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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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