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Monday 21st September 2020

Responding to the Call

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.  Matthew 9:9

 

St. Matthew was a wealthy and “important” man in his day and age.  As a tax collector, he was also disliked by many of the Jews.  But he showed himself to be a good man by His immediate response to Jesus’ call.

 

We do not have many details to this story, but we have the details that matter.  We see that Matthew is at work collecting taxes.  We see that Jesus simply walks by him and calls him.  And we see that Matthew immediately gets up, abandons everything, and follows Jesus.  This is quite a conversion.

 

For most people, this sort of immediate response would not happen.  Most people would have to first get to know Jesus, be convinced by Him, talk to their family and friends, think, ponder and then decide if following Jesus was a good idea.  Most people go through a long rationalizing of God’s will before responding to it.  Is that you?

 

Every day God is calling us.  Every day He calls us to serve Him radically and completely in one way or another.  And every day we have an opportunity to respond just as Matthew did.  The key is to have two essential qualities.  First, we must recognize the voice of Jesus clearly and unmistakably.  We must, in faith, know what He says to us when He says it.  Secondly, we must be certain that whatever Jesus calls or inspires us to do is worth it.  If we can perfect these two qualities we will be in a position to imitate the quick and total response of St. Matthew.

 

Reflect, today, upon your willingness to imitate this Apostle.  What do you say and do when God calls each day?  Where you see a lacking, recommit yourself to a more radical following of Christ.  You will not regret it.

 

Lord, may I hear You speak and respond to You wholeheartedly every time.  May I follow You wherever You lead.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 18th September 2020

Following Jesus

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

 

Jesus was on a mission.  His mission was to preach to town after town tirelessly.  But He did not do this alone.  This passage points out that He was accompanied by the Apostles and several women who had been healed and forgiven by Him.

 

There is much this passage tells us.  One thing it tells us is that when we allow Jesus to touch our lives, heal us, forgive us and transform us, we want to follow Him wherever He goes.

 

The desire to follow Jesus was not only an emotional one.  Certainly there were emotions involved.  There was incredible gratitude and, as a result, a deep emotional bond.  But the bond went so much deeper.  It was a bond created by the gift of grace and salvation.  These followers of Jesus experienced a greater level of freedom from sin than they had ever experienced before.  Grace changed their lives and, as a result, they were ready and willing to make Jesus the center of their lives following Him wherever He went.

 

Reflect, today, upon two things.  First, have you allowed Jesus to pour forth an abundance of grace into your life?  Have you allowed Him to touch you, change you, forgive you and heal you?  If so, have you then repaid this grace by making the absolute choice to follow Him?  Following Jesus, wherever He goes, is not just something these Apostles and holy women did long ago.  It’s something that we are all called to do daily.  Reflect upon these two questions and recommit yourself where you see a lacking.

 

Lord, please do come and forgive me, heal me and transform me.  Help me to know Your saving power in my life.  When I receive this grace, help me to return to You in gratitude everything that I am and to follow You wherever You lead.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 17th September 2020

Begging for Mercy

 

A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.  Luke 7:36-38

 

In part, this Gospel is about the Pharisee.  If we read on in this passage we see the Pharisee becoming quite judgmental and condemning of this woman and Jesus.  Jesus rebuked Him just as He has done so many times before with the Pharisees.  But this passage is much more than a rebuke of the Pharisees.  At its heart, it’s a story of love.

 

The love is that love in the heart of this sinful woman.  It’s a love manifested in sorrow for sin and deep humility.  Her sin was great and, as a result, so was her humility and love.  Let’s look at that humility first.  It is seen in her actions as she came to Jesus.

 

First, “she stood behind Him…”
Second, she fell down “at His feet…”
Third, she was “weeping…”
Fourth, she washed His feet “with her tears…”
Fifth, she dried His feet “with her hair…”
Sixth, she “kissed” His feet.
Seventh, she “anointed” His feet with her costly perfume.

 

Stop for a moment and try to imagine this scene.  Try to see this sinful woman humbling herself in love before Jesus.  If this full action is not an act of deep sorrow, repentance and humility then it’s hard to know what else it is.  It’s an action that is not planned out, not calculated, not manipulative.  Rather, it’s deeply humble, sincere and total.  In this act, she cries out for mercy and compassion from Jesus and she doesn’t even have to say a word.  

 

Reflect, today, upon your own sin.  Unless you know your sin, you cannot manifest this type of humble sorrow.  Do you know your sin?  From there, consider getting down on the ground, on your knees, bowing your head to the ground before Jesus and sincerely begging for His compassion and mercy.  Try literally doing that.  Make it real and total.  The result is that Jesus will treat you in the same merciful way He did this sinful woman.

 

Lord, I beg for Your mercy.  I am a sinner and I deserve damnation.  I acknowledge my sin.  I beg, in Your mercy, to forgive my sin and pour forth Your infinite compassion upon me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

Wednesday 16th September 2020

The Music for Life

 

Jesus said to the crowds: “To what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’”  

Luke 7:31-32

 

So what does this story tell us?  First of all, the story means that children are ignoring the “songs” of each other.  Some children sing a song of sorrow and that song is rejected by others.  Some sang joyful songs for dancing, and others did not enter into the dance.  In other words, the appropriate response was not given to the offer of their music.

 

This is a clear reference to the fact that so many of the prophets who came before Jesus “sang songs” (meaning preached) inviting people to have sorrow for sin as well as to rejoice in the truth.  But despite the fact that the prophets poured out their hearts, so many people ignored them.

Jesus gives a strong condemnation of the people of that time for their refusal to listen to the words of the prophets.  He goes on to point out that many called John the Baptist one who was “possessed” and they called Jesus a “glutton and drunkard.”  The condemnation of the people by Jesus especially focuses upon one particular sin: Obstinacy.  This stubborn refusal to listen to the voice of God and change is a grave sin.  In fact, it is traditionally referred to as one of the sins against the Holy Spirit.  Do not let yourself become guilty of this sin.  Do not be obstinate and refuse to listen to the voice of God.

 

The positive message of this Gospel is that when God speaks to us we must listen!  Do you?  Do you listen attentively and respond wholeheartedly?  You should read it as an invitation to turn your full attention to God and listen to the beautiful “music” He sends forth.

 

Reflect, today, upon your willingness to listen.  Jesus strongly condemned those who did not listen and refused to hear Him.  Do not be counted among their number.

 

Lord, may I listen, hear, understand and respond to Your sacred voice.  May it be the refreshment and nourishment of my soul.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 15th September 2020

The Sorrowful Heart of our Blessed Mother

“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  Luke 2:34-35

 

What a profound, meaningful and very real feast we celebrate today.  Today we try to enter into the profound sorrow of the heart of our Blessed Mother as she endured the sufferings of her Son.

Mother Mary loved her Son Jesus with the perfect love of a mother.  Interestingly, it was that perfect love she had in her heart for Jesus that was the source of her deep spiritual suffering.  Her love drew her to be present to Jesus in His own Cross and sufferings.  And for that reason, as Jesus suffered, so did His mother.

 

But her suffering was not one of despair, it was a suffering of love.  Therefore, her sorrow was not a sadness; rather, it was a profound sharing in all that Jesus endured.  Her heart was perfectly united with her Son’s and, therefore, she endured all that He endured.  This is true love on the deepest and most beautiful level.

 

Today, on this memorial of her Sorrowful Heart, we are called to live in union with the Blessed Mother’s sorrow.  As we love her, we find ourselves feeling the same pain and suffering her heart still experiences as a result of the sins of the world.  Those sins, including our own sins, are what nailed her Son to the Cross.  

 

When we love our Blessed Mother and her Son Jesus, we will also grieve over sin; first our own and then the sins of others.  But it’s important to know that the sorrow we experience over sin is also a sorrow of love.  It’s a holy sorrow that ultimately motivates us to a deeper compassion and deeper unity with those around us, especially those who are wounded and those caught in sin.  It also motivates us to turn from sin in our own lives.

 

Reflect, today, upon the perfect love of the heart of our Blessed Mother.  That love is capable of rising above all suffering and pain and is the same love God wants to place in your heart.

 

Lord, help me to love with the love of Your dear Mother.  Help me to feel the same holy sorrow she felt and to allow that holy sorrow to deepen my concern and compassion for all those who suffer.  Jesus, I trust in You.  Mother Mary, pray for us.

Monday 14th September 2020

The Glorious Cross of Our Lord!

 

“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”  John 3:14-15

 

What a glorious feast we celebrate today!  It’s the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross!

Does the Cross truly make sense?  If we could separate ourselves from all we have learned about the Cross of Christ and just look at it from a secular and historical perspective, the Cross is a sign of great tragedy.  It’s connected to the story of a man who became quite popular with many, yet was vehemently hated by others.  In the end, those who hated this man arranged for His brutal crucifixion.  So, from a purely secular point of view, the Cross is an awful thing.

 

But Christians do not see the Cross from a secular point of view.  We see it from the divine perspective.  We see Jesus lifted up on the Cross for all to see.  We see Him using horrible suffering to eliminate suffering forever.  We see Him using death to destroy death itself.  Ultimately, we see Jesus become victorious on that Cross and, therefore, forever we see the Cross as an exalted and glorious throne!    

 

Moses’ actions in the desert prefigured the Cross.  Many people were dying from snake bites. Therefore, God told Moses to lift up the image of a snake on a pole so that all who looked upon it would be healed.  And that’s exactly what happened.  Ironically, the snake brought life instead of death!

 

Suffering occurs throughout our lives in various ways.  Perhaps for some it’s daily aches and pains from ill health, and for others it may be on a much deeper level, such as an emotional, personal, relational or spiritual one.  Sin, in fact, is the cause of the greatest suffering, so those who struggle deeply with sin in their lives suffer deeply from that sin.

 

So what is Jesus’ answer?  His answer is to turn our gaze to His Cross.  We are to look at Him in His misery and suffering and, in that gaze, we are called to see victory with faith.  We are called to know that God brings good out of all things, even our suffering.  The Father transformed the world eternally through the suffering and death of His only Son.  He also wants to transform us in our crosses.

 

Reflect, today, upon the Cross of Christ.  Spend some time gazing upon the crucifix.  See in that crucifix the answer to your own daily struggles.  Jesus is close to those who suffer, and His strength is available to all those who believe in Him.

 

Lord, help me to gaze upon the Cross.  Help me to experience in Your own sufferings a taste of Your final victory.  May I be strengthened and healed as I look upon You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 11th September 2020

Noticing the sins of others

 

“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”  Luke 6:41

 

How true this is!  How easy it is to see the minor faults of others and, at the same time, fail to see our own more obvious and serious faults.  Why is this the case?  

 

First of all, it’s hard to see our own faults because our sin of pride blinds us.  Pride keeps us from any honest self-reflection.  Pride becomes a mask we wear which presents a false persona.  Pride is an ugly sin because it keeps us from the truth.  It keeps us from seeing ourselves in the light of truth and, as a result, it keeps us from seeing the log in our own eye.    

 

When we are full of pride, another thing happens.  We start to focus in on every small fault of those around us.  Interestingly, this Gospel speaks of the tendency to see the “splinter” in your brother’s eye.  What does that tell us?  It tells us that those who are full of pride are not so much interested in putting down the serious sinner.  Rather, they tend to seek out those who have only small sins, “splinters” as sins, and they tend to try and make them seem more serious than they are.  Sadly, those steeped in pride feel far more threatened by the saint than by the serious sinner.  

 

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you struggle with being judgmental toward those around you.  Especially reflect upon whether or not you tend to be more critical of those striving for holiness.  If you do tend to do this, it may reveal that you struggle with pride more than you realize.

 

Lord, humble me and help me to be free of all pride.  May I also let go of judgmentalness and see others only in the way You want me to see them.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 10th September 2020

Love your enemies.

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  Luke 6:27-28

 

These words are clearly easier said than done.  When it comes right down to it, when someone acts in hate toward you and mistreats you, the last thing you want to do is love them, bless them and pray for them.  But Jesus is very clear on the fact that this is what we are called to do.

 

In the midst of some direct persecution or malice done to us, we can easily be hurt.  This hurt can lead us to anger, desires for revenge, and even hatred.  If we give in to these temptations, then we suddenly become the very thing that hurt us.  Sadly, hating those who have hurt us only makes things worse.

 

But it would be naive to deny a certain interior tension we all face when we are confronted with harm from another and the command from Jesus to love them in return.  If we are honest we must admit to this interior tension.  The tension comes as we try to embrace the command of total love despite the hurt and angry feelings we have.  

 

One thing this interior tension reveals is that God wants so much more for us than to simply live a life based on our feelings.  Being angry or hurt is not all that enjoyable.  In fact, it can be the cause of much misery.  But it doesn’t have to be.  If we understand this command of Jesus to love our enemies, we will start to understand that this is the path out of the misery.  We will start to realize that giving in to hurt feelings and returning anger for anger or hate for hate only makes the wound deeper.  On the other hand, if we can love when we are mistreated, we suddenly discover that love in this case is quite powerful.  It’s love that goes way beyond any feeling.  It’s true love purified and given freely as a gift from God.  It’s charity at the highest level and it is a charity that fills us with an abundance of authentic joy.

 

Reflect, today, upon any wounds you carry within.  Know that these wounds can become the source of your own holiness and happiness if you let God transform them and if you allow God to fill your heart with love for everyone who has mistreated you.

 

Lord, I know that I am called to love my enemies.  I know that I am called to love all those who have mistreated me.  Help me to surrender to You any feelings of anger or hate and replace those feelings with true charity.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 9th September 2020

The True Blessings

 

“Blessed are you who are poor…
Blessed are you who are now hungry…
Blessed are you who are now weeping…
Blessed are you when people hate you…
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!”  (See Luke 6:20-23)

 

Are the above statements typos?  Did Jesus really say these things?  

 

At first, the Beatitudes can seem quite confusing.  And when we strive to live them, they can be very challenging.  Why is it blessed to be poor and hungry?  Why is one blessed who is weeping and hated?  These are difficult questions with perfect answers.

 

The truth is that each Beatitude ends with a glorious outcome when fully embraced in accord with the will of God.  Poverty, hunger, sorrow and persecution are not, by themselves, blessings.  But when they befall us they do offer an opportunity for a blessing from God that far surpasses any difficulty the initial challenge presents.

 

Poverty affords one the opportunity to seek out the riches of Heaven above all else.  Hunger drives a person to seek the food of God that sustains beyond what the world can offer.  Weeping, when caused by one’s own sin or the sins of others, helps us seek justice, repentance, truth and mercy.  And persecution on account of Christ enables us to be purified in our faith and to trust in God in a way that leaves us abundantly blessed and filled with joy.

 

At first, the Beatitudes may not make sense to us.  It’s not that they are contrary to our human reason.  Rather, the Beatitudes go beyond what immediately makes sense and they enable us to live on a whole new level of faith, hope and love.  They teach us that the wisdom of God is far beyond our own limited human understanding.

 

Reflect, today, upon the incredible wisdom of God as He reveals these, the deepest teachings of the spiritual life.  At very least, try to reflect upon the fact that God’s wisdom is far above your wisdom.  If you struggle to make sense of something painful and difficult in your life, know that God has an answer if you but seek out His wisdom.

 

Lord, help me to find blessings in the many challenges and hardships of life.  Rather than seeing my crosses as evil, help me to see Your hand at work in transforming them and to experience a greater outpouring of Your grace in all things.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Tuesday 8th September 2020

Happy Birthday Blessed Mother!

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.”  Matthew 1:23

 

We all love to celebrate birthdays.  Today is the birthday celebration of our dear mother.  In December we honor her Immaculate Conception.  In January we celebrate her as the Mother of God.  In August we celebrate her Assumption into Heaven and there are many other days throughout the year where we honor a unique aspect of her life.  But today is simply her birthday celebration!

 

Celebrating her birthday is a way of celebrating her personhood.  We celebrate her simply for being herself.  We do not necessarily focus in on any of the unique, beautiful and profound aspects of her life today.  We do not necessarily look at all she accomplished, her perfect yes to God, her coronation in Heaven, her assumption or any other specifics.  All parts of her life are glorious, beautiful, awe-inspiring and worthy of their own unique feasts and celebration.

 

Today, however, we simply celebrate our Blessed Mother because she was created and brought into this world by God and that alone is worth celebrating.  We honor her simply because we love her and we celebrate her birthday as we would celebrate the birthday of anyone we love and care for.

 

Reflect, today, upon the fact that Mother Mary is your mother.  She truly is your mother and it’s worth celebrating her birthday in the same way that you would celebrate anyone’s birthday who was a member of your family.  Your honoring of Mary, today, is a way of solidifying your bond with her and assuring her that you desire her to be an important part of your life.  

 

Happy birthday, Blessed Mother!  We love you dearly!

 

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.  Precious Jesus, through the heart of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, our Mother, we trust in You!

Monday 7th September 2020

A Disturbing Sin

 

“Stretch out your hand.” He did so and his hand was restored. But they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.  Luke 6:10-11

 

This is a very disturbing passage.  Over and over again we find that the scribes and Pharisees acted with much intentional and calculated malice.  Here they were looking for anything they could try to accuse Jesus of doing.  And what do they find they can accuse Him of?  They witness Him doing a miracle on the Sabbath day.  And they act as if this is a sin on the part of Jesus.  Seriously?  

The reason this passage is so disturbing is because those who were the religious leaders of the time were clearly only interested in themselves, and Jesus was getting in the way of their self-importance.  He was becoming more popular and respected than the scribes and Pharisees and they were filled with envy.  

 

One important point to learn from this passage is that the sin of envy lead us to irrationality and foolishness.  This sin blinds us and leads us to think and say foolish things.  This is what the scribes and Pharisees did.  Who in their right mind would “accuse” Jesus of doing something as good as healing on the Sabbath?  Only those who have become blind by envy.

 

Though this passage is disturbing, it should hopefully become disturbing in a helpful way.  It should be an opportunity for each of us to look at our own lives and to examine the relationships we have.  Do you see envy present in any of those relationships?  Do you see yourself acting and thinking in an irrational way at times towards this person or that?

 

Reflect, today, upon any tendency you may have to be like the scribes and Pharisees.  Know that their actions were included in the Scripture to teach us about this ugly sin we sometimes struggle with.  Let the disturbing part of it motivate you to work toward freedom from envy in your life.

 

Lord, I do want to be free of the sins of pride, envy and jealousy.  Help me to see these in my life, to repent of them and to replace them with Your mercy and love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

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