serve. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 16th November, 2021

The Desire of the Heart

 

At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. Luke 19:1–3

 

Once again, our Lord reaches out to someone who comes to Him in humility and need. Zaccheaus was a wealthy man, materially speaking. But interiorly he was poor and in need. And it was this spiritual poverty he was experiencing that led him to seek out Jesus with much determination.

Zacchaeus probably never imagined that day that Jesus would offer to come to his home. Clearly, he climbed the tree to get a glimpse of Jesus because he felt a strong desire to know our Lord. Since he was physically wealthy, it seems clear that he no longer was satisfied in life simply because of a comfortable lifestyle. Something was missing, and he couldn’t help but know that Jesus held the answer. So Zacchaeus did what some may have thought unusual. He climbed a tree to be able to see Jesus.

 

Why did Jesus stop, look up at Zacchaeus, and call him down, stating that He was going to stay at Zacchaeus’ home? It’s because Jesus was able to sense the need within the heart of Zacchaeus. Hearts that are poor, in need, and open are very attractive to Jesus. He never misses the opportunity to come to humble souls like this.

 

Zacchaeus responds to our Lord immediately by promising to right the wrongs he has done in the past. He promises to give away half of his possessions and to repay anyone he has extorted fourfold. This reveals the authenticity of Zacchaeus’ heart. 

 

As Jesus passes by you, what does He sense? Is He drawn to your heart? Is He drawn to you because of your interior disposition of humility and need? It is easy for us to go through life acting as if we have it all together. We can put on a facade that portrays an attitude of strength and success. But Jesus rarely comes to the soul who expresses little need. If we want to draw Jesus to ourselves, then we must acknowledge the poverty within ourselves, even if we are materially wealthy and successful in a worldly way. Every one of us must humble ourselves like Zacchaeus by knowing that Jesus is the only answer in life.

 

Reflect, today, upon the fact that you and you alone have the ability to draw Jesus to yourself. You can do this by looking at your need for Him. Do not hide it. Climb the figurative tree by which you will be able to look for Jesus and, more importantly, by which Jesus can see your manifest desire for Him. As you express your need for Him, know that He will be compelled, by His unshakable love and mercy, to come to you and to stay with you in the house of your soul. And when He does, be ready and willing to abandon all that has been a hindrance to your meeting with Christ in the past.

 

My attentive Lord, You are always aware of every heart that longs for You. You never ignore those who desire You in their life. Please help me to see my own interior needs and struggles and to see You as the only source of fulfillment in life. I commit myself to seeking You out, dear Lord. And as You come to me, I commit to abandon all that has kept me from You in the past. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 15th November, 2021

A Model for Prayer

 

As Jesus approached Jericho a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging, and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Luke 18:35–39

 

This beautiful story of the healing of this blind man, named Bartimaeus in the Gospel of Mark, sets for us a model of how we must come to Jesus in prayer. Bartimaeus and his encounter with Christ is an icon upon which we must meditate so as to imitate him in his weakness, openness, confidence and perseverance.

 

To begin, this “blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.” We must see this as an ideal image of how to begin our prayer. When we start to pray, we must see our littleness, weakness and extreme poverty in our spiritual life. We come to God with nothing. Unable to see. A beggar. And one who is incapable of meeting our own spiritual needs. This is Bartimaeus, and this must be the way we come to our Lord in prayer. Sometimes we can fall into the illusion that our prayers are so elevated and pious that God must be very impressed. If that’s your struggle, then you are more like the Pharisees. This blind man, however, is the ideal to aim for. So when you begin your prayer, come to our Lord as a spiritually poor and needy beggar.

 

In this state of humility, just as it happened in this Gospel story, you can be certain that “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” So as you sit in your humble and needy state, wait and be attentive to Jesus passing by. Wait upon His gentle voice, His quiet inspiration, His calming and unmistakable presence. 

If you can humble yourself this way and then sense our Lord’s divine presence touching you in some way, then further imitate Bartimaeus by calling out interiorly, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The cry from the depths of your heart in prayer must come as a result of Jesus “passing by.” It must be a response to Him coming to you on His own. As Jesus passes by, spiritually speaking, He waits for you to call to Him. He desires that you call to Him. And He desires that you do it with firm confidence and perseverance.

 

Notice that as this blind beggar cried out, there were obstacles put in his way. The people “rebuked him, telling him to be silent.” But even this was a gift, because it enabled Bartimaeus to cry out all the more. So also with us, when obstacles arise in our prayer, such as distractions, temptations, a lack of consolation, or any other challenge to our prayer, we must see these obstacles as hurdles that must be overcome. Doing so will deepen our union with Jesus, turning that apparent obstacle into a source of blessing.

 

Reflect, today, upon these four aspects of a deep prayer life that are presented to us through the witness of this blind beggar. First, ponder your weakness and poverty as you turn to God in prayer. Second, be attentive to the presence of God as He passes by, waiting for you to call to Him. Third, cry out to Him and beg Him to come closer. And fourth, work to overcome every obstacle to prayer and see those obstacles as opportunities to call out to God all the more.

 

My compassionate Lord, I come to You in my weakness and poverty, I come in need of Your divine touch and healing. As You do pass by, I acknowledge Your presence and call to You. Jesus, please do come to me, have pity on me. Help me to overcome every obstacle to Your love and to trust in You always, never wavering from my commitment to You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 12th November, 2021

Embracing the Present Moment

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” Luke 17:26–27

 

As we enter into the final weeks of the liturgical year, we begin to turn our attention to the final coming of Christ. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us the example of Noah and Lot. In both of their stories, people were eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting and building up, until the very day that the floods came to destroy the earth at the time of Noah and fire rained down from the sky at the time of Lot. Both Noah and Lot were saved, but many others alive at that time met with sudden and unexpected destruction.

 

Jesus says that the “days of the Son of Man” will be similar to these previous two events. At an unexpected time, Jesus will return to earth, and the Final Judgment will ensue. So His message is clear: Be ready at all times.

 

Though we are familiar with this teaching of our Lord, spoken many times and in various ways in the Gospels, many people do not heed the message. It is easy to believe that you always have tomorrow to change, and so you give into temptation today. And then tomorrow comes, and the temptation is once again embraced with the thought that you will work on it tomorrow, and henceforth. We can easily go about perpetuating our sins and embracing our temptations while we have the ongoing good intention of changing tomorrow. This is a mistake for two reasons.

 

First of all, it always remains a possibility that our Lord will indeed come today and that today truly will be the end of the world. Or, it always remains a distinct possibility that your life will come to an end today, suddenly and unexpectedly. If that were to happen, would you be fully ready to stand before the judgment seat of Christ? Most people would not, at least not fully ready. Thus, this should be motivation enough to work tirelessly today to be ready now and every moment hereafter.

 

But we should also see this prophecy of our Lord as applying to every present moment of every day. Jesus is always coming to us, suddenly and without warning, inviting us to serve Him by grace. This Gospel passage states that “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.” This applies to the end of our lives and to the end of the world, but it also applies to every present moment of every day. If we continually seek to lose our lives, meaning, to choose the Heavenly realities over the temporal earthly indulgences we are daily tempted with, then we will also daily experience the grace of salvation, here and now, in every present moment of our lives. 

 

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you regularly seek to lose your life for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Do you continually choose grace, mercy, Heaven, obedience, love, self-sacrifice, compassion, forgiveness and the like, every moment of every day of your life? If so, then our Lord will continually bestow the gift of His saving grace upon you here and now, preparing you for the ultimate moment of judgment. If not, then you will be more like the people of Noah’s and Lot’s time who met with sudden destruction when they least expected it. Live for God now, today, in this moment, and you will be eternally grateful you did.

 

My ever-present Lord, You come to me always, suddenly and unexpectedly, and so often I do not hear You or perceive Your presence. Please help me to live continually for You and by Your grace, choosing Heavenly realities over temporary indulgences. May I live this way always, meeting You every moment of my life and anticipating that glorious final meeting with You at the time of judgment. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 11th November, 2021

Perceiving the Kingdom of God

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus said in reply, “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”  Luke 17:20–21

 

Why did the Pharisees ask Jesus this question? Why did they want to know when the Kingdom of God would come? To answer this question, we must first look at the full context of the various communications between Jesus and the Pharisees. When we do this and see the many ways that the Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus in speech and the times in which our Lord firmly rebuked the Pharisees, it seems clear that the Pharisees did not ask Jesus this question in innocence and openness. Instead, they once again were trying to trap Him. They posed a question by which they gave the appearance of believing Jesus’ teachings that the Kingdom of God was coming, but they asked not in faith but in mockery and in an attempt to trip Jesus up in His answer.

 

Jesus’ answer is mysterious. It leaves little room for the Pharisees to use Jesus’ speech against Him. Perhaps the Pharisees were hoping that Jesus would say that the Kingdom was coming soon, or next month, or within the year. But Jesus’ answer leaves them with confusion in the face of this mystery that “the Kingdom of God is among you.”

 

Much of what Jesus says can only be fully understood through faith. He often speaks in veiled language intentionally, because the only way to lift the veil to perceive the meaning of His teachings is to rely upon the inspired gift of faith. Faith is like a key to unlock the secrets of the mysteries of God. Faith becomes a lens through which every parable, every figure of speech, and every mystery taught by our Lord is understood. But without this inspired gift of faith, Jesus’ teachings remain mysterious and incomprehensible.

 

When you ponder these words that “the Kingdom of God is among you,” what do you understand? Are you able to use the gift of faith to unlock the meaning of this sacred teaching? Interestingly, reading Jesus’ words, spoken in a veiled way, offer us the opportunity to test our own faith. If we read His words and are left in confusion, then this is a clear sign that we need to pray for and be open to the gift of faith. But if we do read Jesus’ mysterious teachings and the light of understanding is given to us, then this is a clear reason to rejoice, since this comprehension is only possible through the gift of faith.

 

Reflect, today, upon this sacred teaching of our Lord: “The Kingdom of God is among you.” Meditate on those words and pray for insight and understanding. Jesus’ words are true. His Kingdom truly is everywhere, all around us and within us. It is alive and well. Do you see it? Do you perceive it? Do you see your role in building it? Use these questions as a test of your own level of faith and know that God wants to reveal to you these mysteries that are only able to be comprehended by His grace.

 

My mysterious Lord, Your Kingdom is everywhere, all around us and within us. I do believe. Give me the eyes of faith so that I may continually perceive Your hand at work. May I always be attentive to all that You wish to reveal to me and open to the deep meaning of the mysteries You do reveal. Increase my faith, dear Lord, so that I may know You and join in the upbuilding of Your glorious Kingdom. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 10th November, 2021

Thank You, My Lord

 

Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” Luke 17:17–19

 

This reply from our Lord came in response to the one leper who returned to Jesus to thank Him. Ten lepers had come to Jesus, stood at a distance, cried out, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And with that, Jesus healed them all. But the heart of this healing is not as much the healing itself as it is the gratitude expressed by only one of the ten.

 

This Gospel relates to us that this one leper did five things to profoundly express his gratitude. He returned, glorified God, did so in a loud voice, fell at the feet of Jesus, and thanked him. What a wonderful witness for us all!

 

By analogy, children often take the loving care of their parents for granted. That’s why many good parents regularly remind their children to say “thank you.” In our relationship with God, we can also easily take God’s saving actions for granted. We can easily see all the grace we receive as something we deserve rather than as an infinitely merciful gift. When that happens, we become more like the other nine who failed to properly express their gratitude to Jesus.

 

First of all, it must be noted that expressing gratitude to God is not done because God needs these accolades. He does not depend upon our gratitude to affirm His self-worth. This is obvious. God is God, and He does not need our praise in any way. However, giving profound praise and glory to God is essential. It is essential because we need this virtue of gratitude so as to daily be reminded that all we receive from God is an unmerited gift. We cannot earn His love and grace. We do not deserve it. But He chooses to bestow it anyway out of mercy. And the only appropriate response to mercy is gratitude. Profound gratitude.

 

Gratitude is essential because it is the truth. We should always return to our Lord after He has graced us. We should glorify Him with much fervor, crying out to Him with passion. We should, literally and interiorly, fall on our face before Him, at His feet, and thank Him, over and over and over again. Doing so will always help us to remember the truth that everything we have and everything we are is a gift from God. An unmerited and undeserved gift of grace.

 

Reflect, today, upon the depth of gratitude in your own heart. Do you often act more like a spoiled and selfish child, or do you regularly perceive the graciousness of God? If you lack in any way this fullness of gratitude, then ponder this one leper. His gratitude, expressed with the fullness of passion, is the most important part of this story. In the end, he was graced far more than the other nine because his healing produced faith; and it was that faith that saved not only his body but his soul. Seek to save your soul by imitating the faith of this one holy and healed leper.

 

My gracious Lord, You bestow Your mercy upon me in superabundance. Without You, Jesus, I have nothing; but with You, I receive everything. May I always know and understand my need for Your grace. And as I am gifted with it, may I respond with the deepest gratitude, thus, saving my soul through faith. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 9th November 2021

Being Shocked by Our Lord

 

Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his Body. John 2:19–21

 

We celebrate, today, the Lateran Basilica in Rome, the mother church of the entire Roman Catholic Church. It was given to the Bishop of Rome in the fourth century and remained the pope’s primary residence until the building of St. Peter’s Basilica, at a time when the Lateran Basilica was falling into ruins. However, the Lateran Basilica to this day remains the most important Church in the world, since it is officially the Cathedral Church of Rome.

 

As we honor this church, we honor more than a building. The Lateran Basilica is a symbol of the one true Church of Jesus Christ. It’s interior is beautiful and awe-inspiring so as to point us to the unimaginable beauty of the Church Herself, which is the Mystical Body of Christ.

 

Today’s Gospel depicts Jesus entering the Temple and driving the money changers out with a whip and the animals they were selling for profit. As He did so, He cried out, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” Psalm 69 is then quoted: Zeal for your house will consume me.

 

Jesus loves His Church as His own Body—because that is what it is. As His Body, the members of His Church are called and sent to act as His instruments, members of His saving action. Much more than a church building, today we honor the Church Herself—which means we honor you, insofar as you are a member of the Body of Christ. And in light of this Gospel passage for today’s Feast, we are reminded of the zeal that our Lord has for the cleansing of His Church.

 

How is the Church purified? It is purified by the cleansing of Her members. That means that Jesus desires, with perfect zeal, to drive out every sin from your soul, cleansing the filth that keeps you from fulfilling your essential role as a member of His Body.

 

Sometimes we become slack in our own commitment to be purified. We can easily become comfortable with the sins we commit, and we can form habits that are hard to break. When this happens, it is useful to ponder this story of the cleansing of the Temple and see it as Jesus’ desire to cleanse our own soul. At times, we need to be shaken up, challenged, confronted and encouraged with the unwavering zeal in the heart of our Lord.

 

Reflect, today, upon this powerful image of Jesus cleansing the Temple. As you do, apply it to your own life. The people selling and buying in the Temple must have been shocked at Jesus’ zeal and actions. If you have become complacent with your sins, try to allow this holy shock to also wake you up. Allow our Lord’s zeal to affect you, and know that His purifying actions are acts of love by which He desires to free you to become a more fully functioning member of His holy Church.

 

My zealous Lord, Your heart burns with a deep desire to cleanse me and all Your children from sin. Your zeal reveals Your deep love and Your willingness to do all that You can to make me a fuller member of Your Body, the Church. Open my mind and will, dear Lord, to all that You wish to say to me and give me the grace to respond to Your purifying action in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 8th November, 2021

Loving Every Sinner

 

Jesus said to his disciples, “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur.  It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” 

Luke 17:1–2

 

Having a millstone placed around your neck and thrown into the sea is very descriptive. Jesus is using very evocative language. A millstone was a large round stone with a hole in the center. If it were placed around someone’s neck and they were thrown into the sea, they would obviously sink to the bottom and die. Thus, Jesus is clearly stating that this awful fate is actually better than the fate of those who cause “one of these little ones to sin.”

 

First of all, it should be clarified that no one can actually cause us to sin. Sin is our own free choice, and we, and we alone, will be held accountable for our own sin. One thing that Jesus is pointing out here is that even though every person must take responsibility for their own actions and their own sins, we must also take responsibility for the ways that we act as tempters of others. We are all sinners. Therefore, by our sin, we will all tempt others to sin also. Sometimes we will tempt people to sin by provoking them to anger. At other times we will tempt others to sin by setting a poor example. And on the contrary, we also have the ability to “tempt” people to virtue. Or more properly speaking, to inspire and encourage them.

 

With that said, Jesus explains that the fate of those who act as tempters of others, especially the “little ones,” will suffer consequences graver than an untimely death. The little ones of which Jesus speaks should be understood as those who are weak in faith, overly sensitive, particularly vulnerable at that time in their life, and susceptible to outside influence. This could be a child, or it could be someone who is currently teetering on the edge of despair, confusion, anger, or any serious sin. When you encounter people like this, how do you treat them? Jesus has a deep heart of compassion for these people and wants us to have the same depth of compassion. But sometimes we fail. We may be negligent in our duty to reach out to them. Even this negligence could be a form of causing “one of these little ones to sin.” Of course, it is even far worse if we were to actively agitate them, harshly judge them, provoke their anger, draw them into some sin of weakness and false consolation by our temptation, etc. The simple truth is that Jesus loves those who are weak, vulnerable and sinful, and He wants us to love them with His heart. When we fail to do so, Jesus will hold us accountable for their further fall from grace.

 

Reflect, today, upon the person or persons in your life that appear especially vulnerable, sinful, confused and lost at this time. Who is it that struggles with anger, or an addiction or some sinful lifestyle? Ponder your attitude toward them. Are you judgmental, condemning, belittling and the like? Do you tempt them to fall further into any sins of weakness they commit in a vulnerable state, thus leading them into further sin? Or, when you encounter someone who is greatly struggling, do you turn to them with the deepest compassion and mercy, forgiving any ways that they may sin against you, and work hard only to be there for them in their need, no matter how hard it is on you? Commit yourself to a profound love of all of God’s “little ones” and seek to serve them with the heart of Christ so that one day they will eternally rejoice with you in Heaven.

 

My most compassionate Lord, You love the sinner and deeply desire that they turn to You in their need. Please give me Your heart of compassion so that I will be free to love them as You love them. May I never become an instrument of temptation for them to fall further away from You but, instead, become an instrument of Your unfailing mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 5th November, 2021

Stewards of Earthly Riches

 

Jesus said to his disciples, “A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said, ‘What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.’” Luke 16:1–2

 

There is much to ponder in this parable and many lessons from which we can learn. To begin, the rich man should be understood as God and you as the steward. This is an important first lesson to learn because it reveals to us that, when it comes to material things in this world, God is the true owner of all—we are only stewards. Think about that carefully. When it comes to all that you own, all your money and possessions, do you hold on to it as if you were the complete master of these material items? Clearly most people do think this way. They may work hard to earn a living, save and buy this and that, build up their bank accounts, and then remain very attached to these material things, seeing them as “mine” rather than as God’s. So the first very challenging lesson we should look at is that all we “own” is actually the possession of God. He only permits us to be stewards of the things of this world. Do you believe that?

 

As stewards, we must be committed to use the riches within our stewardship only in the way that God wants it used. In this parable, the steward was reported to the rich man for “squandering his property.” We also are guilty of squandering the possessions of God when we use money in accord with our own will and desires rather than those of God’s. This is an exceptionally common tendency, especially for those who have become the stewards of much money. Therefore, the more money that one has stewardship over, the more they will be tempted to squander it, meaning, use it for selfish purposes rather than for the glory of God in accord with His will. This is a hard teaching to accept and live. But these truths are indeed revealed to us by this parable, so it is essential that we listen.

The words spoken by the rich man, “Prepare a full account of your stewardship,” are words that we must all anticipate hearing one day. If that day were today, what would that “full account of your stewardship” look like? Have you worked hard for selfish gain? Or have you worked hard to act with great responsibility over the things God has entrusted to your care?

 

As the parable continues, we read that the steward acted “prudently” in that he devised a plan to make sure his material needs were met once he lost his position as steward. The “prudence,” however, that is spoken of here is a reference to the worldly, and therefore, evil ingenuity, cleverness, hard work and commitment many people have regarding the material wealth they seek to obtain in this world. Though it is good to be diligent and hardworking in life, too often this is done for the purpose of selfish gain. Just imagine if everyone who worked so hard at getting rich put even more effort into building up the Kingdom of God on earth! How different this world would be if we had so many hard workers for God’s mission.

 

Reflect, today, upon the simple truth that when it comes to the riches of this world, you are only the steward of what you possess, not its master. God wants you free from the attachment to material wealth so that you will be free to use all that you have for His glory and in accord with His purpose. That does not mean that you must donate all you have to charities. Instead, it means that you continually offer all that you have to God and seek to use it in accord with His will and His will alone. If that means you discern that God wants you to buy something new, then buy something new. If that means giving more away, then give more away. If that means living more simply as a holy sacrifice, then do just that. Money cannot buy happiness. Only embracing God’s will to the fullest will result in the happiness and fulfillment you deeply desire.

 

My Lord of all riches, You and You alone are the Master of all things created. All that I have and possess are Yours, dear Lord. Help me to believe this and to live my life purely as a steward of the possessions I have. Free me from squandering that which You have entrusted to my care. May I use all for Your glory and only in accord with Your holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 4th November, 2021

Carried Home

 

“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’”  

Luke 15:4–6

 

Some of the great saints point out that the number one hundred represents perfection. One hundred refers to the perfection of the Kingdom of God, which represents not only all of the saints in Heaven but also the angels. The one lost sheep represents all of humanity as we make our way through this life. Jesus, of course, is the Shepherd Whose attention turns to fallen humanity on a diligent search for us so as to carry us home.

 

First, notice that the Shepherd does not search for the one stray sheep out of anger but out of concern and love. Understanding this is essential if we are to have a correct understanding of how our Lord sees us when we stray. We must see His deep concern, His diligence in searching, and His unwavering commitment to find us in our straying condition. This is not a God Who sits back in judgment and anger but a God Who came to us, took on our fallen human nature, and endured all suffering so as to find us and bring us home.

 

Notice also that in this parable, the Shepherd places the lost sheep on His shoulders and carries the sheep home. Oftentimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that we must make our way back to God by our own effort. But the truth is that God is always there, waiting to pick us up and carry us home. Our duty is to surrender to His merciful hands and to stop running. This is done by turning to Him and allowing Him to come to us and minister to us. The primary effort is on the part of our Lord once we surrender ourselves into His gentle Hands.

 

Finally, notice that the rejoicing mentioned in this parable is on the part of the Shepherd. Of course we also will rejoice at being picked up and carried home to the perfection of God’s Kingdom, but our rejoicing is done in response to the joy of our Lord. It is His joy we are invited to share in. It is His heart that is filled with gratitude as we allow Him to tenderly carry us home. “Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep,” He says.

 

Reflect, today, upon this holy image of the Good Shepherd. As you ponder this parable and imagery, be attentive to the various thoughts, memories, emotions and fears that are evoked within you. Each one of us is different, and our Lord deeply desires to come to each one of us right where we are, in the midst of our sins. Pondering the compassion of this Good Shepherd will open the door for our Lord to speak to you and to invite you personally to come to Him, turning away from the ways that you personally have strayed. Do not run away. Remain in confidence as He comes to you. Listen to His voice and say “Yes” to Him as He lifts you up to carry you home.

 

My gentle Jesus, You are the Good Shepherd. You love me and search for me with diligence and fidelity. May I trust You enough to stop running from You and hiding from Your gentle voice. Please come to me, pick me up, place me on Your shoulders and carry me home. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 3rd November, 2021

Loving through “Holy Hate”

 

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”  Luke 14:25–26

 

After this startling opening line from our Lord, Jesus concludes today’s Gospel by saying, “In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” Thus, at first read it appears that we are called to not only renounce all we possess but also to hate those within our own family. But is this truly what our Lord means? Let’s begin with the idea of “hating” those within our family and even our own life.

 

Obviously the word “hate” in this Gospel passage is not the same as the sin of hate and anger. In commenting on this passage, one Church Father explains that there are some cases when the best way to love another is through a form of hate. That is, if another were to act as an obstacle to God, working to deter us from the will of our Lord, then our “hatred” for the actions they do must be firmly expressed. But this is love. A refusal to turn from God, by rejecting another’s disordered actions, is a way of sharing the Gospel with them. Let’s take an extreme example.

 

Imagine that you lived at a time and circumstance where being a Christian was a crime. You were arrested and commanded to publicly renounce your faith. Instead, you renounced that command with every strength of your soul. In this case, you exercise a form of holy “hate” for the persecution the person is imposing upon you. But that is also an act of love toward them as you fully reject their action by renouncing their command.

 

Or consider also how you hate even your “own life.” Let’s say that you fall into serious sin, over and over. The appropriate response is not only to repent but also to have a form of holy hatred for the habit into which you have fallen. This is a true hatred for yourself in the sense that it is a hatred for that which you have become by your sin. But this holy hatred has the ultimate goal of passionately overcoming your sin and is therefore a true act of love for yourself.

 

The concluding line of today’s Gospel mentioned above calls us to renounce all of our possessions. In other words, we must renounce anything that we are attached to in a way that is contrary to the will of God. Of course, in God’s providence most people (except those who take a vow of poverty) are invited by God to have various possessions so as to meet the material needs of life. But even in this case, we must “renounce” all that we possess, meaning, we must not allow ourselves to become attached to anything other than God. But this is freedom in the truest sense. Even if you have many things, it must be understood that those things do not make you happy. Only God and His will can fulfill you. Nothing else. Thus, we must learn to live as if God and God alone suffices. And if it is God’s will that you obtain a house, car, computer, television and other modern conveniences, then so be it. But true “renunciation” of all of these possessions simply means that if at any time you were to lose them, then this would be fine. Therein is perfect detachment. The loss of something material would not deter you in any way from loving and serving God and His holy will.

 

Reflect, today, upon these radical words of Jesus. Try to hear them in the way our Lord meant them. Work to be detached from everything that is contrary to the will of God and everything that becomes an obstacle to God in your life. In the end, possessing God alone is more than you could ever hope for. And only if you fully possess our merciful God will you be able to love yourself and others with the pure heart and love of Jesus our Lord.

 

My demanding Lord, You call us all to a life of radical holiness. You desire that I come to love You above all with all my heart. Please give me the grace and wisdom I need to renounce all that is an obstacle to my love and service of You. May You and You alone be glorified in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 2nd November, 2021

Commemorating All Souls

 

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” John 6:40

 

Yesterday’s Solemnity of All Saints gave us an opportunity to celebrate and rejoice in the fact that there are countless people who have gone before us who are now enjoying the glories of Heaven. These faithful souls lived lives that were grounded in God’s grace and have been fully purified of all sin. They now gaze at our good God face-to-face.

 

Today, we commemorate the fact that many who die in a state of grace are not immediately ready to stand before the glorious throne of God and see Him face-to-face. The only way this is possible is if every sin and every attachment to sin is purged from our souls. We must have nothing but pure charity alive within us if we are to enter the eternal glories of Heaven. But how many people die in such a state?

 

The Church, in her wisdom and holiness, has taught clearly through the centuries that when a person passes from this world to the next while still attached to less serious sin, they need to be fully purified in order to enter Heaven. This is Purgatory. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (#1030–31a).

 

For some, Purgatory can be a frightening and even confusing thought. Why doesn’t God, in His infinite mercy, simply take all our loved ones who followed Him straight to Heaven? The answer is simple. He does! And the path for them to Heaven is this incredible mercy of their final purification.

Purification of all attachment to sin within our soul is a mercy beyond what we can imagine. Through this final purification, God prepares the holy souls who have died for an eternity of joy. But this purification is necessary because God, in His love, does not want any soul to live eternally with even a minor attachment to sin. God wants us all free. The truth is that every sin on our soul, even the smallest one, is reason enough for us to be excluded from Heaven. So Purgatory must be seen as a final mercy from God by which He lifts every last burden that keeps us from perfect love, so that our eternity will be one of utmost freedom and ecstasy. God wants us to be filled only with the purity of love forever. Thus, upon our death, we are graced to enter into a final and intense purification of every minor sin, so that when we see God in all His glory, we will see Him with the perfection to which we are called. Purgatory is a gift, a grace, a mercy. It will be painful to go through in the same way that overcoming any sin is painful. But the good fruit of freedom from sin makes every final purification we must endure worth it a hundredfold and more.

 

Reflect, today, upon the spiritual truth that God wants you to be a saint. If you are among those few who die in a state in which you are purified from every sin, then be assured that you have already completed your purgatory on earth. But if you or your loved ones are among the many who still hold some minor attachment to sin at the time of death, then rejoice that God is not done with you yet. Anticipate with much gratitude the final purification that awaits and look forward to the freedom that ultimately comes from that purification.

 

My merciful Lord, You desire that my soul and the souls of all your faithful be purified of every sin, even the smallest imperfection. I thank You for the mercy of Purgatory and pray that I will continually work toward that purification here and now. I pray, also, for all those who have gone before me and are still in need of these purifying fires. Pour forth Your mercy upon them so that they may be counted among the saints in Heaven. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 1st November, 2021

Honouring All Saints

 

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5: 1–3

 

Today we celebrate one of the most glorious solemnities within our Church! Every saint, canonized or not, is honored today. Our Gospel passage lays out the path by which these saints entered Heaven. While on earth, these great men and women lived lives that were poor in spirit, filled with a holy mourning, meekness, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, mercy, peace, purity of heart and even persecution. Each one of these Beatitudes concludes by stating the reward that those who lived these qualities obtains: Heaven, comfort, satisfaction, mercy, seeing God, being children of God and rewards beyond what we can imagine in God’s Kingdom.

 

The Beatitudes invite us to the heights of holiness. They are not for the faint of heart or for those living a lukewarm spiritual life. These Beatitudes present us with the pinnacle of holy living and challenge us to the core. But every effort put into living these Beatitudes are worth it here on earth and ultimately in Heaven. Let’s look briefly at two of these Beatitudes.

 

The second Beatitude states that those “who mourn…will be comforted.” This is an interesting Beatitude. Why is it holy to mourn? Simply put, this form of holy mourning means that you not only have a holy sorrow for your own sins but that you have this holy sorrow as you see the many evils within our world. This is crucial today. First, it should be quite obvious that we must have holy sorrow for our own sins. Doing so means your conscience is working. And when your conscience is working, you will be compelled, by this holy sorrow, to acknowledge your offenses against God and work diligently to change. But we must also have a holy sorrow as we see the many evils within our world. Too often today there is a tendency to undermine this Beatitude by presenting universal acceptance of all things as a good. We are told we must not judge, and though that is true when it comes to judging another’s heart, a worldly presentation of this secular “virtue” attempts to lead us to downplay the objective nature of sin. Our secular world tempts us to ignore many objective moral truths by which God guides us into all truth. But as Christians, our first approach must be to despise all that our Lord taught was objectively morally evil. And when we do come face-to-face with immoral lifestyles, the appropriate response must be holy sorrow, not acceptance of grave sin. To mourn over another’s poor choices is a true act of charity toward them.

 

The fourth Beatitude calls us to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” This means that we not only have a holy sorrow over our sins and the objective evils of our world, but that we also allow ourselves to be filled with a hunger and thirst for truth and holy living. This drive must become a burning motivation within us to do all we can to further the Kingdom of God everywhere. This Beatitude enables us to overcome indifference, inspiring us to bring about change in the face of all opposition. And this drive is fueled by charity and every other accompanying virtue.

 

Reflect, today, upon the beautiful truth that you are called to become a saint. And the surest path to sainthood is the Beatitudes. Read them carefully. Meditate upon them and know that they reveal to you how God is calling you to live. If one of these Beatitudes stands out to you, then spend time focusing upon it. Work to internalize these graces, and God will work wonders in your life, one day making this solemnity within our Church a true celebration of your life well lived.

 

My most holy Lord, You reign now in Heaven and desire that Your glorious Kingdom be firmly established upon earth. Give me the grace I need to seek holiness with all my heart and to especially use Your revelation of the Beatitudes as the path by which I travel. I pray that I will become a true saint in this world and that You will use me to further Your Kingdom now and for eternity. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 22nd October, 2021

The Convictions of Your Heart

 

“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” Luke 12:57–59

 

The Church Fathers offer many different interpretations of this passage. Among them, Saint Bede says that our “opponent” can be seen as the Word of God, in the sense that the Word of God makes war upon our weaknesses and sins. When we listen to the Word of God, our Lord will convict us of our faults so that we can reconcile our lives with the Truth of the Word of God Himself.

 

When you think about God’s holy Word, in its entirety, what most convicts you? Sometimes we try to downplay such personal convictions. We rationalize our actions and dismiss what God is saying to us. Are there any teachings of Jesus that you recall that have truly stung you to the heart? If so, this is a grace, and it’s an opportunity to fulfill the lesson from our Lord taught in the passage above. God does not convict our hearts so as to condemn us. Rather, He convicts us, as an opponent to our sin, so that we can “make an effort to settle the matter on the way.” The conscience is a wonderful gift from our Lord and can be likened to this passage above. It is a form of courtroom where our Lord desires not to have to issue punishment upon us. Instead, He desires that we engage His holy Word, listen to what He says, and settle our sin by repenting immediately.

 

Among the many lessons taught by our Lord, it is often the lesson that jumps out at us, even in a startling way, that we need to pay attention to the most. God often brings His most urgent teachings to us by causing us to feel a sense of guilt that cannot be denied. If we listen to these convictions, then we will not have any need to stand before the Judge. But if we do not, if we bury these convictions, downplay them and ignore them, then our Lord will find it necessary to keep at us. We will begin to experience His judgment, and we will see the effects of being out of His good graces. And in the end, if we fail to repent of the more serious sins in our lives, then we will even be held accountable for the smallest of sins. We will be required to “pay the last penny.”

 

Reflect, today, upon the idea that the Word of God, all that our Lord has taught us, is the opponent to the sin in your soul. This good and holy opponent wants only what is best for you. Commit yourself to an ongoing reading of God’s holy Word so that you will be continually disposed to hear all that God wants to say to you and so that you will be able to reconcile with our Lord before He is compelled to issue forth His judgments. 

 

My most merciful Judge, You desire that I listen to Your holy Word, revealed through Scripture, so as to receive Your most merciful conviction of my sin. I pray that I will be open to always hear all that You desire to say to me so that I can respond with generosity and trust, reconciling with You and others continually through my journey in life. Enliven my conscience with Your holy Word, dear Lord. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 21st October, 2021

A Blazing Fire of Mercy

 

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” Luke 12:49–50

 

There is much that we can take from these teachings of our Lord. Not only did Jesus say, “I have come to set the earth on fire…” He also said that it’s His desire that this fire be “blazing!”

Fire is powerful. A blazing fire, for example, can purify the precious metal gold. When heated to a liquid state, the impurities rise to the surface for easy removal. Fire can also consume. When a blazing fire completes its burning, what’s left are only ashes. Many great saints have reflected upon the image of fire as an image of the purification God wants to do within our souls. Saint John of the Cross, for example, reflected in depth upon this image. He explained that entering into divine union was similar to a log burning. At first, as the log begins to burn, it crackles and pops. This is because the impurities within the wood, such as moisture or sap, do not burn as the wood burns. But as a log continues to burn, as Saint John explains, eventually the log becomes one with the fire. At first, you can distinguish the log from the fire when only part of the log is burning. But once the entire log is engulfed in the flames and all the impurities are burnt out, you have a piece of wood that is one with the fire. It glows and emits light and heat.

 

When we ponder these words from Jesus regarding His desire to “set the earth on fire,” we must first see this as His desire to purify our souls. Within our souls, there are many impurities that need to be removed if we are to become one with God, emitting His radiance and glory.  This purification involves a process of allowing God to bring our sins to the surface so that they are seen and can be removed. But this is only possible if we allow the blazing fire of God’s purifying love to consume us.

Oftentimes in life, we are content with simply being mediocre in our faith journey. We pray, go to Mass on Sunday, and try to be good. But this is not the life our Lord wants for us. He wants a life that is radically consumed with the blazing fire of His love. He wants us to become so purified from our sin that He is able to become one with us, sending forth the radiance of His glory through our lives. 

 

Reflect, today, upon this image of a blazing and purifying fire. Use the image of gold melting to the point that all impurities rise to the surface. Or use the image that Saint John of the Cross uses with the log. God wants so much more from you. He wants to transform you and use you in ways beyond your imagination. Do not be afraid to make the radical decision to allow the blazing and purifying fire of our Lord’s mercy to transform you. And don’t wait for this to start tomorrow—kindle that flame today.

 

My purifying Lord, You deeply desire to set my heart and soul on fire with the transforming mercy of Your love. Please give me the grace I need to permit You to kindle this fire of love in my heart so that it will truly become blazing and all-consuming. May this blaze ignite me in the inner depths of my heart so that You will shine brightly in my life, bringing forth the warmth of Your love into our world. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 20th October, 2021

The Lord is Coming, Today

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Luke 12:39–40

 

These words from Jesus should cause us to sit up and take notice. This parable, followed by the rest of today’s Gospel, exhorts us to always be prepared for our particular judgment at the conclusion of our earthly life. There are various reasons these words should be heeded.

 

First of all, the obvious reason is that life for any of us could end at any time. We only need to recall various tragedies in which people have suddenly died from a car accident or from some other unexpected reason. Furthermore, there truly will be a specific moment in time when our Lord does return to earth for the Final Judgment. That moment will take place in an instant without any warning. It’s easy to presume that this end of the world when our Lord “comes to judge the living and the dead” will not happen for hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years. But the simple truth is that it could be at any time, when those who are alive least expect it.

 

With that said, there is another important reason to always be prepared and ready to meet our Lord for our particular judgment. Even though our particular judgment will take place in a definitive way at the end of our life when we see our Lord face-to-face, we also encounter Him every day, all day, receiving daily rewards for our fidelity or judgment for our sins. It is useful to see this “hour you do not expect” as every moment of every day. If you can live every day with this ongoing expectation that our Lord is coming to you, today, then every moment can be turned into a moment of much grace.

Think about your day today. Does God want to come to you, to inspire you and to lead you to fulfill His holy mission today? Indeed He does. He has a specific mission for you today that will not be there tomorrow. He wants you to be aware of His presence right now so that you can respond to Him with much generosity.

 

Reflect, today, upon the importance of always being vigilant and attentive to God’s presence in your life. He wishes to speak to you, day and night, so as to guide you into a life of true holiness. If you can build a habit of attentiveness to His continual comings, then you will truly be prepared for that final coming when you meet our Lord face-to-face.

 

My ever-present Lord, You do come to me day and night, speaking to me, inspiring me, and leading me. Please fill me with the gift of holy vigilance so that I will always be prepared to meet You and hear Your holy voice. May I learn to build a habit of responding to You always. And may I especially be prepared for that glorious moment when I am blessed to see You face-to-face.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 19th October, 2021

Being Vigilant Throughout Life

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.”  Luke 12:35–36

 

What does it mean to “Gird your loins?” This phrase, which is not commonly used today, literally means “tighten your belt.” It traditionally refers to one who is wearing a long robe that makes it difficult to move quickly and easily. Thus, to gird your loins means that you tuck in the long robe and tighten your belt so that you are prepared for some physical activity. It was also commonly used to exhort those preparing for battle to get ready. Symbolically, then, this phrase simply means to be ready for something difficult or challenging. It means to be vigilant and prepared. Spiritually speaking, Jesus is telling His disciples to be ready for the spiritual battle that awaits them.

 

Jesus then tells His disciples to light their lamps. That phrase could have a variety of meanings, such as “Do not remain in the darkness of sin or ignorance” or “Let the light of charity shine forth as you navigate through life” or “Allow the light of truth to shine within your mind.” Hence, by the light of faith, they are to be prepared and vigilant, ready to do all that the Lord sends them to do.

 

Today’s Gospel ends by Jesus saying that the disciples will be truly blessed if they remain vigilant even until the second or third watch of the night. Some Church Fathers see this as a reference to three periods in one’s life: childhood being the first watch, middle age being the second, and old age being the third watch.

 

With these meanings understood, one message we can take from this Gospel is that Jesus is calling us to be vigilant in our faith at every moment of our lives. For those who have lived many years, it may be useful to look back at how faithful you have been throughout every period of your life. God wants to use you in many ways during childhood, through your middle age, and even in old age. The journey of faith must never end. Instead, it must continually deepen as you age. But this will only be possible if you “gird your loins” and “light your lamps.” You must continually be vigilant, continually attentive to the light of faith, and continually be ready to act every time God inspires you to act.

 

Reflect, today, upon the lifelong journey of faith and service of God to which you are called. Being a Christian is not simply something you are born into. If you were born into the faith, then ponder especially what you have done throughout your life to daily deepen and strengthen that faith. Ponder whether or not you have diligently responded to the countless inspirations of the Holy Spirit to spread the light of faith to others. If you have been truly faithful throughout your life, then give thanks to God and recommit yourself to this fidelity for the rest of your life. If you have lacked faith and vigilant attentiveness to the will of God, then place that in the hands of God’s mercy and resolve from this day forward to do all you can to respond to the will of God the moment God calls. 

 

My most merciful Lord, I thank You for the countless ways throughout my life that You have spoken to me, calling me to fulfill my mission of faith and love in this world. I commit to You, this day, to always remain vigilant and attentive to You everytime You call. Use me, dear Lord, so that I may bring the light of Your saving Gospel to a world in need. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 18th October, 2021

Evangelizing the World

 

 

The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Luke 10:1–2

 

Saint Luke, whom we honor today, was a true evangelist. As an evangelist, he followed the inspiration from our Lord and was used to bring God’s saving message to the ends of the earth. And there is little doubt that his ministry will continue to have a transforming effect on the lives of many until the end of the world. Tradition states that Saint Luke became a martyr, being hanged on an olive tree. He is identified in the New Testament as a physician and as a disciple of Saint Paul. Both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are attributed to him.

 

Saint Luke is often spoken of as an evangelist to the gentiles. His Gospel was written in such a way that it didn’t presume a full understanding of the Jewish faith and customs. Therefore, it is believed to have been primarily written for those who are not of Jewish origin. Thus, the life and mission of Saint Luke must remind us that the Gospel needs to be shared with all people, especially with those who do not have a deep and sustaining relationship with God.

 

In today’s Gospel from Saint Luke, we read that Jesus sent seventy-two disciples “to every town and place he intended to visit.” Only Luke mentions the larger scale sending of seventy-two disciples. The other Gospels only mention the sending of the Twelve. Though many of these seventy-two disciples would have gone to Jewish territory, some would have unquestionably gone to non-Jewish territory. The mission of these seventy-two was to prepare everyone they encountered for the preaching of Jesus and for the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

 

As we honor Saint Luke today and read this passage from his Gospel, we are reminded that we are all sent by our Lord. We are sent to those who share our faith, such as family, friends and fellow parishioners. We are sent to love them and do all we can to help deepen their faith and love of God. But we are also called to share the Gospel with those who do not yet know Jesus as their Savior. There are so many people we encounter every day who have never truly met our Lord. Are there people in your life that God is calling you to reach out to? Who do you know that God may be calling you to share the Gospel with?

 

Reflect, today, upon the fact that the Gospel is meant for everyone. Speak to our Lord and tell Him that you are ready and willing to be used by Him to bring His saving message to others. As you do so, wait on the Lord, listen to His inspiration, and respond when He calls. If someone comes to mind whom you sense God is calling you to evangelize, begin to pray for that person. Pray for them every day and be attentive to any inspiration God gives you to share His love and saving message with them. Do not be afraid to be an evangelist like Saint Luke. Doing so might make an eternal difference in someone’s life.

 

My saving Lord, You sent Your disciples on a mission to share Your saving message with all. Today I especially thank You for the life and ministry of Saint Luke. Please use me, dear Lord, to imitate his wonderful example and to share Your glorious life with others. Please lead me and inspire me to especially reach out to those whom You have put into my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 15th October, 2021

Sincerity and Integrity

 

 

“There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops.” Luke 12:2–3

 

Immediately prior to this passage quoted above, Jesus told His disciples: “Beware of the leaven—that is, the hypocrisy—of the Pharisees.” This comes after Jesus gives a long and very direct series of condemnations of these leaders in the previous chapter. Jesus is quite serious about their destructive actions. So, after directly confronting them, He then turns to His disciples to warn them of the consequences of these hypocritical leaders.

 

A hypocrite is one who pretends to have some moral virtues but, in truth, is only deceiving himself and attempting to deceive others. For that reason, Jesus assists His disciples by sharing with them the fact that all truth will eventually come to light. Thus, every good deed will eventually be seen by all for its goodness, and every evil intent, no matter how hidden, will eventually come to light. 

 

Though the immediate temptation for many in hearing this passage will be to think about others who they think fall into the sin of hypocrisy, it may be far more useful to ponder these truths for oneself. The simple message that Jesus preaches is that we must be people who are truthful in every way. We must be honest with ourselves and make sure that we are fully aware of our inner life, seeing ourselves only in the way that God sees us. This act of honesty and integrity is one of the best ways by which we prepare ourselves for eternal life. How sad it would be if we went through life pretending, on the surface, to be something we were not, only to have the full truth divulged at our final judgment when it is too late to change.

 

Being honest with ourselves can be difficult. It’s normal for us to want to be good, to want to be holy, and to want others to think this way about us. For that reason, it is very common for us to put forth only the best image of ourselves, hiding many other things that may embarrass us and even humiliate us. And though we do not have any moral obligation to tell everyone about every sin we struggle with interiorly, it is morally essential that we face it ourselves and do so with the grace of God.

 

One practical way to do this is to ponder the above Scripture passage. Jesus makes it clear that at some time, in some way, everything within us in our hearts and minds will come to light. For some this will happen, by God’s grace, during this life as a way for them to change. For others, these secrets will only come to light at their final judgment. The truth, however, is that all that we are, all that we think, and all that we do in a hidden way will come to light. And if that frightens you in some way, that is good. Sometimes we need a holy fear to encourage us to look inward and to deal with all that we keep hidden from others.

 

Reflect, today, upon the importance of striving for a life of true transparency and integrity. The best way to do this is to live every day as if everything within your heart were visible for all to see. If that means you need to change in some way so as to be at peace with what will eventually come to light, then work diligently on making that change here and now. The opposite of hypocrisy, for which the Pharisees were firmly condemned, is honesty and sincerity. Spend time reflecting upon these beautiful virtues and pray that the Lord will gift you with them so that you can live a life of true integrity here and now in preparation for that glorious day of judgment, when all will be “known” and “proclaimed on the housetops.”

 

My revealing Lord, You see all things. You know my heart in every way. Please grace me with the ability to see myself as You see me and to know my inner heart as You know me. As the deepest truths of who I am come to light for me to see, I pray that I will also have the grace to sincerely change so that I may truly glorify You with my actions and become a source of authentic inspiration to all. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 13th October, 2021

Overcoming Plotting

 

When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say. Luke 11:53–54

 

Over the past few days, we have been reading Saint Luke’s version of Jesus’ “Woe to you” rebukes of the scribes, Pharisees and the scholars of the law. Today’s Gospel concludes these rebukes of love by pointing out that these religious leaders did not convert. Instead, they began plotting against Jesus so as to “catch him at something he might say.” This is what happens when people use God’s holy law as a weapon to attack.

 

Normally, we take inspiration from the Holy Scriptures in a positive way, meaning, by reflecting upon Jesus’ words and actions and applying them to our lives. However, we can also learn from the evil others commit and allow their actions to inspire us to avoid their sin. In today’s Gospel, we are invited to ponder the obsessive plotting of these religious leaders so as to consider whether we also are guilty of their sin.

 

First, note that at the conclusion of Jesus’ rebukes, these religious leaders “began to act with hostility” toward Jesus. Normally, when we act with hostility toward another, it is done with the mindframe that we are right and they have done something wrong. We justify our hostility by pointing to their perceived sin. However, it must be understood that every act of hostility on our part is a clear indication that we have started down the road of sin and are not justified in our obsession.

Notice also that these religious leaders exercised their hostility toward Jesus by interrogating Him. In other words, in their anger, they kept asking Him questions so as to find some fault with Him. They tried to trick Him and trap Him with their speech using God’s very Law handed down through Moses and the prophets. But they manipulated that Law so as to justify their hostility and, out of pride, to falsely accuse Jesus.

 

Think about any times in your life in which you found yourself somewhat obsessed with what you judged to be the sin of another. Hostility in this case can even be passive, meaning you may present a kind disposition on the surface, but interiorly you are obsessively thinking about how you can condemn the person. Often when this happens, we can feel justified in that we convince ourselves that justice must be done and that we are the dispensers of that justice. But if God is in control of our lives, He will not call us to obsessive plotting in regard to another. Instead, when we are following the will of God, we will sense Him inspiring us to act with immediacy, calm, joy, kindness, honesty, and freedom from all anger and obsession.

 

Reflect, today, upon any way that you have seen this misguided tendency within your own life. If you can identify a time when you struggled with hostility toward another, look at the fruit it bore. Was God glorified through your actions? Did this leave you at peace or agitated? Were you fully objective in your thinking? Be honest with these questions and you will begin to discover the road to freedom from such obsessive thinking. God wants you to be at peace. If there is injustice, trust that our Lord will sort it out. You, for your part, must continually work to forgive, act with charity, and direct your attention to the will of God as it is gently presented to you.

 

My patient and kind Lord, You were falsely accused and condemned by many of the religious leaders of Your time because You spoke the pure truth with love, clarity and boldness. When I act with hostility and anger toward another, help me to turn from these sins so that I will never condemn, never judge and never manipulate Your divine Law for my own purposes. Fill me with Your peace and charity alone, dear Lord. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 13th October, 2021

A Pricked Conscience

 

Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”  Luke 11:45–46

 

This scholar of the law had been listening to Jesus firmly rebuke the Pharisees. As he listened, his own conscience was pricked, and he challenged our Lord. What does Jesus do? He quickly and firmly rebukes the scholar of the law, pointing out that the scholar uses the law to impose heavy burdens on people. Jesus did not back down in this rebuke of love. Instead, He directed it to the very place that His rebuke was bearing fruit: in the conscience of this scholar of the law.

 

This experience of the scholar of the law teaches us two important lessons. First, we learn from him the importance of paying attention to our conscience when it is “pricked.” Second, it teaches us that when this happens, it is very easy to become defensive.

 

What is it that pricks your own conscience? Think back over the past month and reflect upon anything that you became defensive about. Did something someone said bother you? If so, pay attention to this. Sometimes we are bothered for reasons other than our own sin. But oftentimes, what actually bothers us is that we come face-to-face with some sin with which we struggle, and we do not want to admit it.

What if this scholar of the law would have listened to Jesus and, instead of being offended, became grateful for Jesus’ words? What if he would have humbly looked at his own life and realized that he was also guilty of the very things that Jesus was condemning the Pharisees for? If he would have done that, he would have been put in a position to sincerely examine his actions and begin a process of change. But this is hard to do.

 

Reflect, today, upon anything that has recently offended you. Be honest and admit that it is often the case that when God presents you with your sin through some means such as the loving rebuke of another, you must work diligently to overcome any pride. And when you feel defensive, you must immediately see that as an indication that there is something in your life that you need to change. A pricked conscience is a gift from God. Rejoice when that happens, rather than being offended, and you will discover one of the best ways by which you can grow in holiness of life by becoming free of the very sin our Lord is presenting to you.

 

My challenging Lord, You are constantly speaking to me in various ways. Sometimes You are gentle, and at other times You lovingly rebuke me. Please help me to see my sin. As I do, I pray that I will not become defensive or dismissive, rationalizing my erroneous actions. May I learn to rejoice in all that You say to me, especially when You speak Your rebukes of love. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Tuesday 12th October, 2021

Interior Transformation

 

After Jesus had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal. The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools!”  Luke 11:37–40

 

It’s hard to imagine Jesus calling someone a fool. But that’s exactly what He did. This Pharisee had just finished listening to Jesus give a series of teachings and then invited our Lord to His home for dinner in an apparent gesture of kindness. But as the passage unfolds, it’s clear that this Pharisee is no friend of Jesus. Instead, his hospitality and kindness are a cloak for the evil within his soul.

 

Why does Jesus respond so fiercely, calling the Pharisee a fool? Because this Pharisee is filled with hypocrisy. His exterior actions do not flow from a heart filled with charity and faith. Instead, his exterior actions are a show. He is a fraud. He, like many of the Pharisees, was very concerned with various external rituals, such as scrupulously washing his hands before he ate. He believed that doing so was a sign of his holiness and closeness to God. But it wasn’t. His heart was one that was filled with judgment and self-righteousness. He looked down on others and elevated himself. In doing so, he deceived others and even deceived himself.

 

The central message we must take from this is that we must diligently focus upon that which is in our hearts. Our hearts, our interior life, must be blooming with love of God and others. We must place all of our efforts on cultivating a sincere life of virtue within. This is done by prayer and humility.

 

Humility will open our eyes to see the truth of who we are. Prayer will strengthen us to change as we see that which needs to be changed within. Only then, when we see clearly the truth of who we are and prayerfully rely upon grace obtained by prayer, will we be able to become people of true integrity and holiness. And only then will our interior holiness be made manifest externally in our actions.

 

Reflect, today, upon these powerful words of Jesus: “You fools!” Don’t be offended by these words; they are words of love from our Lord. They are His fierce attempt to wake this Pharisee up and lead him away from his hypocrisy. Listen to these words as if they were also spoken to you. Every one of us can humbly benefit from this loving chastisement from Jesus. Every one of us needs to humbly be transformed more fully interiorly. Let Jesus’ words speak to you and reveal to you the ways that you need to change. Perhaps your pride has led you to an interior practice of judgment of others. Perhaps it has blinded you to sins that you need to confess. If you can listen to these words as if they were spoken to you, then Jesus’ fervor will reach you, and your eyes will be opened to that which is in your soul that needs to be changed. Do not turn a blind eye to this. Be open, be humble and listen.

 

My fervent Lord, You spoke words of love in many ways. At times You were gentle and at times You were firm. Please give me the grace and humility I need to be open to Your firm rebukes of love. Help me to sincerely see the ways in which I need to change my life so that Your grace will transform my interior life, flowing over into my actions. I love You, dear Lord. Help me to love You more. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Monday 11th October, 2021

A Sign From God

 

“This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.” Luke 11:29–30

 

Do you ever find yourself looking for signs from God? Often when we go through life, navigating through the ups and downs we all experience, we can easily find ourselves looking for signs from God about what we should do about this or that. And though God certainly communicates to us at times through special graces that are signs from Heaven, the passage above gives clarity to what sign we must be most attentive to.

 

The simple message in this Gospel passage from our Lord is that we must discover the meaning of the most profound sign ever given and use that as the foundation of all our decisions in life. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were not only the source of eternal life, they are also the clearest sign we need as we make all of our decisions in life.

 

A sign is some action that reveals a deep and hidden mystery. One mystery that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection reveals is that if we are to share in the new life won for us by His Cross, then we must follow the example He set by living a life of selfless sacrifice, laying down our lives for others, so that they will discover and embrace the new life of Christ’s Resurrection. Practically speaking, if you find yourself looking for answers in life, seeking signs from God about what you should do at times, then turn your eyes to the life of Christ and ponder ways in which you can more fully imitate His life in every daily practical decision you make. This is true whether you are discerning some important decision in life or some small practical decision. 

 

It is common to engage in such a discernment by looking at ourselves in a more selfish way. It’s difficult to move away from this line of thinking, but if we are to use the “sign” of the Son of Man, then we will discern our life decisions very differently. When we use the life, death and resurrection of our Lord as the source of our discernment and decision making in life, then we will end up making decisions that imitate His selfless sacrifice of love. So if you are faced with a decision, you will not ponder what is easier or what you prefer; rather, you will ponder what is more selfless and best for others. What is it that best imitates the sacrificial love of Jesus?

 

Reflect, today, upon any decision you are trying to make. Then reflect upon how you are going about this decision. Do you use the witness Jesus gave to us as the foundation of your discernment? Do you reflect upon how you can lay your life down as a sacrificial gift for others? Do you look at love from the point of view of the Cross of our Lord and strive to imitate His glorious and selfless dedication to the salvation of those whom He loves? Seek to imitate our Lord, using the witness of His actions as the foundation of all of your discernment and decisions in life, and you will have discovered the only true sign you need to navigate the challenges of life.

 

My perfect Lord, every decision You made in life was made out of love and was in accord with the perfect will of the Father. Give me the grace I need to make every decision in life in imitation of Your perfect example. May my life imitate You as You laid down Your life for others. I choose You and Your glorious sacrificial life as the sign by which I am directed in life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 8th October, 2021

Overcoming “Neutrality”

 

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Luke 11:23

 

These words are embedded within several powerful teachings of Jesus, but, in many ways, this single sentence can stand alone as an important Christian truth. Specifically, it tells us that we cannot be neutral in our position regarding Jesus and all that He has taught us. This is an important message in the world today.

 

Today, there seems to be a growing secular value that we might call “neutrality.” We are told by many in the world that we must accept any morality, any lifestyle, any choice that others make. And though it is true that we must always love and accept every person and treat them with the utmost dignity and respect, it is not true that we should be neutral to the choices and secular values that some choose to live and express. Sadly, when we do speak the full truth, especially the many moral truths our Lord has revealed, we are often labeled as judgmental. But this is not the truth.

 

This quote above from today’s Gospel makes it clear that we cannot remain indifferent to the teachings of our Lord and still remain in His good graces. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that the opposite is true. He says that if we are not with Him, meaning, if we do not accept all that He has revealed, then we are, in fact, against Him. Being neutral on matters of faith and morality is not actually being neutral at all. It’s a choice that some make that has the clear effect of separating them from Jesus.

 

For example, regarding matters of faith, if someone were to say, “I do not believe in the Eucharist,” then they are, in fact, rejecting God. And though it is not our duty to be their judge, it is our duty to acknowledge that they have expressed a belief contrary to the truth. They are in error, and if they persist in this error, then they do separate themselves from God. That’s what Jesus is saying.

The same is true regarding morality. There are many examples in the moral life that are becoming more and more blatant in their opposition to our Lord’s teaching. Thus, we must remind ourselves that when we reject a moral teaching given to us by our Lord, we reject Jesus Himself.

Jesus goes even further when He says that “whoever does not gather with me scatters.” In other words, it’s not enough to simply personally believe all that Jesus taught, we must also teach it to others. If we do not and if we, instead, offer a false form of “acceptance” of another’s error, then we are actually working against Jesus. We all have a moral duty to actively promote the truths of the Gospel given to us by our Lord.

 

Reflect, today, upon how fully you are “with” our Lord and “gather” with Him. Do you fully accept all that He has taught and also seek to gather many others for the Kingdom of God? If you do not see yourself actively believing in and participating in the mission of our Lord, then heed these words of Jesus and allow them to gently but firmly challenge you, so that you will more fully work to build up God’s Kingdom in your own heart and in the world all around you.

 

My glorious King, You desire to build up Your Kingdom in my life and, through me, in the lives of others. Give me the grace and courage I need to fully accept all that You have taught me and to actively become an instrument of Your grace and truth in the world. May I be with You in all things, dear Lord, and gather many into Your loving arms of grace. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 7th October, 2021

Praying with Fervor and Detachment

 

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him…’” Luke 11:5–6

 

Unless your friend were truly a very close friend, you may hesitate in waking them and their family at midnight to ask to borrow some food. And even if it were a very close friend, you would probably hesitate for fear of disturbing them. But in this parable, the “friend” is God. Jesus just finished giving His disciples the “Our Father” prayer, and now He adds this parable as a way of expressing the great confidence and determination with which we must pray to the Father. The parable concludes by stating that even if the person in bed does not get up to meet the request, they will do so “because of his persistence.” And though God always is attentive to our prayer, our persistence is an essential quality we must have.

 

When we pray to God with persistence, never doubting the goodness and generosity of God, God will pour forth upon us everything that is good. Of course, if our prayer is for something that is selfish or not in accord with the will of God, then all the begging in the world will not be effective. But when we pray as the “Our Father” prayer teaches us, then we can be certain that our fidelity to that prayer, prayed with the utmost trust and persistence, will effect the good gifts of the will of God in our lives.

One of the seven petitions of the “Our Father” prayer is “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” This is a truly beautiful petition that requires not only ongoing persistence but also detachment from our preference in life. To pray that “God’s” will be done and that “His” Kingdom come is a way of also saying that you surrender all of your preferences to God. You come to God acknowledging that your will may not be God’s will. Thus, this petition expresses detachment in a powerful way.

 

Reflect, today, upon the importance of praying with the utmost fervor and persistence to God. Reflect, also, upon the importance of doing so with detachment. What does God want of you? What is His holy will for your life? Seek that will and that will alone with all your heart and you will discover that His will truly will come to be in your life.

 

My perfect Lord, Your will and Your will alone is what I want and seek. I seek it with all the powers of my soul. Help me to grow in confidence in You and Your goodness. May I trust in You and believe with all my heart that You truly will bring forth Your holy will in my life if I only persist in prayer and trust. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 6th October, 2021

The Perfect Prayer

 

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1

 

What a great prayer for us to pray also, “Lord, teach us to pray…” Jesus’ response to this disciple was to present him with the “Our Father” prayer. Of this prayer, Saint Andre Bessette said, “When you say the Our Father, God’s ear is next to your lips.” The great mystical Doctor of the Church Saint Teresa of Ávila gave this advice while praying the Lord’s Prayer: “Much more is accomplished by a single word of the Our Father said, now and then, from our heart, than by the whole prayer repeated many times in haste and without attention.” And Saint Thérèse of Lisieux said that the “Our Father” prayer was one of the prayers she prayed when she felt so spiritually barren that she could not summon up a single worthwhile thought.

 

At the Holy Mass, when the priest invites the people of God to pray the “Our Father,” he says, in part, that this prayer is one that “…we dare to say.” This is an interesting statement which especially reveals the childlike boldness we are called to have as we pray this prayer sincerely from the heart. It is exceptionally bold to call God our “Father.”

 

Chapter 11 of My Catholic Worship, which offers a teaching on this perfect prayer, states the following about this boldness:

 

Each Christian is to see the Father as my Father.  We must see ourselves as God’s children and approach Him with the confidence of a child.  A child with a loving parent is not afraid of that parent.  Rather, children have the greatest trust that their parents love them no matter what.  Even when they sin, children know they are still loved.  This must be our fundamental starting point for all prayer.  We must start with an understanding that God loves us no matter what.  With this understanding of God, we will have all the confidence we need to call on Him.

 

Since many of us are very familiar with this ideal prayer taught to us by our Lord Himself, there is a temptation to pray this prayer in a somewhat rote way. We can easily fail to say it from the depths of our hearts, making each word our own, offered with the utmost confidence to our loving Father in Heaven.

 

How do you pray the Lord’s Prayer? Do you pray it out of habit, failing to fully comprehend and mean the words you pray? Most likely this is the case for many.

 

Reflect, today, upon this most holy prayer given to us by the Son of God Himself. He is the author of this perfect prayer, so we should use it as the foundation of all of our prayer. Try to follow the advice of Saint Teresa of Ávila quoted above. Take each word of that prayer and pray it slowly, intentionally and with love. Begin by acknowledging God as your Father. Ponder the infinite care He has for you as a perfect father would. See Him in a real, intimate, and personal way. This perfect prayer begins by acknowledging Who God is and then continues with seven perfect petitions. After praying the introduction to this prayer, pick one of the seven petitions to meditate upon so that the richness of this prayer will have a transformative effect upon your soul.

 

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 5th October, 2021

Fidelity to Daily Prayer

 

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” 

 Luke 10:40–42

In many ways, this statement of our Lord summarizes the most important and central message of the Gospel. We are all called to choose “the better part” every day.

 

Jesus was close friends with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He frequently visited their home, which was only a short distance from Jerusalem. On this occasion, when Jesus was visiting their home, one of these siblings, Mary, had placed herself at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him and conversing with Him. Martha was busy with the important details of hospitality and appeared to be upset with Mary, so she confronted Jesus, asking Him to tell Mary to help her. But in so doing, she was also unknowingly trying to dissuade Mary from the most important purpose of her life.

 

As Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, she gave us an example of the most important focus we must have in life. Though our days will be filled with many necessary duties, such as cooking, cleaning, working, entertainment, and caring for others, we must never forget that which we were made for and that which we will be doing for all eternity: adoration of our glorious God.

 

Consider all that occupies your day. Though most of what you do may be important, do you daily take time out to adore our Lord, listen to Him and glorify Him through your prayer? We can often make time for many other important duties in life, as well as those that are not so important. We may spend hours on chores, immerse ourselves in movies, devote whole evenings to reading, fulfill our duties in the workplace, but only devote a minute or two each day, if even that, to silent prayer and adoration of our God!

 

What would happen to your life if you chose “the better part” for a full hour every day? What if you decided that the first hour of your day would be dedicated to an imitation of Mary in the Gospel passage and that you would do nothing but adore Jesus through silent prayer and meditation? At first, you may think of the many other tasks you could be doing at that moment. You may decide that you do not have the time for extended prayer every day. But is that true? Perhaps you are actually being Martha to yourself, saying to yourself that you should do more important things with your time and that Jesus will understand if you do not spend time with Him alone in adoration and prayer every day. If that is you, then be very attentive to this Gospel passage. In many ways, Jesus deeply desires to say this about you. He wants to say of you that you have chosen the better part for an extended period of time every day and that this will not be taken from you.

 

Reflect, today, upon that which is most important in life. Dispel excuses and temptations to simply fulfill all the other important duties of life, neglecting that which is most important. Reflect upon the simple truth that Jesus does want you to devote much time to Him every day for silent prayer and adoration. Do not give into excuses and distractions. Commit yourself to remain at the feet of Jesus, adoring Him, listening to Him and loving Him. If you do, you will find that your life is more ordered and that the time you spend in prayer bears more good fruit than every other important duty you fulfill every day.

 

My inviting Lord, I do believe that adoration of You in silent and devout prayer is the most important duty I have to fulfill every day. May I never be deterred from adoring You every day, devoting as much time as You desire to silent and loving prayer. May I discover this gift of prayer, dear Lord, and sit at Your feet with Mary and with all the glorious saints. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 30th September, 2021

Protected by the Good Shepherd

 

Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”  Luke 10:1–3

 

Why would our Lord send His disciples out like lambs among wolves? At first, this might be concerning and cause us to wonder if our Lord were sending them into a situation in which they would encounter harm. Saint Ambrose, in commenting on this, explains that there is no reason for these disciples to fear, since Jesus is the Good Shepherd Who always protects His sheep. It’s helpful to reflect upon what sort of danger these disciples would encounter on this mission and all future missions and to contrast that danger with the only form of danger we should fear.

 

The “wolves” in this situation are especially some of the cruel religious and civil leaders of that time, as well as those who would reject the disciples and their teaching. When looking at the worldly danger that our Lord encountered, as well as His disciples, we see that it was a danger of persecution. But is that a “danger” that one should fear? Clearly not, since Jesus never cowered in the face of it. In the Acts of the Apostles, we see how this same fate of persecution befell Jesus’ followers. But in the divine perspective, true “danger” is only that which has the potential to do eternal damage to one’s soul: sin. 

 

Sin and sin alone has the potential to do true damage, not persecution or even death. So when Jesus sent His disciples out “like lambs among wolves,” He was fully aware of the persecution they would receive in this world. But He exhorted them and sent them, because He knew that even if they were to eventually suffer persecution and death, their faith and courage in the midst of it would gain them merit in eternal life and would become an instrument of grace for others in their life of faith. As was commonly said in the early Church, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.” For that reason, as Jesus sent these sheep out among wolves, He also accompanied their souls as the Good Shepherd, protecting their virtue, strengthening them in their witness to the faith, and keeping them from fear and from sin. He did not want them to fear the death of their body or their worldly reputation—rather, only the death of their souls which He, as the Good Shepherd, vigorously defended.

 

Reflect, today, upon the glorious truth that our Lord also sends you forth to be like a lamb among wolves. The fulfillment of the will of God in your life will take fortitude and courage as you trust that our Lord will keep you free from the countless temptations of sin. As you go forth, do not be surprised if you encounter harshness from others in the world, judgment and even persecution in various forms. When you do, respond with virtue. Keep faith, hope and charity alive in your life and do not fear those who can harm you in ways that are not eternal. Instead, stay firmly grounded in your mission to love and to share the mercy and truth of God in our world, no matter the consequences. Doing so will bring with it countless interior blessings of grace and will enable God to use you as an instrument of His grace in ways beyond that which you can ever conceive.

 

My courageous Lord, You came face-to-face with a harshness and cruelty in this world that ultimately enabled You to give witness to Your divine love by freely laying down Your life. Please send me forth on Your mission and strengthen me with every divine virtue so that I will not fear any form of persecution but always remain steadfast in my love of You, overcoming all fear through the gift of faith. My life is Yours, dear Lord. Do with me as You will. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 29th September, 2021

The Celestial Hosts of Heaven

 

“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:51

 

In Heaven, we will see all things as God sees them. That full perspective will be beyond glorious. And among the many things that will amaze us from the perspective of Heaven is the incredibly powerful ways that the celestial beings participate in the bringing forth of the Kingdom of God. The Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Guardian Angels all cooperate with God’s grace in ways similar to how every member of an orchestra works together to produce a single piece of beautiful music. God is the conductor, but these celestial beings participate in the grand fulfillment of the will of God, acting as living instruments of His divine grace.

 

Today’s feast honors three of the great archangels mentioned in Scripture: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. The Archangel Michael is described as a protector in the Old Testament Book of Daniel and as one who does battle with satan in the Books of Revelation and Jude. In Revelation, Michael casts satan out of Heaven along with the other fallen angels. The Archangel Gabriel is spoken of also in the Book of Daniel as one who interprets Daniel’s vision. In the New Testament, he is identified as the one who appears to the high priest Zechariah while Zechariah is offering sacrifice in the temple. In that appearance, Gabriel revealed to Zechariah that his wife would have a child, even though she was advanced in years. Gabriel is perhaps best known as the one sent to the Blessed Virgin Mary to reveal to her that she will become the mother of the Savior of the World. Lastly, the Archangel Raphael is referred to in the Old Testament Book of Tobit and is said to have been sent to bring healing to Tobit’s eyes.

 

As we honor these three archangels, we can be certain that they are three of a countless number of other angelic beings who cooperate with God, bringing forth His grace and His will into our world. Try to imagine that profound truth. Some angelic beings build up the Kingdom of God by devoting their existence to the perpetual worship of God before His throne. The highest of these are the Seraphim. Other angelic beings build up the Kingdom by bringing forth God’s grace and truth to us, intervening in our lives in accord with God’s will. These are especially the guardian angels. The archangels, three of whom we honor today, especially have the task of communicating to us the most important messages and graces from God. 

 

Reflect, today, upon the glorious reality of the whole host of the celestial beings. Specifically call upon the mediation of these three celestial beings whose names we know, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, as well as upon the mediation of our guardian angels and all others celestial beings. By doing this, we not only entrust ourselves to their loving care, but we also make an act of faith in God by expressing our belief that God has chosen to use these celestial beings to bring forth His Kingdom. By themselves, angels are powerless to act. But since they act only in unison with the will of God, their mediation is as powerful as the grace of God, since it is God Who works through them. Acknowledge them today, call upon their mediation and profess your faith in the glorious work that they do to build up God’s Kingdom.

 

Most glorious Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, please do come to my aid. I entrust myself, my family, our Church and the entire world to your loving mediation. Please bring forth God’s grace into our lives, communicate God’s Word and His holy Will, protect us from all harm and bring healing to those in need. Angels of God, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 28th September, 2021

Courage to Conquer Fear

 

When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. Luke 9:51–52

 

Shortly after Jesus spoke to His disciples about His pending suffering, death and resurrection, we read that Jesus “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” There is much to reflect upon in that short statement.

 

First of all, Jerusalem was the place of the Temple where the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament took place as a prefiguration of the one and ultimate sacrifice to come. Jesus came into this world as the Lamb of God, the Sacrificial Victim Who would die for our sins. He knew His ultimate end in this world, and He knew it would require much suffering. This knowledge of His future suffering is the foundational context of this passage today.

 

As Jesus’ suffering and death drew close, He became more and more determined in His human will to fulfill the will of the Father by laying down His life. Of course, Jesus always fulfilled the will of the Father, but little by little the human manifestation of Jesus’s determination became more and more pronounced. The specific human virtue that slowly became manifest was courage. Spiritual courage is the supernatural ability to embrace the will of the Father when His will leads a person into a life of sacrifice. Within our fallen human nature, we tend to avoid sacrifice. We often work to avoid conflict and suffering and to embrace the easy way in life. Therefore, to come face-to-face with some future suffering brings forth a temptation to fear—and that fear requires courage to overcome it. As His suffering drew closer, the temptation to fear grew stronger and, as a result, His perfect virtue of courage became more manifest. Note that Jesus not only decided to go to Jerusalem to offer His life sacrificially, He “resolutely determined” to do so. There was no wavering, no doubting the Father’s will, no hesitancy, no fear. His perfect sacrificial love slowly became manifest for all to see.

 

Another reason Jesus became resolute in His determination to travel to Jerusalem was to witness His love to His disciples. They needed courage themselves.  So, as they listened to Jesus speak about what was coming in Jerusalem and as they witnessed His unwavering determination, they were also encouraged and were strengthened to overcome the temptations to fear. Of course, they only perfected that virtue later in their lives when they also followed in the footsteps of our Lord, laying down their own lives as martyrs.

 

Reflect, today, upon that which causes fear and anxiety in your own life. If that suffering is of your own making, then seek to rectify it. But if that suffering is a cross that our Lord is calling you to embrace with love, then do so sacrificially and with much determination. Do not be cowed by the heaviness of the cross you are given in life. The crosses we are called to embrace are always able to be transformed into grace. Allow courage to grow within you and allow the witness of our Lord to encourage you as you seek to imitate His sacrificial love.

 

My courageous Lord, You faced Your suffering with much courage, strength, surrender and hope. You saw the value of Your free embrace of Your suffering and chose it with all the power of your soul. Give me the grace I need, dear Lord, to also resolutely determine to journey toward the cross I am called to embrace in life, so that my free embrace of my cross will unite me more fully with You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 27th September, 2021

Attentive to the Details of Grace

 

An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” Luke 9:48

 

This conversation between Jesus and His disciples took place shortly after three events. First, it took place after the disciples returned from the first mission on which Jesus had sent them. Second, it was after Peter made his profession of faith stating that Jesus was “The Messiah of God.” Third, it occurred after the Transfiguration in which Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain to reveal His glory. After these three events, it appears that a certain rivalry began to manifest itself among the disciples. Perhaps there was jealousy of Peter’s profession of faith, or perhaps the disciples who were not taken up the mountain of the Transfiguration were a bit envious. But whatever the cause, Jesus addresses what is the beginning of a desire for vainglory among the disciples.

 

In commenting on this passage, Saint Cyril of Alexandria notes that in the spiritual battle, the devil’s first tactic is to stir up fleshly desires within our souls to keep us bound by the desire for those pleasures. However, when a person is able to escape these more base and fleshly desires, then the devil stirs up a spiritual sin; namely, a selfishness and vainglory. It is this desire for vainglory, the desire to be perceived as the greatest, with which the disciples were struggling.

 

Our Lord addresses the disciples after He “realized the intention of their hearts.” This is a very important line. Essentially, Jesus noticed that the desire for vainglory was just beginning. By analogy, when a weed begins to grow, it is easily pulled up by the roots. But if it is left to grow for a while, then the roots are more difficult to pull up, and doing so often affects the other plants and ground around the weed. So it is with sin. By gently bringing a child into their midst and stating that “the one who is least among you is the one who is the greatest,” Jesus was helping them to remove this “weed” of the sin of vainglory before it took deep root in their lives. As Jesus continues His conversation with the disciples, He continues to act with gentleness, addressing their slight error in their reasoning.

 

This is important to understand, because our Lord always desires to address our sin the very moment it begins. If we are open to His subtle promptings of grace, gently redirecting our actions the moment we begin to go astray, then our attentiveness to His loving rebuke will help keep us from becoming more deeply rooted in our error, whatever it may be. Establishing a practice of constant self-reflection greatly helps with this. Establishing this habit means we do not see our Lord as a harsh and critical Judge; rather, we see Him in His gentleness and care. This image of Jesus gently bringing a child before the disciples so as to teach them about true greatness should help us to realize that we should never fear these gentle promptings of grace.

 

Reflect, today, upon our Lord appearing before you, gently addressing the small sins with which you are struggling. Of course, all serious sins must be firmly dealt with first. But once all serious sin is rooted out of your life, be attentive to the gentle and merciful promptings of grace by which Jesus wants to root out every small sin at its beginning and even every spiritual imperfection. Attentiveness to these graces is the surest way to grow in holiness and to allow our Lord to lead you into His glorious will, making you truly great within His Kingdom.

 

My most merciful and gentle Jesus, I thank You for the many ways in which You come to me, revealing Your love and grace. Please help me to see clearly the ways that I must change, so that even the beginnings of the smallest sin in my life may be rooted out. I love You, my Lord. Help me to love You with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 24th September, 2021

The Deepest Human Satisfaction

 

 

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Luke 9:18

 

It’s interesting that Jesus was both “praying in solitude” and that “the disciples were with him.” Saint Bede explains this apparent contradiction by stating that “the Son alone is able to penetrate the incomprehensible secrets of the Father’s will.” Therefore, our Lord was always alone with the Father in the sense that only Jesus knew the Father fully and intimately. This is because He is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Eternal Son of the Father.

 

With that fact clearly understood, it’s also important to understand that as Jesus prayed to the Father within His human nature, something new took place. Though Jesus was eternally with the Father, His human nature was not eternally with the Father. Therefore, as the Eternal Son of God communed with the Eternal Father while living in human flesh, human nature was suddenly elevated to a height that it had never been before. Not only was the Eternal Son living in perfect union with the Father, but now the Eternal Son, fully human, brought His human nature into this oneness.

 

Though this may seem a bit philosophical to some, it points to a very important reality that affects us all. Through our Lord’s human prayer to the Father, we are all invited to join with Jesus and share in this divine oneness. The Son of God, as a human being, made it possible for us as humans to share in the elevation of our very lives to oneness with God the Father. And though the Son of God will always retain a unique union with the Father, we are, nonetheless, by participation, invited to share in their life.

 

So why is this important? One reason is that there is no greater human fulfillment we could ever achieve than to share in the prayer of the Son to the Father. Throughout our lives, we are constantly looking for fulfillment in one form or another. We want to be happy. We want enjoyment in life. We have a natural desire for happiness that we are constantly seeking to fulfill. What’s important to understand is that the greatest happiness comes by sharing in the deep human prayer of the Son to the Father. Prayer, true prayer, is the answer to our deepest desire.

 

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you regularly engage in deep prayer. Can you point to times when you, like our Lord, were alone with God, communing with Him in the depths of your human soul, being drawn to Him through prayer? There are many levels of prayer, as is attested to by many saints. Make the choice to deepen your prayer. Go before our Lord today and pour out your heart to Him, asking Him to draw you into the holy solitude of His prayer to the Father. Doing so will bring forth in you the deepest human satisfaction possible in life. 

 

My praying Lord, as You spent time alone with the Father, You united Your human nature with Him, thus elevating our nature to a glorious degree. Please draw me to You, dear Lord, so that I may know You and the Father through true, deep and sustaining prayer. May this oneness with You be the cause of my deepest fulfillment in life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 23rd September, 2021

Courage to Change

 

Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead”; others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.” Luke 9:7–8

 

Herod the tetrarch, also known as Herod Antipas, ruled the Jews of Galilee for some forty-two years. He began his reign in 2 BC and continued to reign until he was exiled by the Roman Emperor in 37 AD. During his reign, he spent much time in Tiberias, one of the main cities on the western edge of the Sea of Galilee. Most of Jesus’ ministry took place within the region of Herod’s domain, all of Galilee, so Herod was very aware of the many stories about Jesus.

 

Today’s Gospel concludes by saying that Herod kept trying to see Jesus. Of course, Herod, just like anyone living in that region, could have traveled to where Jesus was preaching so as to listen to Him at any time. But he didn’t do that. Instead, he continued to receive reports about Jesus and remained curious about Him, trying to find a way to figure out Who Jesus was.

 

Try to imagine what would have happened if Herod would have traveled to where Jesus was preaching so as to listen to Him with an open heart. If he would have done that, and truly listened, Herod would have received one of the greatest gifts imaginable. He would have received the gift of faith and conversion and would have begun down the road toward eternal salvation. But Herod was living an immoral life. He was known to be a cruel leader and also an unrepentant adulterer. He loved his power and was quite jealous of it. Herod most likely knew, at least in the back of his mind, that if he were to listen to Jesus, he would have to change. And he most likely didn’t want to change.

 

This presents us all with a powerful lesson. Each one of us can easily dismiss various communications and invitations from our Lord, because, deep down, we do not want to change. God is speaking to us all day long, every day of our lives. He is constantly offering us His message of the full Gospel. And though you may be open to much of what God says, there are most likely parts of His divine message that you either knowingly or unknowingly do not listen to. The key to being able to hear everything that God wants to speak to you is to be disposed to completely change in any and every way that God wants you to change.

 

Reflect, today, upon Herod. First, reflect upon his curiosity about Jesus. This is a good quality, in that it’s much better than being indifferent. From there, think also about the fact that Herod never went to Jesus to listen to Him. His first meeting with Jesus was on the night of His arrest, when he interrogated our Lord and made fun of Him. As you consider Herod’s obstinacy, use it as an examination of your own life. Where you see any small reflection of obstinacy, fear of change or a closed heart, seek to remedy that by turning to our Lord telling Him you are open to all He wishes to say and that you are ready and willing to change in any way He calls you to do so. Do not fear the change our Lord wants of you. Embracing that change will land you on the quick and narrow road toward true holiness of life.

 

My ever-present Lord, You call to me day and night, inviting me to change as I listen to Your holy Word. I thank You for these constant promptings of grace and commit myself to remain open to all that You ask of me. I choose You, my Lord. And as I turn to You, I pray that I will have the courage I need to respond wholeheartedly to Your call. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 22nd September, 2021

Authority Over demons

 

Jesus summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. Luke 9:1–2

 

This is the first time that Jesus sends His Apostles out on a mission. On this mission, He is preparing them for their ultimate mission, which will come at the time of Pentecost, after Jesus dies, rises and ascends to Heaven. But for now, Jesus commissions these Apostles to do three things: to cast out demons, heal the sick and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

 

Just like the Apostles, we are called to combat the devil and his demons. They are fallen angels who retain their natural powers, and they use those natural powers to try to deceive us, oppress us and, in some cases, even possess us. But demons are powerless in the face of God, and God gives us spiritual authority over them. And though there are some who are given the unique ministry of exorcism within the Church, all of us do have spiritual authority over demons, especially over their natural spiritual attacks of temptations.

 

We combat demons primarily by revealing their lies and bringing them to light. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in his spiritual classic The Spiritual Exercises, explains to us some of the ordinary tactics these demons use and how we overcome them. He says that for those steeped in a life of serious sin, the demons continually place before their mind the lie that their sins are enjoyable and rewarding, so that they will continue to choose them. And for those who are striving for holiness, these demons try to discourage them in their deepening conversion. They “bite, sadden and put obstacles, disquieting with false reasons, that one may not go on” (Rule 2). The way to overcome these temptations is by turning to the truth. First, by realizing that the false “pleasures” of sin are just that: false, fleeting and ultimately demeaning. Furthermore, we overcome these temptations by receiving from God “courage and strength, consolations, tears, inspirations and quiet, easing, and putting away all obstacles.” In other words, we overcome the demons by allowing God to strengthen us, clear our thinking, dispel all false obstacles on the road to holiness and by receiving the abundant consolations that God bestows as help on the journey.

 

Reflect, today, upon the fact that our Lord wants to minister to you in this threefold way. If you can work to overcome the obstacles put in your path by these demons, then you are in a good position to share in the other two missions given to the Apostles. You will be able to experience mental, emotional and spiritual healing in your life, and you will be able to allow the Kingdom of God to grow strong and powerful within your own soul. From there, you will be sent on a mission by our Lord to bring these graces to others in need.

 

My all-powerful Lord, You have authority over evil, the power to heal and offer all the gifts of eternal salvation. Help me to be open to the ways that You desire to come to me. Please free me from the attacks of the evil one, bring healing and hope, and bring forth the abundance of Your glorious Kingdom in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 21st September, 2021

Seeking True Satisfaction

 

 

“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Matthew 9:11–13

 

Just prior to this passage quoted above, Jesus saw Matthew, a tax collector, sitting at his custom post collecting taxes. Jesus walked up to him and said two simple words: “Follow me.” What did Matthew do? He got up and followed Jesus and invited Him to his home for a meal. When the Pharisees saw this, they acted with judgment and cruelty. They said, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Their reaction and Jesus’ subsequent response to them says much about the goodness of our Lord.

 

When Jesus said that He “did not come to call the righteous but sinners,” He was not speaking of the truly righteous. For example, the most righteous person alive at that time, other than Jesus, was His dear mother. And we can be certain that not only did Jesus call her but that she always responded with her whole heart. However, Jesus was speaking of those who were “self-righteous.” A self-righteous person is one who thinks highly of themself, ignoring the truth of God but choosing, instead, to elevate their own image in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. Simply put, to be self-righteous is to believe a lie and, in fact, to believe the worst of lies. It’s the worst of lies because this sin has the effect of causing a person to remain obstinate and stuck in their sin. The self-righteous person does not see any need for repentance or change in their life. Therefore, they are not open to the Word of God and to allowing that Word to transform them.

 

Saint Matthew, whom we honor today, was different. He was a sinner indeed. Most likely he was greedy and overly attached to his money. Tax collectors were not highly regarded at that time because they were Jews who worked for the Romans and were, therefore, seen as traitors to their own people. Additionally, they were seen as thieves, because they often extorted more than they should receive so that they could pocket some of the money. For this reason, many Jews also feared the tax collectors because they knew the tax collectors had Rome’s support in this illicit activity.

What’s amazing is that Jesus approached Matthew, the sinner and tax collector, and confidently called him to be a follower. Most likely, Jesus could see into his heart. He knew Matthew was not happy with his life and was searching for more. Therefore, as soon as Jesus called him to follow Him, it is clear that something took place within Matthew’s soul. The fact that he got up and followed our Lord shows that the spiritual draw to Jesus was far more powerful than his desire for earthly wealth.

 

This same truth applies to each and every one of us. No matter what we find ourselves drawn to and no matter how we seek satisfaction in life, the supernatural truth is that there is only one thing that will satisfy. We could have all the money in the world, all earthly power and prestige, and still, in the depths of our souls, we will not find peace until we turn to Jesus and follow Him. Some people learn this truth early in life, some later in life, and some never discover it at all.

 

Reflect, today, upon how satisfied you are with your life. Is there something missing? If so, look at your goals and priorities in life. What do you spend most of your time thinking about, talking about and daydreaming about? If it is not our Lord Who occupies your mind, heart and every desire, then you can expect that you will experience discontentment in life. In that case, look to the witness of Saint Matthew. He is a saint today because he responded to Jesus’ invitation to abandon his life of sin and greed so as to follow Him in poverty. But in that worldly poverty and abandonment of earthly things, Saint Matthew became abundantly rich and will remain so forever in Heaven.

 

Lord of all satisfaction, You call all Your people to follow You. Please open my mind and heart to that call so that I can not only hear You but also respond with all my heart. Please help me to detach from the things of this world that keep me from You, so that I can follow You wherever You lead. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 20th September, 2021

Growth in Understanding

 

“Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” Luke 8:18

 

Do you have much? Or little? According to Jesus’ words, if you have much, then you will receive much more; but if you have little, then you will lose even what you have. Does this seem fair?

 

Of course, our Lord is not speaking in worldly terms. He’s not saying that if you have much money, then you will gain more, or if you are poor, then you will become poorer. Instead, Jesus is speaking about the grace that comes from understanding His holy Word. Notice that the passage above begins by saying, “Take care, then, how you hear.”

 

To “hear” the Word of God implies that you truly receive what Jesus teaches. Hearing is not just hearing the words spoken with your ears. One early Church Father, Saint Bede, explains that truly hearing the Word of God with our minds leads us to love that Word, and loving the Word leads to understanding. This is not accomplished by an intellectual exercise alone, as if our natural gifts are the primary means by which we comprehend all that Jesus teaches. Rather, it comes through spiritual insight gained by the supernatural gift of the Spirit Who teaches us all things.

 

If you want “more” understanding of the mysteries of God, then commit yourself to engaging the holy Scriptures with your mind. Read the Scriptures, ponder them and pray with them. It’s easy to forget that the Word of God is a Living Word. This means that when we prayerfully immerse ourselves in the Scriptures, we are prayerfully encountering God Himself. God is alive in His holy Word. We meet Him, personally, and this happens only by a special grace that we must be open to receive.

 

The beautiful aspect of this teaching of Jesus is that the more we understand His Word by this grace, the more we will immerse ourselves in it, and it will continue to grow within us. If, however, we devote little time to engaging the Word of God in prayer, we will begin to “forget,” so to speak, the spiritual depths of the wisdom of God. We will lose the little understanding we have and when this happens, we will be prone to engaging and accepting the many confusions and deceptions alive in our world.

 

Reflect, today, upon your practice of prayerfully meditating upon the Scriptures. If this is not your current practice, resolve to make it so. Perhaps start with one of the Gospels and commit yourself to prayerfully reading it little by little every day. The goal is not to get through the books of the Bible. The goal is to enter into each book. Every chapter and every line provides us with a depth of spiritual insight and understanding just waiting to be given and received. Commit yourself to this holy practice, and you will be amazed at the spiritual riches our Lord bestows upon you.

 

Living Word of God, my Lord and my King, I thank You for the way in which You come to me and all Your children through Your written Word. Fill me with a love for that Word so that I will daily engage my mind in the deep truths revealed within it. May I meet You, dear Lord, and grow in an understanding of Who You are and what You wish to reveal to me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 17th September, 2021

All In!

 

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities… Luke 8:1–2

 

Our Lord was on a mission. He travelled on foot from one town to another, “preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.” His message truly was “good news.” He healed the sick, cast out demons and, most importantly, He forgave sins. As a result, many began to follow Him. Not only did His followers consist of the Twelve whom Jesus personally called and who He would eventually send forth as His Apostles, but others followed Him also. Today’s Gospel also mentions three women by name: Mary of Magdala, Joanna and Susanna. These are but a few of the people who were deeply touched by our Lord, who in turn left all to follow Him.

 

The choice of these first followers to abandon all and follow Jesus invites us to examine the extent to which we have committed our lives to following Him also. Among the many people who heard Jesus preach, there were undoubtedly various responses. Some rejected Him, others were intrigued by Him, others believed in Him but were not willing to become His disciple, and some did commit themselves wholeheartedly to Jesus and His mission of proclaiming good news. For the latter, the good news they heard changed their lives.

 

What is your response to our Lord? One good way to properly answer this question is to examine the amount of time and energy you have committed to our Lord and His message of good news. How much time have you spent reading His holy Word, praying to Him, speaking about Him and learning the faith that He has taught? How much does His message affect the decisions you make in life? Being a Christian is not something we can compartmentalize. We cannot have our “faith time” a few moments of each week and then spend the rest of our time on other activities. True, our days will be filled with many activities that are simply normal parts of our lives. We all have duties and responsibilities that occupy much of our days. But being “all in,” so to speak, means that Jesus and His message permeates everything we do. Even our ordinary daily activities such as work, chores, and the like must be done for God’s glory and in accord with His divine will. 

 

For Jesus’ first followers, though they traveled with Him from town to town and radically changed the course of their daily lives, they still would have engaged in many ordinary activities. But those ordinary activities were ultimately done so as to help them and others fulfill their ultimate mission of listening to and responding to the Word of God.

 

Reflect, today, upon the extent that you have consecrated every part of your life to our Lord and His mission. Doing so does not necessarily require that you become a public evangelist, spend all day at Church or the like. It simply means that Jesus and His mission are invited into everything you do every day all day. We can never serve our Lord fully enough. As you examine your daily activity, look for ways to bring our Lord into everything you do. Doing so will truly make you one of His faithful disciples who are all in with your life.

 

My divine Lord, You are on a mission to save souls and to build up Your glorious Kingdom. I thank You for inviting me to not only become transformed by Your holy Word but to help spread that Word to others. My life is Yours, dear Lord. Please enter into every part of my daily life and use me for Your glory. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 16th September, 2021

Awe at the Forgiveness of Sins

 

He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:48–50

 

These loving words from Jesus were spoken to a sinful woman who showed up unannounced at a dinner Jesus was having at the house of a Pharisee. The Pharisee looked down upon her in judgment, but she didn’t care. In sorrow for her sins, she anointed Jesus’ feet and humbled herself before Him, bathing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair.

 

The conversation ends with Jesus looking at her and telling her “Your sins are forgiven.” Note the reaction of those who were at the table. We are given an insight into their interior thoughts. They said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 

 

Those who have been born and raised within the faith have always understood that God forgives. We were taught this from an early age, learned much about it in preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and have heard this message throughout our lives in one form or another. But imagine never hearing about or experiencing the forgiveness of God throughout your life, and then suddenly one day you do. Imagine what these people must have been experiencing as they encountered the forgiveness of sins for the first time in the Person of Jesus as He forgave this sinful woman. They may have been a bit confused by this, but, perhaps more than anything else, they would have experienced a holy awe and amazement at what God had done. They saw this sinful woman come in, they sensed the judgment and demeaning attitude of the Pharisees, they saw her express sorrow and humiliation, and then they saw Jesus forgive her.

 

Are you amazed at the gift of the forgiveness of your sins and the sins of others? Or do you take forgiveness for granted? The wonder and awe that the people manifested at the forgiveness of the sins of this woman should help us to examine our own attitude toward God’s mercy and forgiveness. We need to continually foster within ourselves the same amazement at God’s mercy that these people had. We must work to never take forgiveness for granted or to see it as just one more normal part of life. Rather, we must see it as extraordinary, ever new, ever glorious and forever awe inspiring.

 

Reflect, today, upon the awe-inspired words of these first followers of Jesus: “Who is this who even forgives sins?” As you do, let God fill you with the deepest gratitude for the forgiveness He has offered you. Renew your appreciation for this unmerited gift from God and allow that gratitude to become the source of your ongoing amazement at the mercy of God.

 

My forgiving Lord, Your mercy and compassion for the sinner is truly awe-inspiring. Thank You for loving me and all Your followers with a love so deep. Please fill my heart with a holy awe at Your incredible mercy. May I always be amazed at Your forgiveness and always be filled with the deepest gratitude as I experience it in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

Wednesday 15th September, 2021

Mother Mary’s Sorrowful Heart

 

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. John 19:25

 

Our Blessed Mother, the Mother of the Son of God, loved her Son with a perfect love. She enfleshed every virtue to perfection. Her love for her Son was a love that was beyond what we could ever imagine. She conceived Him miraculously, bore Him in her womb, gave birth to Him, nursed Him, raised Him and loved Him throughout His life. It’s difficult to even imagine the depth and beauty of the love she had for Jesus. Generally speaking, a mother’s love is powerful, unwavering, deep and filled with tenderness. Try to imagine the Immaculate Heart of Mother Mary and the amazing depth of love alive in her heart.

 

Imagine also the scene depicted in the Gospel passage quoted above. This loving mother stood at the foot of the Cross, gazing upon her crucified Son, continuing to exude every motherly virtue. And because it’s hard to fathom the depth of her love for her Son, it’s also very hard to imagine the depth of sorrow and interior suffering she endured as she watched the cruelty toward Jesus unfold. All she could do in that moment was stand by Him and with Him in this moment of extreme agony. Her love was expressed, in that moment, by her fidelity to Him.

 

What’s beautiful to know is that love, sorrow, compassion and suffering were united as one within her Immaculate Heart. Within the beauty of her heart was every human emotion, fueled by God’s grace, enabling her to give to her Son the greatest gift she had: her motherhood. She was a true mother throughout her life, and, in this moment, as her Son hung on the Cross, her motherhood culminated in a perfect human expression.

We all long to be loved by another. To give and receive love is the greatest gift that we can give and receive. Love is what we were made for and is the source of our fulfillment in life. We can be certain that as Mother Mary stood at the foot of the Cross, her human heart experienced the greatest fulfillment ever known. Her heart was fulfilled because she exercised her motherly love to perfection.

 

Gaze upon the image of the Mother of God this day. Ponder, especially, all that she would have experienced within her human heart. Though theologians could write volumes on this meditation, the best way to understand her heart of love is through prayerful meditation. Ask our Blessed Mother to reveal her heart to you today. Find some time to sit in silent adoration of this holy image of perfect motherly love. As you do, know two things. First, know that Mother Mary has this same depth of love for you. Do not doubt it. Her heart burns with compassion as she gazes upon you, even in your sin.

 

Second, know that our Blessed Mother’s love must also fill your heart and overflow into the lives of others. We all must allow her compassion, concern, fidelity and mercy to flow through our hearts. Who do you need to love with the heart of our Blessed Mother? Seek to receive the love in the heart of the Mother of God and seek to give that love. Receive it in and then allow it to flow forth. There is truly nothing in this world more beautiful and awe inspiring than the holy image of this love.

 

My Immaculate and Sorrowful Mother, you stood at the foot of the Cross of your Son with the perfection of a mother’s love. Your heart was filled with a sorrow that was mixed with every holy virtue. Pray for me that I may understand this love more fully, so that I may also open up my own heart to your love. As I do, I pray that I will become an instrument of the love in your heart toward those in my life who suffer and are in most need of tender compassion and mercy. Sorrowful Heart of Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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