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
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
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
“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.”
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
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.