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Friday 16th July, 2021

Freedom From Condemnation

 

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.” Matthew 12:1–2

 

When Moses gave the Ten Commandments to the people, there was a prohibition against working on the Sabbath. The Third Commandment said, in part, that “you shall not do any work” on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10). By the time of Jesus, the Pharisees had added much commentary to this law and expanded it to include as many as 39 different forms of work that they believed was forbidden. Included in their list were the practices of harvesting and milling of grain. For that reason, when the Pharisees saw that the disciples were picking heads of grain and rubbing the grain off the husks so that they could eat it, the Pharisees condemned them for violating what they interpreted to be an offense against the Third Commandment.

 

The first thing we can note from this passage is that the disciples were hungry. They were exceptionally devoted to Jesus and had been traveling with Him from town to town so that He could preach the Gospel. They had given up occupation, home, family and income so as to be singly devoted to Jesus and His mission. And as a result of this, they were living in poverty and relying upon the generosity of others. It is in this context that they chose to eat the most humble of foods: grain that they picked as they walked. They didn’t complain that there wasn’t a hot meal waiting for them at their destination. They were accepting of the many long journeys by foot that they made. They were okay with the fact that they did not get to sleep in their own bed every night. But they did have the basic human need for food, so they picked this grain as they walked to fulfill this basic need of hunger.

 

Though there are many lessons we can learn from this passage, one clear lesson is that of the temptation to judge and condemn others. When we fall into the trap of judging others, there are a few things that are common. First, judging and condemning often is based on perceived wrongs that are inflated and exaggerated. The Pharisees clearly inflated and exaggerated this “sin” of the disciples. In our lives, judgmentalness almost always makes the perceived sin of another far more serious than it is, if it is sin at all.

 

Another common temptation that flows from a judgmental and condemning heart is the failure to even understand the condemned party. In this case above, the Pharisees did not even inquire into the reason the disciples were picking and eating grain. They didn’t ask if they had been without food for some time or how long they had been traveling. It didn’t matter to them that they were hungry, and most likely, very hungry. So also with us, it is common that when we judge and condemn another, we arrive at our verdict without even seeking to understand the situation.

 

Lastly, it needs to be said that judging others is not our right. Doing so is usually reckless and caused by our own self-centeredness. God did not give the Pharisees the authority to expand the Third Commandment into 39 forbidden practices, nor did He give them the authority to apply those interpretations to the perceived actions of the disciples. And God does not give us the authority to judge others either. If another is clearly caught in a cycle of objectively grave sin, we must do all we can to help draw them out of that sin. But even in that case, we have no right to judge or condemn.

Reflect, today, upon any tendency you have toward being judgmental and condemning of others. If you see this tendency within yourself, spend time thinking about the Pharisees. Their self-righteousness was ugly and damaging. The negative example they set should inspire us to turn away from such acts of condemnation and to reject those temptations the moment they come.

 

My divine Judge of All, You and You alone know the heart, and You and You alone are capable of acting as Judge. Please exercise Your authority in my life so that I can perceive my own sin. As You do, please also free me from the tendency to judge and condemn. Fill me, instead, with a heart full of mercy and truth toward all. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 15th July, 2021

The Yoke of Christ

 

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Matthew 11:29–30

 

For those first followers of Jesus, a “yoke” was a familiar term. Many would have worked with oxen and other animals on a regular basis to plow their fields. To do so, they would place a wooden yoke over the oxen, which was a form of harness that was also attached to the plow (traces), making it easier for the oxen to till the soil. To be strapped with a yoke was an indication of servitude, since that was the role of the oxen.

 

In commenting upon this passage, Saint Augustine (in Sermon 126) analogized the yoke of Christ with the wings of a bird. A bird’s wings are large in comparison to their body. As a result, if someone were to conclude that removing the wings from a bird would make their life easier so that they are rid of that excess weight, such an action would have the effect of keeping them bound to the earth. But give them their wings back and that “yoke” will enable them to soar through the skies.

 

So it is with the yoke of our Lord. If we accept the invitation to be a servant of God and we take upon ourselves the yoke of Christ for the fulfillment of our mission of service, we will discover that the act of serving lightens us, refreshes us, invigorates us and energizes us. Service of God is what we are made for, just as a bird is made to have wings. And like the bird, if we remove the yoke of service of God from our lives, then we are weighed down and cannot accomplish the good we are meant to do.

We are also told in this passage that we are not to carry our yoke; rather, we are meant to carry Christ’s yoke. “Take my yoke upon you…,” Jesus said. Carrying Jesus’ yoke means we are called to live our lives with Him and in Him. He came to serve and to give His life for others. It is our duty to do the same by allowing Him to do so within us. It is Christ and His servitude that must be the motivation and foundation of our lives.

 

Reflect, today, upon your call to be a servant in Christ. How is God calling you to serve? Whom is God calling you to serve? And as you answer that question, how do you see your act of service? Does service seem burdensome to you? Or do you understand that it is what you are made for? If you do see humble service as a burden, then perhaps that is because you have not actually tried to serve with and in Christ Himself. Try to ponder Jesus placing His yoke upon your shoulders. Say “Yes” to that act and to the mission of humble service you are called to fulfill. Doing so wholeheartedly will not only refresh you, it will also give meaning and purpose to your life.

 

My gentle Lord, You came to us to serve and to give Your life out of love. Give me the grace I need to accept Your act of service to me and to also imitate and participate in the service to which I am called. May I take Your yoke upon me, dear Lord, so that I can fulfill the mission that You have entrusted to me. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Wednesday 14th July, 2021

Rejoicing at the Gift of Faith

 

 

At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”  Matthew 11:25

 

This passage is in stark contrast to the passage just before it in which Jesus chastised the towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum for not repenting and believing in Him. And as soon as Jesus issued those rebukes, He turned His eyes to Heaven and offered praise to the Father for revealing the hidden mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven to those who were “childlike.”

One of the greatest threats to a pure and childlike faith is intellectual pride. Those who consider themselves as “wise and learned” are often tempted to rely upon their own reasoning abilities to come to conclusions and beliefs in life. The problem is that even though the matters of our faith are fully reasonable, they go beyond the conclusions that human reason alone can achieve. We cannot figure out God by ourselves. We need the gift of faith for that, and the gift of faith begins with a spiritual communication from God through which He reveals to us Who He is and what is true. Only the childlike, meaning, those who are humble, are able to hear this form of communication from God and respond.

 

This passage also reveals to us that Jesus passionately rejoices in this form of humble faith. He gives “praise” to the Father in Heaven for witnessing such faith, because Jesus knows that this form of faith originates from the Father. 

 

In your life, it is important that you regularly ponder whether you are more like the wise and learned or like those who are childlike. Though God is an infinite and incomprehensible mystery, He must be known. And the only way we can come to know God is if He reveals Himself to us. And the only way God will reveal Himself to us is if we remain humble and childlike.

 

As we come to childlike faith, we must also imitate the praise that Jesus offered the Father for the faith that He witnessed in the lives of His followers. We, too, must turn our eyes to those who clearly manifest this pure knowledge of God by the gift of faith. As we see this faith lived, we must rejoice and offer praise to the Father. And this act of praise must be given not only when we see faith alive in others, it must also be given when we see the gift of faith grow within our own soul. We must foster a holy awe of what God does within us, and we must rejoice in that experience.

 

Reflect, today, upon Jesus giving praise to the Father as He witnesses the faith born in the hearts of His followers. When Jesus looks at you, what does He do? Does He issue chastisements? Or does His Sacred Heart rejoice and give praise for what He sees. Give joy to the Heart of Christ by humbling yourself to the point that you, too, are counted among the childlike who truly know and love God. 

 

My rejoicing Lord, You are attentive to the workings of grace in every human heart. As You see the Voice of the Father speaking to Your children, You rejoice at such a sight. Dear Lord, I pray that my own heart will be the cause of Your joy and Your praise of the Father in Heaven. Please speak to me and help me to believe with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 13th July, 2021

Becoming Lukewarm

 

 

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.” Matthew 11:21–22

 

Chorazin and Bethsaida were Jewish towns that Jesus visited frequently to preach and to perform many “mighty deeds.” They were located just north of His city of residence, Capernaum. Tyre and Sidon were pagan coastal cities northeast of Chorazin and Bethsaida, in modern-day Lebanon, and were towns known for their immoral living. Though Jesus did not spend much time in those cities, He did visit them at times. During Jesus’ first recorded visit there, recall His encounter with the Syrophoenician woman who begged Him to heal her daughter (Matthew 15:21–28). The Gospel passage quoted above took place prior to Jesus making that journey.

 

Why was Jesus so harsh toward the towns He spent so much of His time in. Why did He rebuke Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum? To answer this, it’s important to remember that Jesus spent most of His time preaching to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In other words, His primary mission during His public ministry was to share the Gospel with those who were descendants of Abraham and had been entrusted with the Law of Moses, the teachings of the prophets and the liturgical rites. For that reason, Jesus not only preached with perfection to these people, He also did miracle after miracle. And though there were many who did believe in Him and became His disciples, there were many others who were indifferent or who flatly refused to believe in Him.

 

Today, Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum could be seen as symbols of those Catholics who were born and raised in the faith and were given good formation by their parents and others. Many parents whose children have gone astray from the faith wonder what they did wrong. But the truth is that even Jesus Himself was rejected, despite His perfect preaching, perfect charity and undeniable miracles. And the same happens today. There are many who, despite being raised within the holy faith given to us by Christ Himself, reject that faith and turn a blind eye to the Gospel and the Church.

 

Jesus’ rebuke of those towns should echo today in the minds of those who, despite being given so much in regard to a good upbringing, have rejected God. Of course, that rejection is not always absolute and total. More often, it is a rejection in degrees. First, the rejection comes in the form of missing Mass. Then moral compromises. Then a lack of faith. And eventually confusion, doubt and a complete loss of faith sets in.

If you are one who has started down the road of becoming more and more lukewarm in your faith, then the rebuke of these towns by Jesus should be understood to also be directed at you in love. “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required…” (Luke 28:48). Therefore, to those who have been taught the faith well, much is expected. And when we fail to live up to that which is demanded of us by God out of love, a holy rebuke is exactly what we need.

 

Reflect, today, upon whether the rebuke Jesus issues toward these towns is also issued toward you. Have you been blessed with a good formation in the faith? If so, have you done all you can to help nourish that faith and grow in your love of God? Or have you allowed your faith to dim, to become lukewarm and to begin to wither and die? If you have been given much, have been raised in the faith and have been privileged with good examples in your life, then know God expects much of you. Answer that high calling that is given to you and respond to God with all your heart.

 

My passionate Jesus, You poured out Your heart and soul through Your preaching to the people of Israel. Although many accepted You, many others rejected You. I thank You for the privilege I have been given to hear Your holy Word preached to me. Help me to respond to You with all my heart so that I will be counted among those who listen and believe. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 12th July, 2021

Authentic Love

 

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37–38

 

At first read, this appears to be a difficult teaching of our Lord. But when properly understood, it is clear that it helps us keep our relationships with God and with our family properly ordered in charity and truth. Following this command will never result in a lack of love for family; rather, it will help us to love solely with the heart of Christ.

 

What does this teaching of Jesus require of us? Simply put, if a family member, or anyone else, imposes expectations on us that are contrary to the will of God, then we must choose the will of God over those other expectations. To understand this more clearly, think about how one might choose to love “father or mother” or “son or daughter” more than God. Say, for example, that a child chooses to go astray in their moral or faith life, and they want their parents to support them in their sin. But the parents remain firm in their moral convictions and, out of love, offer no support for the immoral lifestyle their child has chosen. This would become especially difficult for the parents if the child becomes angry and criticizes the parents, with the claim that the parents are being judgmental and are lacking in love. What the child is actually requesting is “Mom and dad, you must love me more than God and His laws.” And if the parents do not support their child’s misguided lifestyle, the relationship may be deeply wounded. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that Jesus followed this command by saying, “and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Love always involves the Cross. At times, it is a cross of personal self-sacrifice and self-giving. And at other times, it’s a cross by which our love is misunderstood, and we are deemed as “unloving” by those we actually love the most. When parents truly love their child, they will care first and foremost for their child’s eternal salvation and moral living, and they will not choose “friendship” with their child over truth.

 

Of course this same truth applies to every relationship we will have and even to our “relationship” to society as a whole. More and more, there are those who demand of us all that we support them in behaviors that are objectively disordered and contrary to the will of God. We are told that if we oppose these choices that some make, then we are judgmental and hateful. But this is exactly what Jesus is speaking about. If we choose to “love” others more than God and His holy will, meaning, if our first priority is to make people “feel” supported in the immoral and confused decisions they make, then we are not actually loving them at all. At least not with the love of God. Instead, we are prioritizing their sin over the truth they so deeply need to know so as to be set free and to enter into an authentic relationship of love with the God of Truth.

 

Reflect, today, upon true love. Love is only true love when it is grounded and centered in God and every moral law He has set forth. Reflect upon your own relationships, especially with family and those closest to you. Do you love them with the pure love of God? Does your love remain firmly rooted in the will of God? Or do you, at times, choose to compromise the truths of faith and morality so as to appease the misguided expectations of others. Kindness, gentleness and compassion must always be present. But moral truth must also be just as present and must be the foundation of every virtue we exercise in our relationships with everyone. Do not be afraid to love others exclusively with the mind and heart of God. Doing so is the only way to have true love for everyone in your life so as to help save their souls.

 

Lord of All, You call all people to love You with all of their mind, heart, soul and strength. You call us all to adhere to every truth that You have spoken. Give me the courage and love I need to not only love You above all but to also love others with Your love alone. Help me to embrace Your Cross when this is difficult so that I will be a better instrument of the love You have for all. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 9th July, 2021

Speaking in the Spirit of the Father

 

 

When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:19–20

 

This is an easy lesson to understand but very hard to live. This teaching of Jesus comes within the context of Him telling His Apostles that as they go forth to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, they will be handed over to courts, scourged in synagogues, and led before governors and kings. They will be persecuted in one town after another for sharing the Gospel. Though such a “pep-talk” may not at first seem that encouraging, the Gospel passage quoted above should provide much encouragement. Encouragement, that is, if they can follow Jesus’ advice in faith.

 

When we are condemned, judged, misunderstood and the like, it is very common to begin mounting our defense within our minds right away. We justify our actions, set up a tribunal in our minds by which we act as judge and jury of the other, finding them guilty and issuing them punishments. The sin traditionally referred to as “self-love” is a sin that stems from pride and is not love at all. It tempts us to defend ourselves, using our own human wisdom and counsel.

 

If we carefully consider Jesus’ teaching above, most people will realize that it is a very hard teaching to embrace. Essentially, when you are condemned or mistreated by another, remain silent in your heart. Do not immediately dwell on the wound they have inflicted. Do not become obsessed with the apparent injustice. Do not worry or become filled with anxiety at the perceived persecution. Instead, turn your eyes to Jesus, consider only His Voice and His Truth. And instead of looking at the wound that was inflicted upon you, look at the person inflicting it. And look at them with love. They are not the enemy, they are the battleground for Truth, and it is your mission to help them hear God’s truth. So how do you do that? Jesus’ answer is straightforward. “You will be given at that moment what you are to say.” Furthermore, Jesus makes it clear that it must be the “Spirit of your Father” who is to speak through you in such a case.

 

Living such a teaching especially requires two things: humility and trust. Humility will allow the temptation to self-love (pride) to be set aside. This is essential if you are to hear the Voice of God speaking to you and, ultimately, allow Him to speak through you. Second, it is essential that you trust that what Jesus says is true. You must trust that, if you are humble and open to His Voice, that He will give you His words when He wants them spoken. This is difficult because we often want to say far more than God chooses to say. God often calls us to silence in the face of injustice. A silence that is also imbued with love for the persecutor. This requires much trust in the grace of God, which results in an abundance of charity on your part.

 

Reflect, today, upon this teaching of our Lord. Consider how you react when someone condemns or judges you. How do you respond to such persecutions? Begin with silence, turn your eyes to the other out of love for them, and then listen and wait on the Lord. Wait until He gives you the words to say. Doing so is not only good for the persecutor, it is also exceptionally good for your own soul and holiness of life.

 

My patient Lord, You, Who are the Savior of the World and the God of all, allowed Yourself to be falsely accused, judged and condemned. During it all, You remained silent and spoke only when the Father spoke through You. Help me to be freed of all pride, dear Lord, so that I will speak only Your holy words, think only the thoughts inspired by You and act only on Your holy command of love. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 8th July, 2021

Soften Your Heart

 

“Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” Matthew 10:14–15

 

Recall how Jesus harshly condemned the Pharisees for their hardness of heart. In Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 23, Jesus issues seven “woe to you” condemnations of these Pharisees for being hypocrites and blind guides. These condemnations were acts of love on Jesus’ part, in that they had the goal of calling them to conversion. Similarly, in today’s Gospel, Jesus gives instructions to His Twelve about what they are to do if they preach the Gospel in a town and are rejected. They are to “shake the dust” from their feet.

 

This instruction was given within the context of Jesus sending the Twelve to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” with the commission of preaching the Gospel. At that time, they were to go to those who had already been entrusted with the message of the Law of Moses and the prophets but were to now proclaim that the Kingdom of God has arrived. Jesus was the promised Messiah, and He was now here. And for those of the house of Israel who reject Jesus, they were to be condemned by this prophetic act of the wiping of the dust of their town from the Apostles’ feet.

 

At first, this can seem somewhat harsh. One can think that patience, ongoing discussions, gentleness and the like would be more effective. And though that may be the case in many of our experiences today, the fact remains that Jesus gave the Twelve this command.

 

Just like the condemnation of the Pharisees, this prophetic action of wiping the dust from their feet was an act of love. Certainly, the Apostles were not to do this out of an irrational anger. They were not to do so because their pride was wounded by rejection or because of their disdain for these people. Rather, the Apostles were to do so as a way of showing the consequences of the townspeople’s actions. When these towns of the chosen people rejected the promised Messiah, they needed to understand the consequences. They needed to know that by rejecting the messengers, they were rejecting the saving grace of the Gospel.

 

First of all, it’s important to consider those about whom Jesus was speaking. He was speaking about those who “will not receive” nor even “listen” to the message of the Gospel. These are those who have fully rejected God and His saving message. They, by their free choice, have separated themselves from God and His holy Gospel. They are stubborn, obstinate and hard of heart. Thus, it is in this most extreme case, of being completely closed to the Gospel, that Jesus instructs His Apostles to leave with this prophetic act. Perhaps upon seeing this done, some people would experience a certain sense of loss. Perhaps some would realize they made a mistake. Perhaps some would experience a holy sense of guilt and would eventually soften their hearts.

 

This teaching of Jesus should also open your eyes. How fully do you receive and listen to the message of the Gospel? How attentive are you to the saving proclamation of God’s Kingdom? To the extent that you are open, the floodgates of God’s mercy flows forth. But to the extent that you are not, the experience of loss is encountered.

 

Reflect, today, upon your being present in one of these towns. Consider the many ways that you have been closed to all that God wants to speak to you. Open your heart wide open, listen with the utmost attentiveness, be humble before the message of the Gospel and be ready to receive it and to change your life as you do. Commit to being a member of the Kingdom of God so that all that God speaks to you will have a transforming effect upon your life.

 

My compassionate Lord, Your firmness and chastisements are an act of Your utmost mercy for those who are hard of heart. Please soften my heart, dear Lord, and when I am stubborn and closed, please rebuke me in Your great love so that I will always turn back to You and Your saving message with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 7th July, 2021

Proclaiming the Kingdom

 

Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 10:5–7

 

The very last words of Jesus, just prior to His Ascension into Heaven, expands the mandate we read above that Jesus gave to His Apostles. He later says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19). Eventually, Jesus sends the Twelve and all of His disciples to the ends of the earth to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. But here, prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit, and prior to the completion of Jesus’ earthly mission, He instructs the Twelve to go only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Thus, Jesus gives a sort of priority to the preaching of the Gospel to those who have already been entrusted with the revelations of the Old Testament. That is, the teachings of the Law of Moses and the prophets.

 

Though, today, we must all hear the call from our Lord to “make disciples of all nations,” we must also hear this unique commission to first preach to those who are already members of the family of God. And though, today, the Holy Spirit has already come and the Gospel has already gone forth far and wide, there is still an important spiritual lesson to be learned by Jesus’ progressive commission from those of the family of God to those who do not yet know the Gospel.

 

Start with yourself. By hearing Jesus give special emphasis to His Twelve to go first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, you should hear our Lord speaking especially about you. You, who were baptized, have been confirmed and have received Holy Communion, now have a special obligation to listen to and respond to the Gospel of Christ. From there, God entrusts you with the sharing of the Gospel in a special way to those who also share your faith. For that reason, parents are uniquely obliged to share the Gospel with their children. Friends within the same faith community are uniquely obliged to reach out to others who share their faith. And pastors of the Church must do the same. The Gospel is now universal and must be proclaimed to all people, but this passage appears to highlight the importance of sharing the Gospel with fellow disciples of Christ.

 

We know from our daily life that there are many who profess faith in Christ who still are not fully evangelized. There are many who have received the Sacraments but lack the deep faith to which they are called. It can appear that most fail to worship our Lord every day, and many fail in their prayerful worship each and every week. Therefore, it is useful to place yourself into this Gospel passage and to hear our Lord call you to especially devote yourself to the sharing of the Gospel with those who have already become members of His Church, even if it is only in name.

 

If we begin with ourselves, seeking to daily grow deeper in our life of faith, praying and seeking out the will of God, then God will more easily be able to use us as He wills to share the faith with those who belong to God’s family but whose faith may be weak. And for those who are “all in” and have truly given themselves over to Christ, God will certainly also use you for the proclamation of the Gospel to those who have not yet come to know Christ through the gift of faith.

 

Reflect, today, upon the invitation Jesus gives to you to be His evangelist. First, look at your own life and do all you can to allow the Gospel to transform you into a fervent follower of Christ. From there, be open to the many ways that God wants to use you every day to inspire others to become followers of our Lord. Start with your family. Pray for them. Be attentive to the promptings of grace God gives to reach out to them. Then turn your eyes, also, to the wider community. Allow the Lord to lead, follow His voice, and He will use you in many ways to help others come to know His burning love for them.

 

My universal King, You came to establish Your Kingdom in the lives of all people. You call all Your creatures to faith in You. Help me to be among the first who turn to You with my whole heart. Please also use me to become an instrument of Your saving grace to those whom You’ve put into my life. My life is Yours, dear Lord. Use me as You will. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 6th July, 2021

Zeal for Souls

 

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:35–36

 

Jesus was quite zealous for souls. Zeal is an energy, a passion and a drive to accomplish some task. The task that Jesus was zealous for was the conversion of every heart that He encountered. As He walked from town to town, encountering person after person, Jesus could see into their hearts. He saw that so many people were “troubled and abandoned.” He could see they were like “sheep without a shepherd.” And this moved Him to compassion with a zeal to become their Shepherd, to remove the trouble from their hearts and to let them know they were invited to belong to His new Kingdom.

The image of Jesus encountering numerous people who were troubled and abandoned is a good image to ponder. The reason is that this is us. Each one of us has our own interior troubles. We can feel alone, confused, uncertain and lost at times. The person who doesn’t feel this way is either a perfect saint or is not honest with themself. Deep holiness and union with God does, of course, cure this interior struggle that many have. In that case, the person clearly knows they belong to the family of God, understands themself as a son or daughter of God, and finds deep peace in this truth. But for those who struggle, this Scripture passage is especially for you.

 

First of all, to be “troubled” could be caused by many things. For some, they struggle with memories of the past, broken relationships, a lack of direction, serious sin, anger and the like. So the first question to honestly ponder is whether or not you have a troubled heart. Even the greatest of saints will find some areas they struggle with. So what is that for you?

 

Secondly, feeling “abandoned” is a heavy cross. The reason Jesus came was to enable us to belong to His family. That is accomplished by the gift of eternal salvation which must begin now. By receiving the forgiveness of sins and growing in a life of prayer, we come to know God in a very intimate and personal way. Yes, He is the Almighty God and Creator of all. But He is also deeply personal and intimate, and He wants to form a real relationship of love with you.

 

If you struggle with either of these, being troubled and/or abandoned, then consider the zeal that Jesus has for you. His tireless and extensive travels, by foot, while He was engaging in His public ministry, should be seen as a sign to you of His zeal to come to you, personally, to become your Shepherd. He wants to lift every burden and clear the way for you to discover your place in His family. The “Gospel of the Kingdom” that Jesus preached was one that invited everyone to become a member of that Kingdom. As He comes to you, know that His heart is filled with compassion for you, just as it was when He traveled the countryside so long ago. He sees you, gazes at your heart with love, and never takes His eyes off of you in your need, weakness and sin.

 

Reflect, today, upon the zeal that Jesus has for your own eternal salvation and holiness of life. You cannot make it through this world without Him. Let Jesus seek you out, come to you, speak to you and invite you to allow Him to shepherd you. He wants to do so with every fiber of His being; let Jesus fulfill His mission in you.

 

My divine Shepherd, You seek out all people with the greatest of zeal and compassion. You see every hurting and broken heart, and You desire to heal each one. Thank You for coming to me, dear Lord, for being my Shepherd and Guide. Help me to see You as You gaze at me in my weakness and pain. And help me to open my heart to You now and throughout my life. I love You, my Lord. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 5th July, 2021

Responding to the Voice of God

 

A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “Courage, daughter!  Your faith has saved you.” And from that hour the woman was cured. Matthew 9:20–21

 

What a tremendous amount of faith this woman had! She had suffered for many years and continued to suffer with her hemorrhages. How did she know that touching Jesus’ cloak would cure her? The only answer to that is faith. Faith is not just wishful thinking or hoping. Faith is a certain knowledge, given by a special grace and revelation from God, by which a person freely assents to belief. God spoke to her heart, she listened, she responded and she was cured.

 

One thing that is very inspiring in this Gospel story is the humility with which this woman approached Jesus. She didn’t feel as though she needed to bother Jesus, to speak to Him, or to trouble Him with her problem. Instead, in her humility, she presented her need to Jesus through her gift of faith, interiorly and silently, and the grace of God was given her because God sees the heart and responds to such humble and sincere faith.

 

Imagine if everyone had this depth of faith in our Lord. Imagine if all of us knew, with the deepest conviction of certitude, that God would take care of every need we have. And imagine if we turned to our Lord with this deep conviction of certitude every day with every need. If we could do that, then our Lord would be able to continually care for us in every way.

 

One key component to this woman’s healing is that it was God the Father who spoke to her and invited her to touch the cloak of His Son Jesus. And it was Jesus who sensed the healing she received, since He was in perfect union with the will of His Father. Therefore, touching Jesus’ cloak was not simply a magical act by which whatever this woman wanted would be granted to her. Instead, it was a response to the interior invitation she was given by the Father.

 

In our lives, we must work to do the same. Too often we present our preferences to God and tell Him what we want Him to do. God does not respond to such requests. Instead, we must seek His will…and His will alone. This woman knew she would be healed, because God the Father spoke to her in her mind and heart and inspired her to touch the cloak of Jesus His Son, and she responded, and the healing took place. God must speak first, we must hear and respond, and then His will is accomplished.

 

Reflect, today, upon the gentle Voice of God as He speaks to you in the depths of your heart. Do you hear Him? What is He inviting you to do? What healing does He want to bestow? As you ponder God’s Voice, try to respond only to Him. Set aside all of your own preferences and ideas of what God should do and seek only what He is speaking to you. Say “Yes” to Him, do so with certitude and conviction, and trust that whatever He speaks to you, if you have faith in what He says, He will do it.

 

My gentle Lord, You speak to me day and night, calling me to the healing I need. Help me to hear Your Voice and to respond to You in faith. May my faith and confidence in You grow strong and become the source of Your glorious action in my life. Jesus, I do trust in You.

Friday 2nd July, 2021

Dining with Sinners

 

“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 9:12–13

 

Would you describe yourself as one who is “well” or one who is “sick?” Are you among the “righteous” or the “sinners?” Be careful how you answer this question. Of course, the pride that comes with our fallen human nature often tempts us to claim that we are “well” and “righteous.” But humility will reveal the truth that we are among the “sick” and “sinners.”

 

This statement of Jesus is a response to the Pharisees who noticed that Jesus was dining at the house of Matthew, the tax collector, whom He had just called to follow Him. Matthew did indeed leave everything behind and followed Jesus, and then he hosted dinner for Jesus at his house. At that dinner, there were “many tax collectors and sinners” who came and sat with Jesus and His disciples, which led the Pharisees to ridicule them all.

 

Jesus’ response is very important for us to hear. By stating that He came not for those who were well and righteous but for those who were sick and sinners, it tells us two important things. First, it tells us that we are all spiritually sick and sinful. Second, it tells us that if we cannot humbly admit to that, and in our pride claim that we are well and are righteous, then we essentially reject Jesus, the Divine Physician, from our lives. We essentially say, “Lord, I do not need You.”

 

It’s also helpful to notice that Jesus was not embarrassed to be seen with sinners. He did not hesitate at all and, in fact, clearly stated that they were those whom He came for. For that reason, we should not be afraid or embarrassed to admit we are sinners who are spiritually ill and in need of our Lord. To deny that fact is to deny reality and to deny the very source of the ongoing healing we most certainly need in life. It’s a denial of our need for Christ Jesus Himself.

 

Do you need our Lord? Do you need interior cleansing, healing, and forgiveness every day? If it’s difficult for you to wholeheartedly say “Yes” to that question, then perhaps you struggle with the pride of the Pharisees more than you know. No matter how holy you become, no matter how deeply you pray and no matter how charitable you are, you will always need the healing and forgiveness of the Divine Physician each and every day. 

 

Reflect, today, upon the need you have in your life today for forgiveness. What sin do you struggle with the most? Interestingly, the holier one becomes, the more clearly they see their daily sins and their need for forgiveness and healing. If you struggle with this at all, spend time examining your conscience. Look for ways to do it more thoroughly and honestly. If you do, you can be certain that our Lord, the Divine Physician, will deeply desire to dine with you today and always.

 

My forgiving Lord, You are the Divine Physician Who has come to forgive and heal all of our ills. Remove my pride and self-righteousness so that I can be filled with humility and see clearly the sin in my life. As I see my sin, help me to turn to You and to trust in Your abundant mercy. You came for sinners, dear Lord, and I am one of those sinners in need. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 1st July, 2021

Priorities in Prayer

 

After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9:1–2

 

Just prior to this passage, Jesus cast out demons from two men from the town of the Gadarenes. Afterwards, the townspeople told Him to leave their town, so Jesus departed by boat and arrived in Capernaum, which was where He had been living after leaving Nazareth. This encounter with a paralytic on a stretcher is what awaited Him when He disembarked from the boat.

 

Recall that when Jesus had returned to Nazareth, where He grew up, He was not able to perform any miracles there because of their lack of faith. Their familiarity with Him tempted them to disbelieve that He was someone special. But now, in His new town where He had recently moved to, Jesus was able to perform mighty miracles because the people had manifest faith. 

 

In the passage above, try to enter the scene. Jesus was just rejected by the Gadarenes, He came by boat to Capernaum, He disembarked and was immediately met with a group of people who had clearly been waiting for Him. Try to imagine their conversations while Jesus was away at the other side of the lake. They knew He would return to His new home, they prepared a stretcher for the paralytic, and then they waited, hoped and prayed that Jesus would come and heal the man. It is also clear that Jesus could immediately sense their faith and was deeply touched by it. One of the most important parts of this passage is that Jesus did not simply say “Yes” to the physical healing and leave it at that. Instead, His response to the paralytic was to first forgive his sins. There is an important lesson for us to learn from this which will help us know how best to pray.

 

Oftentimes when we pray, we pray for this or that favor from our Lord. We pray for what we want Jesus to grant us. But this story shows us that what Jesus wants for us is different. First, He wants to grant us forgiveness for our sins. This is His priority, and it should also be ours. Once the forgiveness of sins takes place with this paralytic, Jesus also heals, as proof of His power to forgive sins. This story should help us to order our priorities in prayer according to Jesus’ priorities. If we make sorrow for sin our first priority, we can be certain that Jesus will answer us. From there, Jesus knows all of our needs. We can present them to Him but only when we are reconciled within our own heart with Him.

 

Reflect, today, upon the way you pray each day. Try to understand the importance of making a daily examination of your sins. This must become the first and most important part of your daily prayer. Though many people do not like to look at sin, it is much easier to do when the focus is not so much the sin as it is a focus upon the mercy of forgiveness and spiritual healing you need. The more aware you become of your daily sin, the more mercy you will receive. And the more mercy for the forgiveness of your sins you receive, the more our Lord will be able to bless you abundantly in other ways. Always start with the mercy of our Lord and your own need for that mercy every day, and all else will be taken care of by our Lord.

 

My merciful Lord, You desire reconciliation with me, in the innermost depths of my heart, to be my daily priority in prayer. You desire to forgive and to heal me so that I will grow closer to You. Please do forgive me for my sins, dear Lord, and help me to become more attentive to the ways that I sin against You and others every day. Thank You in advance for this saving grace and mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 29th June, 2021

Rejoicing in the Goodness of Others

 

The swineherds ran away, and when they came to the town they reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district. Matthew 8:33–34

 

Why would “the whole town” beg Jesus to leave their district as a result of Jesus delivering two of their fellow townsmen from demons? This event took place on the northeast edge of the Sea of Galilee near a town of the Gadarenes who were not of Jewish background, which accounts for the fact that there was such a large herd of swine (the Jewish people did not eat pork). Two of the Gadarenes were possessed by demons, and Scripture reports that “They were so savage that no one could travel by that road.” And when Jesus delivers them from this awful plight, instead of rejoicing in gratitude, the townspeople begged Jesus to leave.

 

Saint Jerome says that it is possible that the people were actually acting in humility, in that they did not consider themselves worthy to be in the presence of someone as great as Jesus. Like Saint Peter who fell at the feet of Jesus and cried out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8), these townspeople may have been in such awe at what Jesus did for them that they did not see themselves as being worthy of His presence. However, other Church Fathers point out that it is more likely that these townspeople signify those who are stuck in their life of sin and do not want to come face-to-face with the Gospel or with the Person of Jesus. They prefer to close their ears to the truth and to remain in their life of ignorance and sin.

 

It’s also helpful to reflect upon the relationship between the townspeople and these two demoniacs. Ideally, when the townspeople saw these two men completely freed of the demons who tormented them, they would have rejoiced in a way similar to the way the father of the Prodigal Son rejoiced when his son returned to him. Sadly, in this case, there seems to be a tremendous lack of excitement by their fellow townsmen over the freedom these two demoniacs experienced. This shows a clear lack of love for these two men within the town. Perhaps many of the townspeople took a twisted form of pleasure in their mockery of these two men over the years, and they enjoyed telling stories about how crazy they were. Now, they were faced with these two men who were completely changed, and they may have found it difficult to speak well of them because of their pride.

 

This negative example set by these townspeople gives us an opportunity to reflect upon how we think about and treat those who have changed their ways and have turned from evil to good. Perhaps you have a family member who has sincerely tried to change. Or perhaps someone at work, a neighbor or some other acquaintance has gone from a life of sin to a life seeking virtue. The real question to ponder is whether you rejoice over the goodness of others, over their ongoing conversion and pursuit of holiness, or whether you struggle with truly expressing joy as you see people you know change for the good. It’s often very easy to criticize but much more difficult to rejoice in the holy transformation of another.

 

Reflect, today, upon those in your life, those close to you and those with whom you are mere acquaintances, who have been set free by our Lord in some way and have moved from a life of sin toward a life of virtue. How do you react to them? Are you able to sincerely rejoice in the goodness of others? Or do you find yourself struggling with jealousy, anger, envy and the like? As you do see the goodness of God at work in others, try to put on the mentality suggested by Saint Jerome above. Allow yourself to be in awe of God’s action in the lives of others. As you do, humble yourself before the transforming power of God, admitting that you are not worthy to witness His transforming power but rejoice in gratitude nonetheless.

 

My all-powerful Lord, You overcame the power of the evil one and cast demons from these two men who suffered through this oppression for many years. Give me the eyes I need to see You at work in our world and to joyfully bear witness to Your transforming action in the lives of others. May I always humble myself before Your saving actions and learn to express true gratitude for all that You do. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 29th June, 2021

Pillars of the Church

 

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:17–19

 

Saints Peter and Paul are often referred to as two of the great “Pillars of the Church.” They each played an incredibly essential role in the establishment of the early Church. And though each of their roles were essential and foundational, their roles were as different as they were different as persons.

Peter was a family man, a local fisherman, uneducated and quite ordinary. From what we know about him prior to being called by Jesus, there was nothing that made him uniquely qualified to become one of the pillars of the new Church to be established by the Son of God. Jesus simply called him, and he responded. Jesus got into Peter’s boat, ordered him to lower the nets, and produced a huge catch of fish. When Peter saw this miracle, he fell down at Jesus’ feet and acknowledged that he was “a sinful man” who was unworthy of being in Jesus’ presence (See Luke 5:8). But Jesus informed Peter that he would from now on be catching men. Peter immediately left everything behind and followed Jesus.

 

Paul describes himself as “a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cili′cia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gama′li-el, educated according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as you all are this day” (Acts 22:3). Paul was well educated in the strictest interpretation of the Jewish law, understood philosophy and was quite zealous as a young man. Recall, also, that prior to becoming a convert to Christianity, he “persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13). In many ways, Paul would have been seen as the most unlikely person to be chosen to be a pillar of the Church, because he so vigorously opposed it at first. He even supported the killing of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

 

Though each of these men would have been considered by many as very unlikely founders of the Christian Church, this is exactly what they became. Paul, after his conversion, traveled far and wide to preach the Gospel, founding several new Churches throughout Asia Minor and Europe. Eventually he was arrested in Jerusalem, brought to Rome for trial and was beheaded. Over half of the New Testament books are attributed to Paul and half of the Acts of the Apostles detail Paul’s missionary journeys. Paul is especially known for his missionary activity to the gentiles, those who were not Jews.

Peter’s role was truly a unique one. His name was changed from “Simon” to “Peter” by Jesus. Recall Jesus saying, “And I tell you, you are Peter (Petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church…(Matthew 16:18). “Peter” in Greek is Petros, meaning a single stone that is movable. However, the Greek word petra means a rock as a solid formation that is fixed, immovable, and enduring. Therefore, Jesus chose to make Peter, this single stone, into a solid foundation of immovable rock on which the Church was to be built.

 

You, too, have been called by our Lord to a unique mission within the Church that has not been entrusted to another. In your own way, God wants to use you to reach certain people with the Gospel as He did with Saint Paul. And like Saint Peter, God wants to continue to establish His Church upon you and your faith.

 

Reflect, today, upon these two holy and unique pillars of our Church. As you do, ponder how God may want to use you to continue their mission in this world. Though Saints Peter and Paul are among the greatest and most consequential Christians within our world, their mission must continue, and you are among the instruments that God wants to use. Commit yourself to this mission so that the preaching of the Gospel and the rock foundation of our Church will remain strong within our day and age just as it was of old.

 

Saint Peter, you were uniquely chosen to be a rock foundation of faith upon which the Church was established. Saint Paul, you went forth to preach this faith far and wide, establishing many new communities of faith. Please use me, dear Lord, to continue the mission of Your Church so that the faith may be firmly planted in the minds and hearts of all Your people throughout the world. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 28th June, 2021

Wherever God Leads You

 

“Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Matthew 8:19–20

 

It is unclear from this passage alone why Jesus answered this scribe the way He did. At first, the statement of the scribe seems very devout: “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” But many of the Church Fathers, in their reflections of this conversation between Jesus and the scribe, offer helpful insights.

 

First of all, note that Jesus neither accepts the proposal of the scribe to be His follower nor rejects it. Rather, Jesus simply makes a statement which clarifies just what is involved in being His follower. Some Church Fathers suggest that this scribe was desirous of following Jesus because he thought there would be great rewards given to him by doing so. After all, Jesus was a miracle worker, was becoming quite popular, and showed potential to be a great leader. Therefore, the interior motivation of this scribe to follow Jesus wherever Jesus went was a questionable motivation. Did he want to follow Jesus because he thought it would benefit him in some worldly way?

 

Jesus’ response to this scribe does two things. First, it removes all misconceptions of what it means to follow Jesus. If the scribe wanted to follow Jesus, then he had to be prepared to follow Him into poverty and homelessness rather than riches and possessions. Jesus wanted it to be clear to the scribe just what he was choosing. Secondly, Jesus’ response was certainly an invitation to the scribe to follow Him, but only in the light of this new knowledge. In other words, Jesus was saying, “Yes, come follow me. But be aware of what that means. Following me will not result in your earthly riches but in your earthly poverty.”

 

Why do you follow Jesus? It’s important to consider your motivations at times. Some choose to follow Jesus because this was simply the way they were raised. Others do so because it makes them feel better to do so. And still others do so because they think it will make their lives better in various ways. But what is the ideal motivation for following our Lord? The ideal motivation for following Jesus in a total and unwavering way is very simple. We follow Him because He is the Son of God and the Savior of the World. He came to call us to Himself and has invited us to live in union with Him through faith. So ideally, we will follow Jesus simply because it is the right thing to do. We will not do so because of the so-called benefits. Love, in its purest form, does not love the other because of what we get out of it. Pure love is a gift given to another because they are worthy of our love. And with Jesus, He is worthy of our love and worship simply because of Who He is.

 

Reflect, today, upon Jesus inviting you to follow Him into poverty, detachment from all, simplicity of life and ultimately the sacrifice of your entire life. Do you understand what it means to be a follower of Christ Jesus? Do you understand that following Jesus cannot be done for selfish reasons? Do you realize that saying “Yes” to our Lord is saying “Yes” to His Cross? Ponder Jesus’ life and reflect upon whether or not you are willing to follow Him to the poverty of the Cross. If you can make the choice to follow our Lord, knowing full well what you are saying “Yes” to, then the end result will also be a glorious sharing in His resurrected life.

 

My glorious Lord, You walked through this world in poverty, rejection and suffering. You had no earthly home of Your own but now live in the riches of Heaven. Help me to follow You, dear Lord, wherever You lead me in this life. If You lead me to worldly poverty and suffering, I thank You. I thank You and choose to follow You no matter what. Give me the grace I need to follow You purely out of love for You, for You are God and are worthy of all my praise and worship. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 25th June, 2021

Homage, Reverence and Respect

 

When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Matthew 8:1–4

 

To do homage to another is to publicly express reverence and respect. This is what this leper did to Jesus. He “did him homage.” But the leper went even further. He also expressed his certain faith that Jesus could cure him if He wished to do so. And Jesus did desire this. Jesus stretched out His hand to touch the leper and pronounced the words, “I will do it. Be made clean.” And with that, the leper was cleansed.

 

The first thing to note in this passage is that Jesus “touched” the leper. This was a forbidden practice, since lepers were unclean and touching them could spread their disease. But Jesus broke the norm and touched the man, revealing to him his innate dignity.

 

It’s interesting to consider the question: Who paid whom a greater act of homage? Was the act of homage shown by the leper greater? Or the act of touching and cleansing the leper greater? Though we need not compare these two acts, it is helpful to reflect upon the profound fact that Jesus did show a form of homage to this unclean leper.

 

As was said above, to do homage to another is to publicly express reverence and respect to them. Without a doubt, Jesus did just this. He not only honored the leper by His touch and healing, but He publicly expressed His love and respect for this man through this act.

 

Of course, the homage we owe to God is unique. It is the homage of worship. We must bow down before Him, surrendering our lives in total abandonment and trust. We must honor Him as God and express our love accordingly. But, in addition to Jesus showing His almighty power by this miracle, He also sets for us an example of how we must treat others. Every person, because they are made in the image and likeness of God, deserves our utmost respect, and they deserve to receive that respect in a public way. We must continually seek to honor and respect others and express that honor and respect for others to see. This is especially difficult when the person we are called to show respect for is considered by others as “unclean.” The leper is only a symbol of the many types of people whom the world considers unclean and unworthy. Criminals, the poor, the confused, the sinner, the homeless, the political opponent and every other person in our world deserves our utmost respect and reverence. Doing so does not justify their sin; rather, it cuts through the surface and looks at their innate dignity.

 

Reflect, today, upon the act of homage done by this leper to Jesus. And then reflect upon the act of homage Jesus offers this leper by publicly confirming his innate dignity. Who in your life is represented by this leper? Who is “unclean” because of the condition of their life, the sin they commit, or the public stigma they have? Whom is God calling you to reach out and touch with love and respect, for others to see? Seek out the leper in your life and do not be afraid to imitate this holy act of homage exemplified by our Lord.

 

My holy Lord, You are worthy of all adoration, glory and homage. You and You alone deserve our worship. Help me to continually discover Your hidden presence in the lives of those around me. Help me, especially, to see You in the leper of our day. May my love and respect for them flow from my love for You and become an imitation of Your act of love for all. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday, 24th June, 2021

Formed by the Hand of the Lord

 

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel. Luke 1:65–66

 

John the Baptist was formed by the hand of the Lord. Saint Thomas Aquinas goes so far as to say that John was sanctified in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth, as is written: “He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). From the moment that the Blessed Virgin Mary greeted Elizabeth and John leaped for joy, the hand of the Lord was upon John, making him holy and leading him to the fulfillment of God’s holy will.

 

John’s early life is not recorded for us, other than in the passage quoted above. We are told that he “grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.” We should see in this passage the truth that John was not only sanctified within the womb of his mother but that, throughout his childhood and on into adulthood, he remained deeply united to God and was filled with the Holy Spirit.

 

Today we honor one particular aspect of John’s life—his birth. We know that he was blessed to not only be born into the blessed family of Elizabeth and Zechariah but that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, was also his relative and was present at his birth. Zechariah, his father, gave him the name “John” even though it would have been the custom to call him Zechariah after his father. Zechariah did this in obedience to the Archangel Gabriel, who appeared to him prior to John’s birth and instructed him to do so.

 

Great mystery and excitement surrounded the birth of John, and there is little doubt that those who were present at his birth would have been caught up in the intrigue and hope of who he would become. And John didn’t disappoint. It was of him that Jesus one day would say, “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John…” (Luke 7:28).

 

Though you may not have had the privilege of being sanctified in the womb of your mother, or to have had your father receive a revelation from the Archangel Gabriel prior to your birth, you are, nonetheless, called to be guided by the hand of the Lord each and every day. God wants you to become “strong in spirit” so that you can fulfill the unique will given to you. We honor the great saints, in part, because they give us an example of how to live. For that reason, we must see in each of their lives the model to which we must conform. The primary witness set by Saint John the Baptist is that he was unwaveringly obedient to God and to being formed by His hand. The result was the glorious fulfillment of his unique mission in life, all the way to giving his life as a martyr.

 

Reflect, today, upon the very real fact that, though you were not sanctified in the womb, you were sanctified by Baptism. From there, you were strengthened by the Spirit through Confirmation and are regularly fed by the Most Holy Eucharist. In many ways, you are just as blessed as John. Reflect upon the simple yet profound fact that God wants to use you for His holy mission. He gives to you some particular mission He has not entrusted to another. Say “Yes” to that mission today so that you, too, will be seen as “great” in the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

Lord of all greatness, You sanctified Saint John the Baptist in the womb, and You continued to pour forth Your grace upon him throughout his life. He responded to You and fulfilled his glorious mission. I thank You for the sanctification given to me by my Baptism and strengthened through Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. Help me to be open to all the graces You wish to bestow so that I may fulfill the unique mission given to me. Jesus, I trust in

Wednesday 23rd June, 2021

Good Fruit—Bad Fruit

 

“Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.” Matthew 7:16–17

 

“So by their fruits you will know them.” This is how our Gospel passage for today concludes. It offers us an exceptionally practical way by which you can discern the working of God in your own life and in the life of others.

 

When you look at your own life, what good fruit, born for the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God, do you see? For some, there may be little to no fruit born, either for good or bad. Such complacency is, in and of itself, bad fruit. For others, their lives have many consequences in this world. They influence the lives of many, and their public actions make a true difference. Sometimes for good…and at other times for evil.

 

When discerning the actions of God in our world, we must first be very objective. The evil one is always very deceptive and regularly presents his bad fruit as good. For example, the legalization of abortion is often presented by many within our world as a “right to choose” or a “health service.” But the intentional death of any unborn child is clearly “bad fruit” from a “rotten tree.” There are even many so-called “humanitarian groups” or very wealthy “philanthropists” who present their work as “good fruit,” when it is anything but good. And on the contrary, there are many who work hard to bring forth a greater respect for life from the moment of conception to natural death, or strive to uphold the sacredness of marriage as God designed it, or work to promote the freedom to worship in accord with the will of God, but are labeled by the secular world as prejudiced, bigoted, fearmongers and even hateful. But their work, done very sacrificially, truly does bear good fruit for the Kingdom of God.

 

How about your own life? When you examine your actions and the fruit born of those actions, from where does that fruit originate? Does it come from a false sense of compassion, a misguided “charity,” and a fear of being criticized for standing for the truth? Or does it come from a deep love of God, an awareness of the truth God has revealed to us, and through a courageous proclamation of the pure Gospel?

 

Good fruit, born from the heart of the Father in Heaven, will always mirror the truths of our faith. A false sense of compassion, false accusations, persecutions and the like will flow from the rotten trees in our world. We must work diligently to be those good trees that bear the good fruit coming from God. This requires a radical commitment to do what is right in the face of the evil all around us.

Reflect, today, upon these images Jesus presents. Do you see clearly both the good and bad fruit around you? Is your life helping to foster the lies of the evil one or the truth and love of God? Look at the fruit your life bears, as well as the fruit within our world, in an objective way, comparing it to the clear and unambiguous teachings of Jesus. Seek out that good fruit with all your heart and do all you can to bring it forth, no matter the cost, and you will not only save your soul, you will also help feed others with the good fruit of Heaven.

 

My Lord of all truthfulness, You and You alone define the good and evil in our world. Your truth reveals the good fruit that is born to nourish the growth of Your glorious Kingdom. Give me courage and clarity of mind and heart so that I may continually do all that You call me to do so as to bring the good fruit of the Kingdom to all in need. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 22nd June, 2021

The Narrow Gate

 

 

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13–14

 

Is fear helpful? That depends. It depends upon which form of fear we are speaking of. First, there is a form of fear that is contrary to faith. It’s a fear that leads us to doubt and even despair. It’s a fear that results from the attack of the evil one and others who may sin against us. This form of fear is unhealthy and must be overcome through a faith that turns to our Lord with the utmost confidence and hope.

 

But there is also a holy fear that is most useful and one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Recall the Proverb that says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:10). At a minimal level, this holy fear makes you aware of your sins and the consequences of those sins, especially serious sin. And this holy fear leads you to fear the punishment that results from sin, leading you to avoid serious sin. But the ideal form of “fear of the Lord” we must strive for is “filial fear,” which is the holy fear of a son or daughter of God. This fear is one that is grounded in a profound love of God and leaves you so filled with a wonder and awe of the glory, goodness and majesty of God that you are filled with a desire to please Him and give Him great glory with your life. Thus, this “fear” leads you to a desire to avoid even the smallest of sin, because, in your love of God, you not only want to avoid offending Him, you also want to honor Him to the greatest extent possible.

 

The Scripture passage above should lead us to, at a minimum, a fear of not entering the gate to the “road that leads to life.” It is useful to consider Jesus’ teaching in a very straightforward way. Jesus essentially says that it is quite easy to walk through the gate that is “wide” and down the road that is “broad” in this life. In other words, it’s exceptionally easy to embrace a life of sin and head toward “destruction.” Jesus further says that those who walk through this wide gate and down this broad road are “many.” This fact should be the cause of our honest daily examination. If this broad road is so easy, then we should honestly admit that we can easily find ourselves walking it.

 

The “narrow gate” and the “constricted” road are found and walked by only a “few,” according to Jesus’ words. Again, we should take notice of this and take it seriously. Jesus would not say this if it were not true. Therefore, if the gift of the fear of the Lord is alive in your life, and if you truly are a son or daughter of God, then you will daily strive to be one of those “few” who find this narrow way to holiness. And, ideally, you will do so out of your love for God and your desire to give Him the greatest glory you can.

 

Reflect, today, upon this challenging teaching of our Lord. Take Him at His word and evaluate your life in light of this teaching. What are you doing in life to be certain that you are one of those few who have begun to walk through this narrow gate? Does your love for God leave you with such a wonder and awe of the greatness of God that your deepest desire is to not only please Him but to glorify Him fully with your actions? Strive to enter the narrow gate and the constricted road and do not turn back. Though this requires much determination, sacrifice and love, the goal and end of the road are worth it.

 

My most magnificent Lord, You and You alone are worthy of all glory, honor and praise. May everything I do in life lead to Your glory and may I avoid everything that harms my relationship with You. I love You, dear Lord. Help me to love You and glorify You with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 21st June, 2021

The Judgmental Heart

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” Matthew 7:1–3

 

Sadly, this tendency is far more common than most of us would like to admit. We live in a world in which it is very common to condemn, criticize and judge. This growing secular tendency, in turn, powerfully influences our thinking and actions.

 

Why is it so easy to judge others? Why is it so easy to see the failures of others, dwell on their sin, point out their weaknesses and speak of their faults to others? Perhaps part of the reason is that many people are not at peace within their own souls. In an unfortunate way, condemning another brings with it a certain twisted satisfaction. But it’s a “satisfaction” that will never satisfy. The desire to condemn, criticize and judge will only grow all the stronger the more these actions are committed. If you struggle with these sins, then listen to the words of Jesus. “Stop judging…”

 

Oftentimes the person who judges others does not even realize they are judging. This is why our Lord poses the question, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” If that stings even a little bit, then know that our Lord asks that question of you. And He asks it with deep love for you, desiring that you will hear Him, understand, and respond. 

The truth is that being judgmental of others causes far more harm to the one who judges than to the one who is judged. Certainly being judged is not pleasant. But the act of being judged by others is not a sin. However, the act of judging others is a sin. And it can be a grave sin. This sin leaves the one who judges with an empty and angry heart. Love is lost in the soul who judges.

 

If these words seem unpleasant, that’s because they are. But sometimes we need to face the unpleasant truth in order to change. The Cross was unpleasant, but it was also the greatest act of love ever known. Facing our sin of judgmentalness is unpleasant, but doing so is the only way to be free. Honesty with ourselves is an act of love given to God, to ourselves and to those whom we need to stop judging.

 

Reflect, today, upon these challenging words from Jesus. Read the Scripture passage above a few times and then prayerfully ponder it. Use it as an examination of your own conscience. Try to be honest, humble and attentive to any ways that Jesus speaks this to you. Some will find that they have grave tendencies toward judgmentalness. Others will see less serious ways. But everyone who lacks complete perfection will find some ways in which they need to be more compassionate, merciful, forgiving and understanding of others. Be open to these truths and allow our Lord to lift the heavy burden of this sin from your own life.

 

My merciful Lord, You and You alone are the true Judge. Only You judge with mercy and justice. Give me the grace I need to abandon my own self-righteous judgmentalness so that I will be free to love You and to love others with my whole heart. Free me from the burden of these sins, dear Lord, so that I can more easily see Your goodness in others and rejoice in Your presence in their lives. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 18th June, 2021

Your Intentions in Life

 

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.” Matthew 6:22–23

 

Every Scripture passage, in a spiritual sense, can teach us many lessons. Saint Thomas Aquinas, in his commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, offers one interpretation to the passage quoted above by saying that the “eye” in this passage refers to your intention and “your whole body” refers to all of your actions that follow from your intention. Therefore, when your intentions are in line with God’s will, the actions that follow will be also. This is a very practical and useful lesson for your journey toward holiness.

 

With this insight from Saint Thomas, we must look at our intentions in an honest and complete way. What are your intentions in life? It’s easy for us to form various intentions that may seem good as well as some that are contrary to the will of God without even realizing it. We may intend to get a good night’s sleep on one occasion. Or intend to have fun with family and friends on a certain day. Or we may intend to cook a good meal, clean the house, do well at work, etc. There are many momentary intentions that are good and are a normal part of daily living. However, the most important intention to consider is that which is the deepest of them all. What is the most central, foundational, and fundamental intention by which your life is directed?

 

The primary intention that you should work to acquire is to give God the greatest glory possible in all that you do. Giving glory to God is accomplished when you choose Him and His holy will above everything else in life. When this is the deepest and most fundamental intention of your life, everything else will flow from it. All secondary intentions and actions will align with this central focus and work toward its accomplishment. But when there are other “first intentions” that you have on the most fundamental level, then all the rest of your intentions and actions will be misguided and directed in a disordered way.

 

Reflect, today, upon the most fundamental intention you have in life. Doing so will require a considerable amount of interior reflection and honesty. It will require that you sort through the many things that motivate you and the decisions you make each and every day. Reflect upon the primary purpose of your life, which must be to give God the greatest glory possible by choosing and living His perfect will. Do all of your daily actions align with this ultimate goal? Commit yourself to the holy work of examining all of your actions in this light so that you will more fully achieve the purpose for which you were created.

 

God of all glory, You and You alone are worthy of all my praise. Your will and Your will alone must become the foundation of all that I choose in life. Give me the spiritual insight I need to look deeply at all that motivates me and all of my most interior intentions in life. May all of my intentions and all of my actions have as their goal Your eternal glory. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 17th June, 2021

Forgiving Others

 

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

 

It’s truly amazing how often our Lord exhorts us to forgive. Much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, from which we have been reading all week, continually calls us to offer mercy and forgiveness to others. And in the passage above from the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus offers us the consequences of not heeding His exhortations.

 

This passage is a sort of addendum to the “Our Father” prayer which immediately precedes it. The Our Father prayer gives us seven petitions, one of them being “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It’s interesting to note that as soon as Jesus taught us this prayer with its seven petitions, He then reemphasised one of those petitions by stating it again as is seen in the passage quoted above. This added emphasis should assure us of the seriousness of this petition.

 

At first, Jesus simply tells us to pray for forgiveness “as we forgive.” But He then makes it clear that if we fail to do so, we will not be forgiven ourselves. This should highly motivate us to make every effort possible to completely forgive others from the deepest depths of our hearts.

Who do you need to forgive? Forgiveness can be a confusing endeavor at times. The act of forgiveness gets confusing when our feelings do not reflect the choice we make in our will. It is a common experience that when we make the interior choice to forgive another, we still feel anger toward them. But these disordered feelings should not deter us nor should we allow them to cause doubt in what we need to do. Forgiveness is first an act of the will. It’s a prayerful choice to say to another that you do not hold their sin against them. Forgiveness does not pretend that no sin was committed. On the contrary, if there were no sin committed, then there would be no need for forgiveness. So the very act of forgiving is also an acknowledgment of the sin that needs to be forgiven.

 

When you make the choice to forgive another, and if your feelings do not immediately follow after, keep forgiving them in your heart. Pray for them. Try to change the way you think about them. Do not dwell upon the hurt that they have inflicted. Think, instead, about their dignity as a person, the love God has for them and the love you must continue to foster for them. Forgive, forgive and forgive again. Never stop and never tire of this act of mercy. If you do this, you may even discover that your feelings and passions eventually align with the choice you have made.

 

Reflect, today, upon any lingering feelings of anger you experience. Address those feelings by the free and total choice to forgive the person with whom you are angry. Do so now, later today, tomorrow and on and on. Go on the offensive against anger and bitterness by overwhelming it with your personal act of forgiveness and you will find that God will begin to free you of the heavy burden that a lack of forgiveness imposes.

 

My forgiving Lord, You offer the perfection of forgiveness to me and call me to do the same toward others. I pray for Your forgiveness in my life. I am sorry for my sin and beg for Your mercy. In exchange for this holy gift, I pledge to You today to forgive everyone who has sinned against me. I especially forgive those with whom I remain angry. Free me from this anger, dear Lord, so that I may reap the full benefits of Your mercy in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 16th June, 2021

Transformed by Silent Sacrifices

 

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” Matthew 6:16–18

 

Many today have abandoned the holy practice of fasting. Fasting is a powerful penitential practice that bestows great benefits upon the soul. The act of self-denial from certain food and drink, choosing instead simple nourishment from time to time, such as bread and water, or a reduced amount of food, greatly strengthens the soul and disposes a person to many spiritual blessings. Too often, we live for fleshly satisfactions and fall into the trap of trying to indulge our appetites on a regular basis. But doing so has the negative effect of tempting us to neglect the more important spiritual desires for holiness. By depriving ourselves of sensory delights from time to time, we become more disposed to seek the true and lasting delights that come only from God’s grace. Therefore, this passage above presumes that we do regularly fast and engage in other forms of self-denial. 

 

Do you fast? Do you engage in other forms of self-denial on a regular basis? Daily prayer, reading the Scriptures, learning about the lives of the saints, and regular participation in the Sacraments all lead us closer to God and make us holy. But fasting and self-denial are also very important, so it is essential that we strive to embrace them as a part of our spiritual growth.

 

In this passage, Jesus specifically calls us to seek the interior rewards that come from fasting and self-denial. He points out that if we use fasting as a way of gaining praise from others, then we lose the spiritual benefits of our fasting. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving must all be done in a way that they are as hidden as possible so that our acts are truly sincere and not done so as to receive the earthly rewards of the admiration of others.

 

Additionally, the lesson taught in this Gospel can also be applied to other areas of our lives. For example, if you are suffering from some illness or some form of bodily pain or discomfort, then of course you should seek the necessary medical attention. But these physical ailments also offer us another opportunity for spiritual growth when they are embraced in a silent and interior way. Even our pain or discomfort can be transformed into grace if we choose to embrace it with joy, offer it to God as a sacrifice, and keep it to ourselves as a silent gift given to God.

 

Reflect, today, upon your practice of fasting, as well as every other opportunity you have each day to make silent and interior sacrifices to God. If you do suffer from some daily cross that is beyond your control, then try to turn it into a spiritual offering to our Lord. And if you are able to freely embrace fasting on a regular basis, then try to prayerfully commit to this practice. Try to do it every week, especially on Friday in honor of the Good Friday sacrifice made by our Lord. Don’t underestimate the value of these hidden sacrifices. Make them a regular part of your spiritual life and God will bestow upon you many spiritual riches from Heaven.

 

My sacrificial Lord, You denied Yourself of many earthly delights, especially when You fasted for forty days in the desert. Help me to take seriously this obligation to fast and to mortify my appetites. And help me to do so in a hidden way. May my life continually imitate Your perfect sacrifice so that I may become more like You every day. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 15th June, 2021

The “Gift” of Being Persecuted

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” Matthew 5:43–45

 

Jesus continues to deepen and clarify His call to His new command to love of others. The love to which He calls us is radical, total, and can be very challenging at first. He calls us to move far beyond the Old Testament understanding of justice by commanding that we love everyone, including those who persecute us. This call to love is not an option but a command. It’s a requirement for every Christian.

 

In implementing this command, Jesus gives us not only the command itself but also offers some very practical advice on how we can achieve this depth of love. He says that we should not only love our enemies but that we should pray for them when they persecute us. First of all, an “enemy” is one who tries to inflict some form of harm on us and, generally speaking, sins against us. The common response to these experiences is to defend ourselves and fight back. So the first step is to reject any such temptation. As Jesus said in the Gospel passage prior to this one, “offer no resistance to one who is evil.”

 

Today’s Gospel passage takes us even further. The practical advice our Lord gives is to “pray for those who persecute you.” This command not only requires that you reject the temptation to “get back” at a person or even to simply “resist” what they do to us. You must now pray for them. Praying for someone who sins against you is an act of the greatest charity and generosity. And it’s a very practical way to imitate the abundant mercy of God. For that reason, praying for your persecutors radically transforms you interiorly and makes you holy. In a sense, the evil another does to you has the potential to be transformed into a gift given to you, because it gives you an opportunity to return prayer for an injury inflicted. And that is a very real and practical gift we must embrace by this new command of our Lord.

Reflect, today, upon those for whom this new commandment calls you to pray. Whose sin has inflicted some hurt or injury upon you or your family? Who do you hold a grudge toward? Whoever comes to mind, commit yourself to deep and sustained prayer for that person. Pray often for them and continue that prayer for as long as the persecution continues. Doing so will transform any and every attempted malice issued toward you into grace for them and holiness for you.

 

My Lord of abundant mercy, Your command to pray for those who persecute us was first lived by You to perfection. You prayed for those who crucified You as You hung upon the Cross. Give me the grace I need to not only forgive but to also pray for those who have and continue to try to inflict harm upon me. Give me a heart so filled with mercy that every sin committed against me is transformed into love and my own holiness of life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 14th June, 2021

A New Depth of Mercy

 

Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.” Matthew 5:41–42

 

As the faith of Israel developed over the centuries, prior to the coming of Christ, there were various stages of advancement in morality. Prior to the establishment of moral laws in the Old Testament, it was common for families to inflict severe vengeance upon other families when harm was done to them.

 

This caused ongoing violence and feuds. But advancements were made when the law of retaliation was established which said, “When a man causes a disfigurement in his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has disfigured a man, he shall be disfigured” (Leviticus 24:19–20). This was a new form of justice that forbade the vengeance from being more severe than the crime that was retaliated against. At the time, this helped end ongoing family feuds that continually escalated.

 

It is this law of retaliation that Jesus addresses in our Gospel today. The new and much higher form of morality that Jesus taught called His disciples to “offer no resistance to one who is evil” and to turn the other cheek when evil was done to them. Though strict justice requires satisfaction for sin, Jesus’ new teaching was that mercy pays every debt. First, His mercy bestowed upon us, for the forgiveness of our sins, pays the debt of our sins when we truly repent and change. But if we desire our debts to God for our sins to be forgiven and repaid, then we must do the same to others, holding nothing against them.

 

But Jesus goes even further. In the passage quoted above, Jesus exhorts His disciples to a new and radical form of charity and generosity. This new moral code was how the children of the Kingdom of God were now called to act. It was not enough to only forgive and to forget the debt one owes you because of their sin. Mercy now requires us to “Give to the one who asks” and to walk “two miles” with one who only asks you to walk one mile with them. In other words, Christian charity far exceeds every concept of strict justice and even goes beyond basic forgiveness. This was certainly a new and radical teaching from our Lord.

 

Think about this new moral law in your own life. What level of “justice” do you most commonly live by? When someone wrongs you, do you live like those prior to the Old Testament laws by seeking to get back at them to an even greater degree than the harm done to you? Do you live by the law that seeks the equal justice of an eye for an eye? Do you seek to forgive and offer mercy as a payment for the debt another has incurred by the sin they have committed against you? Or, ideally, do you strive to go even beyond the act of forgiveness and bestow mercy in a new and generous, superabundant way? This last level of love is difficult to obtain and live, but it is the way our Lord treats us and it is the way that He calls us to treat others.

 

Reflect, today, upon any hurt you may currently be struggling with. And consider the way in which you have been dealing with that hurt. As you seek to understand this new law of love and mercy given by our Lord, pray to Him that He will give you the grace you need to give to others the same level of mercy that God gives to you.

 

My generous Lord, You offer Your mercy in superabundance. You not only forgive when we repent, You also restore us to far greater heights of holiness than we could ever deserve. Give me the grace I need, dear Lord, to offer this same level of mercy and love to those who have sinned against me. I forgive all who have hurt me. Please help me to also love them with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday, June 11, 2021

The Font of Mercy

 

But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. John 19:33–34

 

John’s Gospel is filled with deep spiritual imagery and symbolism. It is clear that this imagery and symbolism was divinely inspired so as to give us spiritual food for reflection and meditation. One such image is given to us today as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

 

As Jesus and the two criminals on either side of Him hung upon their crosses, the soldiers came to hasten their deaths by breaking their legs to cause them to more quickly suffocate. But when they came to Jesus, He had already died. So one of the soldiers, traditionally known as Longinus, thrust his spear into Jesus’ side, and blood and water flowed forth. Some traditions identify Longinus with the centurion who cried out after Jesus’ death, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (See Matthew 27:54.)

 

Other traditions state that he converted at that moment, making him the first convert to Christianity. And still other traditions state that Longinus could not see well, and the blood and water from Jesus’ side poured upon his eyes, healing him. Regardless of whether these traditions are true, we know that Jesus’ side was pierced and blood and water flowed forth.

 

The symbolism of this act was more than a mere human symbol. It was an instrument of the profound spiritual reality that was taking place at that moment. As Jesus’ Sacred Heart was pierced, the blood and water that poured forth was the new sacramental life of the Church. The Blood was the Most Holy Eucharist and the Water was the gift of Baptism. And when Jesus had previously “breathed His last” and “handed over His Spirit,” the Sacrament of Confirmation was bestowed.

 

When we celebrate those Sacraments today, it is easy to see them as mere symbols of what we partake in. But in our Christian Tradition, the Sacraments are so much more. The symbol is also the reality. It is the instrument of what it symbolizes. Therefore, every time we witness a Baptism or partake in the Holy Eucharist, we are mystically present with Longinus, receiving the grace and mercy of our redemption, pouring forth from Jesus’ wounded side, so as to heal us and make us whole.

 

The human heart is, physically speaking, a bodily organ responsible for pumping blood throughout. But from a spiritual perspective, given that we are both body and soul, the human heart is also the source of our life. Without it, we physically and spiritually die. So it is with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was not only a physical heart that was physically pierced by the lance long ago. It is now also the source of our ongoing spiritual life, and, without Jesus’ Sacred Heart of Mercy, we will die in our sins.

Reflect, today, upon the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. See His Heart as the ongoing source of your new life in grace. Understand that His Heart is more than a symbol of His grace and mercy, it is the spiritual source and the font of that mercy. Prayerfully place yourself before His Cross, this day, and allow the blood and water, flowing from His wounded side, to cover you so that you, too, may believe.

 

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, You poured out upon the world the love and mercy of Your transforming grace through the instrument of the blood and water pouring forth from Your wounded side. Help me to gaze upon this font of mercy and to be covered with it through the gift of the Sacraments. May I always be open to all that You wish to bestow upon me by these precious and transforming instruments of Your love. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 10th June, 2021

The Burden of Anger

 

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” Matthew 5:21–22

 

The passage quoted above gives us three deepening levels of sin that we commit against another. These sins were new teachings not contained in the Old Testament. By this teaching, Jesus’ call to radical holiness and love of neighbor is made very clear.

 

The first level of sin is simply to be “angry” interiorly. The sin of anger is an interior attitude of disgust toward another. Jesus says that the consequence of having anger toward another is that you will be “liable to judgment.” The second level of sin is when you say to another “Raqa.” This Aramaic word is difficult to translate but would include some form of expression of one’s anger toward another. It would be a derogatory way of saying to another that they are unintelligent or inferior. The third level of sin Jesus identifies is when you call another “fool.” This word is an even stronger expression of Raqa and would be a verbal criticism of them, indicating that the person is a lost soul in a moral sense. It’s a strong moral condemnation of another that is expressed.

 

So, do you struggle with anger? Jesus’ calling to freedom from all levels of this sin is a high one. There are many times in life when our passion of anger is stirred up for one reason or another, and that passion leads to one of these levels of sin. It’s a common temptation to want to condemn another with whom you are angry in the strongest way possible. 

 

It’s important to understand that this new teaching of Jesus is truly not a burden when understood and embraced. At first, it can seem that these laws of our Lord against anger are negative. That’s because lashing out at another gives a false sense of satisfaction, and these commands of our Lord, in a sense, “rob” us of that satisfaction. It can be a depressing thought to think about the moral obligation to forgive to the point that disordered anger disappears. But is it depressing? Is this law of our Lord a burden?

 

The deep truth is that what Jesus teaches us in this passage is, in many ways, more for our own good than that of others. Our anger toward another, be it interior, verbally critical or all-out condemning, can be hurtful toward the person with whom we are angry, but the damage these forms of anger do is far worse for us than them. Being angry, even interiorly, even if we put on a happy face, does great damage to our soul and our ability to be united to God. For that reason, it is not this new law of our Lord regarding anger that is the burden, it is the anger itself that is a heavy burden and a burden from which Jesus wants you free.

 

Reflect, today, upon the sin of anger. As you do, try to see your disordered anger as the real enemy rather than the person with whom you are angry. Pray to our Lord to free you from this enemy of the soul and seek the freedom that He wants to bestow.

 

My merciful Lord, You call us to perfect freedom from all that burdens us. Anger burdens us. Help me to see the burden that my anger imposes upon me and help me to seek true freedom through the act of forgiveness and reconciliation. Please forgive me, dear Lord, as I forgive all who have hurt me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 9th June, 2021

The New Law of Grace

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” Matthew 5:17–18

 

The law and the prophets, as found in the Old Testament, consists of three types. First, there are the moral laws, such as the Ten Commandments, that are primarily based on the natural law of God. By “natural law,” we mean that our human reason can understand their truthfulness, such as with “Thou shall not kill, steal,” etc. Second, there were many liturgical precepts that were laid down and practiced as a preparation for and prefiguration of their ultimate liturgical fulfillment. The fulfillment is now found in the sacramental life of the Church. Third, there were various legal precepts that gave specific directions on daily living. These laws include instructions on food, relations with others, how to treat foreigners, cleansings, purifications of utensils, tithing, and much more.

 

In our Gospel today, Jesus essentially says two things. First, regarding the legal and liturgical precepts, He says that He came to “fulfill” them. Thus, Christians are no longer bound by these Old Testament legal and liturgical laws, in that we are now called to a much higher fulfillment of them all. But as for the moral laws, especially those found in the Ten Commandments, not a single precept taught is abolished. Instead, these Commandments are deepened, and the call to moral perfection is now much clearer. It is for this reason that Jesus goes on to say, “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

 

It’s important to understand that those who lived before the time of Christ were not held to the same standard as we are today. That’s because they did not enjoy the gift of grace that was won by the Cross and is bestowed by the Holy Spirit. Today, we have so much more and, for that reason, are called to a much greater life of holiness. For example, we no longer celebrate the Passover as a mere remembrance of what God did by setting the Israelites free from slavery to the Egyptians. Today, we celebrate the New Passover through our participation in the Holy Eucharist, and our “remembrance” goes beyond the simple recalling of a memory of old. Our remembrance is one that enables us to actually participate in the saving sacrifice of Christ. We share in the actual event and are partakers of the grace won on the Cross each time we celebrate the Holy Mass. And as for the moral laws of the Old Testament, they become the bottom line of morality. The upper limit is now much higher. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We are to lay down our lives for others and take up our crosses daily to follow Jesus. We are called to the perfection of sacrificial love, and that is only possible by our sharing in the very life, death and resurrection of Christ our Lord.

 

Reflect, today, upon the very high calling you have been given by our Lord. It’s not enough to simply do the bare minimum in our worship and moral life. Doing so may permit you to be “least in the Kingdom of heaven,” but God wants you to share in His greatness. He calls you to be among the “greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” Do you understand your high calling? Do you have the perfection of holiness as your goal? Commit yourself to the full participation in the New Law of Christ and you will be eternally grateful that you did.

 

My most glorious Lord, You came to bring our lives to the fullness of grace and holiness. You call us to the heights of Heaven. Help me to see my high calling, dear Lord, and to work diligently to embrace all that You now command by Your New Law of grace and mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

 

Tuesday 8th June, 2021

Salt and Light for the World

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world…” Matthew 5:13–14

 

Every Christian has two primary duties in life. First, we must strive for personal holiness. And second, we must work to help others achieve this same degree of holiness. This is what it means to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.”

 

Consider salt. Salt is a preservative, and it also adds flavor to food. It does so by entering the food and, in a sense, disappearing. So it must be with us. First, our Lord must enter our lives and preserve us from the corruption of sin. But as He does so, He will also bring out our goodness in a way that the “flavor” of holiness is evident to others. In this way, we will be used as salt for others. This is especially done by our works of charity.

 

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux said in her autobiography, “I see now that true charity consists in bearing with the faults of those about us, never being surprised at their weaknesses, but edified at the least sign of their virtue.” She believed that this was especially the way we act as salt and light to others. We help to preserve others from sin by being merciful to them when they are weak. We enrich their lives by seeing their goodness and rejoicing in it. And we do so in a hidden way. By our gentleness and compassion, our kindness and mercy, we preserve others and help them to grow in God’s abundant grace. And we do so, many times, without them even realizing how God used us.

 

Consider, also, light. The world in which we live is oftentimes quite dark and despairing. There is corruption all around us and temptations abound. Thus, the light of Christ must be made manifest far and wide. Those all around us need to see clearly the path to holiness and happiness. Again, this is possible if we first work to become light itself. Christ, the true Light of the World, must so permeate our lives that we find it almost automatic to shine brightly in a fallen world. When Christ is alive in us, we will radiate joy and peace, calm and conviction, moral goodness and determination. And when we live this way, we will not have to “impose” the Gospel on others; rather, God’s light will simply shine and be a beacon of hope to those who come into our presence.

 

Reflect, today, upon these two missions in life. First, ponder your call to holiness. How does God want to bring light into your own life, preserve you from all sin and add spiritual flavor for holy living? Second, who does God want you to love with His love? Who needs hope and joy, mercy and kindness, words of wisdom and encouragement? Be holy and then allow that holiness to shine forth to others and you will indeed be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

 

My Jesus, the true Light of the World, please shine brightly in my life so that I will see clearly and will be preserved from the darkness of sin. As You fill me with Your light, please use me as an instrument of Your love and mercy to a world filled with chaos and confusion. Dispel the darkness, dear Lord, and use me as Your instrument as You will. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 7th June, 2021

The Heights of Holiness

 

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 are given the incredibly high calling of the Beatitudes to ponder. These lessons were taught by Jesus on a hill just north of the Sea of Galilee. Many were coming to Jesus to listen to Him preach and to witness His many miracles. They flocked to Him in this remote location, and Jesus had them recline as He preached what is now referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount.” This sermon is found in Chapter 5 through 7 of Matthew’s Gospel and takes place shortly after Jesus began His public ministry.

 

What a way to begin His public ministry! This teaching of Jesus was brand new and must have left many people mesmerized. Jesus no longer taught only the precepts of the Old Testament, such as the Ten Commandments; He now elevated the moral law to a level never conceived of before.

 

As the people listened to this new teacher speak with new authority and wisdom, they may have been excited and confused at the same time. To hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be merciful and clean of heart, and to be a peacemaker could have been accepted. But why was it that being poor, mournful, and meek were considered blessings? And even more challenging, why was it good to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness or insulted and falsely accused because of Jesus?

 

When Jesus’ new and radical teaching is clearly understood, it is not only His first disciples who may have been confused and excited at the same time. You, too, if you truly listen to His teachings and understand what He means, will find that you are challenged to the core of your being. Jesus’ teaching must be embraced, fully, and without hesitation.

 

The Beatitudes are our call to perfection. They lay out for us the path by which we travel to the heights of holiness and obtain the glory of Heaven. They are our fine-tuned and detailed road map to the fullness of happiness and joy. But they also call us to a radical transformation of our minds and in our actions. They are not “easily” embraced, in the sense that they require that we turn from every selfish tendency we have and choose to live free of every earthly temptation, attachment and sin. Perfection awaits those who listen to, understand, and embrace the Beatitudes.

 

Reflect, today, upon the beginning of this challenging Sermon on the Mount. Try to find time to take each Beatitude to prayer. It is only through prayer and meditation that the full meaning of each of these invitations to holiness will be understood. Start with the call to interior poverty of spirit. This Beatitude calls us to complete detachment from all that is not part of God’s will. From there, consider the importance of mourning over your sin, of seeking purity of heart and humility in all things. Ponder each Beatitude and spend time with the one most challenging to you. Our Lord has much to say to you through this sermon. Don’t hesitate to allow Him to lead you to the heights of holiness through it.

 

Lord of all holiness, You are perfect in every way. You lived every virtue and Beatitude to perfection. Give me the grace to open myself to You so that I may hear You call me to perfection of life and so that I may respond generously with my whole life. Make me holy, dear Lord, so that I will find the happiness and fulfilment You wish to bestow. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 28th May, 2021

A Rebuke by Jesus

 

The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry. Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went over to see if he could find anything on it. When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs. And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!” And his disciples heard it. Mark 11:12–14

 

This is a very unique and interesting story. The first thing this tells us is that Jesus was fully human. As a man, He was hungry. But this story tells us much more than the simple fact that Jesus was hungry. He would have known that it was not the season for figs to grow, but He decided to look for a fig anyway. And when He found none, He cursed the fig tree and, as we read later in this chapter, the tree withered and died. This was a symbolic action for the sake of His disciples, in that His disciples heard Him curse the tree and later saw that the tree had withered.

 

Saint Bede, an early Church Father, tells us that this action of Jesus had an allegorical purpose. The tree is symbolic of the many people Jesus encountered, and continues to encounter today, who failed to bear good fruit in their lives. They were the Pharisees and others who practiced their faith only in an external way. The leaves, Saint Bede tells us, were symbolic of the externals of the faith, and the lack of fruit was a symbol of the missing interior fruit of holiness and good works. This lesson tells us that Jesus is very demanding. He is determined to discover good fruit in our lives. He wants us to become authentically holy. And when He finds only the externals, He will rebuke us in love, taking even the externals away.

 

What good fruit does our Lord want to find in your life? How does He want you to manifestly grow in holiness? Do you go through the motions, attend Mass, say some prayers, but fail to produce an abundance of virtue, compassion, mercy and goodness? Do you say you believe in our Lord but then fail to preach the holy Gospel with both your words and your actions? If our Lord were to come to you, as He came to this fig tree, what would He find?

 

Being a Christian is not something that is exclusively between you and God. Being a Christian requires that you be so given over to the service of God and others that God is able to do incredible things through you. The Christian faith must produce good fruit in your life and through you in the lives of others. And it must do so in an abundant way.

 

Reflect, today, upon the holy image of Jesus walking over to this fig tree inspecting it for a fig. See this tree as an image of your soul and see the hunger in the heart of our Lord. As He looks at you and your life, will He be satiated? Will He find holiness and manifest good works? Or will He find little to nothing other than external claims that you are a Christian? Commit yourself to an abundance of authentic and manifest holiness and our Lord’s hunger will be satiated.

 

My demanding Lord, You call all Your followers to a holiness that is lived, transforming, manifest and fruitful for Your Kingdom. Help me to be a Christian not only in name but especially in action. May my life truly bear the good fruit of holiness and may that holiness become a means by which You feed the spiritual hunger of Your people. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 27th May 2021

Crying Out to Jesus

 

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” Mark 10:46–47

 

How do you pray? Do you ever “cry out” to Jesus with deep conviction and intensity? This blind man, Bartimaeus, sets for us a wonderful example of how we should pray to our Lord. First of all, the blind man was in a state of need. His blindness symbolizes every weakness and need you have in life. So what is it that you struggle with the most in life? What is your greatest habitual sin? Or what causes you the most grief?

 

Seeing our weakness is the first step. Once we are aware of our greatest needs, we must also “cry out” to our Lord just as Bartimaeus did. Upon hearing that it was Jesus, Bartimaeus somehow sensed within his soul that Jesus wanted to cure him. How did he sense this? He listened to the voice of God within. Yes, he heard the commotion of many speaking about Jesus as He walked by. But this alone could not have compelled him to cry out and to know that Jesus was the source of the mercy he needed. That which compelled him was the clear voice of God, a prompting from the Holy Spirit, within his soul, revealing to him that he needed Jesus and that Jesus wanted to cure him.

 

At first, those around him rebuked Bartimaeus and told him to be quiet. And if Bartimaeus would have been weak in faith, he may have listened to the crowd and, in despair, remained silent. But it is quite clear that he not only ignored the rebukes of others, he “kept calling out all the more.”

Bartimaeus gives us here a double witness of how we must turn to our Lord. First, we must sense His gentle but clear presence within our soul. We must recognize His voice and His promptings of grace. He wants to heal us, and His presence in our lives must be sensed within. Secondly, we must become intensely fixed upon that voice within. The crowds who rebuked Bartimaeus are symbolic of the many “voices” and temptations we experience in life that try to keep us from faithfully and fervently crying out to the God who speaks to us. Nothing should deter us from our wholehearted determination to call to Jesus with our need.

 

Reflect, today, upon Bartimaeus being an image of yourself. See yourself in desperate need of our Lord and listen for His clear voice. Do you hear Him? Do you sense Him walking by? As you do, cry out to Him with fervor, intensity, and conviction. And if you find that there are temptations that try to silence your prayer and faith, increase your intensity and cry out “all the more” to our Lord. He will hear you, call you to Himself and give you that grace which He desires to bestow.

 

My merciful Jesus, You are constantly passing by, drawing me to Yourself by Your divine presence. Give me the grace I need in order to see my need and to call out to You with all my heart. May I never be deterred from this fervent prayer, dear Lord, and when temptation sets in, may I call out all the more. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 26th May, 2021

Greatness in Holy Servitude

 

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, ‘What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Mark 10:35–37

 

James and John were feeling quite bold. Their boldness may have come, in part, from the fact that they had become very familiar with the goodness of Jesus. He was unlike any other, and His genuineness was very evident to them. Therefore, they allowed themselves to slip into the trap of taking Jesus’ goodness for granted by seeking a selfish favor from our Lord. Jesus’ response is gentle and thoughtful, and, in the end, James and John are somewhat humbled by their attempt to obtain this selfish favor when the other disciples become “indignant” at their request.

 

Jesus summarizes His response to these disciples this way: “…whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” Jesus, of course, was especially speaking about Himself. He was the greatest and the first among them. And for that reason, Jesus humbled Himself as their servant and the “slave of all.” Normally, the idea of being a slave has very negative connotations. Slavery is an abuse of the dignity of another. It’s a way of discarding the dignity of the person. But, nonetheless, Jesus says that the ideal way to be truly great is to become a slave of all.

 

When literal slavery is imposed upon another, this is a grave abuse. But there is another form of holy slavery of which Jesus is speaking. For Jesus, a holy slavery is one in which we give ourselves to another in a sacrificial way out of love. And this is what Jesus did to perfection. His death on the Cross was a true physical death. It was a sacrifice of His earthly life, but it was done freely and for the purpose of setting others free. In referring to Himself, Jesus explains His holy “slavery” when He says, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

Jesus’ greatness is first found in the simple fact that He is God. But His greatness is made most manifest in His human nature when He gives His life “as a ransom for many.” It is the Cross that becomes the greatest act of loving service ever known. The fruit of His selfless sacrifice is the salvation of all who turn to Him. Thus, Jesus turns slavery and death into the greatest act of love ever known.

 

Reflect, today, upon your own calling to live a life of holy slavery. How is God calling you to sacrificially give yourself to others out of love? From a purely human point of view, the idea of sacrifice, servitude and even holy slavery is hard to comprehend. But when we use Jesus as the model, it becomes much clearer. Look for ways in which you can give yourself to others selflessly and know that the more you can imitate our Lord in this holy endeavor, the greater your life will be.

 

Lord of all holiness, Your greatness was made manifest in Your human nature by Your act of perfect servitude when You freely chose to die for the sins of those who turn to You for redemption. You humbled Yourself, taking on the form of a slave, so that all could be set free. Help me to always trust in Your great love and to continually open myself to the gift of redemption You offer. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Tuesday 25th May, 2021

An Exchange of Gifts

 

Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more…” Mark 10:29–30

 

Jesus’ statement above is in response to Peter who said to Him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” It was as if Peter were patting himself on the back, attempting to highlight just how much he and the other disciples had sacrificed to follow Jesus. And it was true, they did give up everything of their former life. They left home, their occupation, their relationships and everything that had been part of their daily established life in response to the call of Jesus. They were truly all in.

 

In hearing this statement from Peter, Jesus does not give the expected response. He doesn’t say to Peter, “Yes, you have, that’s very impressive Peter. Good job and thank you!” Instead, Jesus immediately explains to Peter that the sacrifice he and the others have made is worth it. Their unwavering commitment to follow Jesus would be repaid with gifts beyond their imagination. Thus, Jesus was saying that the gifts that He would bestow upon them would be exponentially greater than every sacrifice they made.

 

This was not a belittling of Peter’s self-sacrifice; rather, it was a form of encouragement by Jesus. He was encouraging Peter, and the other disciples, to have full confidence in their decision to follow Him. Their sacrifice would yield a hundredfold return. That is truly a good investment.

It can be tempting for us all, at times, to feel as though God asks too much of us. It’s true that God asks much of us. He asks everything from us. He asks for the complete and total gift of our lives to Him. He calls us to abandon all selfishness and to dedicate ourselves to His holy will without exception. But if we understand the reward of our self-giving, then the sacrifices we make will pale in comparison to the reward.

 

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you can say those words of the Apostle, Saint Peter: “Lord, I have given up everything to follow You.” Have you truly given your life completely to Christ Jesus? Are there things that you still hold back, not wanting to “sacrifice” for our Lord? Ponder those words of Peter and allow yourself to see the areas of your life you still need to surrender over to Jesus. And as you do so, allow the reward promised by our Lord to motivate you to the point that you truly hold nothing back and truly have given up everything to follow His holy will.

 

My generous Lord, You ask everything of me. You ask me to abandon everything in my pursuit of Your perfect will. Give me the grace I need to answer Your call and to live sacrificially for You without counting the cost. You are generous beyond description, dear Lord, and I trust that following You will produce an abundance of good fruit. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Your Heavenly Mother

 

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.  When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.”  And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. John 19:25–27

 

The memorial we celebrate today, which was added to the Roman Liturgical Calendar in 2018 by Pope Francis, highlights the truth that the Blessed Virgin Mary is not only the Mother of the Person of Christ, and, therefore, the Mother of God, she is also the Mother of the Church, that is, the Mother of all the faithful. The Blessed Virgin Mary is your mother. And as your mother, she is truly tender, compassionate, caring and merciful, bestowing upon you everything that a perfect mother desires to bestow. She is the fiercest of mothers who will stop at nothing to protect her children. She is a mother wholly devoted to you, her dear child.

 

The Gospel passage chosen for this memorial depicts our Blessed Mother standing at the foot of the Cross. She would have been no other place than directly beneath her Son as He endured His last agony. She did not flee in fear. She was not overwhelmed by grief. She did not sulk in self-pity. No, she stood by her Son with the perfect love and strength of a devoted, caring, compassionate and faithful mother.

 

As she stood by her Son in His hour of suffering and death, Jesus turned to her and entrusted the Apostle John to her maternal care. From the early Church Fathers until the most recent teachings of the Church today, this act of entrusting John to Mary and Mary to John by Jesus has been understood as an entrustment of all the faithful to the maternal care of Mother Mary. Mother Mary is, therefore, not only the Mother of the Redeemer, Christ Himself, she also becomes the Mother of all the redeemed, the mother of us all, the Mother of the Church.

 

Consider the spiritual mother you have in Heaven. A mother is one who gives life. Your mother in Heaven is entrusted with the task of bestowing upon you the new life of grace won by the Cross. And as your mother, she will not withhold anything from you that is to your benefit. A mother is also one who is tender with her children. The Immaculate Heart of our mother in Heaven is one that is filled with the greatest tenderness toward you. Though her caresses are not physical, they are much deeper. She caresses with the tenderness of grace which she imparts to you as you pray and turn to her in your need. She gives you the grace of her Son, poured out upon the Cross as the blood and water sprung forth as a font of mercy. Mother Mary pours that mercy upon you as a tender and devoted mother would. She holds nothing back.

 

If you are unaware of the love in the heart of our Blessed Mother for you, use this memorial as an opportunity to deepen your understanding of her role in your life. Many children take their mothers for granted, not fully understanding the depth of their love. So it is with our Mother in Heaven. We will never fully comprehend her love and her constant motherly workings in our life until we join her in Heaven face to face.

 

Reflect, today, upon Mother Mary standing by you in every moment of your life. See her there in your joys and in your sorrows, during your moments of temptation and struggles, in your moments of confusion and clarity. See her there by your side, bestowing every good spiritual gift upon you when you need it the most. She is a true mother, and she is worthy of your love and gratitude.

 

My dearest Mother, you stood by your Son with unwavering fidelity and love. You cared for Him, nurtured Him, and never left His side. I also am your dear child. I thank you for your loving fidelity toward me and open my heart to the grace of your Son that you bestow upon me throughout life. Help me to be more attentive to your motherly care and to daily grow in gratitude for your presence in my life. Mother Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 21st May, 2021

True Love

 

“Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.” John 21:18–19

 

On this, the third time that Jesus appeared to His disciples, Jesus enters into a threefold discourse with Peter. Each time that Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, Peter responds that he does. And Jesus responds back each time, “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep.” The passage quoted above concludes Jesus’ discourse with Peter using very powerful language. Jesus tells Peter that when he grows old, “someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” This was Jesus’ way of saying to Peter that he would ultimately express his love of Jesus by dying for Him. As we know, tradition states that Peter was ultimately crucified. And at Peter’s request, he was crucified upside down because he felt unworthy of dying in the exact same way Jesus died.

 

As we consider this conversation between Jesus and Peter, it is clear that Jesus’ understanding of love is very different from the way many others understand it today. Jesus was not only telling Peter that he would die for Jesus, but Jesus was clearly offering His approval of this act of love Peter would one day offer. Most often when we love someone, we would do all we can to keep them from any such fate. In fact, when a loved one suffers, we often will do all we can to look for a way to relieve them of that suffering. So which approach is most loving?

 

Clearly, Jesus sees suffering differently than most of us. For Jesus, suffering is not opposed to love when the suffering is freely embraced for a higher purpose. Suffering in and of itself is of no value. But when suffering is embraced sacrificially out of love for another, it is able to take on tremendous power. And when Jesus offered His clear support to Peter who would one day die out of love for Jesus, Jesus was focusing upon the eternal merit that would be won by Peter’s cross. The fact that Jesus did not shy away from Peter’s future sacrificial suffering is one of the clearest signs of Jesus’ more perfect love for Peter.

 

Reflect, today, upon your attitude toward the sufferings that your loved ones endure. Do you find that your primary goal is to rid them of their sufferings? Or do you understand that even their sufferings have the potential to become a source of their own holiness and the source of grace for others? Strive to see suffering as Jesus sees it. Look at the sacrificial love that is made possible when your loved ones unite their sufferings to the Cross of Christ and try to commit yourself to the mission of helping them embrace that sacred gift of love.

 

My most compassionate Jesus, in Your great love for us all, You desire that we unite our sufferings to Your Cross so that all suffering shares in Your redemptive love. Give me the grace I need to not only embrace my own sufferings in life out of love for You but to also help those whom I love to live sacrificially by embracing the crosses they carry out of love. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 20th May, 2021

Gestures of Love

 

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:


“I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”  John 17:20–21

 

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been continually reading from Chapter 14–17 of John’s Gospel. These chapters contain Jesus’ Last Supper Discourses and provide us with Jesus’ last sermon, so to speak. Chapter 17, which we have been reading this past week, presents us with Jesus’ final prayer for His disciples and for all of us “who will believe” in Him through the preaching of the disciples. Each time we read from Chapter 17, the Lectionary begins the reading with the phrase “Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying…” That line is an adaptation of Chapter 17:1 but is used to introduce the various parts of the prayer of Jesus each time it is read at Mass.

 

It’s interesting that Jesus would look up to Heaven when He prayed. Of course, Heaven is not physically in the sky, because Heaven is a spiritual reality. The Father is not located in some place in the sky but is omnipresent, meaning, present all places and all times. And yet, Jesus raises His eyes upward when He prays to the Father. There is a great lesson in this.

 

Our physical disposition is important, at times. For example, when someone we owe respect to enters a room, we usually rise and greet them. It would be disrespectful to remain lounging on a bed or sofa in that case. And at Mass, we do not sit back with legs crossed during the Consecration; rather, we kneel in adoration. And when we greet someone for the first time, we do not look at the floor; rather, we look them in the eyes.

 

Jesus’ act of “Lifting his eyes to heaven” was not done because He thought He might see the Father in the sky; rather, it was done out of respect and love and as a way of acknowledging the dignity of the Father. This should teach us about our own bodily disposition and the message we communicate to others, especially to God in prayer.

 

When you pray, what do you do? Though you can pray at any time and while in any disposition, it is an excellent practice to speak to God not only by your words but also by the disposition you take. Kneeling, raising hands in prayer, falling prostrate before your Lord, sitting upright with attentiveness, etc., are all ways in which you communicate to God your love.

 

Reflect, today, upon this image of Jesus praying. Gaze at how attentive He would have been as He lifted His sacred eyes upward as a physical gesture honoring the glorious, all-powerful Father in Heaven. Try to imagine Jesus’ devotion, intensity, respect and burning love. Imitate this holy gesture of prayer and attentiveness to the Father and remind yourself of the importance of expressing your love in bodily form.

 

My most holy Father in Heaven, I do join Your Son, Jesus, in lifting my eyes, my heart and my whole life to You in honor, love and respect. May I always be attentive to You and always show You the devotion due Your greatness. My dear Jesus, thank You for Your love of the Father in Heaven. Give me the grace I need to imitate You and Your perfect love in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 19th May, 2021

Rejecting the evil one

 

“I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One.”  John 17:14–15

 

Unfortunately, the evil one is real. He is the highest of the fallen angels who retain their natural spiritual power given them at their creation. God created all angelic creatures with the purpose of serving His holy will. The Scripture reveals that there are nine levels or “choirs” to which these angelic creatures belong. Among the fallen angels, the highest of them directs the others, and he is traditionally given the name Lucifer or “the devil.”

 

One of the natural spiritual powers that these fallen angelic creatures retain is the power of influence and suggestive thought. They were created to be messengers of God’s truth to us; but, in their fallen state, they seek to communicate confusion and lies instead. Therefore, it is very helpful to understand the way the evil one and the other fallen angels communicate to us so that we can reject their lies and listen only to the voice of God.

 

In his rules for the discernment of spirits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola explains that when a person is going “from mortal sin to mortal sin,” the evil one and the other demons continually propose to their imagination the “apparent pleasures” and “sensual delights” that they obtain from their sin as a way of keeping them firmly controlled by that sin. However, when a person is “intensely cleansing their sins and rising from good to better,” the evil one and the other demons act in a contrary way. They will “bite, sadden and put obstacles, disquieting with false reasons, that one may not go on” in their pursuit of holiness. God and the good angels will act in the opposite way. For those immersed in sin, God and the good angels will use “the opposite method, pricking them and biting their consciences through the process of reason” so as to draw them away from sin. And when a person is, in fact, growing in holiness, God and the good angels will “give courage and strength, consolations, tears, inspirations and quiet, easing, and putting away all obstacles, that one may go on in well doing” (See mycatholic.life/ignatius).

These spiritual lessons on the discernment of spirits are of great value and will assist you on your daily struggle with sin and your daily pursuit of holiness. Understanding the deceptions of the evil one and discerning the promptings of grace given by God bring clarity to our daily lives and direction to all of our actions. The good news that is revealed by the Scripture passage above is that our Lord is fully aware of the working of the evil one, has prayed for you, and will assist you as you seek to combat these lies and deceptions in your life.

 

Reflect, today, upon the importance of learning how to discern both the voice of God and the lies of the evil one. Work to discern the voice of God so that you may follow Him more faithfully. And seek to discern the lies of the evil one so that you will not be influenced by him and can directly reject him. Commit yourself to a more rigorous discernment of these spiritual experiences in your life and allow this prayer of Jesus to direct you into His holy will.

 

My all-powerful Lord, You have conquered the evil one and provide all the grace I need to overcome his lies and deceptions. Open my mind to discern Your voice and give clarity to the voice of the evil one so that I may choose You with my whole heart and reject all that the evil.

Tuesday 18th May, 2021

The Glory of God 

 

I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began. John 17:4–5

 

Saint Ignatius of Loyola bases his spiritual masterpiece, The Spiritual Exercises, on one basic premise: Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. This is the essence of what Ignatius calls the “Principle and Foundation” of our lives. In other words, our goal in life is twofold: First, we must seek to give God the greatest glory possible by our lives. And second, the effect of this singular focus is the salvation of our souls.

 

In the Gospel passage quoted above, Jesus speaks of the fact that He perfectly fulfilled His human life on earth by glorifying the Father in Heaven. He did this by accomplishing the work that the Father gave Him to fulfill.

 

If you are looking for purpose in your life or if you are trying to discover the meaning of your life, then look no further. Jesus’ words above offer the ideal “principle and foundation” for your life. This message of our Lord could be broken down into three lessons.

 

First, the Father truly does have a plan for your life. Are you seeking to discover that plan? Knowing that there is a divine plan for your life is the first step in fulfilling it. If you do not know God’s plan, it will be difficult to fulfill it. So do you seek to discern this plan each and every day?

 

Secondly, when you do discern what God wants of you in your daily life, you must accomplish His will. Sometimes we fall into the trap of trying to fulfill only a portion of what God wants of us. The problem with that approach is that we may actually accomplish “a portion” of God’s will. But that’s not enough. We must aim for perfection. We must strive for the complete fulfillment of the will of God in our lives.

Thirdly, if we can truly accomplish the daily will of God for our lives, then our lives will not only glorify God in every way possible, but we will also be blessed to share in God’s glory. To share in God’s glory is to share in God’s very life. It means that God will be alive in us and we will become partakers of the joys of Heaven. And it will begin here on earth. Why would we settle for earthly “joys” and earthly pleasures when we are called to share in delights that are beyond what we could ever imagine in this world?

 

Reflect, today, upon Jesus’ act of perfectly fulfilling the will of the Father in His human nature. Even though our Lord was divine, He was also fully human. He, therefore, perfectly understands your human struggles and weaknesses. He knows what you go through, and His humanity is the model for you to follow in life. Reflect upon His human life and the way in which He lived in union with the will of His Father day in and day out. Commit yourself to this unwavering mission of fully accomplishing the will of the Father in your life and you, too, will share in the glory of our Lord.

 

My glorified Lord, You now share in the full joy and glory of Your Father in Heaven with Your human nature. By doing so, You invite me to not only imitate Your life on earth but to also share in that same glory in Heaven. Give me the grace I need, dear Lord, to accomplish all to which the Father calls me to do. May my life fully imitate You in every way so that I may also share, one day, in Your glory. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 17th May, 2021

Peace? Or the World?

 

“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” John 16:33

 

What did Jesus tell His disciples that produced the “peace” of which He spoke? He is especially referring to His entire Last Supper Discourse from which we have been reading. The words spoken throughout this discourse are meant to give the disciples, and us, “courage” and the ability to conquer the trouble imposed upon us by the world.

 

Throughout Jesus’ discourse, He especially points to the unity He has with His Father and the fact that if we stay united with Jesus, we will also be united to the Father. He spoke of Himself being the vine and us the branches who must remain firmly attached to Jesus. He spoke of this being possible only by the coming power of the Holy Spirit Whom He will send. And He spoke of the hatred that the world has for all who remain firmly grounded in the Truth. Therefore, if you are one who seeks to remain deeply rooted in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit and separated from the deceptions of the secular and un-Christian world, then Jesus is clearly speaking to you.

 

In this passage above, Jesus identifies one gift that will help us on this journey. This particular gift is the gift of His peace. Peace is the ability to remain calm and focused in the midst of any and every “trouble” we encounter. The trouble that Christians will especially face are the various persecutions of the world when we live in accord with the Truth. And though there are many moral truths presented clearly by our faith that the world attacks, there are also other forms of troubles we will encounter within the world today.

 

One of the most manifest troubles inflicted upon many by the world comes in the form of constant visual, auditory and mental stimulation. Our world is a noisy world. Modern electronics, the mass media, commercials, radio, Internet, social media and so many other parts of our daily life have the subtle effect of distracting us, stimulating us, and stealing away the peace of Christ.

 

Consider, for example, the idea of entering into the silence of a retreat for a day, or two, or longer. How would you handle turning off your smartphone, tablet, computer, television and radio for an extended period of time? Would you go through a form of withdrawal? Many today would indeed find this difficult. And the reason for this is that the “peace” of which Jesus speaks is slowly dwindling in the lives of many. Instead of God’s peace, we are filled with constant noise, commotion and activity. This is the “world” attacking us and stealing the peace God wants to bestow.

 

Reflect, today, upon the exceptionally important truth—that Jesus wants you to know His peace in your heart. And He wants that peace to sustain you. Reflect upon the interior battle that may take place within you between the world and the peace of Christ. Who is winning that battle for your soul? Is there more of the world or more of the peace of Christ reigning within you? Seek out the peace that only Jesus gives, and, as you discover His peace, you will also discover the source of that peace: Jesus Himself.

 

Lord of all peace, You have called us out of the world so that Your peace will abide within us, sustaining us, giving us courage, wisdom and strength. I open my life to You, dear Lord, and pray that the many distractions and commotions imposed upon me by the world will begin to cease. May I always hear Your gentle voice and follow You to the place of silent repose found only in You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 14th May, 2021

Bearing Fruit for the Kingdom

 

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. John 15:16

 

After Judas betrayed our Lord, the Apostles gathered together to pick someone to succeed him. They decided it should be someone who had been with them from the beginning. They prayed for guidance and cast lots “and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles” (Acts 1:26).

 

Little is known about the ministry of Saint Matthias. Being chosen as one of the Twelve makes him a bishop of the early Church. Various traditions state that he preached in the territory of either modern-day Ethiopia, Turkey or Georgia—perhaps all of these territories. He is thought to have been killed for his faith, either by stoning or by beheading or both, which is why he is today honored as a martyr.

 

As we honor Saint Matthias, we honor more than just a man who became an Apostle and preached the Gospel with His life, we also honor the divine plan by which God has chosen to use weak and humble instruments to further His Kingdom. The Gospel passage above certainly applies to Saint Matthias, as well as to all of us to one extent or another. It was God who “chose” Saint Matthias, as well as each and every one of us, for the purpose of going forth to “bear fruit that will remain.” But this form of good fruit, the fruit that has eternal consequences, can only be produced when we ask for it from the Father in the name of His Son Jesus.

 

Asking the Father to produce good fruit through us in the name of Jesus His Son does not mean that we get to choose what we ask of the Father. Rather, asking “in Jesus’ name” must be understood to mean that we ask the Father only what the Son has asked. We choose to share in the one eternal prayer of the Son that the will of the Father be fulfilled. And in praying this way, we commit ourselves to unity with His holy will.

 

Sometimes we can all find ourselves asking God for this favor or that. We can place before Him our preference and our will. But if we want to be used by God, to become an instrument of His grace so as to bear an abundance of good fruit, then we must humbly set aside our own will and allow God to be the one Who chooses our mission and appoints us to His holy task. Detachment from our own will and humble submission to the will of God is the only way to bring forth God’s Kingdom.

Reflect, today, upon God’s choice to call you to share in His divine mission. How He calls is up to God, but you can be certain that He does call you and invites you to share in His mission. Be open to any way that God appoints you to bear good fruit and humbly seek to conform your will to the Father’s plan as you pray in Jesus’ holy name.

 

Lord Jesus, You have perfectly fulfilled the will of the Father in all things, and You have chosen me and appointed me to share in Your divine mission. Help me to open my mind and will to all that You call me to do, so that I, too, may be an instrument of the Kingdom of Your Father in Heaven. I make this prayer in Your most holy name. Jesus, I trust in You.

May 13, 2021

Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Deepening Your Understanding

 

So some of his disciples said to one another, “What does this mean that he is saying to us, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” So they said, “What is this ‘little while’ of which he speaks? We do not know what he means.” John 16:17–18

 

How about you? Do you know what Jesus means? Or do you find that you are confused by what He said just like these disciples were? Though pride may tempt you to claim that you fully understand all that Jesus taught, the humble and honest truth is that you are probably very much like these disciples in their confusion. And that is not necessarily a bad place to be.

 

First, the confusion of these disciples shows they took Jesus seriously. They were not indifferent. They cared, were interested, wanted to understand, and must have had some level of faith in Jesus. Otherwise, they would have ignored Him. But they didn’t. They listened, tried to understand, discussed His teaching, thought about His words and humbly concluded that they didn’t understand.

 

Jesus is not critical of their confusion. He sees that they are trying and that they have some level of faith. And even though these disciples are confused, Jesus continues to speak to them in figures of speech rather than directly and clearly. One of the reasons that Jesus speaks in figurative language is because the message that He is teaching is profound and deep. It’s not something that can be quickly and easily understood and mastered. The mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven are so deep, vast, profound and mystical that the only way to begin to understand them is to first have faith. Faith does not mean you fully understand everything. Faith is a supernatural gift by which you come to believe without fully seeing and understanding. The certainty comes for God, not from your own reasoning ability. But faith always leads to deeper understanding. Therefore, as these disciples professed their faith, they also came to understand. And even though Jesus speaks in this figurative way, these disciples ultimately made the choice to believe. Later in this chapter they conclude, “Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God” (John 16:30).

 

If you find yourself confused about various matters of faith, God, morality, and the like, or if you find yourself confused about the various mysteries of life itself, or your life in particular, do not be afraid to admit to this confusion. Admitting confusion is the humble admittance of the truth, and this humility will be a helpful step toward the gift of faith.

 

Reflect, today, upon whether you struggle at all with indifference toward the mysteries of life. If so, commit yourself to be more like these disciples who intentionally grappled with all that Jesus spoke. Do not be afraid to admit your confusion and to place that confusion before our Lord. Strive to have the gift of faith and allow that spark of faith to become the pathway for your deeper understanding of the many mysteries of life.

 

My mysterious Lord, You and all the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven are so deep and profound that no one will ever fully comprehend their depth, breadth and beauty. Please open my mind, dear Lord, to a deeper understanding of You so that I may profess my faith in You and in all that You have chosen to reveal. I do believe, my God. Help my unbelief. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 12th May, 2021
Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

The Best is Yet to Come

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”  John 16:12–13

 

This passage still rings true for all of us today. God wants to reveal to us, within the depths of our consciences, the deepest, most profound, and transforming truths that flow from the mind of the Father in Heaven. But we cannot bear it all now. Not fully. And eternity will be spent continually deepening our understanding of all that God reveals. And the process of this ongoing and deepening discovery will fill us with an ongoing and deepening joy. This will be our Heaven, but it must begin now.

First of all, it’s important to understand that God does “have much more to tell you.” Interestingly, coming to know how much you do not already know is itself a form of knowledge. Knowing that there is so much more, that God’s wisdom is infinitely beyond you, that the mind of God compared to yours is incomparable is itself a beautiful truth that must be understood. This truth should both humble you and also fill you with a holy awe of God and the infinite depth of wisdom, truth, beauty and glory contained within Him. This is an essential first step.

 

Furthermore, by saying that “you cannot bear it now” does not mean that you should not try to bear more and more of the truth that God wants to reveal. In fact, it’s a form of invitation in that it indicates that there will come a time when you will be able to comprehend more. This should once again foster a hope and anticipation for all that remains hidden to be revealed. Humility in the face of the infinite God is necessary for growth in wisdom and knowledge of God.

 

How does this growth in wisdom and the knowledge of God happen? It happens by the power and working of the Holy Spirit. It is the “Spirit of truth” who will “guide you to all truth.” But even this statement, once again, implies that this is a process. It is the Spirit Who will “guide” you. And this guidance will continue throughout this life and on into eternity.

 

This teaching of our Lord begs the question: Have you begun the process? Have you begun to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth? Have there been concrete moments in your life when you came to know God in a new and profound way that could only have been possible by the power and working of God Himself?

 

Reflect, today, upon these essential questions. If you have had God the Holy Spirit speak clearly to You, then humble yourself before that truth. Pray for more wisdom and more knowledge of all that you do not know. And if you cannot relate to the idea of there being so much more that is beyond you, then humbly turn to our Lord and beg Him to begin to open your mind to all that He wants to say to you. The infinite mind of our God awaits you to be discovered and embraced. Begin the process today and let Him guide you into all truth.

 

God of all truth, You, Your wisdom, Your love and all of Your glorious attributes are infinite in nature and are beyond my complete comprehension. As I humble myself before these holy truths, dear Lord, please bestow upon me the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, so that I may open my mind more fully to You by Your grace. May the process of deep discovery be one of great joy and become for me a process that continues into eternity. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Tuesday 11th May, 2021
Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Grieved at Changes in Life

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “Now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:5–7

 

Jesus continues to speak prophetically to His disciples about the necessity for Him to go to the Father so that He can send the Holy Spirit. What’s interesting in this passage is that Jesus points out to His disciples that “grief” has filled their hearts because of what He has said to them. Clearly, this grief in their hearts is because they do not understand what they will soon experience and do not want their relationship with Jesus to change.

 

Throughout our lives, our Lord will call us to change. At times, He calls us away from that with which we are familiar and comfortable, and He calls us to something new. This can be frightening and can become the cause of “grief” for us also. To help, let’s consider this passage above in detail.

 

Recall that there were many times, prior to Jesus death, that Jesus slowly started to reveal to His disciples, especially to the Twelve, that He would be going to the Father and that He would no longer be with them in the way He had been. Jesus wanted the Twelve to begin to understand that their relationship with Him, with the Father, and with the Holy Spirit would soon take on new meaning in their lives. But the fact that this was something new, a change to what they had grown accustomed, meant that they were more focused upon the grief that accompanies loss than they were focused upon the joy that awaited.

 

This same experience can often be found in all of our lives. Though dramatic change is not necessarily a regular occurrence throughout life, most everyone will experience change at various moments in life. And when that change occurs in accord with the will of God, it must be embraced with hope and great expectation.

For example, vocational changes, such as getting married, having children, or entering a religious vocation, always bring with it much change—but a change that God can use for much good. Also, the death of a loved one, a move to a new community, a new job or school, the establishment of new relationships and the like can be difficult but also fruitful. Since the Gospel passage above specifically refers to the change that comes from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, it might be helpful to consider the fact that whenever some new change takes place in our lives, the Holy Spirit is there, waiting to enter into the new situation in ways we could have never imagined. So if you find yourself at times experiencing the grief of some loss, or difficulty with some new endeavor in life, know that the disciples experienced something similar. But in the end, Jesus’ words came true—“it is better for you that I go.” Though they did not want to see Jesus die and then ascend to Heaven out of their sight, this was part of the plan of God for their lives. So also when the changes we encounter in life are part of God’s divine plan, we can be certain that good things await.

 

Reflect, today, upon anything that our Lord may be asking of you in regard to a change in your life. Are you open, ready and willing to do whatever He asks? Or are you fearful or grieved by the thought of some change. Be open to anything our Lord asks of you and know that the full embrace of His holy will is the only path to true happiness in life.

 

My dear Jesus, You prepared Your disciples for the new life of grace that they would receive after Your death and Resurrection. Though fearful and uncertain, they embraced the new life You called them to live, and You did marvelous things through them. Please open my heart to the full embrace of my vocation and any changes that You desire for my life. I say “Yes” to You, my Lord, and pray that You work powerfully through me by the Holy Spirit. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 10th May, 2021
Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Giving Testimony

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.” John 15:26–27

 

Jesus informs His disciples that “the Spirit of truth” will come and that the Spirit, as well as the disciples, will “testify” to Him. When Jesus first spoke these words to His disciples, they would not have comprehended what He meant. Since these words are prophetic in nature, they are words spoken that were to come to fulfillment and, then, once fulfilled, the words would be understood. So what does Jesus mean?

 

When we look at the Acts of the Apostles and read about the early Church, it is clear that something incredibly transforming took place after Jesus ascended into Heaven. Up until that time, the disciples and other followers of Jesus had faith, but they were also fearful. They communicated with those others who believed, but did so in secret and with fear. But as soon as Pentecost came, and the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, descended upon them, the Apostles began to be used by God to powerfully proclaim the Gospel without fear and with great effect upon many. It was this experience of the disciples of our Lord, being filled with the Holy Spirit, to which Jesus was referring.

 

After Jesus died, and perhaps even more so after Jesus ascended into Heaven, it is likely that some of His disciples immediately concluded that the new movement Jesus started was now over. They could have never conceived of the idea that what Jesus started was only beginning. They could have never conceived of the fact that soon they would share in the beginning of the Church, proclaim the Gospel with courage and power, see the conversion of countless lives, witness the ongoing forgiveness of sins, and ultimately give their lives in imitation of our Lord. These disciples had no idea just what awaited them with the coming of the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. What was awaiting them was their sharing in the ability to “testify” to Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. They soon realized that Jesus was actually more alive than ever and that He was now going forth to convert souls by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the instrumentality of all of His new disciples.

 

The same is true in our lives today. It is far too common for Christians to simply believe in Jesus, personally, but then fail to wholeheartedly give testimony to Him by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. It is far too common for followers of Christ to act more like the disciples prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit. Too often, Christians keep the Gospel to themselves, fearful of giving testimony by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Reflect, today, upon these prophetic words of Jesus. Though these words were initially spoken to the Twelve, Jesus also speaks these words to you today. He wants you, too, to be a witness to Him, giving testimony to others so that they will come to believe. Reflect upon how well you fulfill this prophetic calling. Where you are lacking, pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in your life so that God can reach many hearts through you.

 

Most glorious Jesus, You promised to send upon Your disciples and also upon me the Holy Spirit, the Advocate and Spirit of Truth. Holy Spirit, I welcome You into my life and offer myself to You without reserve to be used to give testimony to the Truth. Please do use me, my God, and touch many lives through me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 7th May, 2021
Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter

True Friendship

 

You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. John 15:14–15

 

To some, Jesus’ definition of friendship may, at first glance, seem odd. He says that we are His friends only when we do what He commands us to do. Imagine saying that to one of your best friends. Such a statement would most likely be met with a laugh and dismissal as foolishness. So is true friendship always based on obedience?

 

Obviously, the expectation that your friends obey you so as to win your friendship is not the basis of any authentic friendship. Jesus is the only one Who can base your friendship upon obedience to His holy will. Why? Because of the nature of what He commands you to do.

 

Jesus is pure Truth. What He wills is the perfection of love. Therefore, His statement that you are only His friend if you do what He commands you to do teaches that friendship is based on the truth. It’s based on love, goodness, kindness, selfless sacrifice, and self-giving. And it is all of these truths that Jesus commands us to do. Therefore, Jesus is essentially telling us that His will alone provides the pathway to the friendship we desire to have with Him.

 

In regard to your friendship with others, each true friendship can only be based on that which God wills for friends. And, in that sense, you can “command” the will of God for your friendships. This means you are only willing to establish a friendship upon the truth. It means you are only willing to share a relationship based upon selfless, sacrificial, self-giving mercy, compassion, honesty and love.

Reflect, today, upon your understanding of friendship. Begin with your friendship with God, but then also ponder your friendship with others. Do you love our Lord in the way that He commands? And as you ponder your friendship with others, examine whether or not each friendship also conforms to obedience to the will of God. If you can love God and others in conformity with the dictates of true love, then your friendships will produce an eternity of deep fulfilment.

 

My divine Lord, You call me to a friendship with You based only on the dictates of pure and holy love. I thank You for this command of love and accept this invitation. Help me, Lord, to continually deepen my friendship with You in accord with the truths of love and help me to base all my friendships only on the commands of this holy love. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 6th May, 2021
Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

The Good Fruit of Obedience

 

If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. John 15:10

 

When Jesus spoke the line above, He followed it by saying, “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” These two lines, taken side by side, provide a helpful unity of Jesus’ teaching regarding holy obedience to Him.

 

First, Jesus speaks of the necessity of keeping His commandments. To some, such a statement, when taken by itself, can seem burdensome, dictatorial, oppressive, and confining. But is it? The answer is found clearly as we read on.

 

The next thing Jesus teaches is that the effect of keeping His commandments is that we “remain in His love.” He further explains that He is not asking us to do anything that He Himself was not willing to do. He was obedient to the will of the Father, keeping the commandments of the Father to perfection. Therefore, we should hear His command as a dictate flowing from His own freely lived choice to be obedient. As the Incarnate Son of God, He perfectly obeyed the Father in His human nature. The result was that He remained perfectly filled with the love of the Father. But that’s not all. Joy is also experienced in a “complete” way when we imitate Jesus’ perfect obedience.

 

In light of the teaching from our Lord, how do you view holy obedience to the will of God? Take, for example, each of the Ten Commandments. Do you struggle with unwavering obedience to them? Do you experience them as oppressive and imposed limitations rather than what they truly are? When understood correctly, the Ten Commandments and every other dictate of the will of God, is exactly what we need, and even more so, exactly what we deeply desire in life. We want interior order rather than chaos. We want integrity rather than fragility. We want joy rather than sadness. And we want unity with the love of God rather than the loss of God. The path to the life we so deeply desire is obedience to the commands of the will of God in all things.

 

Reflect, today, upon your immediate interior reaction to holy obedience. If you do find yourself resistant in any way to this teaching of Jesus, then that is a good sign that you need this teaching more than you may know. Try to look at obedience in the light of truth. Try to see that, deep down, your soul yearns for obedience and the interior order it brings. Examine, especially, any areas of obedience you struggle with and firmly recommit yourself to unwavering obedience to each and every command of our Lord.

 

My obedient Lord, You obeyed the will of Your Father in Heaven to perfection. Through this obedience, You not only experienced the full love and joy of the Father in Your human nature, You also set for us a perfect example and model for holiness. Help me to see the areas of my life in which I need to be more obedient, so that I, too, will share in Your holy life and that of the Father’s. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 5th May, 2021
Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Firmly Connected to Christ

 

I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. John 15:5

 

The first amazing thing to recognize in this passage is the simple fact that God wants to produce good fruit in your life. He also wants to bring His grace and mercy into the world through you. The vine does not produce the fruit alone but does so through the instrumentality of the branches. So if we take this teaching at face value, God is saying that He has chosen to bring His grace and mercy into your life and into the world through you.

 

To add greater clarity to this holy mission that we have all been given, Jesus makes a very profound statement. He says “without me you can do nothing.” When considering this line spoken by our Lord, it may be useful to reflect upon what the word “nothing” means. Saint Augustine points out that Jesus added “you can do nothing” to emphasize the fact that, by ourselves, by our own effort, we cannot even produce a “little” good fruit. For example, it would be like cutting off a twig from an apple tree and hoping that the twig will produce an apple.

 

The fruit that God wants to produce also takes place within your soul, in the form of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. These fruits consist of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (See Galatians 5:22–23). Each one of these gifts from God will have the effect of transforming you more fully into an image of God Himself in our world. Try to take a moment to consider each one of those Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Each one is very desirable. Growing in a desire for them will help you grow in a desire for the Holy Spirit in your life.

 

When the Gospel passage quoted above is considered in its two parts, it is also clear that if we separate ourselves from God, then it is impossible to experience any one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Without a firm connection to our God, we will have no love, no joy, no patience, kindness, etc. None of that is possible unless our lives are firmly connected to the Vine, Who is Christ Himself. So fostering a positive desire for these good fruits, as well as a holy fear of losing them, is useful.

 

Reflect, today, upon the beautiful and meaningful image given to us by Jesus of the vine and the branches. Think of a vine and then think of yourself firmly attached to that vine. Sit with that image prayerfully and let God speak to you. He wants to do great things in you and through you. If you will only cling to Him with all your heart, an abundance of good fruit will be produced.

 

Jesus the Vine, You are the source of all goodness, and, without You, I can do nothing. Help me to always remember how deeply I need You in my life and help me to cling to You always. Please bring forth an abundance of good fruit in my life and, through me, into the world. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 4th May, 2021
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

The Peace of Christ

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” John 14:27

 

So how does the peace that Jesus gives you differ from the apparent peace that the world gives? We all want peace in life. The desire for interior peace is written upon our very nature. And though many people make choices that lead to interior disorder and even chaos, those choices are often made out of a confused sense of what actually provides fulfillment.

 

For example, those who choose to feed an addiction to drugs or alcohol often began that addiction out of a misguided desire for happiness. The temporary fix experienced gives the temporary sense of well-being. But objectively speaking, it is very clear that the temporary “peace” one receives from these actions leads ultimately to a loss of the very thing they desire. And when these choices become addictions, the person often finds themself trapped in a downward spiral.

 

There are also countless other ways in which people find themselves seeking satisfaction and fulfillment in life. Money, promiscuity, cheating, selfishness, anger, deception, and the like are all actions that are done with the intent of some satisfaction. Our daily goal must be to unmask those deceptive actions so that we can see them for what they are and for the fruit that they produce. These are clearly among the many ways that the “world” offers us peace.

 

When it comes to true happiness in life, the gift of true interior peace is one of the clearest signs that we are on the right track and are making the right decisions. When we choose the will of God each and every day, those choices may be difficult and require much initial sacrifice. Love can be hard. Faithfulness to the moral law of God can be challenging. And refusing to sin is difficult. But choosing the will of God throughout our day, every day, will begin to produce within us the consoling and sustaining gift of the peace of Christ.

 

True peace produces strength. It leads to interior integrity and wholeness. It produces clarity of thought and certitude in convictions. God’s peace leads to more peace. It leads to choices based on well-thought-out actions of love. Peace leads us to the will of God, and the will of God leads to peace. The cyclical effect is exponential and is one of the clearest guides to happiness in life.

 

Reflect, today, upon whether you truly have peace in your heart. Do you recognize the still, strong and sustaining presence of God within your soul? Do your daily choices produce greater integrity of heart and clarity of mind? Do you find that you have joy and calm, even in the midst of life’s greatest challenges? Seek out this peace, for if you do, you will be seeking out the good God Who produces this glorious gift within your heart.

 

My Lord of true peace, You and Your holy will are the only path to the deepest fulfillment of all of my desires in life. When I make poor choices that lead to disorder and confusion, help me to turn to You with all my heart. Please unmask any deception I struggle with and give me the strength I need to seek You and Your peace alone. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 30th April 2021
Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Overcoming a Troubled Heart

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” John 14:1

 

In John’s Gospel, Chapters 14–17 present us with what is referred to as Jesus’ “Last Supper Discourses,” or His “Final Discourses.” These are a series of sermons given by our Lord to the disciples the night He was arrested. These discourses are deep and filled with symbolic imagery. He speaks of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the vine and the branches, the world’s hatred, and these discourses conclude with Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. These discourses begin with today’s Gospel in which Jesus addresses the coming fear, or troubled hearts, that He knows His disciples will experience.

 

Let’s begin by considering this first line spoken by Jesus above: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” This is a command. It’s a gentle command but a command nonetheless. Jesus knew that His disciples would soon see Him arrested, falsely accused, mocked, beaten and killed. He knew they would be overwhelmed by what they would soon experience, so He took this opportunity to gently and lovingly rebuke the fear that they would soon face.

 

Fear can come from many different sources. Some fear is helpful to us, such as the fear present in a dangerous situation. In this case, that fear can heighten our awareness of the danger so that we proceed with caution. But the fear that Jesus was speaking of here was of a different kind. It was a fear that could lead to irrational decisions, confusion, and even despair. This was the kind of fear that our Lord wanted to gently rebuke.

 

What is it that causes you to fear at times? Many people struggle with anxiety, worry, and fear for many different reasons. If this is something you struggle with, it’s important to allow Jesus’ words to resonate within your mind and heart. The best way to overcome fear is to rebuke it at its source. Hear Jesus say to you, “Do not let your heart be troubled.” Then listen to His second command: “You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” Faith in God is the cure for fear. When we have faith, we are under the control of the voice of God. It is God’s truth that directs us rather than the difficulty we are facing. Fear can lead to irrational thinking, and irrational thinking can lead us deeper and deeper into confusion. Faith pierces through the irrationality we are tempted with, and the truths that faith presents to us bring clarity and strength.

 

Reflect, today, upon whatever it is that causes you the most anxiety, worry and fear in your life. Allow Jesus to speak to you, to call you to faith and to rebuke those troubles gently but firmly. When you have faith in God, you can endure all things. Jesus endured the Cross. The disciples eventually endured their crosses. God wants to strengthen you, too. Let Him speak to you so that you will overcome whatever is most troublesome to your heart.

 

My loving Shepherd, You know all things. You know my heart and the difficulties I face in life. Give me the courage I need, dear Lord, to face every temptation to fear with confidence and trust in You. Bring clarity to my mind and peace to my troubled heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 29th April, 2021
Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Are You Blessed?

 

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.” John 13:16–17

 

During this, the Fourth Week of Easter, we return to the Last Supper and will spend a few weeks considering the discourse Jesus gave that Holy Thursday evening to His disciples. The question to ask yourself today is this: “Are you blessed?” Jesus says that you are blessed if you “understand” and “do” what He teaches His disciples. So what did He teach them?

 

Jesus offers this prophetic action by which He took on the role of a slave by washing the disciples’ feet. His action was much louder than words, as the saying goes. The disciples were humbled by this act, and Peter, at first, refused it. There is little doubt that this humble act of service, by which Jesus lowered Himself before His disciples, made a strong impression upon them.

 

The worldly view of greatness is much different than the one Jesus taught. Worldly greatness is a process of elevating yourself in the eyes of others, striving to let them know just how good you are. Worldly greatness is often driven by a fear of what others may think of you, and a desire to be honored by all. But Jesus wants to be clear that we will only be great if we serve. We must humble ourselves before others, holding them and their goodness up, honoring them and showing them the deepest love and respect. By washing their feet, Jesus completely abandoned the worldly view of greatness and called His disciples to do the same.

 

Humility is difficult to understand at times. This is why Jesus said, “If you understand this…” He realized that the disciples, as well as all of us, will struggle with understanding the importance of humbling ourselves before others and serving them. But if you do understand humility, you will be “blessed” when you live it. You will not be blessed in the eyes of the world, but you will be truly blessed in the eyes of God.

 

Humility is especially accomplished when we purify our desire for honor and prestige, when we overcome all fear of being mistreated, and when, in place of this desire and fear, we desire abundant blessings upon others, even before ourselves. This love and humility is the only way to this mysterious and profound depth of love.

 

Reflect, today, upon this humble act of the Son of God, the Savior of the World, lowering Himself before His disciples, serving them as if He were a slave. Try to imagine yourself doing this for others. Think about various ways that you can more readily go out of your way to put others and their needs before your own. Seek to eliminate every selfish desire you struggle with and identify any fear that keeps you from humility. Understand this gift of humility and live it. Only then will you be truly blessed.

 

My humble Lord, You set for us the perfect example of love when You chose to serve Your disciples with great humility. Help me to understand this beautiful virtue and to live it. Free me from all selfishness and fear so that I may love others as You have loved us all. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 28th April, 2021
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

The Oneness of God

 

 

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

 

Note that Jesus’ words in the above quoted passage start by stating that “Jesus cried out…” This intentional addition by the Gospel writer adds emphasis to this statement. Jesus didn’t just “say” these words, He “cried out.” For that reason, we should be extra attentive to these words and allow them to speak to us all the more.

 

This Gospel passage takes place during the week prior to Jesus’ Passion. He entered Jerusalem triumphantly and, then, throughout the week, spoke to various groups of people while the Pharisees plotted against Him. The emotions were tense, and Jesus spoke with greater and greater vigor and clarity. He spoke about His pending death, the unbelief of many, and His oneness with the Father in Heaven. At one point during the week, as Jesus was speaking of His oneness with the Father, the voice of the Father spoke audibly for all to hear. Jesus had just said, “Father, glorify your name.” And then the Father spoke, saying, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” Some thought it was thunder and others thought it was an angel. But it was the Father in Heaven.

 

This context is useful when reflecting upon today’s Gospel. Jesus passionately wants us to know that if we have faith in Him, then we also have faith in the Father, because the Father and He are one. Of course, this teaching on the oneness of God is nothing new to us today—we should all be very familiar with the teaching on the Most Holy Trinity. But in many ways, this teaching on the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit must be seen as new and pondered anew every day.

 

Imagine Jesus speaking to you, personally, and with great vigor, about His unity with the Father. Consider carefully how deeply He desires that you understand this divine mystery of Their oneness. Allow yourself to sense how much Jesus wants you to understand Who He is in relation to His Father.

Prayerfully understanding the Trinity teaches us much, not only about Who God is but about who we are. We are called to share in the oneness of God by becoming united with Them through love. The early Church Fathers often spoke of our calling to be “divinized,” that is, to share in the divine life of God. And though this is a mystery beyond complete comprehension, it’s a mystery that Jesus deeply desires us to prayerfully ponder.

 

Reflect, today, upon the passion in the heart of Jesus to reveal to you Who He is in relation to the Father. Be open to a deeper understanding of this divine truth. And as you open yourself to this revelation, allow God to also reveal to you His desire to draw you into Their holy life of unity. This is your calling. This is the reason Jesus came to earth. He came to draw us into the very life of God. Believe it with much passion and conviction.

 

My passionate Lord, You spoke long ago about Your oneness with the Father in Heaven. You speak again, today, to me, about this glorious truth. Draw me in, dear Lord, not only to the great mystery of Your oneness with the Father but also to the mystery of Your calling to me to share in Your life. I accept this invitation and pray that I become more fully one with You, the Father and the Holy Spirit. Most Holy Trinity, I trust in You.

 

Tuesday 27th April, 2021
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Learning the Language of God

 

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

 

Why is it that these people did not know that Jesus was the Christ? They wanted Jesus to speak “plainly” to them, but Jesus surprises them by saying that He already answered their question but they “do not believe.” This Gospel passage continues the beautiful teaching about Jesus being the Good Shepherd. It’s interesting that these people want Jesus to speak plainly about whether or not He is the Christ, but instead, Jesus speaks plainly about the fact that they do not believe in Him because they are not listening. They have missed what He has said and are left in confusion.

 

One thing this tells us is that God speaks to us in His own way, not necessarily in the way we would like Him to speak. He speaks a mystical, profound, gentle and hidden language. He reveals His deepest mysteries only to those who have come to learn His language. But to those who do not understand God’s language, confusion sets in.

 

If you ever find yourself confused in life, or confused about the plan God has for you, then perhaps it’s time to examine how carefully you listen to the way God speaks. We could beg God, day and night, to “speak plainly” to us, but He will only speak in the way He has always spoken. And what is that language? On the deepest level, it’s the language of infused prayer.

 

Prayer, of course, is different than only saying prayers. Prayer is ultimately a relationship of love with God. It’s a communication on the deepest level. Prayer is an act of God within our soul by which God invites us to believe in Him, to follow Him, and to love Him. This invitation is continually offered to us, but too often we fail to hear it because we fail to truly pray.

 

Much of John’s Gospel, including Chapter Ten from which we are reading today, speaks in a mystical way. It’s not possible to simply read it like a novel and comprehend all that Jesus says with one read. Jesus’ teaching must be heard in your soul, prayerfully, pondered, and heard. This approach will open the ears of your heart to the certitude of the voice of God.

 

Reflect, today, upon the mysterious ways in which God communicates to you. If you do not understand how He speaks, then that is a good starting point. Spend time with this Gospel, prayerfully pondering it. Meditate upon Jesus’ words, listening for His voice. Learn His language through silent prayer and allow His holy words to draw you to Himself.

 

My mysterious and hidden Lord, You speak to me day and night and continually reveal Your love to me. Help me to learn to listen to You so that I may grow deep in faith and may truly become Your follower in every way. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 26th April, 2021
Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Recognizing the Voice of God

 

But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. John 10:2–4

 

Do you recognize the voice of the Shepherd? Does He lead you each and every day, guiding you into His holy will? How attentive are you to what He speaks each day? These are some of the most important questions to ponder.

 

Recognizing God’s voice is something that many people struggle with. There are often many competing “voices” that speak to us each and every day. From the latest news in the headlines, to the opinions of friends and family, to the temptations all around us within the secular world, to our own self-drawn opinions, these “voices” or “ideas” that fill our minds can be hard to sort through. What is from God? And what is from other sources?

 

Recognizing the voice of God is indeed possible. First of all, there are many general truths that God has already spoken to us. For example, everything contained in the Holy Scriptures are the voice of God. His Word is alive. And when we read the Scriptures, we become more and more familiar with God’s voice.

 

God also speaks to us through gentle inspirations that result in His peace. For example, when considering a certain decision you may need to make, if you present that decision to our Lord prayerfully and then remain open to whatever He wants of you, oftentimes His answer comes in the form of a deep and certain peace of heart.

 

Learning to recognize the voice of God in your daily life is accomplished by building an interior habit of listening, recognizing, responding, listening some more, recognizing and responding, etc. The more you hear the voice of God, the more you will recognize His voice in the most subtle of ways, and the more you come to hear the subtleties of His voice, the more you will be able to follow. In the end, this is only accomplished by an ongoing habit of deep and sustaining prayer. Without that, it will be very difficult to recognize the voice of the Shepherd when you need Him the most.

 

Reflect, today, upon how attentive you are to God in prayer. What does your daily prayer look like? Do you spend time each day, listening to the gentle and beautiful voice of our Lord? Do you seek to form a habit by which His voice becomes clearer and clearer? If not, if you do struggle in recognizing His voice, then make the decision to establish a deeper habit of daily prayer so that it is the voice of our loving Lord Who leads you every day.

 

Jesus, my Good Shepherd, You speak to me each and every day. You are constantly revealing to me Your most holy will for my life. Help me to always recognize Your gentle voice so that I can be led by You through the challenges of life. May my life of prayer become so deep and sustaining that Your voice always echoes within my heart and soul. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 23rd April, 2021
Friday of the Third Week of Easter

A “Holy Fear”

 

 

“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. John 6:53–55

 

On a philosophical level, it’s useful to consider various things that appear to be “competing forces.” Good appears to be the opposite of evil. Light the opposite of dark. Heat the opposite of cold. And life the opposite of death. But are they truly opposites in the sense of being competing forces? When considered carefully, it is clear that good and evil, light and dark, heat and cold, and life and death are not actually “competing forces;” rather, evil is simply the absence of good, darkness the absence of light, cold the absence of heat, and death the loss of life. And though this philosophical distinction may not seem that interesting to some, and confusing to others, it is a helpful truth to ponder in light of today’s Gospel.

 

Today’s Gospel tells us that failure to “eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood” results in death. Death is the loss of life, and the Eucharist is the source of life. Jesus says that if you fail to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, “you do not have life within you.”

 

This bold teaching of Jesus should cause us to stop and examine our approach to the Most Holy Eucharist. Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that going to Mass and receiving Communion is something we do as a “favor” to our Lord. But in truth, it’s God’s most profound favor to us, because the Eucharist is the gateway to eternal life. And without it, we have no life within us. Our spirits die because we lose the presence of God.

 

Looking at the negative effect of not receiving the Most Holy Eucharist can be very useful. Sometimes we need to consider the consequences of our actions as a way of motivating us to greater fidelity. For that reason, considering the fact that failure to eat the Flesh of the Son of God results in death should be very motivating. It should fill us with a holy fear of the loss of the life-giving presence of God within us. This “holy fear” is a true gift from God and is, in fact, one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

 

Reflect, today, upon your interior attitude toward the Most Holy Eucharist. Do you see your participation in the Holy Mass more as a favor you offer to our Lord? Or do you see it as it is: the life-giving source of eternal life? Reflect upon how important this precious gift truly is and recommit yourself to a faithful and devout participation in this most holy Gift.

 

My Eucharistic Lord, Your Flesh and Blood are truly the source of eternal life for all who receive You in faith. I thank You, dear Lord, for this most precious Gift of the Most Holy Eucharist, and I pray that I will be filled with a deep hunger and thirst for You always. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 22nd April, 2021
Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

The Flesh of Our Lord

 

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.” John 6:51

 

Jesus was starting to stir up the emotions of some within the crowd. They began to ridicule Him because He had said that He was the “bread that had come down from heaven.” Thus, many of those who had sought Jesus out in hopes of another miraculous free meal began to murmur among themselves and ridicule Him. As a result, Jesus began to speak even more clearly and shockingly. He then went even further and said that He is not only the “living bread that came down from heaven” but that those who want to “live forever” must also eat His “Flesh.”

 

How would you have reacted to such a statement if you were among those within the crowd? Consider the fact that you would have recently seen, with your own eyes, the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Therefore, you would have realized that Jesus was someone special, to say the least. But how would you have reacted to this statement of Jesus, “and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world,” if you had heard it spoken at that time? Most likely, your reaction would have been the same reaction that you have right now to the teaching of the Most Holy Eucharist.

 

Many who heard Jesus speak this way may have thought it was a bit of an unusual thing to say. Some would have reacted strongly, while others would have reacted with indifference. But some would have had an entirely different reaction. Some would have heard Jesus speak these new and shocking words, would have realized that they did not fully understand what He meant, but would have believed deeply on account of the gift of faith. Somehow they would have known, in the depths of their consciences, that they did indeed need to eat the Flesh of Him Who came down from Heaven since He was indeed the Bread of Life.

 

Believing in the Eucharist, in the fact that these tangible and visible gifts of the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood are, in fact, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Eternal Son of God, can only happen through the interior and transforming gift of faith. How else can you believe such a teaching? How else could you believe that these words in today’s Gospel have come true? And that the reception of the Most Holy Eucharist is the pathway to eternal life? The gift of faith in the Most Holy Eucharist is the one and only way to understand, accept and deeply believe what our Lord has spoken in this Holy Gospel.

 

Reflect, today, upon Jesus speaking these most holy words for the first time: “…the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.” As you prayerfully reflect upon these words, ponder how deeply you believe them. How deep is your faith in the Most Holy Eucharist? The Eucharist is the fulfillment of this passage, and our divine Lord invites you to not only believe in His holy words but to allow this truth to transform you in ways beyond what you could ever imagine.

 

My Eucharistic Lord, You are truly the Bread of Life, and all those who eat Your Flesh and drink Your Blood will inherit eternal life. I do believe this, dear Lord. I believe that the Most Holy Eucharist is You, Your Soul and Divinity, given to me so that I can share in Your holy life. Give me the grace I need to deepen my faith in the Most Holy Eucharist so that I will be drawn more fully into the joys of Your Eternal Kingdom. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 21st April, 2021
Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter

Holy Sight

 

“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

 

Do you believe in Jesus? Unquestionably the answer is “Yes.” However, to believe in our Lord is something that must deepen with every passing day. Therefore, if you do have faith in Jesus, you can also admit that you do not have faith enough. In this Gospel passage in which the “Bread of Life Discourse” is continued, Jesus calls us to do two things. First, we must see Him. Second, we must believe. Let’s start with the first.

 

When Jesus first spoke these words to the crowd, they did see His physical presence. But many of them did not see beyond the surface. They saw His miracles, heard His teaching, but very few saw the deeper reality of Jesus as the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior of the World.

 

If you are to believe in our Lord and all that He is, then you must first see Him. One of the best ways to foster this “holy sight” of our Lord is to gaze at Him in the Most Holy Eucharist. When you attend Mass or spend time in adoration and  look upon the Most Holy Eucharist, what do you see? Do you see the Eternal Son? Do you see His holy divinity? Do you see your God and the Lord of all?

As we stand or kneel before our Lord, present in the Most Holy Eucharist, it’s easy to become distracted. It’s easy to allow our minds to wander to the many other aspects of our daily lives and to fail to see the eternal Son of God as He is present to us.

 

Reflect, today, upon the way you look at our Lord. If you want to deepen your faith, your belief, then start with your sight. Start by considering how you look at Jesus, present in the Most Holy Eucharist. If you are blessed to be with Him this day at the Holy Mass or in adoration, examine the way to see Him. Gaze at Him. Make an intentional act of faith in His divine presence. Acknowledge His Godhead, His glory, His holiness and His sacred presence. If you can look beyond the surface and lift the veil that covers His glory, then this holy gift of sight will give way, also, to the gift of profound faith.

 

My ever-present Lord, I thank You profoundly for the way You come to me in the Most Holy Eucharist. I thank You for Your divine presence and glory. Help me to see beyond the veil of the appearance of bread and wine so that I can see more clearly Your divinity. As I see Your divine presence, dear Lord, help me to profess my belief in You with greater certitude and faith. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 20th April, 2021
Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

The Bread of Life

 

So they said to Jesus, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” John 6:34–35

 

Imagine if you were to never grow hungry or never thirst again. On a natural level, this would be an interesting reality. Of course, if you never had physical hunger or thirst, then you may never enjoy the delight of good food and drink. So why would anyone want to lose out on such delights?

 

Of course, Jesus was not speaking of natural food and drink, He was speaking of supernatural hunger and thirst. And He was not saying that the spiritual food and drink He came to give us would eliminate our ability to delight in spiritual fulfillment. On the contrary, Jesus was saying that the spiritual food and drink He was to provide would result in neverending fulfillment and satisfaction.

 

Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel will continue to be read throughout this week, the Third Week of Easter. This chapter presents us with what is traditionally called the “Bread of Life Discourse.” It’s John’s deep, mystical and profound teaching on the Most Holy Eucharist.

 

First of all, it’s useful to look at this Gospel within its context. Recall that on the previous day, Jesus performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, and a crowd of people who had been fed by Him were now seeking more food. Jesus uses their desire for more food to begin to teach them about the Most Holy Eucharist, and He wants to do the same for you.

 

Put yourself into this scene. What is it that you hunger and thirst for the most? Perhaps you have plenty of physical food, but perhaps you don’t. If you do, what else do you crave? What do you desire? When you have identified your deepest desires right now, use these desires to allow our Lord to teach you about the Bread of Life. It might be useful to say to our Lord, “Here are my current desires in life…” And then, allow yourself to hear Jesus say to you, “I want to give you so much more. I am what you truly long for. If you come to Me, you will have all your desires fulfilled and more.” This is essentially the conversation Jesus had with this crowd throughout John Chapter 6.

 

Do you believe that the Most Holy Eucharist is capable of fulfilling you on the deepest level? Too often we approach that Sacrament in a lazy and distracted way. As a result, we often fail to truly receive our Lord on a level that provides this deepest delight and satisfaction.

 

Reflect, today and throughout this week, upon your approach to Holy Communion. The Eucharist is Christ Himself. It’s a gift that has the potential to not only sustain us in every way but also to draw us into the greatest Heavenly delights. Believe Jesus’ words in this holy chapter of John’s Gospel. For if you deepen your belief in all that Jesus has said, you will begin to realize that all you crave in life will begin to be fulfilled by this precious gift in ways beyond your imagination.

 

My Eucharistic Lord, You are the Bread of Life. You are all that I desire in life. Give me the grace of understanding, dear Lord, so that I can come to believe all that You have revealed about the Most Holy Eucharist. I do believe, my God. Help my unbelief. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Thursday 1st April, 2021

Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper 

Our Model for Holiness – Holy Thursday

 

“Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’  and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” John 13:12–15

 

Do you want to be holy? Perhaps this question is not one that everyone will immediately answer with a resounding “Yes.” Sadly, holiness, for some, can seem boring and unattractive. The lure of evil is very enticing on a confused and superficial level. So what is your answer to this question? Do you want to be holy?

 

As we begin today the sacred Triduum, we enter into the holiest days of the Church year.  We walk with our Lord through His final glorification today as He celebrates the Passover with His disciples and enters the Garden of Gethsemane to await His arrest. Tomorrow we walk with Him through the stations of His Cross. On Saturday, we sit in silent adoration of His tomb as we await the Resurrection.

 

In the Gospel quoted above, Jesus gives us a model for holiness by the witness of His actions. He Who is the God of the Universe, the Creator of all, the Eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, humbles Himself and takes on the form of a lowly servant by washing the feet of His disciples. He then offers them the Most Holy Eucharist for the first time, before He goes to meet His persecutors.

 

The model Jesus gives us is a prophetic action by which Jesus tells us that true greatness, that is, true holiness, is found in humility. Holiness is realized in our lives when we turn our eyes from ourselves and love others as their servants. 

 

None of us are the Savior of the World, but each of us must become instruments of His saving act for others. As we accept Jesus’ gift, we must then turn to others and humble ourselves before them. We must help them to see our love and their dignity. We must serve them with humility and put them first. Doing so will then enable us to invite them to imitate us as we imitate Christ. Thus, our humble imitation of Jesus becomes a means by which Jesus invites others to follow Him.

 

Reflect, today, upon the invitation of Jesus: “…as I have done for you, you should also do.” Jesus gave us everything, so we must give everything to others. We must serve without counting the cost. We must love them, putting their needs before ours. We must become a model of the love of Christ for them. Ponder Jesus’ service today and throughout the Triduum and commit yourself to live the invitation given you by our Lord.

 

My humble Lord, may Your name be praised and adored above all things. May You be exalted by Your humility and lowly service. I see in Your humble act, dear Lord, the deep love You have for me and for all. May I imitate that humble love in my own life so that my imitation of You will help to share Your saving love with others. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Wednesday 31st March, 2021
Wednesday of Holy Week

Rejecting Empty Promises

 

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over. Matthew 26:14–16

 

The desire for money can become a powerful incentive to betray our Lord. In this Gospel passage, it seems clear that Judas’ betrayal was based on his desire for money. He most likely had some level of faith in our Lord, or he wouldn’t have become His disciple. But even if Judas did have some level of faith, his desire for money appeared to overshadow the faith he may have had.

 

One of the central lessons we can learn from Judas is that the desire for money is a powerful incentive for the decisions we make. So many of the great saints have taught us that the path to holiness consists, first, in a purification of all our disordered affections. And since one of the most powerful attachments that many struggle with is an attachment to money, this is an important desire to purify in all of our lives.

 

It’s true that material possessions are not evil when they are used for the fulfillment of God’s will. But the desire for more, for an excess, will always cloud our ability to see clearly the will of God and live for His glory alone.

 

Once Judas had betrayed our Lord and Jesus was arrested, recall that Judas “deeply regretted what he had done.” And during Jesus’ trial, Judas went back to the chief priests and said “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood” in an apparent attempt to stop the trial. But Jesus’ death was set in motion and could not be stopped. As a result, Judas returned the money and sadly went off to hang himself (See Matthew 27:3–5).

 

The desire Judas had for money clouded his thinking. And his sin did to him what sin always does. As soon as his sin of betrayal was done, Judas saw the consequences of that choice. And the consequences grieved him deeply. He learned that choosing sin ends with an empty promise. He realized that thirty pieces of silver was not worth the value of his soul. But of course, even then Judas could have repented and received the mercy of God. But he didn’t. He simply ended his life in ultimate despair.

 

Reflect, today, upon the witness of Judas. Use him as a source of meditation and self-examination this Holy Week. What is it in your life that you desire more than our Lord? What temptation clouds your thinking and leads you to choices that you know will end in emptiness? Strive to eradicate every disordered desire within you this day and choose wisely the will of God instead. Do not let yourself continue to believe the lies that keep you from making Jesus and His holy will the one and only focus of your life.

 

My divine Lord, You and You alone must become the focus of my life. You and You alone are of the greatest value in life. Help me to shed all earthly desires in life so that I will not fall into the temptations that lead to empty promises and so that I will embrace the true and fulfilling promises that come from You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 30th March, 2021
Tuesday of Holy Week

The Glory of God in All Things

 

“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once.”  John 13:31–32

 

Jesus speaks this line about Himself being glorified immediately after Judas leaves the supper to go forth to betray Him. Jesus had just finished washing the feet of His disciples, and soon He would finish the Last Supper, go to the Garden of Gethsemane, be arrested, beaten and crucified. And this was to all take place through the betrayal of one of the Twelve. Yet rather than speak of these pending events in a fearful or anxious way, Jesus points to the glory He will receive through them.

 

Everything in life has the potential to become an instrument of the glory of God. Even our sin can end in God’s glory when we repent and receive God’s forgiveness. It will not be our sin that glorifies God but His mercy poured forth from the Cross upon us that gives Him glory.

 

The same is true with the events of Holy Week. When looked at from a purely human perspective, what Jesus endured was tragic and horrific. One of His closest companions betrayed Him. The religious leaders of the time betrayed Him. The civil authorities betrayed Him. And all of the disciples except John fled in fear as Jesus was betrayed. But Jesus did not look at any of this through human eyes alone. He saw it all from the eternal perspective and clearly taught that all of these seemingly tragic events would end in His glory.

 

When we commit ourselves to the following of Christ, we can be assured that we will also share in His Cross. We will experience the sins of others, encounter mistreatment, and have to endure various sufferings. The question for us all as we have these encounters in life is whether we will endure them in anger and despair or with the hopeful confidence of our Lord. Again, everything in life has the potential to become an instrument of the glory of God. Nothing in life has the power to steal away that glory when we keep our eyes upon the will of God and His power to use all for His glory.

 

Reflect, today, upon your call in life to see everything from the divine perspective. If you are upset, angry, despairing or confused at times, know that God wants to bring clarity and grace to every situation. He wants to show you how you can share in His divine mission of transforming every evil into God’s glory. Seek out the ways that your life must give glory to God in everything, especially those things that seem incapable of being used for good. The more an experience in life seems incapable of being used for God’s glory, the more that experience is capable of giving true glory to God.

 

My glorious Lord, You brought forth good from all things. Even the grave evil of Your betrayal was transformed into a manifestation of Your glory. I offer to You, dear Lord, all that I endure in life and pray that You will be glorified in all things, and that my life will continually become a manifestation of the glory due Your holy name. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 29th March, 2021
Monday of Holy Week

Expressing Your Love of God

 

 

Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” John 12:4–5

 

Jesus was with His disciples at the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. He regularly spent time at their home and was close to them. This meal took place just before Jesus entered into Jerusalem for the first Palm Sunday and Holy Week. It was six days before Jesus would die on the cross.

 

Recall that Lazarus had recently been raised from the dead by Jesus and also that Mary, Lazarus’ sister, was deeply devoted to Jesus and is recorded as the one who sat at His feet, while her sister Martha served. During this visit, Mary offered another act of devotion to Jesus when she anointed Him with “a litter of costly perfumed oil.” She offered Him an act of love and devotion. The Scripture passage above records Judas’ response as he also was at the meal. Jesus rebukes Judas and defends the act of devotion given by Mary, and the meal continues on. 

 

One clear lesson this teaches us is that nothing is too good for our Lord. It’s true that we must do our part to help care for the poor, but Jesus’ response to Judas is quite interesting. He says, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” Jesus was not downplaying the importance of caring for the poor; He was emphasizing the importance of offering acts of love and devotion to Him.

 

As we enter into this the holiest week of the year, we are given this image of Mary lavishing upon Jesus this litter of costly perfumed oil as a way of inviting us to do the same. Though we serve Christ in others who are in need, we must also seek to regularly offer Him devotion and love directly, even in ways that others may think is excessive. Honouring Him, expressing our love, spending time with various devotions, praying for extended periods of time, and even offering Him our financial resources are all ways in which we give Jesus the glory that is due Him.

 

Reflect, today, upon ways in which you can imitate this act of loving devotion offered by Mary to Jesus. In what ways can you pour forth in an abundant way your time, money, talents, and energy upon our Lord? How can you best express your devotion to Him this Holy Week? Seek out ways to do this directly for the one and simple reason that you love our Lord and want to express that love this week.

 

My glorious Jesus, You are worthy of all praise and honour. You are worthy of our deepest devotion and love. As I enter into this Holy Week, I pray that it will be a time in which I may express my deepest love for You. Help me to pour forth that love in abundance this week so as to show You the glory and praise You deserve. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 26th March, 2021
Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Entering the Desert

 

“If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” John 10:37–39

 

These words spoken by Jesus took place during the feast of the Dedication in Jerusalem. Jesus had been preaching clearly about His relationship with the Father in Heaven, and this was causing some to become outraged to the point of them trying to arrest Him right then and there. But He escaped and went back into the wilderness where He had been baptized by John. As Jesus remained there in the desert, many people came to Him to be with Him and to listen to His words. As they listened, they began to believe.

 

It’s interesting to note the contrast of reactions. In Jerusalem within the Temple area, among large crowds gathered for the feast of the Dedication, Jesus was increasingly rejected and persecuted. But when He returned to the desert and people had to come to see Him, they listened and believed. This contrast presents us with one way in which we will more easily grow in our faith and help others grow in their faith. Specifically, we are invited to go into the “desert” to encounter our Lord, away from the busyness of life, and we must also invite others to join us in such a journey.

 

It’s true that, while in Jerusalem, there were people who happened to stumble upon Jesus as He was teaching and were moved by His word and came to believe. But it’s also clear that, when people had to commit to the effort of seeking Him out in a deserted place, His words were even more transformative.

 

In our own lives, within the ordinary activities of life, such as regular attendance at Mass, we will be given the opportunity to hear the Gospel and deepen our life of faith. But all of us need to take time to seek Jesus out “in the wilderness,” so to speak, so as to be even more disposed to hear Him and believe. These “desert experiences” come in many forms. Perhaps it’s an experience as simple as going into your room alone to pray and ponder the Word of God. Or perhaps it’s a participation in a Bible study, an online devotional program, or parish catechesis event. Or perhaps it’s the choice to go away for a weekend or longer for a guided retreat where all you do for some time is pray and listen to our Lord.

 

Throughout history, saint after saint has shown us the value of going off to pray to be with our Lord, in a place where the many other distractions of life and the many voices of the world are silenced, so that God can speak to the heart and so that we can more fully respond.

 

Reflect, today, upon the invitation Jesus is giving you to go out to meet Him in the wilderness. Where is that place? How can you accomplish this short journey while keeping up with the important duties of life? Do not hesitate to seek out the desert to which our Lord is calling you, so that you will be able to meet Him there, listen to His voice, and respond with complete generosity.

 

My Lord Jesus, You are calling me to enter deeper into a relationship of love with You, my divine Lord. Give me the grace I need to say “Yes” to You and to enter into the desert of silence and prayer I need so as to hear Your voice. Draw me to You, my Lord, and help me to more fully believe all that You wish to say. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Let it Be

Solemnity of the Annunciation

 

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”  Luke 1:26–28

 

Imagine if the Angel Gabriel, the glorious Archangel who stands before the Most Holy Trinity, were to come to you and announce to you that you were “full of grace” and that “The Lord is with you.” What an indescribable and awe-inspiring experience that would be! And yet this is exactly what happened to this young teenager, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

We celebrate today this amazing event that took place, marking the moment when God took on human flesh within her blessed womb. Note that today is nine months before Christmas. The Church gives us this Solemnity today to invite us to walk with Mary over these coming nine months so as to join her in her rejoicing over the birth of her divine Son.

 

Much could be said about this glorious Solemnity. We could ponder Mother Mary and her Immaculate Conception. We could ponder the very words spoken by the Archangel. We could ponder the mystery surrounding her pregnancy and the way in which God chose to set this gift into motion. And we could ponder so much more. Though all of these aspects are worth fully pondering and praying over, let’s focus upon the reaction of this young woman to the angelic announcement.

 

First, we read that Mary was “greatly troubled” and “pondered” these words spoken by the Archangel. Being troubled reveals that Mary did not have full knowledge of what the Archangel was revealing. But the fact that she pondered the words also reveals her openness to a fuller understanding. She then seeks a deeper gift of knowledge by asking, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” This response is first an assent of belief in faith followed by a request for a deeper understanding of this revelation. Faith is the ability to assent to that which we do not fully understand, but true faith always seeks a deeper understanding—and this is what Mary did.

 

After being given some further revelation by the Archangel, Mary fully accepts what was revealed and trusts that what she was told was all she needed to know at that time. And then she offers what has come to be known as her “fiat.” She says, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” This fiat of Mary is her perfect prayer of surrender to the will of God, and it is also the perfect model for how we all must respond to the will of God. We must see ourselves as true servants of His will, and we must fully embrace whatsoever God asks of us, completely uniting our wills to His.

 

Reflect, today, upon these words of our Blessed Mother: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” How is God asking you to make this your prayer also? How is God calling you to serve His most holy will? Are you willing to fully assent to anything and everything God asks of you? As you prayerfully reflect upon this fiat of our Blessed Mother, seek to unite her response to yours so that you, too, will be a servant of the most high God.

 

Father in Heaven, You sent Your Son to become incarnate in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Your glorious Archangel Gabriel brought forth this Good News. May I always be attentive to the messages You send forth to me as You invite me to join in Your divine mission of bringing Your Son into the world. I say “Yes” this day, dear Lord, to serve Your most holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Wednesday 24th March, 2021
Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

The Truth Will Set You Free

 

 

Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31–32

 

These words have the potential to make a transforming difference in our lives. Note that Jesus spoke these words “to those Jews who believed in him.” That is, those who had accepted His word and were, therefore, His true disciples. We who also believe in Jesus should consider these words carefully. The heart of this teaching is twofold: you must come to “know the truth” so that the truth you come to know “will set you free.” 

 

This teaching of Jesus is exceptionally helpful on both a psychological and spiritual level. First of all, on a purely psychological level, one of the greatest helps to good mental health is the truth. Most often when one struggles with various forms of depression, it’s because they are seeing aspects of their life with confusion. “Why did this person do this to me?” Or “How will I ever get through this?” Or “My life is a mess and there is no way out.” These and other similar thoughts will inevitably lead to depression for one simple reason: they are based on erroneous thinking.

 

One of the best forms of psychological counseling is what could be called “truth therapy.” Every despairing question that we have and every depressing conclusion that we have come to in life must be reexamined in the light of the mind of God. What does God think? What is in the mind of God in this regard? Those truths that are waiting to be discovered are the truth that “will set you free.” Depression is more easily overcome when we look at our life in the way that God looks at our life. This produces hope, and hope brings freedom to the chains of depression and confusion.

 

On a spiritual level, these principles apply all the more. The truth about sin, forgiveness, salvation and Heaven must be known deeply and embraced fully. When we deny the truth of sin or forgiveness, then we live within a lie and we remain bound by that lie. True spiritual freedom that leads to salvation and eternity in Heaven is obtained only when we wholeheartedly embrace the holy and perfect spiritual truth given to us by God. We must clearly know our sin, repent of it, seek the forgiveness of God, amend our lives and live the new life of grace to which we are called.

 

Reflect, today, upon this powerfully transforming teaching of Jesus: “know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” What psychological and spiritual truths do you need to more deeply know? What confusion or blindness remains? Seek the remedy of the Truth as it is in the mind of God and know that freedom awaits.

 

God of all Truth, Your Word is liberating, transforming and fills us with hope. May I turn my mind to You and to Your holy Word so that I may know the Truth as You speak it and allow that transforming Truth to set me free. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 23rd March, 2021
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

 

Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him. John 8:30

 

Jesus had been teaching in veiled but deeply profound ways about Who He was. In prior passages, He referred to Himself as the “bread of life,” the “living water,” the “light of the world,” and He even took upon Himself the ancient title of God “I AM.” Furthermore, He continually identified Himself with the Father in Heaven as His Father with Whom He was perfectly united and by Whom He was sent into the world to do His will. For example, just prior to the line above, Jesus states clearly, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me” (John 8:28). And it was because of this that many came to believe in Him. But why?

 

As John’s Gospel continues, Jesus’ teaching remains mysterious, deep and veiled. After Jesus speaks profound truths about Who He is, some listeners come to believe in Him, while others become hostile to Him. What is the difference between those who come to believe and those who ultimately kill Jesus? The simple answer is faith. Both those who came to believe in Jesus and those who orchestrated and supported His murder heard the same teaching of Jesus. Yet their reactions were so very different.

 

The same is true for us today. Just like those who heard these teachings for the first time from Jesus’ own lips, we also are presented with the same teaching. We are given the same opportunity to listen to His words and either receive them with faith or reject them or be indifferent. Are you one of the many who came to believe in Jesus because of these words?

 

Reading these veiled, mysterious and deep teachings of Jesus as they are presented in the Gospel of John requires a special gift from God if these words will have any impact upon our lives whatsoever. Faith is a gift. It’s not just a blind choice to believe. It’s a choice based on seeing. But it’s a seeing made possible only by an interior revelation from God to which we give our assent. Thus, Jesus as the Living Water, the Bread of Life, the great I AM, the Light of the World, and the Son of the Father will only make sense to us and will only have an effect upon us when we are open to and receive the interior light of the gift of faith. Without that openness and reception, we will remain either hostile or indifferent.

 

Reflect, today, upon the deep, veiled and mysterious language of God. When you read this language, especially in the Gospel of John, what is your reaction? Ponder your reaction carefully; and, if you find you are any less than one who has come to understand and believe, then seek the grace of faith this day so that our Lord’s words will powerfully transform your life.

 

My mysterious Lord, Your teaching about Who You are is beyond human reason alone. It is deep, mysterious and glorious beyond all understanding. Please give me the gift of faith so that I may come to know Who You are as I ponder the richness of Your holy Word. I believe in You, dear Lord. Help my unbelief. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 22nd March 2021
Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Public Sinners

 

“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

 

This is a powerful line spoken by Jesus. The judgmental and condemning Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who had apparently been caught “in the very act of committing adultery.” Was she a sinner? Yes, indeed she was. But this story is not so much about whether or not she was a sinner. It was about the attitude Jesus had toward sinners as compared to that held by the self-righteous, judgmental and condemning Pharisees.

 

First of all, let’s look at this woman. She was humiliated. She had committed sin, was caught, and was publicly presented to all as a sinner. How did she react? She didn’t resist. She didn’t remain in denial. She didn’t get angry. She didn’t fight back. Instead, she stood there humiliated, awaiting her punishment with a sorrowful heart.

 

Humiliation over one’s sins is a powerful experience that has the potential to bring forth true repentance. When we encounter someone who has sinned in a manifest way and is humiliated over their sin, we must treat them with compassion. Why? Because the dignity of the person always supersedes their sin. Every person is made in the image and likeness of God, and every person deserves our compassion. If one is obstinate and refuses to see their sin (such as in the case of the Pharisees), then an act of holy rebuke is necessary to help them repent. But when one experiences sorrow and, in this case, the added experience of humiliation, then they are ready for compassion.

 

By stating “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” Jesus is not justifying her sin. Rather, He’s making it clear that no one holds the right of condemnation. No one. Not even the religious leaders. This is a hard teaching to live for many in our world today. It is commonplace for the headlines in the media to almost compulsively present us with the most sensational sins of others. We are constantly being tempted to be outraged at what this or that person has done. We easily shake our heads, condemn them and treat them as if they were dirt. In fact, it seems that many people today see it as their duty to act as the “watchdogs” against every sin they can dig up on others.

 

Reflect, today, upon whether you are more like the Pharisees or Jesus. Would you have stood there in the crowd wanting this humiliated woman to be stoned? How about today? When you hear about the manifest sins of others, do you find yourself to be condemning of them? Or do you hope that mercy is shown to them? Seek to imitate the compassionate heart of our divine Lord; and when your time of judgment comes, you also will be shown an abundance of compassion.

 

My merciful Lord, You see past our sin and look to the heart. Your love is infinite and awe-inspiring. I thank You for the compassion You have shown to me, and I pray that I may always imitate that same compassion to every sinner all around me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 19th March, 2021
Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary

 

 

 

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. Matthew 1:24

 

What is it that made Saint Joseph so great? He wasn’t immaculately conceived as our Blessed Mother was. He was not divine like Jesus. But he was the head of the Holy Family, its guardian and its provider. He became the legal father of the Savior of the World and the spouse of the Mother of God. But Joseph is not great only because he was given such incredible privileges. First and foremost, he was great because of the choices he made in life. Today’s Gospel refers to him as a “righteous man” and as a man who “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” Thus, his greatness is primarily on account of his moral righteousness and obedience to the will of God.

 

Joseph’s obedience is especially seen in the fact that he obeyed the voice of God given to him in the four dreams recorded in Scripture. In his first dream, Joseph is told “do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20–21). In his second dream, Joseph is told, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him” (Matthew 2:13). In his third dream, Joseph is told, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead” (Matthew 2:20). And in his fourth dream, Joseph is warned to go instead to Galilee rather than Judea (Matthew 2:22).

 

When these dreams are read in succession, it is clear that Saint Joseph was attentive to the voice of God. We all have dreams, but Joseph’s dreams were different. They were clear communications from God, and they required a willing recipient. Joseph was open to the voice of God and listened in faith as that willing recipient.

 

Joseph also responded with complete submission and full determination. The commands Joseph received were not insignificant. His obedience required that he and his family travel great distances, take up residence in strange lands, and do so all in faith.

 

It’s also clear that Joseph took his vocation seriously. Pope Saint John Paul II gave him the title “Guardian of the Redeemer.” Over and over, he showed his unwavering commitment to his role as the guardian of his legal Son, Jesus, and of his wife, Mary. His life was spent providing for them, protecting them and offering them a father’s heart.

 

Reflect, today, upon the unique vocation of Saint Joseph. Ponder, especially, the early years of his marriage and the raising of Jesus. Consider his fatherly commitment to care for, provide for and protect his Son. We all must seek to imitate Saint Joseph’s virtues by protecting the presence of Christ within our own hearts, the hearts of our family and friends and in the world as a whole. Pray to Saint Joseph, asking him to help you follow his example so that the hidden presence of our Lord in our lives will grow and come to full maturation.

 

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust; with you Christ became man. Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen. (Prayer from Patris Cordeby Pope Francis)

 

Thursday 18th March, 2021
Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Human or Divine Praise?

 

 

“How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?” John 5:44

 

It’s quite normal and healthy for a parent to praise a young child for the good that they do. This healthy positive reinforcement is a way of teaching them the importance of doing good and avoiding what’s wrong. But human praise is not an infallible guide of what is right and wrong. In fact, when human praise is not based in the truth of God, it does great damage.

 

This short Scripture quote above comes from a lengthy teaching from Jesus about the difference between human praise and “the praise that comes only from God.” Jesus makes it clear that the only thing that has value is the praise that comes from God alone. In fact, earlier in this Gospel, Jesus says clearly, “I do not accept human praise…” Why is that?

 

Turning back to the example of a parent praising a child for the good they do, when the praise they offer is truly a praise of their goodness, then this is much more than human praise. It is praise from God given through a parent. A parent’s duty must be to teach right from wrong in accord with the will of God.

 

As for the “human praise” of which Jesus speaks, this is clearly praise of another that is void of the truthfulness of God. In other words, Jesus is saying that if someone were to praise Him for something that did not originate from the Father in Heaven, He would reject it. For example, if someone were to say of Jesus, “I think He would be a great governor of our nation because he could lead a revolt against the current leadership.” Obviously such “praise” would be rejected.

 

The bottom line is that we must praise one another, but our praise must only be that which originates from God. Our words must be spoken only in accord with the Truth. Our admiration must only be of that which is the presence of God alive in others. Otherwise, if we praise others based on worldly or self-centered values, we only encourage them in sin.

 

Reflect, today, upon the praise you give and receive. Do you allow misguided praise of others to misdirect you in life? And when you compliment and praise another, is that praise based on the Truth of God and directed to His glory. Seek to give and receive praise only when it is grounded in the Truth of God and directs all to His glory.

 

My praiseworthy Lord, I do thank You and praise You for Your perfect goodness. I thank You for the way that You act in perfect union with the will of the Father. Help me to listen only to Your voice in this life and to reject all the misleading and confusing voices of the world. May my values and choices be guided by You and You alone. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 17th March, 2021
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Amazement and Awe

 

 

“Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed.” John 5:25–26

 

The most central and most glorious mystery of our faith is that of the Most Holy Trinity. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God yet three distinct Persons. As divine “Persons,” each one is distinct; but as one God, each Person acts in perfect union with the others. In today’s Gospel, Jesus clearly identifies the Father in Heaven as His Father and clearly states that He and His Father are one. For this reason, there were those who wanted to kill Jesus because He “called God his own father, making himself equal to God.”

 

The sad reality is that the greatest and most glorious truth of God’s inner life, the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, was one of the primary reasons that some chose to hate Jesus and sought His life. Clearly, it was their ignorance of this glorious truth that drove them to this hatred.

 

We call the Holy Trinity a “mystery,” not because they cannot be known but because our knowledge of Who They are can never be fully understood. For eternity, we will enter deeper and deeper into our knowledge of the Trinity and be “amazed” on a continually deepening level.

 

One additional aspect of the mystery of the Trinity is that each one of us is called to share in Their very life. We will forever remain distinct from God; but, as many of the early Church Fathers liked to say, we must become “divinized,” meaning, we must share in God’s divine life through our union of body and soul with Christ Jesus. That union also unites us with the Father and the Spirit. This truth should also leave us “amazed,” as we read in the passage above.

 

As we continue to read this week from the Gospel of John and continue to ponder the mysterious and profound teaching of Jesus on His relationship with the Father in Heaven, it is essential that we not simply gloss over the mysterious language Jesus uses. Rather, we must prayerfully enter the mystery and allow our penetration of this mystery to leave us truly amazed. Amazement and transforming edification is the only good response. We will never fully understand the Trinity, but we must allow the truth of our Triune God to take hold of us and enrichen us, at very least, in a way that knows how much we do not know—and that knowledge leaves us in awe.

 

Reflect, today, upon the sacred mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Pray that God reveal Himself more fully to your mind and more completely consume your will. Pray that you will be able to share deeply in the life of the Trinity so that you will be filled with a holy amazement and awe.

 

Most holy and triune God, the love You share within Your very being of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is beyond my comprehension. The mystery of Your triune life is a mystery of the greatest degree. Draw me in, dear Lord, to the life You share with Your Father and the Holy Spirit. Fill me with wonder and awe as You invite me to share in Your divine life. Most Holy Trinity, I trust in You.

Monday 16th March, 2021
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Patient Endurance

 

One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” John 5:5–6

 

Only those who have been crippled for many years could understand what this man endured in life. He was crippled and unable to walk for thirty-eight years. The pool he was laying next to was believed to have the power of healing. Therefore, many who were sick and crippled would sit by the pool and try to be the first to enter it when the waters were stirred up. From time to time, that person was said to have received a healing.

 

Jesus sees this man and clearly perceives his desire for healing after so many years. Most likely, his desire for healing was the dominant desire in his life. Without the ability to walk, he could not work and provide for himself. He would have had to rely upon begging and the generosity of others. Thinking about this man, his sufferings and his ongoing attempts for healing from this pool should move any heart to compassion. And since Jesus’ heart was one that was full of compassion, He was moved to offer this man not only the healing he so deeply desired but so much more.

 

One virtue in the heart of this man that would have especially moved Jesus to compassion is the virtue of patient endurance. This virtue is an ability to have hope in the midst of some ongoing and lengthy trial. It is also referred to as “longsuffering” or “longanimity.” Usually, when one faces a difficulty, the immediate reaction is to look for a way out. As time moves on and that difficulty is not removed, it’s easy to fall into discouragement and even despair. Patient endurance is the cure for this temptation. When one can patiently endure anything and everything they suffer in life, there is a spiritual strength within them that benefits them in numerous ways. Other little challenges are more easily endured. Hope is born within them to a powerful degree. Even joy comes with this virtue despite the ongoing struggle.

 

When Jesus saw this virtue alive in this man, He was moved to reach out and heal him. And the primary reason Jesus healed this man was not just to help him physically but so that the man would come to believe in Jesus and follow Him.

 

Reflect, today, upon this beautiful virtue of patient endurance. The trials of life should ideally be seen not in a negative way but as an invitation to patient endurance. Ponder the way you endure your own trials. Is it with deep and ongoing patience, hope and joy? Or is it with anger, bitterness and despair. Pray for the gift of this virtue and seek to imitate this crippled man.

 

My Lord of all hope, You endured so much in life and persevered through it all in perfect obedience to the will of the Father. Give me strength in the midst of the trials of life so that I can grow strong in the hope and the joy that comes with that strength

Friday 12th March, 2021
Friday of the Third Week of Lent

Hold Nothing Back

 

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Mark 12:29–30

 

Why would you choose anything less than to love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, with ALL your soul, with ALL your mind, and with ALL your strength? Why would you choose anything less? Of course, we do choose many other things to love in life, even though Jesus is clear with this commandment.

 

The truth is that the only way to love others, and even to love ourselves, is to choose to love God with ALL we are. God must be the one and only focus of our love. But what’s amazing is that the more we do this, the more we realize that the love we have in our lives is the kind of love that overflows and overflows in superabundance. And it is this overflowing love of God that then pours forth on others.

On the other hand, if we try to divide our loves by our own effort, giving God only part of our heart, soul, mind and strength, then the love we have for God cannot grow and overflow in the way God wants. We limit our capacity for love, and we fall into selfishness. Love of God is a truly amazing gift when it is total and all-consuming.

 

Each one of these parts of our lives are worth pondering and examining. Think about your heart and how you are called to love God with your heart. And how does this differ from loving God with your soul? Perhaps your heart is more focused on your feelings, emotions and compassion. Perhaps your soul is more spiritual in nature. Your mind loves God the more it probes the depth of His Truth, and your strength is your passion and drive in life. Regardless of how you understand the various parts of your being, the key is that every part must love God in fullness.

 

Reflect, today, upon the beautiful commandment of our Lord. It’s a command of love, and it is given to us not so much for God’s sake but for ours. God wants to fill us to the point of overflowing love. Why would we ever choose anything less?

 

My loving Lord, Your love for me is infinite and perfect in every way.  I pray that I will learn to love You with every fiber of my being, holding nothing back, and to daily grow deeper in my love of You. As I grow in that love, I thank You for the overflowing nature of that love, and I pray that this love of You will flow into the hearts of those around me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 11th March, 2021
Thursday of the Third Week of Lent 

The Kingdom of God is Upon Us

 

But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. Luke 11:20

 

The Kingdom of God can come upon us in a variety of ways. The line from today’s Gospel above comes in the middle of a story of Jesus casting out a demon from a man who was mute. Once the demon was cast out, the mute man began to speak, and all were amazed. And though some were amazed and grew in faith as a result, others turned their amazement into irrationality. 

 

The irrationality of some was that they saw what Jesus did, but they didn’t want to accept that His power was divine. Therefore, some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” They couldn’t deny that Jesus drove out a demon, since they saw it happen with their own eyes. But they were unwilling to accept Jesus’ divinity, so they jumped to the irrational conclusion that Jesus’ act was done by the power of “the prince of demons.”

 

This irrational stance of some people is one of the most dangerous stances one can take. It’s the stance of an obstinate heart. They were given the incredible witness of the power of God at work but refused to respond in faith to what they witnessed. For those who are obstinate, when the Kingdom of God comes upon them, as Jesus stated above, the effect is that they react in a violent, angry and irrational way. This form of reaction is exceptionally prevalent today in the secular world. Many in the news media, for example, constantly react violently and irrationally to all that is part of the Kingdom of God. As a result, the evil one easily misleads many, causing confusion and chaos.

 

For those who have eyes to see clearly, this violent and irrational rejection of the Kingdom of God is very clear. And for those with faith and an open heart, the pure message of the Gospel is like water to a dry and parched soul. They soak it up and find great refreshment. For them, when the Kingdom of God comes upon them, they are energized, inspired and driven with a holy passion to further God’s Kingdom. Irrationality disappears, and God’s pure Truth prevails.

 

Reflect, today, upon your heart. Are you obstinate in any way? Are there teachings from Christ and His Church that you are tempted to reject? Is there some truth that you need to hear in your personal life to which you find it difficult to be open? Pray that the Kingdom of God come upon you today and every day and, as it does, that you will be a powerful instrument of its establishment in this world.

 

My glorious King of all, You are all-powerful and have full authority over all things. Please come and exercise Your authority upon my life. Come and establish Your Kingdom. I pray that my heart be always open to You and to the direction you give. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 10th March, 2021
Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

The Height of the New Law

 

“I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” Matthew 5:17–18

 

The Old Law, the law from the Old Testament, prescribed various moral precepts, as well as ceremonial precepts for worship. Jesus makes it clear that He is not abolishing all that God taught through Moses and the Prophets. This is because the New Testament is the culmination and completion of the Old Testament. Thus, nothing of old was abolished; it was fulfilled and brought to completion.

The moral precepts of the Old Testament were laws that flowed primarily from human reason. It made sense that one should not kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, etc. It also made sense that God should be honored and respected. The Ten Commandments and the other moral laws still hold today. But Jesus brings us much further. He not only called us to go much deeper in the keeping of these commandments, He also promised the gift of grace so that they could be fulfilled. Thus, “Thou shall not kill” is deepened to the requirement of complete and total forgiveness of those who persecute us. 

It’s interesting to note that the new depth of the moral law Jesus gives actually goes beyond human reason. “Thou shall not kill” makes sense to almost everyone, but “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” is a new moral law that makes sense only by the help of grace. But without grace, the natural human mind alone cannot arrive at this new commandment.

 

This is extremely helpful to understand, because oftentimes we go through life relying upon our human reason alone when it comes to making moral decisions. And though our human reason will always direct us away from the most obvious moral failures, it will be insufficient alone to guide us to the heights of moral perfection. Grace is necessary for this high calling to make sense. Only by grace can we understand and fulfill the call to take up our crosses and follow Christ.

 

Reflect, today, upon your own calling to perfection. If it doesn’t make sense to you how God can expect perfection of you, then pause and reflect upon the fact that you are right—it doesn’t make sense to human reason alone! Pray that your human reason will be flooded with the light of grace so that you will be able to not only understand your high calling to perfection but that you will also be given the grace you need to achieve it.

 

My most high Jesus, You have called us to a new height of holiness. You have called us to perfection. Enlighten my mind, dear Lord, so that I may understand this high calling and pour forth Your grace, so that I may embrace my moral duty to the fullest extent.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 9th March, 2021
Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

Forgiving From the Heart

 

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21–22

 

Forgiveness of another is difficult. It’s much easier to remain angry. This line quoted above is the introduction to the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. In that parable, Jesus makes it clear that if we want to receive forgiveness from God, then we must forgive others. If we withhold forgiveness, we can be certain that God will withhold it from us.

 

Peter may have thought that he was being quite generous in his question to Jesus. Clearly Peter had been considering Jesus’ teachings about forgiveness and was ready to take the next step of offering that forgiveness freely. But Jesus’ answer to Peter makes it clear that Peter’s concept of forgiveness greatly paled in comparison to the forgiveness demanded by our Lord.

 

The parable that Jesus then tells presents us with a man who was forgiven a huge debt. Subsequently, when that man encountered a person who owed him a small debt, he failed to offer the same forgiveness that was given to him. As a result, the master of that man who was forgiven the huge debt becomes outraged and requires once again a full payment of the debt. And then Jesus ends the parable with a shocking statement. He says, “Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

 

Note that the forgiveness God expects us to offer others is one that comes from the heart. And note that a lack of forgiveness on our part will result in us being handed “over to the torturers.” These are serious words. By “torturers,” we should understand that the sin of not forgiving another brings with it much interior pain. When we hold on to anger, this act “tortures” us in a certain way. Sin always has this effect upon us, and it is for our good. It’s a way in which God constantly challenges us to change. Thus, the only way to freedom from this interior form of torture by our sin is to overcome that sin, and in this case, to overcome the sin of withholding forgiveness.

 

Reflect, today, upon the calling God has given to you to forgive to the fullest extent. If you still sense anger in your heart toward another, keep working at it. Forgive over and over. Pray for that person. Refrain from judging them or condemning them. Forgive, forgive, forgive, and God’s abundant mercy will also be given to you.

 

My forgiving Lord, I thank You for the unfathomable depths of Your mercy. I thank You for Your willingness to forgive me over and over again. Please give me a heart worthy of that forgiveness by helping me to forgive all people to the same extent that You have forgiven me. I forgive all who have sinned against me, dear Lord. Help me to continue to do so from the depths of my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 8th March, 2021
Monday of the Third Week of Lent

The Permissive Will of God

 

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away. Luke 4:28–30

 

One of the first places Jesus went to begin His public ministry was His own home town. After entering the Synagogue and reading from the Prophet Isaiah, Jesus proclaimed that the prophecy of Isaiah was now fulfilled in His very person. This caused His townspeople to be outraged at Him, thinking He was blaspheming. So they shockingly sought to immediately kill Jesus by driving Him out of their town to the brow of a hill off which they meant to throw Him. But then something fascinating happened. Jesus “passed through the midst of them and went away.”

 

The Father eventually permitted the grave evil of the death of His Son to take place, but only in His time. It’s unclear from this passage how Jesus was able to avoid being killed right then at the beginning of His ministry, but what’s important to know is that He was able to avoid this because it was not His time. The Father had more for Jesus to do before He would permit Him to offer His life freely for the salvation of the world.

 

This same reality is true for our own lives. God does permit evil to happen, at times, because of the irrevocable gift of free will. When people choose evil, God will allow them to proceed—but always with a caveat. The caveat is that God only permits evil to be inflicted upon others when that evil is able to be ultimately used for God’s glory and for some form of good. And it is only permitted in God’s time. If we do evil ourselves, choosing sin rather than the will of God, then the evil that we do will end in our own loss of grace. But when we are faithful to God and some external evil is imposed upon us by another, God permits this only when that evil can be redeemed and used for His glory.

 

The best example of this is, of course, the passion and death of Jesus. A far greater good came forth from that event than the evil itself. But it was only permitted by God when the time was right, in accord with God’s will.

 

Reflect, today, upon the glorious fact that any evil or any suffering inflicted upon you unjustly can end in the glory of God and the greater salvation of souls. No matter what you may suffer in life, if God permits it, then it is always possible for that suffering to share in the redeeming power of the Cross. Consider any suffering you have endured and embrace it freely, knowing that if God permitted it, then He certainly has some greater purpose in mind. Surrender that suffering over with the utmost confidence and trust and allow God to do glorious things through it.

 

God of all wisdom, I know that You know all things and that all things can be used for Your glory and for the salvation of my soul. Help me to trust You, especially when I endure suffering in life. May I never despair when treated unjustly and may my hope always be in You and in Your power to redeem all things. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 5th March, 2021
Friday of the Second Week of Lent

Building the Kingdom

 

“Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” Matthew 21:42

 

Are you among those from whom the Kingdom of God will be taken away? Or among those to whom it will be given so as to produce good fruit? This is an important question to sincerely answer.

 

The first grouping of people, those who will have the Kingdom of God taken away from them, are represented in this parable by the tenants of the vineyard. It is clear that one of their greatest sins is greed. They are selfish. They see the vineyard as a place through which they can enrich themselves and care little about the good of others. Sadly, this mindframe is easy to adopt in our own lives. It’s easy to see life as a series of opportunities for us to “get ahead.” It’s easy to approach life in a way that we are constantly looking out for ourselves rather than sincerely seeking the good of others.

 

The second grouping of people, those to whom the Kingdom of God will be given so that it will produce good fruit, are those who understand that the central purpose of life is not to simply enrich themselves but to share the love of God with others. These are the people who are constantly looking for ways that they can be a true blessing to others. It’s the difference between selfishness and generosity.

 

But the generosity to which we are primarily called is to build up the Kingdom of God. This is done through works of charity, but it must be a charity that is motivated by the Gospel and has the Gospel as its ultimate end. Caring for the needy, teaching, serving and the like are all good only when Christ is the motivation and end goal. Our lives must make Jesus more known and loved, more understood and followed. In fact, even if we were to feed a multitude of people in poverty, care for those who were sick, or visit those who were lonely, but did it for reasons other than to ultimately share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then our work would not produce the good fruit of building up the Kingdom of Heaven. In that case, we would only be philanthropists rather than missionaries of the love of God.

 

Reflect, today, upon the mission given to you by our Lord to produce an abundance of good fruit for the upbuilding of His Kingdom. Know that this can only be accomplished by prayerfully seeking out the way God is inspiring you to act. Seek to serve His will alone so that all you do will be for God’s glory and the salvation of souls.

 

My glorious King, I pray that Your Kingdom will grow and that many souls will come to know You as their Lord and God. Use me, dear Lord, for the upbuilding of that Kingdom and help all my actions in life to bear abundant and good fruit. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 4th March, 2021
Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

A Powerful Contrast

 

Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.” Luke 16:19–21

 

One of the reasons this story is so powerful is because of the clear descriptive contrast between the rich man and Lazarus. The contrast is not only seen in the passage above, it is also seen in the final outcome of each of their lives.

 

In the first contrast, the rich man’s life seems much more desirable, at least on the surface. He is rich, has a home to live in, dresses in fine clothing and eats sumptuously every day. By contrast, Lazarus is poor, has no home, has no food, is covered with sores and even endures the humiliation of dogs licking his wounds. Which of these persons would you prefer to be?

 

Before you answer that question, consider the second contrast. When they both die, they experience very different eternal fates. When the poor man died, he was “carried away by angels.” And when the rich man died, he went to the netherworld, where there was ongoing torment. So again, which of these persons would you prefer to be?

 

One of the most seductive and deceptive realities in life is the lure of riches, luxury and the fine things in life. Though the material world is not bad in and of itself, there is great temptation that goes along with it. In fact, it is clear from this story and from the many other teachings of Jesus on this topic that the lure of riches and its effect on the soul cannot be ignored. Those who are rich in the things of this world are often tempted to live for themselves rather than living for others. When one has all the comforts this world has to offer, it’s easy to simply enjoy those comforts without concern for others. And that is clearly the unspoken contrast between these two men.

Though poor, it is clear that Lazarus is rich in the things that matter in life. This is evidenced by His eternal reward. It is clear that in his material poverty, he was rich in charity. The man who was rich in the things of this world was clearly poor in charity and, thus, upon losing his physical life, he had nothing to take with him. No eternal merit. No charity. Nothing.

 

Reflect, today, upon that which you desire in life. Too often, the deceptions of material wealth and worldly possessions dominate our desires. In fact, even those who have little can easily become consumed with these unhealthy desires. Seek, instead, to desire only that which is eternal. Desire love of God and love of neighbor. Make this your only goal in life and you, too, will be carried away by angels when your life is completed.

 

My Lord of true riches, You chose to be poor in this world as a sign to us that true riches come not with material wealth but with love. Help me to love You, my God, with all my being and to love others as You love them. May I be wise enough to make spiritual riches my single goal in life so that these riches will be enjoyed for all eternity. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 3rd March, 2021
Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

Facing the Cross with Courage and Love

 

As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” Matthew 20:17–19

 

What a conversation that must have been! As Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem with the Twelve just prior to the first Holy Week, Jesus spoke openly and clearly about what would be waiting for Him in Jerusalem. Imagine what the disciples would have thought. In many ways, it would have been too much for them to comprehend at the time. In many ways, the disciples probably preferred not to hear what Jesus had to say. But Jesus knew they needed to hear this difficult truth, especially as the moment of the Crucifixion drew near.

 

Oftentimes, the full message of the Gospel is difficult for us to accept. This is because the full message of the Gospel will always centrally point us to the sacrifice of the Cross. Sacrificial love and the full embrace of the Cross needs to be seen, understood, loved, fully embraced and confidently proclaimed. But how is this done? Let’s start with our Lord Himself.

 

Jesus was not afraid of the truth. He knew that His suffering and death was imminent, and He was ready and willing to accept this truth without hesitation. He didn’t see His Cross in a negative light. He did not look at it as a tragedy to be avoided. He didn’t allow fear to deter Him. Instead, Jesus looked at His imminent sufferings in the light of truth. He saw His suffering and death as a glorious act of love that He was soon to offer, and, therefore, He was not afraid to not only embrace these sufferings but also to speak of them with confidence and courage.

 

In our own lives, we are given the invitation to imitate Jesus’ courage and love every time we must face something difficult in life. When this happens, some of the most common temptations are to be angry about the difficulty, or to look for ways to avoid it, or to blame others, or to give into despair and the like. There are numerous coping mechanisms that kick in by which we tend to try and avoid the crosses that await us.

 

But what if we followed the example of our Lord instead? What if we faced any and every pending cross with love, courage and a willing embrace? What if instead of looking for a way out, we looked for a way in, so to speak? That is, we looked for a way to embrace our suffering in a sacrificial way, without hesitancy, in imitation of Jesus’ embrace of His cross. Every cross in life has the potential of becoming an instrument of much grace in our own lives and in the lives of others. Therefore, from the perspective of grace and eternity, crosses must be embraced, not avoided or cursed.

 

Reflect, today, upon any difficulty you are facing. Do you see it in the same way that Jesus sees it? Can you see every cross you are given as an opportunity for sacrificial love? Are you able to embrace it with hope and confidence, knowing that God can bring good out of it? Seek to imitate our Lord by joyfully embracing the difficulties you face and those crosses will ultimately share in the Resurrection with our Lord.

 

My suffering Lord, You freely embraced the injustice of the Cross with love and courage. You saw beyond the apparent scandal and suffering and transformed the evil done to You into the greatest act of love ever known. Give me the grace to imitate Your perfect love and to do so with the strength and confidence that You had. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 2nd March, 2021
Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

True Greatness

 

“The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11–12

 

Do you want to be truly great? Do you want your life to truly make a difference in the lives of others? Deep down this desire for greatness is placed within us by our Lord, and it will never go away. Even those who live eternally in hell will hold on to this innate desire, which for them will be the cause of eternal pain, since that desire will never be fulfilled. And sometimes it’s useful to ponder that reality as a motivation to make sure that this is not the fate we encounter.

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us one of the keys to greatness. “The greatest among you must be your servant.” Being a servant means that you put others before yourself. You elevate their needs rather than trying to get them to be attentive to your needs. And this is difficult to do.

 

It’s very easy in life to think of ourselves first. But the key is that we do put ourselves “first,” in a sense, when we practically put others before us. This is because the choice to put others first is not only good for them, it’s also exactly what is best for us. We were made for love. We were made to serve others. We were made for the purpose of giving of ourselves to others without counting the cost. But when we do this, we do not lose ourselves. On the contrary, it is in the act of giving of ourselves and seeing the other first that we actually discover who we are and become what we were created to be. We become love itself. And a person who loves is a person who is great…and a person who is great is a person whom God exalts.

 

Reflect, today, upon the great mystery and calling of humility. If you find it difficult to put others first and to act as their servant, do it anyway. Make the choice to humble yourself before everyone else. Elevate their concerns. Be attentive to their needs. Listen to what they say. Show them compassion and be ready and willing to do so to the fullest extent. If you do, that desire for greatness that lives deep within your heart will be fulfilled.

 

My humble Lord, thank You for the witness of Your humility. You chose to put all people first, even to the point of allowing Yourself to experience the suffering and death which was a consequence of our sins. Give me a heart that is humble, dear Lord, so that You can use me to share Your perfect love with others.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 1st March, 2021
Monday of the Second Week of Lent

Mercy Goes Both Ways

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”  Luke 6:36–37

 

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in his guide for a thirty-day retreat, has the retreatant spend the first week of the retreat focusing upon sin, judgment, death and hell. At first, this can seem very uninspiring. But the wisdom of this approach is that after a week of these meditations, retreatants come to a deep realization of just how much they need the mercy and forgiveness of God. They see their need more clearly, and a deep humility is fostered within their soul as they see their guilt and turn to God for His mercy.

 

But mercy goes both ways. It is part of the very essence of mercy that it can only be received if it is also given. In the Gospel passage above, Jesus gives us a very clear command about judgment, condemnation, mercy and forgiveness. Essentially, if we want mercy and forgiveness, then we must offer mercy and forgiveness. If we are judgmental and condemning, then we will also be judged and condemned. These words are very clear.

 

Perhaps one of the reasons that many people struggle with being judgmental and condemning of others is because they lack a true awareness of their own sin and their own need for forgiveness. We live in a world that often rationalizes sin and downplays the seriousness of it. That’s why the teaching of Saint Ignatius is so important for us today. We need to rekindle a sense of the seriousness of our sin. This is not done simply to create guilt and shame. It’s done to foster a desire for mercy and forgiveness.

If you can grow in a deeper awareness of your own sin before God, one of the effects will be that it is then easier to be less judgmental and condemning of others. A person who sees his sin is more apt to be merciful to other sinners. But a person who struggles with self-righteousness will most certainly also struggle with being judgmental and condemning.

 

Reflect, today, upon your own sin. Spend time trying to understand how ugly sin is and try to grow in a healthy disdain for it. As you do, and as you beg our Lord for His mercy, pray also that you will be able to offer that same mercy you receive from God to others. As mercy flows from Heaven to your own soul, it must then also be shared. Share the mercy of God with those all around you and you will discover the true value and power of this Gospel teaching of our Lord.

 

My most merciful Jesus, I thank You for Your infinite mercy. Help me to see clearly my sin so that I, in turn, may see my need for Your mercy. As I do, dear Lord, I pray that my heart will be open to that mercy so that I can both receive it and share it with others. Make me a true instrument of Your divine grace. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 26th February, 2021
Friday of the First Week of Lent

Beyond Forgiveness

 

“Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” Matthew 5:26

 

Was our Lord here giving legal advice regarding a criminal or civil case and how to avoid prosecution? Certainly not. He was presenting us with an image of Himself as the just Judge. And He was exhorting us to show mercy to anyone and everyone who could be seen as our “opponent.”

 

Forgiveness of another is essential. It can never be withheld. But forgiveness is actually not even enough. The ultimate goal must be reconciliation, which goes much further. In this Gospel above, Jesus exhorts us to “settle” with our opponents, therein implying reconciliation. The RSV version of the Bible says it this way, “Make friends quickly with your accuser…” Working to foster a “friendship” with one who has accused you, especially if it is a false accusation, goes far beyond simply forgiving them.

 

To reconcile with another and to reestablish a true friendship means that you not only forgive but also do all you can to ensure that you reestablish a relationship of love with that person. It means that you both put your grievance behind you and start anew. Of course, that takes both people to cooperate in love; but, for your part, it means that you work hard to establish this reconciliation.

 

Think about someone who has hurt you, and, as a result, your relationship with them has been damaged. Have you prayerfully forgiven that person before God? Have you prayed for that person and asked God to forgive them? If so, then you are now ready for the next step of reaching out to them in love to mend your relationship. This takes great humility, especially if the other person was the cause of the hurt and especially if they have not spoken words of sorrow to you, asking for your forgiveness. Don’t wait for them to do so. Look for ways to show that person that you love them and want to heal the hurt. Don’t hold their sin before them or hold on to a grudge. Seek only love and mercy.

 

Jesus concludes this exhortation with strong words. Essentially, if you fail to do all you can to reconcile and reestablish your relationship, you will be held accountable for it. Though this may seem unfair at first, it is clearly not, because this is the depth of mercy that our Lord offers us every day. We will never be adequately sorry for our sin, but God forgives and reconciles with us anyway. What a grace! But if we fail to offer this same mercy to others, we essentially limit God’s ability to offer this mercy to us, and we will be required to pay back “the last penny” of our own debt to God.

 

Reflect, today, upon the person who comes to mind with whom you need to fully reconcile and rekindle a relationship of love. Pray for this grace, commit yourself to it and look for opportunities to do so. Do it without reserve and you will never regret your decision.

 

My most merciful Lord, I thank You for forgiving me and for loving me with such perfection and totality. Thank You for reconciling with me despite my imperfect contrition. Give me a heart, dear Lord, that always seeks to love the sinner in my life. Help me to offer mercy to the fullest extent in imitation of Your divine mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 25th February, 2021
Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Praying for the Will of God

 

“Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish?” Matthew 7:9–10

 

Clearly this is a rhetorical question by Jesus. No parent would hand their son or daughter a stone or a snake if they asked for food. But that of course is the point. Jesus goes on to say, “…how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.”

 

When you pray with deep faith, will our Lord give you whatever you ask? Certainly not. Jesus did say, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” But this statement must be carefully read within the whole context of Jesus’ teaching here. The fact of the matter is that when we sincerely ask in faith for “good things,” meaning, that which our good God wants to bestow upon us, He will not disappoint. Of course, this does not mean that if we beg Jesus for anything whatsoever that He will give it to us.

 

What are those “good things” that our Lord will most certainly give to us? First and foremost, it is the forgiveness of our sins. We can be absolutely certain that if we humble ourselves before our good God, especially within the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we will be granted the freely given and transforming gift of forgiveness.

 

In addition to the forgiveness of our sins, there are many other things we need in life, and there are many other things that our good God wants to bestow upon us. For example, God will always want to give to us the strength we need to overcome temptations in life. He will always want to provide for our most basic needs. He will always want to help us grow in every virtue. And He most certainly wants to bring us to Heaven. It is these things that we must especially pray for every day.

 

But what about other things, such as a new job, more money, a better house, acceptance into a certain school, a physical healing, etc.? Our prayers for these and other similar things in life should be prayed for but with a caveat. The “caveat” is that we pray that God’s will be done. Not ours. We must humbly acknowledge that we do not see the big picture in life and do not always know what will give God the greatest glory in all things. Therefore, it may be better that you not get that new job, or be accepted at this school, or even that this illness not end in healing. But we can be certain that God always will bestow upon us that which is best for us and that which enables us to give God the greatest glory in life. The crucifixion of our Lord is a perfect example. He prayed that that cup be taken from Him, “but not my will but Yours be done.” And, of course, the Father saw the great eternal value in the death of His Son on the Cross and answered that prayer of His accordingly.

 

Reflect, today, upon how you pray. Do you pray with detachment from the outcome, knowing that our Lord knows best? Do you humbly admit that only God knows what is truly good for you? Trust this to be the case and pray with complete confidence that God’s will be done in all things and you can be certain that He will answer that prayer.

 

Dear Lord of infinite wisdom and knowledge, help me to always place my trust in Your goodness and care for me. Help me to daily turn to You in my need and to trust that You will answer my prayer according to Your perfect will. I place my life into Your hands, dear Lord. Do with me as you wish. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 24th February 2021
Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

The One True Sign of the Cross

 

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” Luke 11:29

 

The crowd seemed to be a mixed bunch. First, there were those who wholeheartedly believed in Jesus. The Twelve, for example, left everything behind to follow Him. His mother and various other holy women believed in Him and were His faithful followers. But within the growing crowd, it appeared that there were many who questioned Jesus and wanted some form of proof of Who He was. Thus, they wanted a sign from Heaven.

 

A sign from Heaven would have been some externally manifest proof of Who Jesus was. Granted, Jesus had already performed numerous miracles. But it seems that this was not enough. They wanted more—and that desire is a clear indication of a stubbornness of heart and a lack of faith. So Jesus could not and would not give them the sign they wanted.

 

Instead, Jesus says that the only sign they will receive is the sign of Jonah. Recall that the sign of Jonah was not very appealing. He was thrown over the side of a boat and swallowed by a whale, where he remained for three days before being spit up on the shores of Nineveh.

 

Jesus’ sign would be similar. He would suffer at the hands of the religious leaders and civil authorities, be killed and be placed in a tomb. And then, three days later, He would rise. But His Resurrection was not one in which He came forth with rays of light for all to see; rather, His post-Resurrection appearances were to those who already manifested faith and already believed.

 

The lesson for us is that God will not convince us of the matters of faith through powerful and Hollywood-like public manifestations of God’s greatness. Instead, the “sign” we are offered is an invitation to die with Christ so that we can personally begin to experience the new life of the Resurrection. This gift of faith is interior, not publicly exterior. Our death to sin is something we personally and interiorly do, and the new life we receive can only be seen by others by the witness of our lives that are changed.

 

Reflect, today, upon the true sign God has given you. If you are one who seems to be waiting for some manifest sign from our Lord, wait no longer. Look at the crucifix, see Jesus’ suffering and death, and choose to follow Him in a death to all sin and selfishness. Die with Him, enter the tomb with Him and allow Him to bring you forth interiorly renewed this Lent, so that you can be transformed by this one and only sign from Heaven.

 

My crucified Lord, I gaze upon the crucifix and see in Your death the greatest act of love ever known. Give me the grace I need to follow You to the tomb so that Your death will triumph over my sins. Free me, dear Lord, during the Lenten journey so that I will be able to fully share in Your new life of the Resurrection. Jesus, I trust in You.

February 23rd February 2021
Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Praying the Our Father

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Matthew 6:7–8

 

Recall that Jesus used to go off by Himself at times and spend the whole night in prayer. Thus, it’s clear that Jesus is in favor of long and sincere times of prayer, since He gave us His own example as a lesson. But there is clearly a difference between that which our Lord did all night and that which He criticized the pagans for doing when they “babble” with many words. After this criticism of the prayer of the pagans, Jesus gives us the “Our Father” prayer as a model for our personal prayer.

 

The Our Father prayer begins by addressing God in a deeply personal way. That is, God is not just an all-powerful cosmic being. He is personal, familial—He is our Father. Jesus continues the prayer by instructing us to honor our Father by proclaiming His holiness, His hallowedness. God and God alone is the Holy One from which all holiness of life derives. As we acknowledge the holiness of the Father, we must also acknowledge Him as King and seek His Kingship for our lives and for the world. This is accomplished only when His perfect will is done “on earth as it is in Heaven.” This perfect prayer concludes by acknowledging that God is the source of all of our daily needs, including the forgiveness of our sins and protection from all evil.

 

Upon the completion of this prayer of perfection, Jesus provides a context in which this and every prayer must be prayed. He says, “If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” Prayer will only be effective if we allow it to change us and make us more like the Father in Heaven. Therefore, if we want our prayer of forgiveness to be effective, then we must live what we pray for. We must also forgive others so that God will forgive us.

 

Reflect, today, upon this perfect prayer, the Our Father. One temptation is that we can become so familiar with this prayer that we gloss over its true meaning. If that happens, then we will find that we are praying it more like the pagans who simply babble the words. But if we humbly and sincerely understand and mean every word, then we can be certain that our prayer will become more like that of our Lord’s. Saint Ignatius of Loyola recommends pondering every word of that prayer very slowly, one word at a time. Try to pray this way, today, and allow the Our Father to move from babbling to authentic communication with the Father in Heaven.

 

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. Amen.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 12th February 2021

Hearing and Speaking the Word of God

 

They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 7:37

 

This line is the conclusion to the story of Jesus healing a deaf man who also had a speech impediment. The man was brought to Jesus, Jesus took him off by himself, cried out “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”), and the man was cured. And though this was an incredible gift to this man and an act of great mercy toward him, it also reveals that God wants to use us to draw others to Himself.

 

On a natural level, we all lack the ability to hear the voice of God when He speaks. We need the gift of grace for this. As a result, on a natural level, we are also incapable of speaking the many truths that God wants us to speak. This story teaches us that God also desires to heal our ears so as to hear His gentle voice and to loosen our tongues so that we can become His mouthpiece.

 

But this story is not only about God speaking to each one of us; it also reveals our duty to bring others to Christ who do not know Him. The friends of this man brought him to Jesus. And Jesus took the man off by himself. This gives us insight into how we help others to come to know our Lord’s voice.

Oftentimes when we want to share the Gospel with another, we tend to talk to them and try to rationally convince them to turn their lives to Christ. And though this can bear good fruit at times, the real goal we must have is to help them to go off with our Lord by themselves for a while so that Jesus can do the healing.

 

If your ears have truly been opened by our Lord, then your tongue will also be loosened. And only if your tongue is loosened will God be able to draw others to Himself through you. Otherwise your act of evangelizing will only be based on your effort alone. Therefore, if you have people in your life who do not appear to be listening to the voice of God and following His holy will, then first and foremost commit yourself to listening to our Lord yourself. Let your ears hear Him. And when you do hear Him, it will be His voice that, in turn, speaks through you in the way He desires to reach out to others.

 

Reflect, today, upon this Gospel scene. Ponder, especially, the friends of this man as they are inspired to bring him to Jesus. Ask our Lord to use you in a similar way. Prayerfully ponder those in your life whom God wants to call to Himself through your mediation and place yourself at the service of our Lord so that His voice can speak through you in the way He chooses.

 

My good Jesus, please open my ears to hear all that You wish to say to me and please loosen my tongue so that I will become a mouthpiece of Your holy word to others. I offer myself to You for Your glory and pray that You will use me in accord with Your holy will. Jesus, I fully trust in You.

Thursday 11th February 2021

A Gentile’s Faith

 

Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. Mark 7:25–26

 

A parent’s love is powerful. And the woman in this story clearly loves her daughter. It is that love that drives this mother to seek out Jesus in the hope that He will free her daughter from the demon who possessed her. Interestingly, this woman was not of the Jewish faith. She was a gentile, a foreigner, but her faith was very real and very deep.

 

When Jesus first encountered this woman, she begged Him to free her daughter from the demon. Jesus’ response was at first surprising. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” In other words, Jesus was saying that His mission was first to the people of Israel, the chosen people of the Jewish faith. They were the “children” of whom Jesus was speaking, and the gentiles, such as this woman, were the ones referred to as “the dogs.” Jesus spoke this way to this woman not out of rudeness but because He could see her deep faith, and He wanted to give her an opportunity to manifest that faith for all to see. And so she did.

 

The woman responded to Jesus, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Her words were not only exceptionally humble but were also based on deep faith and a deep love for her daughter. As a result, Jesus responds with generosity and immediately frees her daughter from the demon.

 

In our own lives, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we deserve the mercy of God. We can think that we have a right to God’s grace. And even though Jesus deeply desires to pour forth His grace and mercy in superabundance on our lives, it is essential that we fully understand our unworthiness before Him. The disposition of this woman’s heart sets for us a perfect example of how we must come to our Lord.

 

Reflect, today, upon the beautiful example of this woman of deep faith. Prayerfully read her words over and over. Try to understand her humility, her hope, and her love for her daughter. As you do, pray that you will be able to imitate her goodness so as to share in the blessings she and her daughter received.

 

My merciful Lord, I trust in Your perfect love for me and for all peoples. I pray especially for those who carry heavy burdens and for those whose lives are deeply intertwined with evil. Please set them free, dear Lord, and welcome them into Your family so that they become true children of Your Father. May I have the humility and faith I need to help bring forth this abundance of grace for others. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 10th February 2021

That Which is Within

 

Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” Mark 7:14–15

 

What is within you? What is in your heart? Today’s Gospel concludes with a list of vices that sadly come from within: “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.” Of course, none of these vices are desirable when looked at objectively. They are all quite repulsive. And yet too often they are sins that people deal with on a regular basis to one extent or another.

 

Take greed, for example. When understood clearly, no one wants to be known as one who is greedy. It’s a shameful attribute to have. But when greed is not looked at as greed, it’s easy to fall into the trap of living it. One who is greedy desires an excessive amount of this or that. More money, a better house, a nicer car, more luxurious vacations, etc. Thus, when a person is acting in a greedy way, greed does not seem undesirable. It’s only when greed is looked at in an objective way that it is understood for what it is.

 

In this Gospel, by naming this long list of vices, Jesus does us an incredible act of mercy. He rattles us and calls us to step back and look at sin for what it is. Jesus also makes it clear that when you live one or more of these vices, you become defiled. You become greedy, a liar, cruel, a gossip, hateful, arrogant, etc. Objectively speaking, no one wants this.

 

What is it in that list of vices that you struggle with the most? What do you see within your own heart? Be honest with yourself before God. Jesus desires that your heart be pure and holy, freed from these and every filth. But unless you are able to look at your own heart with honesty, it will be difficult to reject the sin with which you struggle.

 

Reflect, today, upon this list of sins identified by our Lord. Consider each one and allow yourself to see each sin for what it truly is. Allow yourself to despise these sins with a holy wrath and then turn your eyes to that sin with which you struggle the most. Know that as you consciously see that sin and reject it, our Lord will begin to strengthen you and purify your heart so that you become freed from that defilement and become, instead, the beautiful child of God you were made to be.

 

My merciful Lord, help me to see sin for what it is. Help me, especially, to see my own sin—that sin within my own heart that defiles me as Your dear child. As I see my sin, give me the grace I need to reject it and to turn to You with all my heart so that I can become a new creation in Your grace and mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 9th February 2021

Worship from the Heart

 

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. Mark 7:6–8

 

 

It seems quite clear that Jesus’ instant fame led these religious leaders to jealousy and envy, and they wanted to find fault with Him. As a result, they carefully observed Jesus and His disciples, and they noticed that Jesus’ disciples were not following the traditions of the elders. So the leaders began questioning Jesus about this fact. Jesus’ response was one of severe criticism of them. He quoted Isaiah the prophet who said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”

 

Jesus strongly criticized them because their hearts were lacking true worship. The various traditions of the elders were not necessarily bad, such as the careful ceremonial washing of one’s hands before eating. But these traditions were empty if they were not motivated by a deep faith and love of God. The external following of human traditions was not truly an act of divine worship, and that’s what Jesus wanted for them. He wanted their hearts to be set ablaze with a love of God and with true divine worship.

 

What our Lord wants of each one of us is worship. Pure, heartfelt, sincere worship. He wants us to love God with a deep interior devotion. He wants us to pray, to listen to Him, and to serve His holy will with all the powers of our soul. And this is only possible when we engage in authentic worship.

As Catholics, our life of prayer and worship is grounded in the holy Liturgy. The Liturgy incorporates many traditions and practices that reflect our faith and become a vehicle of the grace of God. And though the Liturgy itself is far different from the mere “tradition of the elders” that Jesus was criticizing, it’s useful to remind ourselves that the many Liturgies of our Church must move from the external actions to interior worship. Going through the motions alone is pointless. We must allow God to act on us and within us as we engage in the external celebration of the Sacraments.

 

Reflect, today, upon the burning desire in the heart of our Lord to draw you into worship. Reflect upon how well you allow yourself to be drawn into this worship every time you attend the holy Mass. Seek to make your participation not only an exterior one but, first and foremost, an interior one. Doing so will help ensure that the rebuke of our Lord upon the scribes and Pharisees does not also fall upon you.

 

My divine Lord, You and You alone are worthy of all worship, adoration and praise. You and You alone deserve the worship I offer You from the depths of my heart. Help me and Your entire Church to always interiorize our exterior acts of worship so as to give You the glory that is due Your holy name. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Monday 8th February 2021

Seeking Healing

 

Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed. Mark 6:56

 

It would have been truly awe-inspiring to witness Jesus healing the sick. The people who witnessed this clearly had never seen anything like it before. For those who were sick, or whose loved ones were sick, each healing would have had a powerful effect upon them and upon their whole family.

 

In Jesus’ day and age, physical illness was obviously of far greater concern than it is today. Medical science today, with its ability to treat so many illnesses, has lessened the fear and anxiety over getting sick. But in Jesus’ time, serious illness was of far greater concern. For that reason, the desire of so many people to bring their sick to Jesus so that they could be healed was very strong. This desire drove them to Jesus so that “they might touch only the tassel on his cloak” and be healed. And Jesus didn’t disappoint.

 

Though Jesus’ physical healings were unquestionably an act of charity given to those who were sick and to their families, it obviously wasn’t the most important thing Jesus did. And it’s important for us to remind ourselves of that fact. Jesus’ healings were primarily for the purpose of preparing the people to listen to His Word and to ultimately receive the spiritual healing of the forgiveness of their sins.

In your own life, if you were seriously ill and were given the option to receive either a physical healing or to receive the spiritual healing of the forgiveness of your sins, which would you choose? Clearly, the spiritual healing of the forgiveness of your sins is of infinitely greater value. It will affect your soul for all eternity. The truth is that this far greater healing is available to us all, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In that Sacrament, we are invited to “touch the tassel on his cloak,” so to speak, and be spiritually healed. For that reason, we should have a much deeper desire to seek out Jesus in the confessional than the people of Jesus’ day had for physical healing. And yet, too often we ignore the priceless gift of God’s mercy and healing offered so freely to us.

 

Reflect, today, upon the desire in the hearts of the people in this Gospel story. Think, especially, about those who were seriously ill and about their burning desire to come to Jesus for healing. Compare that desire in their hearts to the desire, or lack of desire, in your heart to run to our Lord for the spiritual healings your soul so desperately needs. Seek to foster a greater desire for this healing, especially as it comes to you through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

 

My healing Lord, I thank You for the spiritual healing You continually offer me, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I thank You for the forgiveness of my sins on account of You suffering on the Cross. Fill my heart with a greater desire to come to You so as to receive the greatest gift I could ever receive: the forgiveness of my sins. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 5th February 2021

“Perplexed” by the Truth

 

 

Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. Mark 6:20

 

Ideally, when the Gospel is preached and received by another, the effect is that the receiver is filled with joy, consolation and a desire to change. The Gospel is transforming for those who truly listen and respond with generosity. But what about those who do not respond with generosity? What effect does the Gospel have upon them? Our Gospel today gives us that answer.

 

The line above comes from the story of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist. The bad actors in this story are Herod, Herod’s illegitimate wife Herodias, and Herodias’ daughter (traditionally named Salome). John had been imprisoned by Herod because John told Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” But what’s most interesting about this story is that, even in prison, Herod would listen to John preach. But instead of leading Herod to conversion, he was left “perplexed” by what John preached.

 

Being “perplexed” was not the only reaction to John’s preaching. Herodias’ reaction was one of hatred. She appeared to be stung to the heart by John’s condemnation of her “marriage” to Herod, and it was she who then orchestrated John’s beheading.

 

This Gospel, then, teaches us of two other common reactions to the Truth of the holy Gospel when it is preached. One is hatred and another is confusion (being perplexed). Obviously, hatred is far worse than simply being perplexed. But neither is the right reaction to the words of Truth.

 

What is your reaction to the full Gospel when it is preached? Are there aspects of the Gospel that leave you uneasy? Are there teachings of our Lord that confuse you or lead you to anger? First look within your own heart to determine if you struggle with having a similar reaction as did Herod and Herodias. And then consider how the world reacts to the Truth of the Gospel. We should not be surprised at all that we find many Herods and Herodiases alive today.

 

Reflect, today, upon any ways that you see the Gospel being rejected on one level or another. If you sense this within your own heart, then repent with all your might. If you see it elsewhere, do not allow the hostility to shake you or concern you. Keep your mind and heart upon the Truth and remain steadfast no matter the reaction you encounter.

 

My Lord of all Truth, Your Word and Your Word alone brings grace and salvation. Please give me the grace I need to always listen to Your Word and to respond generously with all my heart. May I repent when I am convicted by Your Word and may I wholeheartedly return to You. Give me courage when others reject Your Truth and wisdom to know how to share that Word with love. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 4th February 2021

Relying Upon Divine Providence

 

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts. Mark 6:7–8

 

Why would Jesus instruct the Twelve to go forth to preach with authority but to take nothing with them on the journey? Most people who set out on a journey prepare ahead and make sure to pack what they need. Jesus’ instruction was not so much a lesson in relying upon others for basic needs as it was a lesson on reliance upon divine providence for their ministry.

 

The material world is good in and of itself. All creation is good. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with having possessions and using them for our good and for the good of those who have been entrusted to our care. But there are times when God wants us to rely more upon Him than upon ourselves. The story above is one of those situations.

 

By instructing the Twelve to go forth on their mission without bringing the basic necessities of life, Jesus was helping them to trust not only in His providence for those basic needs but also to trust that He would provide for them spiritually in their mission of preaching, teaching and healing. They were given great spiritual authority and responsibility and, for that reason, needed to rely upon the providence of God to a far greater extent than others. Thus, Jesus exhorts them to trust Him regarding their basic needs so that they will also be disposed to trust Him on this new spiritual mission.

 

The same is true in our lives. When God entrusts us with a mission to share the Gospel with another, He will often do so in a way that requires great trust on our part. He will send us forth “empty-handed,” so to speak, so that we will learn to rely upon His gentle guidance. Sharing the Gospel with another is an incredible privilege, and we must realize that we will be successful only if we rely wholeheartedly upon the providence of God.

 

Reflect, today, upon those to whom you sense God wants you to reach out to with the Gospel. How do you do this? The answer is quite simple. You do so only by relying upon the providence of God. Step out in faith, listen to His guiding voice every step of the way, and know that His providence is the only way that the Gospel message will be effectively shared.

 

My trustworthy Lord, I accept Your call to go forth and to share Your love and mercy with others. Help me to always rely upon You and Your providence for my mission in life. Use me as You will and help me to trust in Your guiding hand for the upbuilding of Your glorious Kingdom on earth. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 3rd February 2021

Christ All Around Us

 

“Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Mark 6:3

 

After traveling throughout the countryside performing miracles, teaching the crowds and gaining many followers, Jesus returned to Nazareth where He grew up. Perhaps His disciples were excited to return with Jesus to His native place thinking that His own townspeople would be overjoyed to see Jesus again because of the many stories of His miracles and authoritative teaching. But the disciples were soon to have quite a surprise.

 

After arriving in Nazareth, Jesus entered the Synagogue to teach, and He taught with an authority and wisdom that confounded the locals. They said among themselves, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him?” They were confused because they knew Jesus. He was the local carpenter who worked for years with His father who was a carpenter. He was Mary’s son, and they knew His other relatives by name.

 

The primary difficulty Jesus’ townspeople had was their familiarity with Jesus. They knew Him. They knew where He lived. They knew Him as He grew up. They knew His family. They knew all about Him. Therefore, they wondered how He could be anything special. How could He now teach with authority? How could He now do miracles? Thus, they were astonished, and they allowed that astonishment to turn into doubt, judgment and criticism.

 

The same temptation is something we all deal with more than we may realize. It is often easier to admire a stranger from afar than one whom we know well. When we hear of someone for the first time who is doing something admirable, it’s easy to join in that admiration. But when we hear good news about someone we know well, we can easily be tempted to jealousy or envy and to be skeptical and even critical. But the truth is that every saint has a family. And every family potentially has brothers and sisters, cousins and other relatives through whom God will do great things. This should not surprise us—it should inspire us! And we should rejoice when those close to us and with whom we are familiar are used powerfully by our good God.

 

Reflect, today, upon those whom you are familiar with in life, especially your own family. Examine whether or not you struggle with an ability to see beyond the surface and accept that God dwells within everyone. We must constantly seek to discover the presence of God all around us, especially in the lives of those whom we know very well.

 

My ever-present Lord, thank You for the countless ways in which You are present in the lives of those all around me. Give me the grace to see You and to love You in the lives of those closest to me. As I discover Your glorious presence in their lives, fill me with deep gratitude and help me to acknowledge Your love that comes forth from their lives. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 2nd February 2021

The Culmination of a Life of Faith

 

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

 

At the time of Jesus’ birth, there was a man named Simeon who had spent his whole life preparing for one significant moment. Like all faithful Jews at the time, Simeon was waiting for the coming Messiah. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would indeed see the Messiah before his death—and so this happened when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the Temple to offer Him to the Lord as an infant.

 

Try to imagine the scene. Simeon had lived a holy and devout life. And deep within his conscience, he knew that his life on earth would not come to an end until he was privileged to see the Savior of the World with his own eyes. He knew this by a special gift of faith, an interior revelation of the Holy Spirit, and he believed.

 

It’s helpful to think about this unique gift of knowledge that Simeon had throughout his life. Normally we gain knowledge through our five senses. We see something, hear something, taste, smell, or feel something, and as a result come to know it to be true. Physical knowledge is very reliable and is the normal way we come to know things. But this gift of knowledge Simeon had was different. It was deeper and was spiritual in nature. He knew he would see the Messiah before he died, not because of some external sensory perception he had received but because of an interior revelation from the Holy Spirit.

 

This truth begs the question, which type of knowledge is more certain? Something you see with your eyes, touch, smell, hear or taste? Or something that God speaks to you in the depths of your soul by a revelation of grace? Though these types of knowledge are different, it’s important to understand that the spiritual knowledge that is given by the Holy Spirit is far more certain than anything perceived through the five senses alone. This spiritual knowledge has the power to change your life and direct all your actions toward that revelation.

 

For Simeon, this interior knowledge of a spiritual nature suddenly united with his five senses when Jesus was brought into the Temple. Simeon suddenly saw, heard and felt this Child Whom he knew he would one day see with his own eyes and touch with his own hands. For Simeon, that moment was the culminating moment of his life.

 

Reflect, today, upon anything that our Lord has spoken to you in the depths of your soul. Too often we ignore His gentle voice as it speaks, preferring instead to live only in the sensory world. But the spiritual reality within us must become the center and foundation of our lives. It is there where God speaks, and it is there where we, too, will discover the central purpose and meaning of our lives.

 

My spiritual Lord, I thank You for the countless ways in which You speak to me day and night in the depths of my own soul. Help me to be always attentive to You and to Your gentle voice as You speak to me. May Your voice and Your voice alone become the guiding direction of my life. May I trust in Your Word and never waver from the mission You have given to me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 1st February 2021

Never Give Up On Another

 

 

“What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!” (He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”) He asked him, “What is your name?” He  replied, “Legion is my name.  There are many of us.” Mark 5:7–9

 

To most people, such an encounter would be terrifying. This man whose words are recorded above was possessed by a multitude of demons. He lived on the hillsides among various caves by the sea, and no one wanted to go near him. He was a violent man, crying out day and night, and all the townspeople were fearful of him. But when this man saw Jesus at a distance, something amazing happened. Instead of Jesus being terrified of the man, the multitude of demons possessing the man became terrified of Jesus. Jesus then commanded the many demons to leave the man and enter a herd of about two thousand swine instead. The swine immediately ran down the hill into the sea and drowned. The possessed man returned to normal, becoming clothed and in his right mind. All who saw him were amazed.

 

Clearly, this brief summary of the story does not adequately explain the terror, trauma, confusion, suffering, etc., that this man endured during the years of his diabolical possession. And it does not adequately explain the grave suffering of this man’s family and friends, as well as the disorder caused to the local townspeople as a result of his possession. Thus, to better understand this story, it is useful to contrast the before-and-after experience of all involved. It was very difficult for everyone to comprehend how this man could go from being possessed and out of his mind to calm and rational. For that reason, Jesus told the man to “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.” Imagine the mix of joy, confusion and disbelief that his family would have experienced. 

 

If Jesus could transform the life of this man who was completely possessed by a Legion of demons, then no one is ever without hope. Too often, especially within our families and among old friends, there are those whom we have written off as irredeemable. There are those who have gone so far astray that they seem hopeless. But one thing this story tells us is that hope is never lost for anyone—not even those completely possessed by a multitude of demons.

 

Reflect, today, upon anyone in your life whom you have written off. Perhaps they have hurt you over and over. Or perhaps they have chosen a life of grave sin. Look at that person in the light of this Gospel and know that there is always hope. Be open to God acting through you in a profound and powerful way so that even the most seemingly irredeemable person you know will be given hope through you.

 

My most powerful Lord, I offer to You, this day, the person whom I call to mind who is most in need of Your redeeming grace. May I never lose hope in Your ability to transform their life, to forgive their sins and to bring them back to You. Use me, dear Lord, to be an instrument of Your mercy so that they will come to know You and experience the freedom You so deeply desire that they receive. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 29th January 2021

Transformation in God’s Grace

 

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.  Mark 4:26–27

 

It’s beautiful to reflect upon how the Word of God changes people’s lives. This short passage above analogizes the sharing of the Word of God with the planting of seed. The sower goes forth and scatters seed into the ground and then observes how that seed grows into a fruitful plant. The mysterious line states “he knows not how.”

 

So it is with the Word of God. When that Word is received by another, we are blessed to be able to stand back and watch as that Word takes root and transforms their lives. Of course, at times we may sow the Word and it doesn’t take root. This is on account of either the hardness of another’s heart or on account of the way in which we sow. But when the seed of God’s Word does take root, we should be in awe of how God works in that soul.

 

Think about this reality in your own life. How did you first receive the good seed of God’s word? Perhaps it was through a sermon, a retreat, the reading of Scripture, a book or the witness of another. Think about how you first received God’s Word into your life and what effect it had upon you.

Once God’s Word has taken root in a soul, it is a holy practice to “rise night and day” so as to observe this seed as it grows. Specifically, we must allow ourselves to be amazed at the mysterious way that a life is changed, be it your own life or the life of another. It’s inspiring to observe as the soul of a person begins to root out sin, to seek virtue, to establish a life of prayer and to grow in the love of God.

 

If this is something to which you find it hard to relate, then perhaps it’s time to either allow that seed of God’s Word to fall gently and deeply into the fertile ground of your own soul or to prayerfully look for ways in which God wants to use you to sow that seed into the heart of another. Doing the latter takes much openness to the working of the Holy Spirit. It requires that we allow God to inspire us so as to know how we can cooperate with His hand in evangelization.

 

Reflect, today, upon the “mystery” of a soul who goes through this process of change and spiritual growth. If you find it difficult to find such an example to ponder, then turn to the lives of the saints. The saints are among the greatest witnesses of those who allowed God’s Word to sink deeply into their lives so that they became new creations, transformed by God’s grace. Ponder this transforming witness and allow yourself to be drawn into gratitude and amazement as you do.

 

My transforming Lord, I thank You for the way that You have sown the seed of Your holy Word into my own life. I thank You for the way in which You have changed me, freed me from sin and set me on the path to holiness. Use me, dear Lord, to sow that seed in the lives of others and fill me with wonder and awe as I witness Your merciful hand at work. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 28th January 2021

The Manifestation of Your Soul to All?

 

“For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light.” Mark 4:22

 

What a fascinating little line in the Gospel for today! What does this line mean? Though many have offered various commentaries upon the meaning of this line, let’s turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for some insight:

 

In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare. The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life… 

 

This passage comes from the section on “The Last Judgment” rather than “The Particular Judgment.” The Particular Judgment will come for all of us at the moment of our passing from this world. It will be an accounting of our sins and virtues before God in a personal and private way. But the Last Judgment will come at the end of time and should be seen as a universal judgment upon all in a very definitive and public way. Thus, this line from the Catechism seems to suggest that both our good actions and evil ones will be revealed for all to see.

 

If the Scripture passage above, as well as the passage from the Catechism, are properly interpreted to mean that during the Last Judgment even our deepest sins, including those that have been forgiven through the Sacrament of Confession, will be made manifest for all to see, this idea can, at first, be a bit frightening. But it shouldn’t be. It should be liberating.

 

If every action of our lives, both good and bad, will be made manifest for all to see at The Last Judgment, then this will result in one thing and one thing alone for those who are in Heaven: the glory of God and much rejoicing! In other words, if God reveals every sin we have committed, then He will also reveal our repentance from those sins, the purification we endured, and the forgiveness we received. Therefore, those who make up the Communion of Saints will not look upon us with judgment; rather, they will glorify God in the same way we glorify God and thank Him for His abundant mercy and forgiveness. We must always remember His forgiveness and continually rejoice in that fact.

 

Therefore, if all truly is made manifest, then it will be so that we can all rejoice together in the incredible mercy of God and can look at each other with gratitude for all that God had done for the other.

 

Reflect, today, upon the possibility of that glorious moment. Imagine the freedom you will experience by allowing God to share the deepest sins and the deepest virtues of your life with all who share Heaven with you. Shame will be gone. Judgment will be gone. Rejoicing and gratitude alone will remain. What a glorious moment that will be!

 

My glorious Judge, I thank You for Your mercy and forgiveness in my life. I thank You for freeing me from all sin. Please continue to purify my soul and free me from even the attachment to all sin. May I never forget all that You have done for me and may Your mercy become the cause of my eternal rejoicing and Your eternal glory. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

Wednesday 27th January

The Deepest Desire of Your Heart

 

“Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit.” Mark 4:20

 

This description from the Parable of the Sower seems to describe a growing number of people in our world today. The first grouping of people mentioned in this parable have little to no faith and are represented by the seed sown on the path which is quickly consumed by satan. The second group of people have a little initial faith and are represented by seed sown on rocky ground. The passage above represents the third grouping of people who are like seeds sown in good soil but is also among thorns. The fourth are those who are like rich soil and the Word of God grows deeply in their lives. Let’s consider the third grouping of people in more detail. 

 

There are three evils that choke off the Word of God in our lives: “worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things.” In our day and age, there are many who encounter various types of anxieties, are consumed with a desire for material wealth and find themselves craving many other things. In all three cases, these interior temptations have the effect of overwhelming the pure Truth of the Word of God in their lives.

 

Anxiety is a common problem today. And though this is a psychological struggle much of the time, it also can have spiritual roots. Anxiety is the struggle of worrying excessively, nervousness about many aspects of life and an uneasiness about the future. In this case, when the Person of Jesus and the Truth of the Gospel message does not consume and direct our lives, we are left on our own to “figure it out.” And this loneliness will almost always lead us into a loss of hope, fear and lack of deep peace.

Most people who struggle with anxiety will constantly look for a cure. And one place they often look is the deceptive consolation of material wealth or the “craving for other things.” Imagine if you won a tremendous amount of money. Would this resolve your worries in life? Though you may be tempted to think it would, deep down we all know that this is a lie. Material wealth is never a reliable source of satisfaction in life. The same is true with almost everything else we “crave” in life. One thing and one thing alone can satisfy. And that one thing is God.

 

Reflect, today, upon those things in your life that seem to occupy your mental energy. What do you worry about, hope for, deeply desire? What do you falsely believe will relieve your interior struggles? What do you crave? Take time today to remind yourself of the irrefutable truth that God, His holy will and all that He has revealed as True is the only source of satisfaction. Seek to let that Truth sink in deeply in your heart so that the Truths of God will grow and bear the abundant good fruit you so deeply desire.

 

My merciful Lord, help me to be open fully to Your holy Word so that the seed of Your Word will be planted deeply in my heart. May I always reject the many lies and deceptions of the world so that I can be freed of the anxieties and fleeting pleasures of life. May I seek only the deep and sustaining delights that come from a life fully given over to You so that I will live in the peace and grace of Your holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 26th January 2021

Doing the Will of God

 

“Here are my mother and my brothers.  For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”  Mark 3:34–35

 

Jesus said many things that caused people to pause and think. Today’s Gospel passage is one of those times. Just prior to the passage quoted above, Jesus was told that His mother and brothers were outside looking for Him. After hearing this, instead of going to greet them, He asked those around Him, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Then He looked around and answered His own question with the above quoted Scripture.

 

What may have caused some people to pause and think at that time, and even now when this passage is read, is that Jesus’ comments can easily be misunderstood. Some will conclude that He was distancing Himself from His own family and that He was even disowning them to a certain extent. But nothing could be further from the truth.

 

First of all, we know that Jesus had a perfect love for His dear mother Mary and that she loved Jesus with a perfect reciprocal love. As for His “brothers,” it was common to refer to one’s extended family (such as cousins) as brothers and sisters. Therefore, these brothers who were coming to see Jesus were relatives to one degree or another. And though our Blessed Mother, the mother of Jesus, was perfect in every way, Jesus’ extended family was not. Recall that some of them thought Jesus was out of his mind and tried to prevent His public ministry.

 

But back to our question: Was Jesus disowning His family members in some way? Certainly not.

 

Instead, He was establishing a deeper context for His new family in grace. Though biological bonds are a gift and must be respected and cherished, the spiritual bonds established by our joint conformity to the will of God is of much greater importance. Jesus simply pointed to this fact, elevating the spiritual family bond over the purely natural. Of course, it’s also important to point out that Jesus’ mother was first and foremost His mother, not only because she gave physical birth to Jesus, but primarily because she was in perfect conformity to the will of God with Him and, thus, the most intimate member of His family by grace. And the same can be true for all of us. When we conform our wills to the will of God, we become Jesus’ “mother” in the sense that He enters our world through us. And we become His “brothers and sisters” in that we become intimate members of His eternal family and enjoy a profound and spiritual union with Him.

 

Reflect, today, upon the fact that you are called to be so much more than just a physical brother or sister of Christ Jesus. You are called to the most intimate and transforming familial union imaginable. And this union is more fully accomplished when you seek to fulfill the will of God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength.

 

My dear Lord, I desire deeply to become more fully a member of Your most intimate family in grace. Help me to always dedicate myself to the complete fulfillment of the will of our Father in Heaven. And as I conform my will more fully with that of the Father’s, draw me deeper and deeper into union with You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 24th January 2021

Becoming an Evangelist

 

“Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:17

 

Saint Paul (who in Hebrew was known as Saul of Tarsus) was a devout Jewish Pharisee who vigorously defended the law. After Jesus’ ascension into Heaven, the newfound Christian faith began to grow rapidly. As a result, Saul of Tarsus vigorously tried to end this new religion which he perceived as erroneous. He travelled about looking for followers of Jesus to arrest and imprison. Saul even gave his consent to the stoning of the deacon, Saint Stephen, the first martyr. However, on one of his journeys, Saul had a vision of the risen Christ Who spoke to him gently, saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). It was in that encounter that Saul was left blinded for three days.

 

The line quoted above are the words of Ananias, a devout disciple of Jesus. Ananias had also received a vision from Jesus Who told him to go to Saul of Tarsus and to lay his hands on him so that he would be healed. Ananias was also told that Saul was “a chosen instrument” through which the Gospel would be preached to the “Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel.”

 

Though there are many fascinating aspects to the story of Saint Paul and his conversion, it is also inspiring to reflect upon the way in which God first converted him. Jesus was not harsh with Saul. He was not condemning. Instead, he saw the goodness and vigor of Saul and knew that he would respond if he were given the opportunity. Though Jesus used the powerful action of striking him blind, He did so because He saw so much potential for good within Saul.

 

This same truth applies to our lives. Each one of us has incredible potential for good, and God does see this. God is aware of all that He can do with us and is seeking to draw us into His mission of sharing the Gospel with those in need. The question to ponder is whether or not you have responded to the ways that God has spoken to you and invited you to serve Him with your life. Saul’s encounter with Jesus was powerful and transforming not only because he was blinded by this vision—it was powerful and transforming, first and foremost, because Saul wanted to serve God but was trying to do so in an erroneous way. And once that error was corrected, Saul responded in an immediate and complete way. As a result, Saul became one of the greatest evangelists in the history of the Church.

 

Reflect, today, upon the desire in the heart of Jesus to invite you into His mission. Though you may be unaware of the many ways God can use you, Jesus is fully aware. He sees all of your gifts and knows who He wants to draw to Himself through you. Say “Yes” to Him this day and do so with every fiber of your soul. Doing so will allow God to do great things through you.

 

Lord, I do love You and desire to be used by You in the way that You choose. Help me to convert my heart more fully to You so that I can be led by Your gentle and powerful hand. I accept whatever mission You give to me and pray that my life will give You true glory and further Your glorious Kingdom on earth. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 22nd January 2021

Confronting Evil with the Gospel

 

He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. Mark 3:14–15

 

The Twelve Apostles were first called by Jesus and then sent to preach with authority. The authority they were given was for the purpose of driving out demons. But how did they do that? It’s interesting to note that the authority they were given over demons was, in part, associated with their commission to preach. And though there are some recorded instances in the Scriptures of the Apostles driving out demons directly by command, it should also be understood that the preaching of the Gospel with the authority of Christ has a direct effect of driving out demons.

 

Demons are fallen angels. But even in their fallen state, they retain the natural powers they have, such as the power of influence and suggestion. They seek to communicate with us to deceive us and draw us away from Christ. The good angels, of course, also exercise this same natural power for our good. Our guardian angels, for example, constantly seek to communicate to us the truths of God and His grace. The angelic battle for good and evil is real, and as Christians we must be aware of this reality.

 

One of the greatest ways to confront satan and his demons is to listen to the Truth and to proclaim it with the authority of Christ. Though the Apostles were given a special authority for their preaching, every Christian, by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, is entrusted with the message of the Gospel to proclaim in various ways. And with that authority, we must constantly strive to bring forth the Kingdom of God. Doing so will have a direct impact on the diminishment of the kingdom of satan.

Reflect, today, upon your duty to share the Gospel with others. Sometimes this is done by an explicit sharing of the message of Jesus Christ, and at other times the message is shared more by our actions and virtue. But every Christian is entrusted with this mission and must learn to fulfill that mission with true authority, knowing that as that authority from Christ is exercised, the Kingdom of God increases and the activity of the evil one is overcome.

 

My all-powerful Lord, I thank You for the grace You have given me to proclaim the truth of Your saving message to those whom I encounter every day. Help me to fulfill my mission to preach in both word and deed and to do so with the gentle yet powerful authority given me by You. I offer myself to Your service, dear Lord. Do with me as You will. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 21st January 2021

Single-Minded Devotion

 

He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him. Mark 3:9–10

 

It’s fascinating to ponder the enthusiasm that so many people had toward Jesus. In the passage above, we see Jesus asked His disciples to have a boat ready for Him so that He would not be crushed as He taught the crowd. He had been curing many who were sick, and the crowd was pressing upon Him to try to simply touch Him.

 

This scene provides us with an illustration of what must happen within our interior lives regarding our Lord. The people can be said to have been single-minded in their devotion to Jesus and fervent in their desire for Him. Granted, their desire may have been somewhat selfishly motivated by the desire for physical cures of their ailments and those of their loved ones, but nonetheless, their attraction was real and powerful, driving them to put their complete focus upon our Lord.

 

Jesus’ choice to get into a boat and distance Himself a bit from the crowd was also an act of love. Why? Because this act allowed Jesus to help them refocus upon His deeper mission. Though He did miracles out of compassion and so as to manifest His almighty power, His primary focus was to teach people and to lead them into the full Truth of the message He was preaching. Therefore, by separating Himself from them, they were invited to listen to Him rather than just try to touch Him for the sake of a physical miracle. For Jesus, the spiritual wholeness He desired to give the crowd was of much greater significance than any physical healing He also gave.

 

In our own lives, Jesus may “separate” Himself from us in somewhat superficial ways so that we will be more open to the deeper and more transforming purpose of His life. For example, He may remove certain feelings of consolation or permit us to encounter some trial through which He seems to be less present to us. But when this happens, it is always so that we will turn to Him on a deeper level of trust and openness so as to be drawn more deeply into a relationship of love.

 

Reflect, today, upon how single-minded your devotion is to our Lord. From there, ponder, also, if you are more attached to the good feelings and consolations you seek or if your devotion is deeper, focused more on the transforming message our Lord wants to preach to you. See yourself on that shore, listening to Jesus speak, and allow His holy words to transform your life more deeply.

 

My saving God, I turn to You, this day, and seek to be single-minded in my love and devotion to You. Help me, first and foremost, to listen to Your transforming Word and to allow that Word to become the central focus of my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 20th January 2021

Grieved at the Hardness of Heart

 

Then he said to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored. Mark 3:4–5

 

Sin damages our relationship with God. But hardness of heart is even more damaging because it perpetuates the damage done by sin. And the harder one’s heart, the more permanent the damage.

In the passage above, Jesus was angry with the Pharisees. Oftentimes the passion of anger is sinful, resulting from impatience and a lack of charity. But at other times, the passion of anger can be good when it is motivated by love of others and hatred for their sin. In this case, Jesus was grieved by the hardness of heart of the Pharisees, and that grief motivated His holy anger. His “holy” anger did not cause irrational criticism; rather, it drove Jesus to cure this man in the presence of the Pharisees so that they would soften their hearts and believe in Jesus. Sadly, it didn’t work. The very next line of the Gospel says, “The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death” (Mark 3:6).

 

Hardness of heart should be greatly avoided. The problem is that those who are hard of heart are usually not open to the fact that they are hard of heart. They are obstinate and stubborn, and oftentimes self-righteous. Therefore, when people suffer from this spiritual ailment, it is difficult for them to change, especially when confronted.

 

This Gospel passage offers you an important opportunity to look into your own heart with honesty. Only you and God need to be part of that interior introspection and conversation. Begin by reflecting upon the Pharisees and the poor example they set. From there, try to look at yourself with great honesty. Are you obstinate? Are you hardened in your convictions to the point that you are unwilling to even consider that you may be wrong at times? Are there people in your life with whom you have entered into a conflict that still remains? If any of this rings true, then you may indeed suffer from the spiritual ill of a hardened heart.

 

Reflect, today, upon your own soul and your relationships with others with as much honesty as possible. Do not hesitate to let your guard down and be open to what God may want to say to you. And if you detect even the slightest tendency toward a hardened and stubborn heart, beg our Lord to enter in to soften it. Change like this is difficult, but the rewards of such a change are incalculable. Do not hesitate and do not wait. Change is worth it in the end.

 

My loving Lord, this day I open myself to an examination of my own heart and pray that You will help me to always be open to change when necessary. Help me, especially, to see any hardness I may have within my heart. Help me to overcome any obstinacy, stubbornness and self-righteousness. Give me the gift of humility, dear Lord, so that my heart can become more like Yours. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 19th January 2021

Keep Holy the Sabbath

 

As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. At this the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” Mark 2:23–24

 

The Pharisees were greatly concerned about many things that were distortions of the law of God. The Third Commandment calls us to “Keep holy the Sabbath Day.” Furthermore, we read in Exodus 20:8–10 that we are not to do any work on the Sabbath but are to use that day for rest. From this Commandment, the Pharisees developed extensive commentary on what was permitted and what was forbidden to do on the Sabbath. They determined that picking the heads of grain was one of the forbidden actions.

 

In many countries today, the Sabbath rest has all but disappeared. Sadly, Sunday is rarely set aside any longer for a day of worship and rest with family and friends. For that reason, this hypercritical condemnation of the disciples by the Pharisees is hard to relate to. The deeper spiritual issue seems to be the hyper “nitpicky” approach taken by the Pharisees. They were not so much concerned about honoring God on the Sabbath as they were interested in being judgmental and condemning. And though it may be rare today to find people overly scrupulous and nitpicky about the Sabbath rest, it’s often easy to find ourselves becoming nitpicky about many other things in life.

 

Consider your family and those who are closest to you. Are there things they do and habits they have formed that leave you constantly criticizing them? Sometimes we criticize others for actions that are clearly contrary to the laws of God. At different times, we criticize others on account of some exaggeration of fact on our part. Though it is important to speak charitably against violations of the external law of God, we must be very careful not to set ourselves up as the judge and jury of others, especially when our criticism is based on a distortion of the truth or an exaggeration of something minor. In other words, we must be careful not to become nitpicky ourselves.

 

Reflect, today, upon any tendency you have in your relationships with those closest to you toward being excessive and distorted in your criticism. Do you find yourself obsessing over the apparent minor faults of others on a regular basis? Try to step back from criticism today and renew, instead, your practice of mercy toward all. If you do, you may actually discover that your judgments of others do not fully reflect the truth of God’s law.

 

My merciful Judge, give me a heart of compassion and mercy toward all. Remove from my heart all judgmentalness and criticalness. I leave all judgment to You, dear Lord, and seek only to be an instrument of Your love and mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Monday 18th January 2021

To Fast or Not To Fast

 

“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. Mark 2:19–20

 

The passage above reveals Jesus’ response to the disciples of John the Baptist and some Pharisees who question Jesus about fasting. They point out that the disciples of John and the Pharisees follow the Jewish laws on fasting, but Jesus’ disciples do not. Jesus’ answer goes to the heart of the new law on fasting.

 

Fasting is a wonderful spiritual practice. It helps to strengthen the will against disordered fleshly temptations and helps to bring purity to one’s soul. But it needs to be pointed out that fasting is not an eternal reality. One day, when we are face-to-face with God in Heaven, there will no longer be any need to fast or do any form of penance. But while on earth, we will struggle and fall and lose our way, and one of the best spiritual practices to help us return to Christ is prayer and fasting combined.

Fasting becomes necessary “when the bridegroom is taken away.” In other words, fasting is necessary when we sin and our union with Christ begins to fade. It is then that the personal sacrifice of fasting helps open our hearts once again to our Lord. This is especially true when habits of sin form and become deeply ingrained. Fasting adds much power to our prayer and stretches our souls so as to be able to receive the “new wine” of God’s grace where we need it the most.

 

Reflect, today, upon your approach to fasting and other penitential practices. Do you fast? Do you make regular sacrifices so as to strengthen your will and help you to turn more fully to Christ? Or has this healthy spiritual practice been somewhat neglected in your life? Renew your commitment to this holy endeavor today and God will work powerfully in your life.

 

Lord, I open my heart to the new wine of grace that You wish to pour forth upon me. Help me to be properly disposed to this grace and to use every means necessary to become more open to You. Help me, especially, to commit to the wonderful spiritual practice of fasting. May this act of mortification in my life bear abundant fruit for Your Kingdom. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 15th January 2021

An Act of the Greatest Charity

 

They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. Mark 2:3–4

 

This paralytic is a symbol of certain people in our lives who seem to be incapable of turning to our Lord by their own effort. It’s clear that the paralytic wanted healing, but he was unable to come to our Lord by his own effort. Therefore, the friends of this paralytic carried him to Jesus, opened the roof (since there was such a large crowd), and lowered the man down before Jesus.

 

The paralysis of this man is a symbol of a certain type of sin. It’s a sin that someone desires forgiveness for but is incapable of turning to our Lord by their own effort. For example, a serious addiction is something that can so dominate a person’s life that they cannot overcome this addiction by their own effort. They need the help of others to even be able to turn to our Lord for help. 

 

We each must see ourselves as the friends of this paralytic. Too often when we see someone who is trapped in a life of sin, we simply judge them and turn away from them. But one of the greatest acts of charity we can offer another is to help provide them with the means they need to overcome their sin. This can be done by our counsel, our unwavering compassion, a listening ear, and by any act of fidelity to that person during their time of need and despair.

 

How do you treat people who are caught in the cycle of manifest sin? Do you roll your eyes at them and turn away? Or do you firmly determine to be there for them to give them hope and to assist them when they have little or no hope in life to overcome their sin? One of the greatest gifts you can give to another is the gift of hope by being there for them to help them turn fully to our Lord.

 

Reflect, today, upon a person you know who seems to be not only caught in the cycle of sin but has also lost hope to overcome that sin. Prayerfully surrender yourself over to our Lord and commit yourself to the charitable act of doing anything and everything you can so as to help them fully turn to our divine Lord.

 

My precious Jesus, fill my heart with charity toward those who need You the most but seem incapable of overcoming the sin in their lives that keep them from You. May my unwavering commitment to them be an act of charity that gives them the hope they need to surrender their life to You. Use me, dear Lord, my life is in Your hands. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 14th January 2021

Be Made Clean

 

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” Mark 1:40–41

 

If we come to our divine Lord with faith, kneel down before Him and present our need to Him, then we also will receive the same response given to this leper: “I do will it. Be made clean.” These words should give us hope in the midst of any and every challenge in life.

 

What is it that our Lord wills for you? And what is it that He desires to make clean in your life? This story of the leper coming to Jesus does not mean that our Lord will grant any and every request we bring to Him. Instead, it reveals that He wills to make us clean of that which afflicts us the most.

 

Leprosy in this story should be seen as a symbol of the spiritual ills that afflict your soul. First and foremost, it should be seen as a symbol of the sin in your life that has become habitual and slowly does great damage to your soul.

 

At that time, leprosy not only caused grave physical damage to a person, but it also had the effect of isolating them from the community. They had to live apart from others who did not have the disease; and if they came near others, they had to show they were lepers by certain external signs so that people would not come in contact with them. Thus, leprosy had both personal and communal ramifications.

 

The same is true with many habitual sins. Sin does damage to our souls, but it also affects our relationships. For example, a person who is habitually harsh, judgmental, sarcastic or the like will experience the ill effects of these sins on their relationships.

 

Returning to the statement of Jesus above, consider that sin which not only affects your soul the most but also your relationships. To that sin, Jesus wishes to say to you, “Be made clean.” He wants to strengthen your relationship by cleansing the sin within your soul. And all it takes for Him to do that is for you to turn to Him on your knees and to present your sin to Him. This is especially true within the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

 

Reflect, today, upon your closest relationships in life. And then consider which of your sins most directly hurts those relationships. Whatever comes to mind, you can be certain that Jesus wants to rid you of that spiritual leprosy within your soul.

 

My divine Lord, help me to see that which is within me that most harms my relationships with others. Help me to see that which causes isolation and hurt. Give me the humility to see this and the trust I need to turn to You to confess it and seek Your healing. You and You alone can free me from my sin, so I turn to You in confidence and surrender. With faith, I also await Your healing words, “I do will it. Be made clean.” Jesus, I trust in You. 

Wednesday 13th January 2021

More Demons Driven Out

 

When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.  

Mark 1:32–34

 

Today we read that Jesus once again “drove out many demons…” The passage then adds, “…not permitting them to speak because they knew him.” 

 

Why would Jesus not permit these demons to speak? Many of the early Church fathers explain that even though the demons had an understanding that Jesus was the promised Messiah, they did not understand fully what that meant and how He would accomplish His ultimate victory. Therefore, Jesus did not want them to speak only half-truths about Him, as the evil one often does, thus misleading the people. So Jesus always forbade these demons from speaking about Him publicly.

 

It’s important to understand that all of the demonic spirits failed to understand the full truth that it would be Jesus’ death that ultimately destroys death itself and sets all people free. For that reason, we see that these diabolical forces continually conspired against Jesus and tried to attack Him throughout His life. They stirred up Herod when Jesus was a baby, which forced Him into exile in Egypt. Satan himself tempted Jesus just prior to the beginning of His public ministry so as to try to dissuade Jesus from His mission. There were many diabolical forces who continually attacked Jesus throughout His public ministry, especially through the ongoing hostility of the religious leaders at the time. And it can be presumed that these demons may have initially thought they won the battle when they accomplished their goal of having Jesus crucified. 

 

The truth, however, is that Jesus’ wisdom continually confounded these demons and ultimately transformed their evil act of having Him crucified into an ultimate victory over sin and death itself by rising from the dead. Satan and his demons are real, but compared to the truth and wisdom of God, these diabolical forces reveal their complete foolishness and weakness. Just like Jesus, we need to rebuke these tempters in our lives and command that they be silent. Too often we allow their half truths to mislead us and confuse us.

 

Reflect, today, upon the importance of confidently rebuking the evil one and the many lies he tempts us to believe. Rebuke him with the truth and authority of Christ and pay no attention to what he says.

 

My precious and all-powerful Lord, I turn to You and You alone as the source of all Truth and the fullness of Truth. May I listen to Your voice alone and reject the many deceptions of the evil one and his demons. In Your precious name, Jesus, I rebuke satan and all evil spirits, their lies and their temptations. I send these spirits to the foot of Your Cross, dear Lord, and open my mind and heart only to You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 12th January 2021

Confronting the Evil One

 

In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet!  Come out of him!” Mark 1:23–25

 

There were numerous times when Jesus directly confronted demons in the Scriptures. Each time He rebuked them and exercised His authority over them. The passage above illustrates one such case.

The fact that the devil shows himself over and over in the Gospels tells us that the evil one is real and needs to be dealt with appropriately. And the appropriate way to deal with the evil one and his fellow demons is to rebuke them with the authority of Christ Jesus Himself in a calm but definitive and authoritative way.

 

It’s very rare that the evil one makes himself fully manifest to us in the way that he did in the passage above to Jesus. The demon speaks directly through this man, which indicates that the man was fully possessed. And though we do not see this form of manifestation often, it doesn’t mean that the evil one is any less active today. Instead, it shows that the authority of Christ is not being exercised by the Christian faithful to the extent that is necessary to combat the evil one. Instead, we often cower in the face of evil and fail to confidently and charitably stand our ground with Christ.

 

Why did this demon manifest himself in such a visible way? Because this demon was directly confronted with the authority of Jesus. The devil usually prefers to remain hidden and deceptive, presenting himself as an angel of light so that his evil ways are not known clearly. Those whom he controls often do not even know how much they are influenced by the evil one. But when the evil one is confronted with the pure presence of Christ, with the Truth of the Gospel that sets us free, and with Jesus’ authority, this confrontation often forces the evil one to react by manifesting his evil.

 

Reflect, today, upon the fact that the evil one is constantly at work all around us. Consider the people and circumstances in your life where the pure and holy Truth of God is attacked and rejected. It is in those situations, more than any other, that Jesus wants to bestow upon you His divine authority to confront evil, rebuke it and take authority over it. This is primarily done through prayer and deep trust in the power of God. Don’t be afraid to allow God to use you to confront the activity of the evil one in this world.

 

Lord, give me courage and wisdom when I face the activity of the evil one in this world. Give me wisdom to discern his hand at work and give me courage to confront and rebuke him with Your love and authority. May Your authority be alive in my life, Lord Jesus, and may I daily become a better instrument of the coming of Your Kingdom as I confront the evil present in this world. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Monday 11th January 2021

A Time to Repent and Believe

 

Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: 
“This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Mark 1:14–15

 

We have now completed our Advent and Christmas Seasons and begin the liturgical season of “Ordinary Time.” Ordinary Time must be lived in our lives in both an ordinary and extraordinary way.

First of all, we begin this liturgical season with an extraordinary calling from God. In the Gospel passage above, Jesus begins His public ministry by proclaiming that “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” But He then goes on to state that, as a result of the new presence of the Kingdom of God, we must “repent” and “believe.”

 

It’s important to understand that the Incarnation, which we especially celebrated in Advent and Christmas, changed the world forever. Now that God had united Himself with human nature in the Person of Jesus Christ, God’s new Kingdom of grace and mercy was at hand. Our world and our lives are changed because of what God did. And as Jesus began His public ministry, He begins to inform us through His preaching of this new reality.

 

The public ministry of Jesus, as it is transmitted to us through the inspired Word of the Gospels, presents to us the very Person of God and the foundation of His new Kingdom of grace and mercy. It presents us with the extraordinary calling of holiness of life and an unwavering and radical commitment to following Christ. Thus, as we begin Ordinary Time, it’s good to be reminded of our duty to immerse ourselves in the message of the Gospel and to respond to it without reserve.

But this calling to an extraordinary way of life must ultimately become ordinary. In other words, our radical calling to follow Christ must become who we are. We must see the “extraordinary” as our “ordinary” duty in life.

 

Reflect, today, upon the beginning of this new liturgical season. Use it as an opportunity to remind yourself of the importance of daily studying and prayerfully pondering the public ministry of Jesus and all He taught. Recommit yourself to a faithful reading of the Gospel so that it becomes an ordinary part of your daily life.

 

My precious Jesus, I thank You for all You have spoken and revealed to us through Your public ministry. Strengthen me during this new liturgical season of Ordinary Time to devote myself to the reading of Your holy Word so that all that You have taught us becomes an ordinary part of my daily life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 8th January 2021

Preaching By Example

 

The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray. Luke 5:15–16

 

This line concludes the beautiful and powerful story of a man who was full of leprosy and who came to Jesus, fell prostrate before Him and pleaded with Jesus to heal Him if it was His will. Jesus’ response was simple: “I do will it. Be made clean.” And then Jesus did the unthinkable. He touched the man. The man, of course, was immediately healed of his leprosy, and Jesus sent him to show himself to the priest. But word of this miracle spread fast, and many people kept coming to see Jesus as a result.

It’s easy to imagine the scene of people talking about this miracle, thinking of their own ailments and those of their loved ones, and wanting to be healed by this miracle worker. But in the passage above, we see Jesus do something very interesting and prophetic. Just as the great crowds gathered and just as there was much excitement about Jesus, He withdrew from them to a deserted place to pray. Why would He do this?

 

Jesus’s mission was to teach His followers the truth and to lead them to Heaven. He did this not only by His miracles and teachings but also by setting an example of prayer. By going off to pray to His Father alone, Jesus teaches all of these excited followers what is most important in life. Physical miracles are not what is most important. Prayer and communion with the Father in Heaven is what’s most important.

 

If you have established a healthy life of daily prayer, one way you can share the Gospel with others is by allowing others to witness your commitment to prayer. Not so as to receive their praise, but to let them know what you find most important in life. When you commit yourself to daily Mass, going to church for adoration, or simply taking time alone in your room to pray, others will notice and will be drawn into a holy curiosity which may also lead them to a life of prayer.

 

Reflect, today, upon your mission to evangelize others by the simple act of allowing your life of prayer and devotion to be known by them. Let them see you pray, and if they ask, share with them the fruits of your prayer. Allow your love of our Lord to shine forth so that others will receive the blessing of your holy witness.

 

Lord, help me to be committed to a life of true prayer and devotion each and every day. Help me to be faithful to this life of prayer and to continually be drawn deeper in my love of You. As I learn to pray, use me to be a witness to others so that those who need You the most will be changed by my love of You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 7th January 2021

Good News Travels Fast

 

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.  Luke 4:21–22a

 

Jesus had just spent forty days in the desert, fasting and praying prior to beginning His public ministry. His first stop was Galilee, where He entered the Synagogue and read from the Prophet Isaiah. However, soon after His words were spoken in the Synagogue, He was driven out of the town, and the people tried to throw him over the hill to kill Him.

 

What a shocking contrast. At first Jesus was “praised by all,” as we see in the passage above. Word of Him spread like wildfire throughout the towns. They had heard of His baptism and the Voice of the Father speaking from Heaven, and many were curious and excited about Him. But as soon as Jesus began to preach the pure Gospel message and when He began to address their hardness of heart, they turned on Him and sought His life.

 

Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that the Gospel will always have the effect of drawing people together as one. Of course, this is one of the central goals of the Gospel: to unite us in the Truth as the one people of God. But the key to unity is that unity is only possible when we all accept the saving Truth of the Gospel. All of it. And that means we must change our hearts, turn from the stubbornness of our sins, and open our minds to Christ. Sadly, some do not want to change, and the result is division.

 

If you find that there are aspects of Jesus’ teaching that are hard to accept, reflect upon the passage above. Return to this initial reaction of the townspeople when they were all talking about Jesus and praised Him. That is the right response. Our difficulties with what Jesus says and what He calls us to repent of should never have the effect of leading us to disbelief rather than to praise Him in all things.

 

Reflect, today, on the most difficult teaching of Jesus you have struggled with. Everything He says and everything He has taught is for your good. Praise Him no matter what and allow your heart of praise to give you the wisdom you need to understand all that Jesus asks of you. Especially those teachings that are most difficult to accept.

 

Lord, I accept all that You have taught, and I choose to change those parts of my life that do not conform to Your most holy will. Give me wisdom to see the thing from which I must repent and soften my heart so that I will always remain open to You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 6th January 2021

Take Courage, Do Not Fear

 

“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” Mark 6:50

 

Fear is one of the most paralyzing and painful experiences in life. There are many things we can fear, but most often, the cause of our fear is the evil one trying to deter us from faith and hope in Christ Jesus.

 

This line above is taken from the story of Jesus walking on the water toward the Apostles during the fourth watch of the night as they were rowing against the wind and being tossed by the waves. When they saw Jesus walking on the water, they were terrified. But when Jesus spoke to them and got into the boat, the wind immediately died down, and the Apostles remained there “completely astounded.” 

The boat on the stormy sea has traditionally been understood to represent our journey through this life. There are countless ways that the evil one, the flesh and the world fight against us. In this story, Jesus sees their trouble from the shore and walks toward them to come to their aid. His reason for walking towards them is His compassionate Heart.

 

Often in times of fear in life, we lose sight of Jesus. We turn in on ourselves and focus on the cause of our fear. But our goal must be to turn from the cause of fear in life and look for Jesus Who is always compassionate and is always walking toward us in the midst of our fear and struggle.

 

Reflect, today, upon whatever it is that causes you the most fear and anxiety in life. What is it that leads you to interior confusion and struggle? Once you identify the source, turn your eyes from that to our Lord. See Him walking toward you in the midst of whatever you struggle with, saying to you, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”

 

Lord, once again I turn to Your most compassionate Heart. Help me to lift my eyes toward You and to turn away from the sources of my anxiety and fear in life. Fill me with faith and hope in You and give me the courage I need to put all my trust in You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 5th January 2021

A Heart of Compassion

 

When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34

 

What is compassion? It’s an attribute by which someone sees the suffering of another and experiences true empathy for them. This empathy, in turn, leads the person to reach out and share in the person’s suffering, helping them to endure whatever they are going through. This is what Jesus experienced within His own Sacred Heart as He looked out upon this vast crowd.

 

The Scripture above introduces the familiar miracle of the feeding of the five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish. And though the miracle itself offers much to ponder, this introductory line also gives us much to ponder regarding our Lord’s motivation for performing this miracle.

 

When Jesus looked out at the large crowd, He saw a group of people who seemed lost, were searching and were spiritually hungry. They desired some direction in their lives, and, for that reason, they were coming to Jesus. But what’s very helpful to reflect upon is Jesus’ Heart. He was not annoyed by their insistence, He was not burdened by them; rather He was deeply moved by their spiritual poverty and hunger. This moved His Heart to “pity,” which is a form of sincere compassion. For that reason, He taught them “many things.”

 

Interestingly, the miracle was simply an extra blessing but was not the primary action Jesus took on account of His compassionate Heart. First and foremost, His compassion led Him to teach them.

Jesus looks at each one of us with the same compassion. Whenever you find yourself confused, lacking direction in life and spiritually hungry, Jesus gazes at you with the same gaze He offered this vast crowd. And His remedy for your needs is to teach you, also. He wants you to learn from Him by studying the Scripture, by daily prayer and meditation, by reading the lives of the saints and learning the many glorious teachings of our Church. This is the food that every wandering heart needs for spiritual satisfaction.

 

Reflect, today, upon the most compassionate Heart of our Divine Lord. Allow yourself to see Him gazing at you with the utmost love. Know that His gaze is one that drives Him to speak to you, to teach you and to lead you to Himself. Trust this most compassionate Heart of our Lord and allow Him to reach out to you in love.

 

Lord, help me to see You as You gaze at me with the most heartfelt love and compassion. I know You know my every struggle and my every need. Help me to open myself up to You and Your mercy so that You become my true Shepherd. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 4th January 2021

Repent With Your Whole heart

 

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

 

Now that our Christmas Octave and Epiphany celebrations are complete, we begin to turn our eyes to the public ministry of Christ. The above line from today’s Gospel presents us with the most central summary of all of the teachings of Jesus: Repent. However, He doesn’t say only to repent, He also says that “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And that second statement is the reason we must repent.

 

In his spiritual classic, The Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius of Loyola explains that the primary reason for our lives is to give to God the greatest glory we can. In other words, to bring forth the Kingdom of Heaven. But he also goes on to say that this can only be accomplished when we turn away from sin and all inordinate attachments in our lives so that the one and only focus of our lives is the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the goal of repentance.

 

Soon we will celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and then we return to Ordinary Time within the Liturgical Year. Throughout Ordinary Time, we will reflect upon the public ministry of Jesus and focus upon His many teachings. But all of His teachings, everything that He says and does, ultimately points us to repentance, a turning away from sin and a turning toward our glorious God.

 

In your own life, it is essential that you place before your mind and heart the call to repentance. It is essential that you daily hear Jesus saying those words to you: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Do not only think about Him saying this many years ago; rather, hear it said to you, today, tomorrow and every day of your life. There will never be a time in your life when you do not need to repent with all your heart. We will never reach perfection in this life, so repentance must be our daily mission. 

 

Reflect, today, upon this exhortation from our Lord to repent. Repent with your whole heart. Examining your actions every day is essential to this mission. See the ways that your actions keep you from God and reject those actions. And look for the ways that God is active in your life and embrace those acts of mercy. Repent and turn toward the Lord. This is Jesus’ message to you this day.

 

Lord, I repent of the sin in my life and pray that You give me the grace to become free from all that keeps me from You. May I not only turn from sin but also turn to You as the source of all mercy and fulfillment in my life. Help me to keep my eyes on the Kingdom of Heaven and to do all I can to share in that Kingdom here and now. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 17th December 2020

An Amazing Reality

 

Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Matthew 1:15–16

 

The last line of the Gospel passage above offers much for us to meditate upon this day and throughout the week ahead. “Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.” What an amazing reality we celebrate! God Himself took on our human life, experienced conception, birth, infancy, childhood, etc. As a human, He also experienced hatred, abuse, persecution, and murder. Again, what an amazing reality we celebrate!

 

For the next eight days, the readings for Mass will focus more directly upon this amazing reality. We ponder today the lineage of Christ Jesus and see that He comes from the line of Abraham and David and that His ancestors were the great Judges, Kings and Levitical Priests. In the coming days of preparation for Christmas, we will ponder the role of Saint Joseph, the response of our Blessed Mother to the angel, the Visitation, Zechariah’s lack of faith and our Blessed Mother’s perfect faith.

As we enter into this octave of immediate preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ, do use it as a time of true spiritual preparation. Though all of Advent is a season of preparation, these final days should especially focus upon the great mysteries surrounding the Incarnation and birth of the Christ Child. We must ponder the people Whom God chose to be intimately involved, and we should reflect upon the smallest of details regarding how this miracle of miracles took place.

 

Reflect, today, upon the true reason for Advent and Christmas. This final week leading up to Christmas can oftentimes become filled with busyness and other forms of preparation, such as shopping, cooking, traveling, decorating, etc. Though all of these other preparations have a place, don’t neglect the most important preparation—the spiritual preparation of your soul. Spend time with the Scriptures this week. Savor the story. Think about the amazing reality that we are about to celebrate.

 

My precious Lord, I thank you for coming to dwell among us, and I thank you for this Advent season in which I am able to prayerfully ponder all that You have done for me. Please make this last week before Christmas a time of true preparation in which I prayerfully ponder the amazing reality of Your Incarnation. May this last week of preparation not be wasted but, rather, used as a foundation for a glorious and prayerful celebration of the holy gift of Christmas. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 16th December 2020

The Transforming Power of Christ

 

And Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”  Luke 7:22

 

One of the greatest ways that the transforming power of the Gospel is proclaimed is through the works accomplished by our Lord. In this Gospel passage, Jesus points to the works He has done to answer a question about His identity. The disciples of John the Baptist came to ask Him if He was the coming Messiah. And Jesus responds by pointing to the fact that lives have been changed. The blind, lame, lepers, deaf and dead all received miracles of God’s grace. And these miracles were done for all to see.

 

Though the physical miracles of Jesus would have been awe-inspiring in every way, we should not see these miracles as actions that were done once, long ago, and that no longer happen. The truth is that there are many ways that these same transforming actions continue to take place today.

 

How is this the case? Start with your own life. How have you been changed by the transforming power of Christ? How has He opened your eyes and ears to see and hear Him? How has He lifted your burdens and spiritual ills? How has He brought you from the death of despair to the new life of hope? Has He done this in your life?

We all need the saving power of God in our lives. And when God acts on us, changes us, heals us and transforms us, it must be seen first as an act from our Lord to us. But secondly, we must also see every action of Christ in our lives as something that God wants to be shared with others. The transformation of our lives must become an ongoing testament to the power of God and the power of the Gospel. Others need to see how God has changed us and we must seek to humbly be an open book of God’s power.

 

Reflect, today, upon this Gospel scene. Imagine that these disciples of John are actually the many people you encounter every day. See them coming to you, desiring to know if the God you love and serve is the God whom they should follow. How will you respond? How can you give testimony to Christ Jesus? See it as your duty to be an open book by which the transforming power of the Gospel is shared by God through you.

 

Lord, I thank You for the countless ways in which You have changed my life, healing me of my spiritual illnesses, opening my eyes and ears to Your truth, and raising my soul from death to life. Use me, dear Lord, as a witness to Your transforming power. Help me to give testimony to You and Your perfect love so that others will come to know You through the way You have touched my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 15th December 2020

It's Time to Change

 

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. Matthew 21:28–29

 

This Gospel passage above is the first part of a two-part story. The first son says he will not go work in the vineyard but changes his mind and goes. The second son says he will go but does not go. Which son are you most like?

 

Of course, the ideal would be to have said “Yes” to the father and then actually have followed through. But Jesus tells this story to contrast the “prostitutes and tax collectors” with the “chief priests and elders.” Many of these religious leaders of the time were good at saying the right thing, but they failed to act in accord with the will of God. By contrast, the sinners of the age were not always ready to agree at first, but many of them eventually listened to the message of repentance and changed their ways.

 

So, again, which group are you most like? It’s humbling to admit that we often struggle, especially at first, with embracing all that God asks of us. His commands are radical and require a tremendous amount of integrity and goodness to embrace. For that reason, there are many things we at first refuse to embrace. For example, the act of forgiving another is not always immediately easy. Or making the immediate commitment to daily prayer can be challenging. Or choosing any form of virtue over vice may not come to us without difficulty.

 

One message of incredible mercy that our Lord reveals to us through this passage is that, as long as we live, it’s never too late to change. Deep down we all know what God wants of us. The problem is that we often allow our confused reasoning or disordered passions to hinder our absolute, immediate and wholehearted response to the will of God. But if we can keep in mind that even the “prostitutes and tax collectors” eventually came around, we will be encouraged to eventually change our ways.

 

Reflect, today, upon that part of the will of God that is most difficult for you to immediately and wholeheartedly embrace and do. What do you find yourself saying “No” to, at least at first. Resolve to build an interior habit of saying “Yes” to our Lord and following through with His will in every way.

 

Precious Lord, give me the grace I need to respond to every prompting of grace in my life. Help me to say “Yes” to You and to follow through with my actions. As I see more clearly the ways I have refused Your grace, give me courage and strength to change so as to more fully conform to Your perfect plan for my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 14th December 2020

Religious Politicians

 

“Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?” They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.” So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” Matthew 21:25–27

 

This is a perfect example of how not to live your life. But, sadly, this is too often an illustration of the way many in authority do live their lives. In this Gospel passage, we see the Pharisees acting as what we may term “religious politicians.” A religious politician is one whose religious convictions are decided in a backwards sort of way. Ideally, we will turn our eyes to Christ and all that He has revealed to us. This will produce the glorious gift of authentic faith, and from that rock foundation of faith, we act. But the Pharisees allowed their “convictions” to be based on what they perceived would produce the best outcome at the moment. They chose to say “We do not know” where John’s baptism was from because they thought it was the answer that most safeguarded them from any criticism.

 

As followers of Christ, we need to be ready and willing to suffer any and all ridicule that comes from living our convictions of faith in an open way. Faith will lead to charity, and charity will always be grounded in the truths of faith. But when we live and proclaim the truth, we will be criticized by some and will suffer as a result.

 

This Gospel offers us all an invitation to reflect upon the difficult truths of our day and age and to decide whether or not we are willing to publicly profess the truth. Think, especially, about the many moral truths of our faith that seem to be continually under attack. Are you willing to speak your faith clearly, with charity and with conviction, even if it means criticism from the world?

 

Reflect, today, upon the backwards approach taken by the Pharisees when they were confronted with a difficult question. Make the choice not to follow their example, choosing instead the unwavering convictions that you are called to embrace by your faith. What questions are being asked of you this day? In which ways are you being tested by others? What is your approach to those tests? Do you speak more like a “religious politician?” Or do you speak with a clarity flowing from the rock foundation of your faith?

 

My Lord of all truth, give me the grace I need to stand firm on all that You have revealed to me. Give me courage to remain firm in the convictions of faith that have been given to me by You. May I proclaim this faith to all whom I encounter so that I can be an instrument of Your love and mercy to the world. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 11th December 2020

Dancing and Mourning

 

Jesus said to the crowds: “To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’”   Matthew 11:16–17

 

What does Jesus mean when He says “We played the flute for you…” and “we sang a dirge…?” The Church Fathers clearly identify this “flute” and “dirge” as the word of God that has been preached by the prophets of old. So many came before Jesus to prepare the way, but so many failed to listen. John the Baptist was the final and greatest prophet, and he called people to repentance, but few listened. Thus, Jesus points out this sad truth.

 

In our day and age, we have so much more than the prophets of the Old Testament. We have the incredible witness of the saints, the infallible teaching of the Church, the gift of the Sacraments and the life and teaching of the Son of God Himself as recorded in the New Testament. Yet, sadly, so many refuse to listen. So many fail to “dance” and “mourn” in response to the Gospel.

 

We must “dance” in the sense that the gift of Christ Jesus, by His life, death and resurrection should be the cause of our wholehearted rejoicing and eternal adoration. Those who truly know and love the Son of God are filled with joy! Furthermore, we must “mourn” on account of the countless sins in our own lives and in the lives of those all around us. Sin is real and prevalent, and a holy sorrow is the only appropriate response. Salvation is real. Hell is real. And both of these truths demand a total response from us.

 

In your own life, how fully have you allowed the Gospel to affect you? How attentive are you to the voice of God as it has been spoken through the lives of the saints and through our Church? Are you tuned in to the voice of God as He speaks to you in the depths of your conscience in prayer? Are you listening? Responding? Following? And giving your whole life in the service of Christ and His mission?

Reflect, today, upon the clear, unmistakable, transforming and life-giving words and presence of the Savior of the world. Reflect upon how attentive you have been in life to all that He has clearly spoken and to His very presence. If you do not find yourself “dancing” for God’s glory and “mourning” over the evident sins of your life and within our world, then recommit yourself to a radical following of Christ. In the end, the Truth that God has spoken throughout the ages and His holy and divine presence are all that matter.

 

My glorious Lord Jesus, I acknowledge Your divine presence in my life and in the world all around me. Help me to be more attentive to the countless ways that You speak to me and come to me each and every day. As I discover You and Your holy word, fill me with joy. As I see my sin and the sins of the world, give me true sorrow so that I will work tirelessly to combat my own sin and bring Your love and mercy to those who are most in need. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 10th December 2020

Attacking the Enemies of the Soul

 

“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force.”  Matthew 11:12

 

Are you among those who are “violent” and are taking the Kingdom of Heaven “by force?” Hopefully you are!

 

From time to time, Jesus’ words are difficult to understand. This passage above presents us with one of those situations. Of this passage, Saint Josemaría Escrivá states that the “violent” are Christians who have “fortitude” and “boldness” when the environment they find themselves in is hostile to the faith (See Christ is Passing By, 82). Saint Clement of Alexandria says that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs “to those who fight against themselves” (Quis dives salvetur, 21). In other words, the “violent” who are taking the Kingdom of Heaven are those who vigorously fight against the enemies of their soul so as to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

What are the enemies of the soul? Traditionally, we speak of the world, the flesh and the devil. These three enemies have caused much violence within the souls of Christians who are striving to live within God’s Kingdom. So how do we fight for the Kingdom? By force! Some translations say that the “attackers” are taking the Kingdom by force. This means that the Christian life cannot be one that is purely passive. We cannot simply smile our way into Heaven. The enemies of our soul are real, and they are aggressive. Therefore, we must also become aggressive in the sense that we must directly take on these enemies with the fortitude and boldness of Christ.

 

How do we do this? We take on the enemy of the flesh by fasting and self-denial. We take on the world by remaining grounded in the Truth of Christ, the Truth of the Gospel, refusing to conform to the “wisdom” of the age. And we take on the devil by becoming aware of his malicious plans to deceive us, confuse us and mislead us in all things so as to rebuke him and reject his actions in our life.

 

Reflect, today, upon your call to grow in fortitude and boldness so as to combat those enemies that attack within. Fear is useless in this battle. Confidence in the power and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ is the only weapon we need. Rely upon Him and do not give in to the many ways that these enemies seek to rob you of the peace of Christ.

 

My glorious and victorious Lord, I trust in You to pour forth Your grace so that I may stand strong against the world, the temptations of my flesh and the devil himself. Give me courage, boldness and fortitude so that I can fight the good fight of faith and never waver from seeking You and Your most holy will for my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 9th December 2020

Laying Down Your Burdens

 

“Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

 

One of the most delightful and healthy activities in life is sleep. This is especially the case when one is able to enter into a deep and refreshing sleep. Upon awakening, the person who has slept deeply feels refreshed and ready for a new day. Of course, the opposite is also true. When sleep is difficult and restless, the person can suffer numerous ill effects, especially when a lack of healthy sleep becomes the norm.

 

The same is true in our spiritual lives. For many people, “spiritual rest” is something foreign to them. They may say a few prayers each week, attend Mass, or even make a holy hour. But unless each one of us enters into a form of prayer that is deep and transforming, we will not be able to experience the interior spiritual rest we need.

 

Jesus’ invitation in today’s Gospel to “Come to me…” is an invitation to become transformed, interiorly, as we allow Him to relieve us of the burdens of our daily lives. Each day we often face spiritual hardships and challenges, such as temptations, confusions, disappointments, angers and the like. We are often daily bombarded with the lies of the evil one, the hostility of a growing secularized culture and an assault on our senses through the numerous forms of media we daily digest. These and many other things we encounter each and every day will have the effect of wearing us down interiorly on a spiritual level. As a result, we need the spiritual refreshment that comes only from our Lord. We need the spiritual “sleep” that results from deep and revitalizing prayer. And that form of prayer is only possible if we heed Christ’s invitation to come to Him with every fiber of our being, surrendering all that we are and all that we encounter each and every day.

 

Reflect, today, upon whether you feel weary at times. Ponder, especially, any mental or emotional weariness. Oftentimes these forms of weariness are actually spiritual in nature and need a spiritual remedy. Seek the remedy our Lord offers you by accepting His invitation to come to Him, deeply in prayer, and rest in His presence. Doing so will help to lift the heavy burdens with which you struggle.

 

My loving Lord, I accept Your invitation to come to You and rest in Your glorious presence. Draw me in, dear Lord, to Your heart that is overflowing with grace and mercy. Draw me into Your presence so that I may rest in You and be delivered from the many burdens of life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 8th December 2020

Full of God’s Grace!

 

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”  Luke 1:26–28

 

What does it mean to be “full of grace?” This is a question at the heart of our solemn celebration today.

 

Today we honour the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Saviour of the World, under the unique title of “The Immaculate Conception.” This title acknowledges that grace filled her soul from the moment of her conception, thus preserving her from the stain of sin. Though this truth had been held for centuries among the Catholic faithful, it was solemnly declared as a dogma of our faith on December 8, 1854, by Pope Pius IX. In his dogmatic declaration he stated:

 

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.

 

By raising this doctrine of our faith to the level of a dogma, the holy father declared that this truth is to be held as certain by all the faithful. It is a truth that is found in the words of the angel Gabriel, “Hail, full of grace!” To be “full” of grace means just that. Full! 100%. Interestingly, the Holy Father did not say that Mary was born in a state of Original Innocence as were Adam and Eve before they fell into Original Sin. Instead, the Blessed Virgin Mary is declared to be preserved from sin by “a singular grace.” Though she had not yet conceived her Son, the grace that He would win for humanity by His Cross and Resurrection was declared to have transcended time so as to heal our Blessed Mother at the moment of her conception, preserving her of even the stain of Original Sin, by the gift of grace.

Why would God do this? Because no stain of sin could be mingled with the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. And if the Blessed Virgin Mary were to become a fitting instrument by which God unites with our human nature, then she needed to be preserved from all sin. Additionally, she remained in grace throughout her life, refusing to ever turn from God by her own free will.

 

As we celebrate this dogma of our faith today, turn your eyes and heart to our Blessed Mother by simply pondering those words spoken by the angel: “Hail, full of grace!” Ponder them, this day, reflecting upon them over and over in your heart. Imagine the beauty of the soul of Mary. Imagine the perfect grace-filled virtue she enjoyed in her humanity. Imagine her perfect faith, perfect hope and perfect charity. Reflect upon every word she spoke, being inspired and directed by God. She truly is The Immaculate Conception. Honour her as such this day and always.

 

My mother and my queen, I love you and honour you this day as The Immaculate Conception! I gaze upon your beauty and perfect virtue. I thank you for always saying “Yes” to the will of God in your life and for allowing God to use you with such power and grace. Pray for me, that as I come to know you more deeply as my own spiritual mother, I may also imitate.

Monday 7th December 2020

Loving the Proud and Arrogant

 

And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence. But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus. Luke 5:18–19

 

It’s interesting to note that, as these faith-filled friends of the paralyzed man lowered him down from the roof in front of Jesus, Jesus was surrounded by Pharisees and teachers of the law “from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem” (Luke 5:17). The religious leaders came in droves.  They were among the most educated of the Jews and happened to be among the ones who had gathered to see Jesus speak that day. And it was partly on account of large numbers of them gathering around Jesus that the friends of the paralyzed man could not reach Jesus without this radical move of opening the roof.

 

So what does Jesus do when He sees the paralytic lowered before Him from the roof? He told the paralytic that his sins were forgiven. Sadly, those words were immediately met with severe interior criticism from these religious leaders. They said among themselves, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?” (Luke 5:21)

 

But Jesus knew their thoughts and decided to do one more act for the good of these religious leaders. The first act of Jesus, to forgive the paralytics sins, was for the good of the paralytic. But the paralytic’s physical healing, interestingly, appears to be primarily for these pompous and self-righteous Pharisees and teachers of the law. Jesus heals the man so that they will “know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Luke 5:24). As soon as Jesus performs this miracle, the Gospel tells us that everyone was “struck with awe” and glorified God. Apparently, this included the judgmental religious leaders.

 

So what does this teach us? It shows how deeply Jesus loved these religious leaders despite their exceptional pride and judgmentalness. He wanted to win them over. He wanted them to convert, humble themselves and turn to Him. It’s somewhat easy to show love and compassion to one who is paralyzed, rejected, and humiliated already. But it takes an incredible amount of love to also care deeply about the proud and arrogant.

 

Reflect, today, upon the love Jesus had for these religious leaders. Though they came to find fault with Him, falsely judge Him and continually tried to trap Him, Jesus never ceased in His attempts to win them over. As you think about this mercy of our Lord, consider also the person in your life who is most difficult to love, and recommit to loving them with your whole heart in imitation of our divine Lord.

 

My most merciful Lord, give me a heart of forgiveness and mercy for others. Help me, especially, to have a deep concern for those whom I find most difficult to love. In imitation of Your divine mercy, strengthen me to act with a radical love for all so that they will come to know You more deeply. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 4th December 2020

The True Messiah

 

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 9:30–31

 

Who is Jesus? This question is much more easily answered today than it was at the time Jesus walked the Earth. Today we are blessed with countless saints who have gone before us who have prayerfully and intelligently taught much about the person of Jesus. We know Him to be God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Savior of the World, the promised Messiah, the Sacrificial Lamb and so much more.

 

The Gospel above comes from the conclusion of the miracle in which Jesus healed two blind men. These men were overwhelmed with their cure, and their emotion overtook them. Jesus instructed them to “See that no one knows about this” miraculous healing. But their excitement could not be contained. It’s not that they were intentionally disobedient to Jesus; rather, they did not know how else to express their sincere gratitude other than to tell others about what Jesus had done.

 

One reason Jesus told them not to tell others about Him is because Jesus knew they did not fully understand Who He was. He knew that their testimony about Him would fail to present Him in the way that was most truthful. He was the Lamb of God. The Savior. The Messiah. The Sacrificial Lamb. He was the One Who came into this world to redeem us by the shedding of His blood. Many of the people, however, wanted a nationalistic “messiah” or a miracle worker alone. They wanted one who would save them from political oppression and make them a great earthly nation. But this was not Jesus’ mission.

Oftentimes we can also fall into the trap of misunderstanding Who Jesus is and Who He wants to be in our lives. We can want a “god” who will save us only from our daily struggles, injustices and temporal difficulties. We can want a “god” who acts in accord with our will and not vice versa. We want a “god” who will heal us and free us of every earthly burden. But Jesus taught clearly throughout His life that He would suffer and die. He taught us that we must take up our own crosses and follow Him. And He taught us that we are to die, embrace suffering, offer mercy, turn the other cheek, and find our glory in that which the world will never understand.

 

Reflect, today, upon whether Jesus would caution you about speaking too loudly about your vision of Who He is. Do you struggle with presenting a “god” who is not actually God? Or have you come to know the very Person of Christ our Lord to such an extent that you are able to give witness to Him Who died. Do you boast only in the Cross? Do you proclaim Christ crucified and preach only the deepest wisdom of humility, mercy and sacrifice? Recommit yourself to a true proclamation of Christ, setting aside any and all confused images of our saving God.

 

My true and saving Lord, I commit myself to You and pray that I will come to know and love You as You are. Give me the eyes I need to see You and the mind and heart I need to know and love You. Remove from me any false vision of Who You are and replace within me a true knowledge of You, my Lord. As I come to know You, I offer myself to You so that You may use me to proclaim Your greatness to all. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 3rd December 2020

Authentic Christians

 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”  Matthew 7:21

 

It’s frightening to think of those of whom Jesus is speaking. Imagine arriving before the throne of God upon your passing from this earthly life and you cry out to Him, “Lord, Lord!” And you expect Him to smile and welcome you, but instead you come face-to-face with the reality of your ongoing and obstinate disobedience to the will of God throughout your life. You suddenly realize that you acted as if you were a Christian, but it was only an act. And now, on the day of judgment, the truth is made manifest for you and for all to see. A truly frightening scenario.

 

To whom will this happen? Of course, only our Lord knows. He is the one and only Just Judge. He and He alone knows a person’s heart, and judgment is left only to Him. But the fact that Jesus told us that “Not everyone” who expects to enter Heaven will enter should grab our attention.

 

Ideally, our lives are directed by a deep and pure love of God, and it is this love and this love alone that directs our lives. But when a pure love of God is not clearly present, then the next best thing may be a holy fear. The words spoken by Jesus should evoke this “holy fear” within each of us.

 

By “holy,” we mean that there is a certain fear that can motivate us to change our lives in an authentic way. It’s possible that we fool others, and maybe even fool ourselves, but we cannot fool God. God sees and knows all things, and He knows the answer to the one and only question that matters on the day of judgment: “Did I fulfill the will of the Father in Heaven?”

 

A common practice, recommended over and over by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, is to consider all our current decisions and actions from the point of view of the day of judgment. What would I wish I had done in that moment? The answer to that question is of essential importance to the way we live our lives today.

 

Reflect, today, upon that important question in your own life. “Am I fulfilling the will of the Father in Heaven?” What will I wish I had done, here and now, as I stand before the judgment seat of Christ? Whatever comes to mind, spend time with that and strive to deepen your resolve to whatever God reveals to you. Do not hesitate. Do not wait. Prepare now so that the day of Judgment will also be a day of exceeding joy and glory!

 

My saving God, I pray for insight into my life. Help me to see my life and all of my actions in the light of Your will and Your Truth. My loving Father, I desire to live fully in accord with Your perfect will. Give me the grace I need to amend my life so that the day of judgment is a day of the greatest glory. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 2nd December 2020

A Miracle of Superabundance!

 

Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.   Matthew 15:36–37

 

This line concludes the second miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes as told by Matthew. In this miracle, seven loaves and a few fish were multiplied to feed 4,000 men, not counting the women and children. And once everyone ate and were satisfied, seven full baskets remained.

 

It’s hard to underestimate the effect that this miracle had on those who were actually there. Perhaps many did not even know where the food came from. They just saw the baskets being passed, they took their fill, and passed the rest on to others. Though there are many important lessons we can take from this miracle, let’s consider one of them.

 

Recall that the crowds had been with Jesus for three days without food. They were amazed at Him as He taught and continually healed the sick in their presence. They were so amazed, in fact, that they showed no sign of leaving Him, despite the obvious hunger they must have been experiencing. This is a wonderful image of what we must seek to have in our interior life.

 

What is it that “amazes” you in life? What is it that you can do hour after hour without losing your attention? For these first disciples, it was the discovery of the very Person of Jesus that had this effect upon them. How about you? Have you ever found that the discovery of Jesus in prayer, or in the reading of Scripture, or through the witness of another, was so compelling that you became engrossed in His presence? Have you ever become so engrossed in our Lord that you thought of little else?

 

In Heaven, our eternity will be spent in a perpetual adoration and “amazement” of the glory of God. And we will never tire of being with Him, in awe of Him. But too often on Earth, we lose sight of the miraculous action of God in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Too often, instead, we become engrossed in sin, the effects of sin, hurt, scandal, division, hatred and those things that lead to despair.

 

Reflect, today, upon these first disciples of Jesus. Ponder, especially, their wonder and awe as they stayed with Him for three days without food. This draw of our Lord must take hold of you and overwhelm you so much that Jesus is the one and only central focus of your life. And when He is, all else falls into place and our Lord provides for your many other needs.

 

My divine Lord, I love You and desire to love You more. Fill me with a wonder and awe for You. Help me to desire You above all things and in all things. May my love of You become so intense that I find myself trusting You always. Help me, dear Lord, to make You the center of my entire life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 27th November 2020

The Lord is King

 

“…know that the Kingdom of God is near.”  Luke 21:31b

 

We pray for this every time we pray the “Our Father” prayer.  We pray that “Thy Kingdom come.”  Do you mean it when you pray that?

 

In this Gospel passage Jesus states that the Kingdom of God is near.  It is near, yet so often it is also very far away.  It is near in a twofold sense.  First, it is near in that Jesus will be returning in all His splendor and glory and make all things new.  Thus, His permanent Kingdom will come to be established.

Second, His Kingdom is near in that it is only a prayer away.  Jesus longs to come to establish His Kingdom within our hearts, if we only let Him in.  Unfortunately, we often do not let Him in.  We often keep Him at a distance and go back and forth in our minds and hearts as to whether or not we will fully enter into His holy and perfect will.  We are so often hesitant to fully embrace Him and to allow His Kingdom to be established within us.  

 

Do you realize how near His Kingdom is?  Do you realize it is only a prayer and an act of your will away?  Jesus is able to come to us and take over our lives if we but let Him.  He is the all-powerful King who is able to transform us into a new creation.  He is able to bring perfect peace and harmony to our soul.  He is able to do great and beautiful things within our hearts.  We only have to say the word, and mean it, and He will come.

 

Reflect, today, upon the desire of the heart of Jesus to come to you and establish His Kingdom in your life.  He longs to be your Ruler and King and to govern your soul in perfect harmony and love.  Let Him come and establish His Kingdom within you.  

 

Lord, I invite You to come and take possession of my soul.  I choose You as my Lord and my God.  I give up control of my life and freely choose You as my God and divine King.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 26th November 2020

The Return of Christ

 

“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”  Luke 21:27-28

 

Only three days left in this current liturgical year.  Sunday begins Advent and a new liturgical year!  Therefore, as we move closer to the end of this current liturgical year, we continue to turn our eyes to the last and glorious things to come.  Specifically, today we are presented with the glorious return of Jesus “coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”  What’s most interesting and helpful in this particular passage above is the call we are given to enter into His glorious return with our heads raised with much hope and confidence.  

 

This is an important image to ponder.  Try to imagine Jesus returning in all His splendor and glory.  Try to imagine Him coming in the most awe-inspiring and magnificent of ways.  The entire sky would be transformed as the angels of Heaven surround our Lord.  All earthly powers would suddenly be taken over by Jesus.  Every eye would be turned to Christ and everyone, whether they want to or not, would bow down before the glorious presence of the King of all Kings!

 

This reality will take place.  It’s just a matter of time.  Jesus will, indeed, return and all will be made new.  The question is this:  Will you be ready?  Will this day take you by surprise?  If it were to happen today, what would your reaction be?  Would you be fearful and suddenly realize you should have repented of certain sins?  Would you immediately have certain regrets as you realize it is now too late to change your life in the way our Lord desires?  Or will you be one of those who stands erect with your head raised as you joyfully and confidently rejoice in the glorious return of our Lord?

 

Reflect, today, upon how prepared you are for Jesus’ glorious return.  We are called to be ready at every moment.  Being prepared means we are living fully in His grace and mercy and are living in accord with His perfect will.  If His return were at this moment, how prepared would you be?

 

Lord, may Your Kingdom come and Your will be done.  Please do come, Jesus, and establish Your glorious Kingdom in my life here and now.  And as Your Kingdom is established in my life, help me to be prepared for Your glorious and total return at the end of the ages.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 25th November 2020

The Coming Persecution

 

Jesus said to the crowd: “They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony.”  Luke 21:12-13

 

This is a sobering thought.  And as this passage continues, it becomes even more challenging.  It goes on to say, “You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

 

There are two key points we should take from this passage.  First, like yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus is offering a prophecy to us that prepares us for the persecution to come.  By telling us what is to come, we will be better prepared when it does come.  Yes, to be treated with harshness and cruelty, especially by family and those close to us, is a heavy cross.  It can rattle us to the point of discouragement, anger and despair.  But do not give in!  The Lord foresaw this and is preparing us for it.

 

Second, Jesus gives us the answer to how we deal with being treated harshly and maliciously.  He says, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”  By remaining strong through the trials of life and by retaining hope, mercy and confidence in God, we will become victorious. This is such an important message.  And it’s a message that is certainly easier said than done.  

 

Reflect, today, upon the invitation Jesus gives to us to live in perseverance.  Often times, when perseverance is needed the most, we do not feel like persevering.  We may, instead, feel like lashing out, fighting back and being angry.  But when difficult opportunities present themselves to us, we are able to live this Gospel in a way we could have never lived it if all things in our lives were easy and comfortable.  Sometimes the greatest gift we can be given is that which is most difficult, because it fosters this virtue of perseverance.  If you find yourself in such a situation today, turn your eyes to hope and see any persecution as a call to greater virtue.

 

Lord, I offer You my crosses, hurts and persecution.  I offer to You every way that I have been mistreated.  For those small injustices, I beg for mercy.  And when the hatred of others causes me much distress, I pray that I will be able to persevere in Your grace.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 24th November 2020

The Chaos to Come

 

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”  Luke 21:10-11

 

This prophecy of Jesus will most certainly unfold.  How will it unfold, practically speaking?  That’s still to be seen.    

 

True, some people may say that this prophecy is already being fulfilled in our world.  Some will try to associate this and other prophetic passages of Scripture with a certain time or event.  But this would be a mistake.  It would be a mistake because the very nature of a prophecy is that it’s veiled.  All prophecy is true and will be fulfilled, but not all prophecy will be understood with perfect clarity until Heaven.  

 

So what do we take from this prophetic word from our Lord?  Though this passage may, in fact, refer to more grand and universal events to come, it may also speak to our own particular situations present in our life today.  Therefore, we should allow His words to speak to us within those situations.  One specific message this passage tells us is that we should not be surprised if, at times, it appears as if our world is rattled to the core.  In other words, when we see chaos, evil, sin and malice all around us, we should not be surprised and we should not get discouraged.  This is an important message for us as we press on through life.

 

For each one of us, there may be many “earthquakes, famines, and plagues” that we encounter in life.  They will take on various forms and will be the cause of much distress at times.  But they do not need to be.  If we understand that Jesus is aware of the chaos we may encounter and if we understand that He actually prepared us for it, we will be more at peace when the troubles come.  In a sense, we will be able to simply say, “Oh, this is one of those things, or one of those moments, Jesus said would come.”  This understanding of the challenges to come should help prepare us for them and endure them with hope and trust.

 

Reflect, today, on any particular ways that this prophetic word of Christ has taken place in your own life.  Know that Jesus is there in the midst of all apparent chaos, leading you through to the glorious conclusion He has in mind for you!

 

Lord, when my world seems to cave in around me, help me to turn my eyes to You and to trust in Your mercy and grace.  Help me to know that You will never abandon me and that You have a perfect plan for all things.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 23rd November 2020

Doing 'Great' Things!

 

When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, “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

 

Did she really give more than all the rest?  According to Jesus, she did!  So how can that be?  This Gospel passage reveals to us how God sees our giving compared to the worldly view.

 

What is giving and generosity all about?  Is it about how much money we have?  Or is it something deeper, something more interior?  Certainly it is the latter.

 

Giving, in this case, is in reference to money.  But this is simply an illustration of all forms of giving we are called to offer.  For example, we are also called to give of our time and talents to God for the love of others, the upbuilding of the Church and the spreading of the Gospel.  

 

Look at giving from this perspective.  Consider the giving of some of the great saints who lived hidden lives.  St. Thérèse of Lisieux, for example, gave her life to Christ in countless small ways.  She lived within the walls of her convent and had little interaction with the world. Therefore, from a worldly perspective, she gave very little and made little difference.  However, today she is considered one of the greatest doctors of the Church thanks to the small gift of her spiritual autobiography and the witness of her life.

 

The same may be able to be said of you.  Perhaps you are one who is busy with what seems to be small and insignificant daily tasks.  Perhaps cooking, cleaning, caring for the family and the like occupy your day.  Or perhaps your employment takes up most of what you do each day and you find you have little time left for “great” things offered to Christ.  The question is really this: How does God see your daily service?  

 

Reflect, today, on your calling in life.  Perhaps you are not called to go forth and do “great things” from a public and worldly perspective.  Or perhaps you do not even do “great things” that are visible within the Church.  But what God sees are the daily acts of love you do in the smallest of ways. 

 

Embracing your daily duty, loving your family, offering daily prayers, etc., are treasures that you can offer God every day.  He sees these and, most importantly, He sees the love and devotion with which you do them.  So do not give in to a false and worldly notion of greatness.  Do small things with great love and you will be giving an abundance to God in service of His holy will.

 

Lord, I give myself to You and to Your service this day and every day.  May I do all I am called to do with great love.  Please continue to show me my daily duty and help me to embrace that duty in accord with Your holy will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 20th November 2020

Purification

 

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.”  Luke 19:45-46

 

This passage reveals not only something that Jesus did long ago, it also reveals something that He desires to do today.  Additionally, He desires to do this in two ways: He desires to root out all evil within the temple of our world, and He desires to root out all evil in the temple of our hearts.

In regard to the first point, it is clear that the evil and ambition of many throughout history have seeped into our Church and world.  This is nothing new.  Everyone has most likely encountered some sort of hurt from those within the Church itself, from society and even from family.  Jesus does not promise perfection from those we encounter every day, but He does promise to vigorously go after evil and root it out.  

 

As for the second and most important point, we should see this passage as a lesson for our own soul.  Each soul is a temple that should be set aside solely for the glory of God and the fulfillment of His holy will.  Therefore, this passage is fulfilled today if we allow our Lord to enter in and to see the evil and filth within our own souls.  This may not be easy to do and will require a true humility and surrender, but the end result will be cleansing and purification by our Lord.

 

Reflect, today, upon the fact that Jesus desires to bring about purification in many ways.  He desires to purify the Church as a whole, each society and community, your own family and especially your own soul.  Do not be afraid to let Jesus’ holy wrath work its power.  Pray for purification on all levels and let Jesus accomplish His mission.

 

Lord, I do pray for the purification of our world, our Church, our families and most especially my own soul.  I invite You to come to me this day to reveal to me what it is that grieves You the most.  I invite You to root out, in my heart, all that is displeasing to You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 17th November 2020

Jesus Wept

 

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.”  Luke 19:41-42

 

It’s hard to know exactly what Jesus knew about the future of the people of Jerusalem.  But we do know, from this passage, that His knowledge made Him weep in sorrow.  Here are a few points on which to meditate.

 

First, it’s important to see the image of Jesus weeping.  To say that Jesus wept implies that this was not simply some small sadness or disappointment.  Rather, it implies a very deep sorrow that moved Him to very real tears.  So start with that image and let it sink in.

 

Second, Jesus was weeping over Jerusalem because, as He approached and had a good view of the city, He immediately became aware of the fact that so many people would reject Him and His visit.  He came to bring them the gift of eternal salvation. Sadly, some ignored Jesus out of indifference while others were infuriated at Him and sought His death.

 

Third, Jesus was not only weeping over Jerusalem.  He was also weeping over all people, especially those of His future family of faith.  He wept, in particular, at the lack of faith that He could see so many would have.  Jesus was keenly aware of this fact and it grieved Him deeply.  

 

Reflect, today, upon the serious temptation we all face of being indifferent to Christ.  It’s easy for us to have a little faith and to turn to God when it is to our advantage.  But it is also very easy to remain indifferent to Christ when things in life seem to be going well.  We easily fall into the trap of thinking we do not need to daily surrender to Him in the most complete way possible.  Root out any indifference to Christ today and tell Him you want to serve Him and His holy will with your whole heart.

 

Lord, I beg of You to weed out every bit of indifference in my heart.  As You weep over my sin, may those tears wash me and cleanse me so that I may make a total commitment to You as my Divine Lord and King.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 18th November 2020

Building the Kingdom

 

“I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.”  Luke 19:26-27

 

Whoa, Jesus was not a pushover!  He was not timid in His words in this parable.  We see  here the seriousness of our Lord regarding those who act contrary to His divine will.

 

First, this line comes as the conclusion to the parable of the talents.  Three servants were each given a gold coin.  The first used the coin to earn ten more, the second earned five more and the third did nothing but give back the coin upon the king’s return.  It is this servant who is chastised for doing nothing with the gold coin he was given.

 

Second, when this king went off to receive his kingship, there were some who did not want him as king and tried to stop his coronation.  Upon his return as the newly crowned king, he called in those people and had them slain before him.  

 

We often like to speak of the mercy and kindness of Jesus, and we are right in doing so.  He is kind and merciful beyond measure.  But He is also a God of true justice.  In this parable we have the image of two groupings of people receiving divine justice.  

 

First, we have those Christians who fail to spread the Gospel and fail to give what they have been given.  They remain idle with the faith and, as a result, lose the little faith they have.

Second, we have those who directly oppose the kingship of Christ and the building up of His Kingdom on Earth.  These are those who work for the upbuilding of the kingdom of darkness in numerous ways.  The ultimate result of this malice is their utter destruction.

 

Reflect, today, upon the seriousness of the Gospel.  Following Jesus and building up His Kingdom is not only a great honor and joy, it’s also a requirement.  It’s a command of love from our Lord and one He takes seriously.  So, if it’s hard for you to serve Him wholeheartedly and to commit to building up the Kingdom out of love alone, do it at least because it is a duty.  And it’s a duty for which our Lord will ultimately hold each of us accountable.

 

Lord, may I never squander the grace You have given me.  Help me to always work diligently for the upbuilding of Your divine Kingdom.  And help me to see it as a joy and honor to do so.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 17th November 2020

Love for the Sinner

 

“Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”  Luke 19:5b

 

What joy Zacchaeus had at receiving this invitation from our Lord.  There are three things to note in this encounter.

 

First, Zacchaeus was seen by many as a sinner.  He was a tax collector and, therefore, was not respected by the people.  There is little doubt that this would have affected Zacchaeus and been a temptation for him to see himself as unworthy of Jesus’ compassion.  But Jesus came precisely for the sinner.  Therefore, truth be told, Zacchaeus was the perfect “candidate” for the mercy and compassion of Jesus.

 

Second, when Zacchaeus witnessed that Jesus came to him and selected him out of everyone present to be the one to spend time with, he was overjoyed!  The same must be true with us.  Jesus does pick us and He does want to be with us.  If we allow ourselves to see this, the natural result will be joy.  Do you have joy at this knowledge?

 

Third, as a result of Jesus’ compassion, Zacchaeus changed his life.  He committed to giving half his possessions to the poor and to repay four times over anyone he had previously cheated.  This is a sign that Zacchaeus began to discover true riches.  He began to immediately repay to others the kindness and compassion shown to him by Jesus.

 

Reflect, today, upon Zacchaeus and see yourself in his person.  You, too, are a sinner.  But God’s compassion is far more powerful than any sin.  Let His loving forgiveness and acceptance of you overshadow any guilt you may feel.  And allow the gift of His mercy to produce mercy and compassion in your own life for others.

 

Lord, I turn to You in my sin and beg for Your mercy and compassion.  Thank You in advance for showering Your mercy upon me.  May I receive that mercy with great joy and, in turn, may I shower Your mercy upon others.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 16th November 2020

Calling Out For Mercy

 

He kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!”  Luke 18:39c

 

Good for him!  Here was a blind beggar who was treated poorly by many.  He was treated as if he were no good and a sinner.  When he began to call out for mercy from Jesus, he was told to be silent by those around him.  But what did the blind man do?  Did he give in to their oppression and ridicule?  Certainly not.  Instead, “He kept calling out all the more!”  And Jesus took notice of his faith and healed him.

 

There is a great lesson from this man’s life for us all.  There are many things we will encounter in life that get us down, discourage us and tempt us to despair.  There are many things that are oppressive to us and difficult for us to deal with.  So what should we do?  Should we give in to the struggle and then retreat into a hole of self-pity?  

 

This blind man gives us the perfect witness of what we should do.  When we feel oppressed, discouraged, frustrated, misunderstood, or the like, we need to use this as an opportunity to turn to Jesus with even greater passion and courage calling upon His mercy.

 

Difficulties in life can have one of two effects on us.  Either they beat us down or they make us stronger.  The way they make us stronger is by fostering within our souls an even greater trust in and dependence upon the mercy of God.

 

Reflect, today, upon that which tempts you the most toward discouragement.  What is it that feels oppressive to you and difficult to deal with.  Use that struggle as an opportunity to cry out with even more passion and zeal for the mercy and grace of God.

 

Lord, in my weakness and struggle, help me to turn to You with even more passion.  Help me to rely upon You all the more in times of distress and frustration in life.  May the wickedness and harshness of this world only strengthen my resolve to turn to You in all things.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

Friday 13th November 2020

Abandonment to God

 

“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.”  Luke 17:33

 

Jesus never fails to say things that cause us to stop and think.  This phrase from today’s Gospel is one of those things.  He presents us with an apparent paradox.  Trying to save your life will be the cause of you losing it, but losing your life will be the way you save it.  What does this mean?

 

This statement especially goes to the heart of trust and surrender.  Basically, if we try to direct our lives and our future by our own effort, things will not work out.  By calling us to “lose” our life, Jesus is telling us that we must abandon ourselves to Him.  We must allow Him to be the one who directs all things and guides us into His most holy will.  This is the only way to save our life.  We save it by letting go of our own will and letting God take over.

 

This level of trust and surrender is very difficult at first.  It’s difficult to come to the level of complete trust in God.  But if we can do just that, we will be amazed at the fact that God’s ways and plan for our life is far better than we could ever come up with on our own.  His wisdom is beyond compare and His solution to all our concerns and problems is perfect.

 

Reflect, today, upon how ready and willing you are to give complete control of your life to our merciful God.  Do you trust Him enough to let Him take complete control?  Make this act of faith in the most sincere way that you can and watch as He begins to preserve you and help you flourish in a way that only God can do.

 

Lord, I give You my life, my cares, my concerns and my future.  I trust You in all things.  I surrender all.  Help me to trust You more each day and to turn to You in complete abandonment.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 12th November 2020

Jesus is King

 

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

 

The Kingdom of God is among you!  What does that mean?  Where is the Kingdom of God and how is it that it’s among us?

 

The Kingdom of God can be spoken of in two ways.  At the final coming of Christ, at the end of time, His Kingdom will be permanent and visible to all.  He will destroy all sin and evil and all will be made new.  He will reign eternally and charity will govern every mind and heart.  What a joyful gift to anticipate with much hope!

 

But this passage especially refers to the Kingdom of God that is already in our midst.  What is that Kingdom?  It’s the Kingdom present by grace living in our hearts and present to us in countless ways every day.

 

First, Jesus longs to reign in our hearts and rule our lives.  The key question is this: Do I let Him take control?  He is not the sort of King who imposes Himself in a dictatorial way.  He does not exercise His authority and demand we obey.  Of course this will happen in the end, when Jesus returns, but for now His invitation is just that, an invitation.  He invites us to give Him Kingship of our lives.  He invites us to let Him take full control.  If we do that, He will issue commands to us which are commands of love.  They are decrees that draw us into truth and beauty.  They refresh us and renew us.  

 

Second, Jesus’ presence is all around us.  His Kingdom is present every time charity is present.  His Kingdom is present every time grace is at work.  It’s so easy for us to be overwhelmed by the evils of this world and to miss the presence of God.  God is alive in countless ways all around us.  We must always strive to see this presence, be inspired by it and love it.

 

Reflect, today, upon the presence of the Kingdom of God present among you.  Do you see it in your heart?  Do you daily invite Jesus to rule your life?  Do you acknowledge Him as your Lord?  And do you see the ways He comes to you through your daily circumstances or in others and in your daily situations?  Seek Him out constantly and this will bring joy to your heart.

 

Lord, I invite You, today, to come reign in my heart.  I give You complete control of my life.  You are my Lord and my King.  I love You and want to live in accord with Your perfect and holy will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 11th November 2020 

Passionate and Humble Gratitude

 

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.  Luke 17:15-16

 

This leper is one of ten that Jesus healed as He traveled through Samaria and Galilee.  He was a foreigner, not a Jew, and was the only one to return to Jesus to offer thanks for his healing.

 

Note that there are two things this Samaritan did once he was healed.  First, he “returned, glorifying God in a loud voice.”  This is a significant description of what happened.  He did not just return to say thank you, rather, his gratitude was expressed in a very passionate way.  Try to imagine this leper shouting and praising God out of a sincere and deep gratitude.

 

Second, this man “fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him.”  Again, this is no small act on the part of this Samaritan.  The act of falling at Jesus’ feet is another sign of his intense gratitude.  It’s not only that he was excited, he was also deeply humbled by this healing.  This is seen in the act of humbly falling down at the feet of Jesus.  It shows that this leper humbly recognized his unworthiness before God for this act of healing.  It’s a beautiful gesture which acknowledges that gratitude is not enough.  Instead, profound gratitude is necessary.  Profound and humble gratitude must always be our response to the goodness of God.

 

Reflect, today, upon your approach to the goodness of God.  Of the ten who were healed, only this one leper manifested the right attitude.  The others may have been grateful, but not to the extent that they should have been.  How about you?  How deep is your gratitude toward God?  Are you fully aware of all that God does for you every day?  If not, seek to imitate this leper and you will discover the same joy that he discovered.

 

Lord, I pray that I may daily turn to You in deep and total gratitude.  May I see all that You do for me every day and may I respond with wholehearted thanksgiving.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

Tuesday 10th November 2020

Christian Service

 

“When you have done all you have been commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”  Luke 17:10b

 

This is a hard phrase to say and it is even harder to truly mean when said.  

 

Imagine the context in which this attitude toward Christian service must be spoken and lived.  For example, imagine a mother who spends the day cleaning and then preparing the family meal.  At the end of the day, it is certainly nice to be recognized for her hard work and to be thanked for it.  Of course, when the family is grateful and acknowledges this loving service, this gratitude is healthy and is nothing other than an act of love.  It is good to be grateful and to express it.  But this passage is not so much about the fact that we must strive to be grateful for the love and service of others, rather, it’s about our own motivation for service.  Do you serve so as to be thanked?  Or do you provide service because it is good and right to serve?

 

Jesus makes it clear that our Christian service to others, be it in the family or in some other context, must be primarily motivated by a certain duty of service.  We must serve out of love regardless of the receptivity or acknowledgment of others.

 

Imagine, then, if you spent your day in some service and that service was done out of your love of others.  Then imagine that no one expressed gratitude for your work.  Should that change your commitment to service?  Should the reaction, or lack of reaction, of others deter you from serving as God wants you to serve?  Certainly not.  We must serve and fulfill our Christian duty simply because it is the right thing to do and because it is what God wants of us.

 

Reflect, today, upon your motivation for loving service to others.  Try to speak these words of the Gospel within the context of your life.  It may be hard at first, but if you can serve with the mind that you are an “unprofitable servant” and that you have done nothing more than what you were “obliged to do,” then you will find that your charity takes on a whole new depth.

 

Lord, help me to serve freely and wholeheartedly out of love for You and others.  Help me to give of myself regardless of the reaction of others and to find satisfaction in this act of love alone.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 9th November 2020

Righteous Anger

 

Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”  John 2:13b-16

 

Wow, Jesus was angry.  He drove the moneychangers from the temple with a whip and overturned their tables as He rebuked them.  That must have been quite a scene.  

 

What’s key, here, is that we must understand what sort of “anger” Jesus had.  Normally when we speak of anger we mean a passion that is out of control and, in fact, controls us.  It’s the loss of control and is a sin.  But this is not the anger Jesus had.

 

Obviously, Jesus was perfect in every way, so we must be very careful not to equate His anger with our normal experience of anger.  Yes, it was a passion for Him, but it was different from what we normally experience.  His anger was an anger that resulted from His perfect love.

 

In Jesus’ case, it was love for the sinner and His desire for their repentance that drove His passion.  His anger was directed at the sin they were engrossed in and He willfully and intentionally attacked the evil He saw.  Yes, this may have been shocking to those who witnessed it, but it was, in that situation, the most effective way for Him to call them to repentance.  

 

At times we will find that we also must be angered by sin.  But be careful!  It’s very easy for us to use this example of Jesus to justify losing control of ourselves and entering into the sin of anger.  Righteous anger, as Jesus manifested, will always leave one with a sense of peace and love for those who are rebuked.  There will also be an immediate willingness to forgive when true contrition is perceived.

 

Reflect, today, upon the righteous anger God may want to put into your heart at times.  Again, be careful to discern it correctly.  Do not allow yourself to be deceived by this passion.  Rather, allow the love of God for others to be the driving force and allow a holy hatred for sin to direct you to act in a holy and just way.

 

Lord, help me to cultivate in my heart the holy and righteous anger that You desire I have.  Help me to discern between what is sinful and what is righteous.  May this passion and all my passion always be directed at achieving Your holy will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 6th November 2020

Worldly or Heavenly Success?

 

“For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light.”  Luke 16:8b

 

This line comes at the conclusion of the parable of the Dishonest Steward.  Jesus told this parable as a way of highlighting the fact that the “children of the world” are indeed successful in their manipulation of worldly things, whereas the “children of light” are not as shrewd when it comes to worldly things.  So what does this tell us?

 

It certainly does not tell us that we should enter into a worldly life striving to live by worldly standards and working toward worldly goals.  In fact, by acknowledging this fact about the worldly, Jesus is presenting us with a strong contrast as to how we should think and act.  We are called to be the children of light.  Therefore, we should not be surprised at all if we are not as successful in worldly things as others are who are immersed in the secular culture.  

 

This is especially true when we look at the numerous “successes” of those who are fully immersed in the world and the values of the world.  Some are successful in obtaining great wealth, power or prestige by being shrewd in things of this age.  We see this in pop culture especially.  Take, for example, the entertainment industry.  There are many who are quite successful and popular in the eyes of the world and we can tend to have a certain envy of them.  Compare that to those who are filled with virtue, humility and goodness.  We often find that they go unnoticed.  

 

So what should we do?  We should use this parable to remind ourselves that all that matters, in the end, is what God thinks.  How does God see us and the effort we give in living a holy life?  As children of the light, we must work only for that which is eternal, not for that which is worldly and passing.  God will provide for our worldly needs if we put our trust in Him.  We may not become huge successes in accord with worldly standards, but we will obtain greatness in regard to all that truly matters and all that is eternal.

 

Reflect, today, upon your priorities in life.  Are you focused on building up riches that are eternal?  Or do you continually find yourself caught up in the manipulations and shrewdness that has as a goal only worldly success?  Strive for that which is eternal and you will be eternally grateful.

 

Lord, help me to keep my eyes on Heaven.  Help me to be one who is wise in the ways of grace, mercy and goodness.  When I am tempted to live only for this world, help me to see what is of true value and stay focused on that alone.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

Thursday 5th November 2020

Welcoming Sinners

 

The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  

Luke 15:1-2

 

How do you treat the sinners you encounter?  Do you shun them, talk about them, ridicule them, pity them, or ignore them?  Hopefully not!  How should you treat the sinner?  Jesus allowed them to draw near to Him and He was attentive to them.  In fact, He was so merciful and kind to the sinner that He was harshly criticized by the Pharisees and scribes.  How about you?  Are you willing to associate with the sinner to the point that you open yourself up to criticism?

 

It’s quite easy to be harsh and critical toward those who “deserve it.”  When we see someone clearly going astray, we can almost feel justified in pointing the finger and putting them down as if we were better than they or as if they were dirt.  What an easy thing to do and what a mistake!

 

If we want to be like Jesus we must have a very different attitude toward them.  We must act differently toward them than how we may feel like acting.  Sin is ugly and dirty.  It’s easy to be critical toward one who is caught in a cycle of sin.  Yet if we do so, we are no different than the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus’ time.  And we will most likely receive the same harsh treatment right back from Jesus for our lack of mercy.  

 

It’s interesting that one of the only sins that Jesus consistently rebukes is that of judgmentalness and criticalness.  It’s almost as if this sin shuts the door on God’s mercy in our lives.

 

Reflect, today, upon how you look at and treat those whose sins are somewhat manifest.  Do you treat them with mercy?  Or do you react with disdain and act with a judgmental heart?  Recommit yourself to mercy and a complete lack of judgment.  Judgment is Christ’s to give, not yours.  You are called to mercy and compassion.  If you can offer just that, you will be much more like our merciful Lord.

 

Lord, help me when I feel like being harsh and judgmental.  Help me to turn an eye of compassion toward the sinner, seeing the goodness You put in their souls before seeing their sinful actions.  Help me to leave judgment to You and embrace mercy instead.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 3rd November 2020

Choosing God Above All

 

“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 14:26

 

No, this is not an error.  Jesus really said this.  It’s a strong statement and the word “hating” in this sentence is quite definitive.  So what does this actually mean?

 

Like everything Jesus said, it must be read in the context of the entire Gospel.  Remember, Jesus said that the greatest and first commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart…”  He also said to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This most certainly includes family.  However, in the passage above, we hear Jesus telling us that if anything whatsoever gets in the way of our love of God, we must eliminate it from our life.  We must “hate” it.

 

Hate, in this context, is not the sin of hate.  It’s not an anger welling up within us that causes us to lose control and say mean things.  Rather, hate in this context means we must be ready and willing to distance ourselves from that which gets in the way of our relationship with God.  If it is money, prestige, power, the flesh, alcohol, etc., then we must eliminate it from our lives.  Shockingly, some will even find that they must distance themselves from their own family in order to keep their relationship with God alive.  But even in this case, we are still loving our family.  Love simply takes on different forms at times.

 

The family was designed to be a place of peace, harmony and love.  But the sad reality that many have experienced in life is that sometimes our family relationships directly interfere with our love of God and others.  And if this is the case in our lives, we must hear Jesus telling us to approach those relationships in a different way out of love for God.

 

Perhaps this Scripture could be misunderstood and misused at times.  It is not an excuse to treat those in the family, nor anyone else, with spite, harshness, malice or the like.  It is not an excuse to let the passion of anger well up in us.  But it is a call from God to act in justice and truth and to refuse to allow anything to separate us from the love of God.

 

Reflect, today, upon that which is the greatest obstacle to your relationship with God.  Who or what tears you away from loving God with your whole heart.  Hopefully there is nothing or no one who fits this category.  But if there is, hear the words of Jesus today encouraging you to be strong and calling you to put Him first before anything else in life.

 

Lord, help me to constantly see those things in my life that keep me from loving You.  As I identify that which deters me in faith, give me the courage to choose You above all things.  Give me the wisdom to know how to choose You above all things.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 3rd November 2020

Priorities

 

“A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many. When the time for the dinner came, he dispatched his servant to say to those invited, ‘Come, everything is now ready.’ But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves.”  Luke 14:16-18a

 

This happens far more often than we may at first think!  How does it happen?  It happens any and every time Jesus invites us to share in His grace and we find ourselves too busy or occupied with other more “important” things.

 

Take, for example, how easy it is for many to intentionally miss Sunday Mass.  There are countless excuses and rationalizations that people use to justify missing Mass on occasion.  In this parable above, the Scripture goes on to speak of three people who excused themselves from the feast for “good” reasons.  One just bought a field and had to go examine it, one just bought some oxen and had to go care for them, and another just got married and had to be with his wife.  All three had what they thought were good excuses and thus failed to come to the feast.

 

The feast is the Kingdom of Heaven.  But it is also any way that you are invited to participate in God’s grace: Sunday Mass, moments of daily prayer, the Bible study you should join, the mission talk you should attend, the book you should read or the act of charity that God wants you to perform.  Every way that grace is offered to you is a way in which you are invited to the feast of God.  Sadly, it is very easy for some to come up with an excuse for denying the invitation of Christ to share in His grace.

 

Reflect, today, upon God coming to you and inviting you to share more fully in His life of grace.  How is He inviting you?  In what way are you being invited to this fuller participation?  Do not make excuses.  Answer the invitation and enter into the feast.

 

Lord, help me to see the numerous ways in which You call me to share more fully in Your life of grace and mercy.  Help me to recognize the feast that is prepared for me and help me to always make You the priority in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 2nd November 2020

The Holy Souls in Purgatory

 

The following excerpt is from Chapter 8 of My Catholic Faith!:  

 

As we celebrate the Commemoration of All Souls, let’s reflect upon our Church teaching on Purgatory:

The Church Suffering:  Purgatory is an often misunderstood doctrine of our Church.  What is Purgatory?  Is it the place we have to go to be punished for our sins?  Is it God’s way of getting us back for the wrong we’ve done?  Is it the result of God’s anger?  None of these questions really answer the question of Purgatory.  Purgatory is nothing other than the burning and purifying love of our God in our lives!

 

When someone dies in God’s grace they are most likely not 100% converted and perfect in every way.  Even the greatest of saints most often would have some imperfection left in their lives.  Purgatory is nothing other than that final purification of all remaining attachment to sin in our lives.  By analogy, imagine that you had a cup of 100% pure water, pure H2O.  This cup will represent Heaven.  Now imagine that you want to add to that cup of water but all you have is water that is 99% pure.  This will represent the holy person who dies with just some slight attachments to sin.  If you add that water to your cup then the cup will now have at least some impurities in the water as it mixes together.  The problem is that Heaven (the original cup of 100% H2O) cannot contain any impurities.  Heaven, in this case, cannot have even the slightest attachment to sin in it.  Therefore, if this new water (the 99% pure water) is to be added to the cup it must first be purified even of that last 1% of impurities (attachments to sin).  This is ideally done while we are on Earth.  This is the process of getting holy.  But if we die with any attachment, then we simply say that the process of entering into the final and full vision of God in Heaven will purify us of any remaining attachment to sin.  All may already be forgiven, but we may not have detached from those things forgiven.  Purgatory is the process, after death, of burning out the last of our attachments so that we can enter Heaven 100% freed of everything to do with sin.  If, for example, we still have a bad habit of being rude, or sarcastic, even those tendencies and habits must be purged.  

 

How does this happen?  We do not know.  We only know it does.  But we also know it’s the result of God’s infinite love that frees us of these attachments.  Is it painful?  Most likely.  But it’s painful in the sense that letting go of any disordered attachment is painful.  It’s hard to break a bad habit.  It’s even painful in the process.  But the end result of true freedom is worth any pain we may have experienced.  So, yes, Purgatory is painful.  But it’s a sort of sweet pain that we need and it produces the end result of a person 100% in union with God.

 

Now since we are talking about the Communion of Saints, we also want to make sure to understand that those going through this final purification are still in communion with God, with those members of the Church on Earth, and with those in Heaven.  For example, we are called to pray for those in Purgatory.  Our prayers are effective.  God uses those prayers, which are acts of our love, as instruments of His grace of purification.  He allows us and invites us to participate in their final purification by our prayers and sacrifices.  This forges a bond of union with them.  And no doubt the saints in Heaven especially offer prayers for those in this final purification as they await full communion with them in Heaven.  It’s a glorious thought and a joy to see how God has orchestrated this entire process for the ultimate purpose of the holy communion to which we are called!

 

Lord, I pray for those souls going through their final purification in Purgatory.  Please pour forth Your mercy upon them so that they may be freed of all attachment to sin and, thus, be prepared to see You face to face.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 23rd October 2020

Interpreting Our Present Time

 

Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain–and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot–and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”  Luke 12:54-56

 

Do you know how to interpret the present time?  It is important for us, as followers of Christ, to be able to look honestly at our cultures, societies and world as a whole and interpret it honestly and accurately.  We need to be able to discern the goodness and the presence of God in our world and we need to also be able to identify and interpret the workings of the evil one in our present time.  How well do you do that?

 

One of the tactics of the evil one is the use of manipulation and lies.  The evil one seeks to confuse us in countless ways.  These lies may come through the media, through our political leaders and, at times, even through some religious leaders.  The evil one loves it when there is division and disorder of every kind.

 

So what do we do if we want to be able to “interpret the present time?”  We must wholeheartedly commit ourselves to the Truth.  We must seek Jesus above all things through prayer and allow His presence in our lives to help us sort out what is from Him and what is not.

 

Our societies present us with countless moral choices, so we may find ourselves being drawn here and there.  We can find that our minds are challenged and, at times, find that even the most basic truths of humanity are attacked and distorted.  Take, for example, abortion, euthanasia and traditional marriage.  These moral teachings of our faith are continually under attack within the various cultures of our world.  The very dignity of the human person and the dignity of the family as God designed it are called into question and directly challenged.  Another example of confusion within our world today is the love of money.  So many people are caught up in the desire for material wealth and have been drawn into the lie that this is the way to happiness.  Interpreting the present time means we see through any and every confusion of our day and age.  It means we see the cultural and moral errors for what they are.  

 

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you are willing and able to let the Holy Spirit cut through the confusion so manifestly present all around us.  Are you ready to allow the Holy Spirit of Truth to penetrate your mind and lead you into all truth?  Seeking the truth in our present time is the only way to survive the many errors and confusions thrown at us each day.

 

Lord, help me to interpret the present time and to see the errors fostered all around us, as well as Your goodness manifest in so many ways.  Give me courage and wisdom so that I may reject what is evil and seek that which is from You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 22nd October 2020

Peace on Earth?

 

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”  Luke 12:51-53

 

Yes, this is a shocking Scripture at first.  Why would Jesus say that He came to establish not peace but division?  This does not at all sound like something He would say.  And then to go on saying that family members will be divided against each other is even more confusing.  So what is this about?

This passage reveals one of the unintended but permitted effects of the Gospel.  Sometimes the Gospel brings about a certain disunity.  Throughout history, for example, Christians have been severely persecuted for their faith.  The example of many martyrs reveals that those who live the faith and preach it may become the target of another.

 

In our world today, there are Christians who are persecuted simply for being Christian.  And in some cultures, Christians are severely mistreated for speaking out regarding certain moral truths of the faith.  As a result, the proclamation of the Gospel can at times bring about a certain disunity.  

 

But the real cause of any disunity is the refusal on the part of some to accept the truth.  Do not be afraid of holding fast to the truths of our faith regardless of the reactions of others.  If you are hated or mistreated as a result, do not let yourself give in to compromise for the sake of “peace at all costs.”  That form of peace is not from God and will never bring about true unity in Christ. 

 

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you struggle with compromising your faith when it is challenged by others.  Know that God wants you to choose Him and His holy will above every other relationship in life.  

 

Lord, give me grace to keep my eyes on You and Your will and to choose You above everything else in life.  When my faith is challenged give me courage and strength to stay strong in Your love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 21st October 2020

A Habit of Prayer

 

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

 

This Scripture offers us an invitation.  It can be said that Jesus comes to us at an unexpected hour in two ways.

 

First, we know that He will return one day in glory to judge the living and the dead.  His Second Coming is real and we should be aware of the fact that it could happen at any time.  Sure, it may not happen for many years, or even for many hundreds of years, but it will happen.  There will be one moment when the world as it is will end and the new order will be established.  Ideally, we live each and every day in anticipation of that day and that moment.  We must live in such a way that we are always ready for that end.  

 

Second, we must realize that Jesus does come to us, continually, by grace.  Traditionally, we speak of His two comings: 1) His Incarnation, and 2) His return in glory.  But there is a third coming we can speak of which is His coming by grace into our lives.  And this coming is quite real and should be something to which we are continually attentive.  His coming by grace requires that we be continually “prepared” to meet Him.  If we are not prepared, we can be certain we will miss Him.  How do we prepare for this coming by grace?  We prepare first and foremost by fostering a daily habit of interior prayer.  An interior habit of prayer means we are, in a sense, always praying.  It means that no matter what we do each and every day, our minds and hearts are always turned toward God.  It’s like breathing.  We always do it and do it without even thinking about it.  Prayer must become just as much of a habit as breathing.  It must be central to who we are and how we live.

 

Reflect, today, upon your life of prayer.  Know that the moments you dedicate exclusively to prayer each day are essential to your holiness and relationship with God.  And know that those moments must help to build a habit of always being attentive to God.  Being prepared this way will allow you to meet Christ at every moment that He comes to you by grace.

 

Lord, help me to foster in my heart a life of prayer.  Help me to seek You always and to always be prepared for You when You come.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 20th October 2020

Open Immediately

 

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

 

The key here is that we are to “open immediately” when Jesus comes and knocks on the door of our heart.  This passage reveals the disposition that we are to have in our hearts regarding the way Christ comes to us, by grace, and “knocks.”

 

Jesus is knocking on your heart.  He is continually coming to you seeking to come in and recline with you so as to converse, strengthen, heal and help.  The question to honestly ponder is whether or not you are ready to let Him in immediately.  Too often we hesitate in our encounter with Christ.  Too often we want to know the full plan for our lives before we are willing to submit and surrender.  

 

What we must come to know is that Jesus is trustworthy in every way.  He has the perfect answer to every question we have and He has the perfect plan for every aspect of our lives.  Do you believe this?  Do you accept this as true?  Once we accept this truth we will be better prepared to open the door of our heart at the first prompting of grace.  We will be prepared to be immediately attentive to all that Jesus wants to say to us and to the grace He wants to give us.

 

Reflect, today, upon how ready you are to open immediately every part of your life to the grace and will of God.  Let Him in with great joy and enthusiasm and let His plan continue to unfold in your life.

 

Lord, I do wish to let You into my life more deeply each and every day.  I desire to hear Your voice and respond generously.  Give me the grace to respond to You as I ought.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 19th October 2020

True Riches

 

“‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”  Luke 12:20-21

 

This passage is the response from God to one who decides to make worldly wealth his goal.  In this parable, the rich man had such a bountiful harvest that he decided to tear down his old barns and build bigger ones so as to store the harvest.  Little did this man realize that his life would soon come to an end and that all he stored up would never be used by him.

 

The contrast in this parable is between an abundance of earthly wealth and wealth in what matters to God.  Sure, it may be possible to be rich in both, but accomplishing this would be quite difficult.

One straightforward challenge of this Gospel is to eliminate the desire for material wealth.  This is hard to do.  It’s not that material wealth is evil, it’s just that it is a serious temptation.  The temptation is to trust in material things for satisfaction rather than trusting only in God.  Material wealth should be understood to be a true temptation that must be kept in check.

 

Reflect, today, upon your desire for wealth.  Let this Gospel offer you a straightforward challenge regarding your desire for riches.  Be honest and look into your heart.  Do you spend much time thinking about money and material possessions?  Seek God above all things and let Him alone be your satisfaction.

 

Lord, I desire to be truly rich in grace and mercy rather than in material things.  Help me to always keep the proper priorities in life and to be purified in all of my desires.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 15th October 2020

God's Attentiveness

 

 

“Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.”  Luke 12:6-7

 

 

“Do not be afraid.”  These words are often repeated in the holy Scriptures.  In this passage, Jesus says we should not be afraid because of the fact that the Father in Heaven is attentive to every last detail of our lives.  Nothing has escaped the notice of God.  If God is attentive to the sparrows, He is even more attentive to us.  That should give us a certain sense of peace and confidence.

 

Of course, one reason that this can still be difficult to believe is that there are many times when it feels like God is quite distant and inattentive to our lives.  It’s important to remember that whenever we have this feeling, it’s only a feeling and not reality.  Reality is that God is infinitely more attentive to the details of our lives than we could ever realize.  In fact, He’s far more attentive to us than we are attentive to ourselves!  And not only is He attentive to every detail, He is deeply concerned about every detail.

 

So why might it feel like God is distant at times?  There could be many reasons for this but we should be certain that there is always a reason.  Perhaps we are not listening to Him and not praying as we should and thus we are missing His attentiveness and guidance.  Perhaps He has chosen to remain silent in a matter as a way of drawing us closer to Himself.  Perhaps His silence is actually a very clear sign of His presence and His will.  

 

Reflect, today, upon the fact that regardless of how we may feel at times we must be certain of the truth of this passage above.  “You are worth more than many sparrows.”  God has even counted the hairs on your head.  And every part of your life is fully present to Him.  Allow these truths to give you consolation and hope knowing that this attentive God is also a God of perfect love and mercy and will provide for you all that you need in life.

 

Lord, I know You love me and are aware of every feeling, thought and experience I have in life.  You are aware of every problem and concern I have.  Help me to continually turn to You in all things knowing of Your perfect love and guidance.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

Thursday 15th October 2020

The Key to Knowledge

 

“Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.”  Luke 11:52

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus continues to chastise the Pharisees and the scholars of the law.  In this passage above, He chastises them because they “have taken away the key of knowledge” and have actively tried to keep others from the knowledge God wants them to have.  This is a strong accusation and reveals that the Pharisees and scholars of the law were actively hurting the faith of God’s people.

As we’ve seen over the past few days in the Scriptures, Jesus rebuked the scholars of the law and the Pharisees severely for this.  And His rebuke was not only for their sake, it is also for our sake so that we know not to follow false prophets such as these and all who are interested only in themselves and their reputation rather than the truth.

 

This Gospel passage is not only a condemnation of this sin, more importantly it raises a deep and beautiful concept.  It’s the concept of “the key of knowledge.”  What is the key of knowledge?  The key of knowledge is faith, and faith can come only by listening to the voice of God.  The key to knowledge is to let God speak to you and to reveal to you His deepest and most beautiful truths.  These truths can only be received and believed through prayer and through direct communication with God.  

 

The saints are the best examples of those who have penetrated the deep mysteries of God’s life.  Through their life of prayer and faith they came to know God on a profound level.  Many of these great saints have left us beautiful writings and a powerful witness of the hidden but revealed mysteries of the inner life of God.

 

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you have taken the “key of knowledge” and opened the mysteries of God through your life of faith and prayer.  Recommit yourself to seeking God in your daily personal prayer and to seek all that He desires to reveal to you.

 

Lord, help me to seek You through a life of daily prayer.  In that life of prayer, draw me into a deep relationship with You, revealing to me all that You are and all that life is about.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 14th October 2020

Woe to You

 

“Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.” 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 11:44-46

 

What an interesting and somewhat surprising exchange between Jesus and this scholar of the law.  Here, Jesus is severely chastising the Pharisees and one of the scholars of the law tries to correct Jesus for being offensive.  And what does Jesus do?  He doesn’t back down or apologize for offending him; rather, He turns His severe rebuke to the scholar of the law.  That must have surprised him!

What’s interesting is that the scholar of the law points out that Jesus is “insulting” them.  And he points it out as if Jesus were committing a sin and in need of a rebuke.  So was Jesus insulting the Pharisees and scholar of the law?  Yes, He probably was.  Was that a sin on Jesus’ part?  Obviously not.  Jesus does not sin.

 

The mystery we face here is that sometimes the truth is “insulting,” so to speak.  It’s insulting to a person’s pride.  What’s most interesting is that when someone is insulted, they need to first realize that they are insulted because of their pride, not because of what the other person said or did.  Even if someone was overly harsh, feeling insulted is a result of pride.  If one were truly humble, then a rebuke would actually be welcomed as a helpful form of correction.  Sadly, the scholar of the law appears to lack the necessary humility to let Jesus’ rebuke sink in and free him from his sin.

 

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you are humble enough to receive correction from another.  If someone points out your sin do you get offended?  Or do you take it as a useful correction and allow it to help you grow in holiness?

 

Lord, please give me true humility.  Help me to never be offended when corrected by others.  May I receive others’ corrections as graces to help me on my way to holiness.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 13th October 2020

Cleansing Your Heart

 

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 11:39-40a

 

Jesus was continually critical of the Pharisees for being caught up with their external appearance and ignoring the sacredness of their souls.  It appears that Pharisee after Pharisee fell into this same trap.  Their pride led them to become obsessed with their external appearance of righteousness.  Sadly, their external appearance was only a mask over the “plunder and evil” that consumed them from within.  For that reason Jesus calls them “fools.”

 

This head on challenge from our Lord was clearly an act of love in that He deeply desired that they looked at that which was within so as to cleanse their hearts and souls of all evil.  It appears that, in the case of the Pharisees, they needed to be called out directly for their evil.  This was the only way they would have a chance of repenting.

 

The same can be true for all of us at times.  Each one of us can struggle with being far more concerned about our public image than about the sanctity of our souls.  But what is more important?  What’s important is that which God sees within.  God sees our intentions and all that is deep within our consciences.  He sees our motivations, our virtues, our sins, our attachments, and everything hidden from the eyes of others.  We, too, are invited to see that which Jesus sees.  We are invited to look at our souls in the light of truth.  

 

Do you see your soul?  Do you examine your conscience each and every day?  You should examine your conscience by looking within and seeing what God sees through times of prayer and honest introspection.  Perhaps the Pharisees regularly fooled themselves into thinking all was well in their souls.  If you do the same at times, you also may need to learn from the strong words of Jesus.

Reflect, today, upon your soul.  Do not be afraid to look at it in the light of truth and to see your life as God sees it.  This is the first and most important step in becoming truly holy.  And it’s not only the way to cleanse our souls, it’s also the necessary step in allowing our external life to shine brightly with the light of God’s grace.

 

Lord, I want to become holy.  I want to be cleansed through and through.  Help me to see my soul as You see it and to allow Your grace and mercy to cleanse me in the ways that I need to be cleansed.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 12th October 2020

Seeking Signs

 

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.”  Luke 11:29

 

Do you ever wish that God would give you a sign from Heaven as a way of giving you some definitive guidance or direction in life?  Do you look for signs from God and rely upon them?  

 

If God were to give us some clear sign in life revealing His will, we should take it as a gift and be grateful for it.  But receiving a sign from God is different than seeking a sign from God.  In the passage above, Jesus strongly condemns those coming and seeking signs.  Why is this the case?  Why does Jesus speak strongly against seeking signs?  In large part because He wants us to seek Him through the gift of faith.

 

Jesus states that no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah.  The “sign of Jonah” refers to Jesus’ Crucifixion, death, three days in the tomb and Resurrection.  Jonah was three days in the belly of the whale.  Jesus was telling them that He would be three days in the tomb.  

 

But the key is that Jesus’ death and Resurrection IS the sign that will be given.  We should seek nothing other than this central mystery of our faith.  Every question, problem, concern, confusion, etc., can be answered and dealt with if we simply enter into the great mystery of our redemption by entering into the life, death and Resurrection of Christ.  Seeking a sign other than this would be wrong in that it would be a way of saying that the death and Resurrection of Jesus is not enough.

 

Reflect, today, upon the greatest “sign” God has ever given.  And if you find yourself struggling with questions in life, turn your eyes to this one definitive sign.  Turn your eyes to the central mystery of our faith: the life, death and Resurrection of Christ.  It is there that every question can be answered and every grace is given.  We need nothing more than this.

 

Lord, Your life, death and Resurrection is all I need to know in life.  Your perfect sacrifice gives me every answer and pours forth every grace.  May I always turn to You as the sign I need every day.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 9th October 2020

Overcoming Sin

 

“When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, ‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”  Luke 11:24-26

 

This passage reveals the danger of habitual sin.  Perhaps you’ve found that you have struggled with a particular sin in your life.  This sin has been committed over and over again.  Eventually you resolve to confess it and overcome it.  After confessing it you are overjoyed, but find that within a day you are right back to that same sin.  

 

This common struggle people go through can be a cause of much frustration.  The Scripture above speaks about this struggle from a spiritual point of view, the point of view of demonic temptation.  When we target a sin to overcome and turn away from the temptation of the evil one, the demons come at us with even greater force and do not give up the battle for our souls that easily.  As a result, some eventually give in to sin and choose not to try any longer to overcome it.  That would be a mistake.

 

One key spiritual principle to understand from this passage is that the more attached we are to a particular sin, the deeper our resolve must be to overcome it.  And overcoming sin can be quite painful and difficult.  Overcoming sin requires deep spiritual purification and a complete submission of our mind and will to God.  Without this resolve and purifying surrender, the temptations we face from the evil one will be very difficult to overcome.

 

Reflect, today, upon how deep your resolve is to overcome sin.  When temptations come your way, are you wholeheartedly committed to overcoming them?  Seek to deepen your resolve so that the temptations of the evil one do not take hold of you.

 

Lord, I surrender my life into Your hands without reserve.  I beg You to strengthen me in time of temptation and to keep me free from sin.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 8th October 2020

Ask, Seek, Knock

 

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Luke 11:9-10

 

Sometimes this Scripture passage can be misunderstood.  Some may think it means that we should pray, pray more and pray harder and eventually God will answer our prayers.  Some may think that this means that God does not answer prayer if we fail to pray hard enough.  And some may think that whatever we pray for will be given to us if we just keep asking.  We need some important clarifications on these points.

 

We certainly should pray hard and often.  But one key question to understand is this:  What should I pray for?  This is key because God will not give us what we pray for, no matter how long and hard we pray for it, if it is not part of His glorious and perfect will.  For example, if someone is sick and dying and it is part of the permissive will of God to allow that person to die, then all the prayer in the world will not change things.  Instead, prayer in this case should be offered so as to invite God into this difficult situation so as to make it a beautiful and holy death.  So it’s not a matter of begging God until we convince Him to do what we want, as a child may do to a parent.  Rather, we must pray for one thing and one thing only…we must pray for the will of God to be done.  Prayer is not offered to change God’s mind, it’s to transform us, strengthen us and enable us to embrace all that God calls us to do.  

Reflect, today, upon how you pray.  Do you seek only the will of God in all things and pray deeply for that?  Do you knock at the heart of Christ seeking His holy and perfect plan?  Do you ask for His grace to enable you and others to fully embrace all that He has in mind for you.  Pray hard and expect that prayer to change your life.

 

Lord, help me to daily seek You and to increase my life of faith through prayer.  May my prayer help me to receive Your holy and perfect will into my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 7th October 2020

Praying the Lords 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

 

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray.  In response, He taught them the “Our Father” prayer.  There is much that can be said about this prayer.  This prayer contains all we need to know about prayer.  It is a catechetical lesson about prayer itself and contains seven petitions to the Father.  Let’s look at the first three of these as found in Chapter 11 of My Catholic Worship!

 

Hallowed be Thy Name:  “Hallowed” means to be holy.  As we pray this part of the prayer we are not praying that God’s name will become holy, for His name already is holy.  Rather, we pray that this holiness of God will be recognized by us and all people.  We pray that there will be a deep reverence of God’s name and that we will always treat God with the proper honor, devotion, love and awe to which we are called.

 

It’s especially important to point out how often God’s name is used in vain.  That is a strange phenomenon.  Have you ever wondered why, when people get angry, they would curse God’s name?  It’s strange.  And, in fact, it’s demonic.  Anger, in those moments, invites us to act in a contrary way to this prayer and to the proper use of God’s name.

 

God Himself is holy, holy, holy.  He is thrice holy!  In other words, He is the Holiest!  Living with this fundamental disposition of heart is key to a good Christian life and to a good life of prayer. 

Perhaps a good practice would be to regularly honor God’s name.  For example, what a wonderful habit it would be to regularly say, “Sweet and precious Jesus, I love You.”  Or, “Glorious and merciful God, I adore You.”  Adding adjectives like these before we mention God is a good habit to get into as a way of fulfilling this first petition of the Lord’s Prayer.

 

Another good practice would be to always refer to the “Blood of Christ” we consume at Mass as the “Precious Blood.”  Or the Host as the “Sacred Host.”  There are many who fall into the trap of just referring to it as the “wine” or the “bread.”  This is most likely not malicious or even sinful, but it’s much better to enter into the practice and habit of honoring and revering anything that is associated with God, especially the Most Holy Eucharist!

 

Thy Kingdom Come: This petition of the Lord’s Prayer is a way of acknowledging two things.  First, we acknowledge the fact that Jesus will, one day, return in all His glory and establish His permanent and visible Kingdom.  This will be the time of the Final Judgment when the current Heaven and Earth will pass away and the new order will be established.  So, praying this petition is a faith-filled acknowledgment of this fact.  It’s our way of saying we not only believe this will happen, we also look forward to it and pray for it. 

 

Secondly, we must realize that the Kingdom of God is already here among us.  For now, it’s an invisible Kingdom.  It’s a spiritual reality that must become an all-consuming and present reality in our world. 

To pray that God’s “Kingdom come” means we desire that He first take greater possession of our souls.  The Kingdom of God must be within us.  He must reign on the throne of our hearts and we must allow Him.  Therefore, this must be our constant prayer. 

 

We also pray that the Kingdom of God become present in our world.  God wants to transform the social, political and cultural order right now.  So we must pray and work for that.  Our prayer for the Kingdom to come is also a way for us to commit ourselves to God to allow Him to use us for this very purpose.  It’s a prayer of faith and courage.  Faith because we believe He can use us, and courage because the evil one and world will not like it.  As the Kingdom of God is established in this world through us, we will meet with opposition.  But that’s ok and should be expected.  And this petition is, in part, to help us with this mission.

 

Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven: Praying for the Kingdom of God to come means, also, that we seek to live the will of the Father.  This is done as we enter into union with Christ Jesus.  He fulfilled the will of His Father with perfection.  His human life is the perfect model of the will of God and it is also the means by which we live the will of God.

 

This petition is a way of committing ourselves to live in union with Christ Jesus.  We take our will and entrust it to Christ so that His will lives in us. 

 

By doing this we begin to be filled with all virtue.  We will also be filled with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit which are necessary for living the will of the Father.  For example, the Gift of Knowledge is a gift by which we come to know what God wants of us in particular situations in life.  So praying this petition is a way of asking God to fill us with knowledge of His will.  But we also need the courage and strength necessary to then live out that will.  So this petition also prays for those Gifts of the Holy Spirit that enable us to live out what God reveals as His divine plan for our lives. 

 

It is, of course, also an intercession for all people.  In this petition we pray that all will come to live in unity and harmony with God’s perfect plan.

 

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 6th October 2020

Resting at the Feet of Jesus

 

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

 

At first this seems unfair.  Martha is working hard at preparing the meal, while Mary is just sitting there at the feet of Jesus.  So, Martha complains to Jesus. But interestingly, Jesus somewhat humbles Martha instead of Mary.  Of course, He does it in a kind and gentle way.

 

The truth is that both Martha and Mary were fulfilling their unique roles at that moment.  Martha was doing Jesus a great service by serving Him through the preparation of their meal.  This is what she was called to do and the service would have been an act of love.  Mary, on the other hand, was fulfilling her role.  She was called, at that moment, to simply sit at the feet of Jesus and be present to Him. 

 

These two women have traditionally represented two vocations in the Church, as well as two callings we are all called to have.  Martha represents the active life and Mary represents the contemplative life.  The active life is that life most live on a daily basis, be it through the service of family or others in the world.  The contemplative life is a vocation to which some are called through the cloistered life, in that they leave the busy world and dedicate most of their day to prayer and solitude.

 

Truthfully, you are called to both of these vocations.  Even if your life is one filled with work, you are still called regularly to choose “the better part.”  At times, Jesus calls you to imitate Mary in that He wants you to daily stop your work and dedicate some time to Him and Him alone.  Not everyone is able to go spend time before the Blessed Sacrament each day in silent prayer, but some are.  However, you should seek to find at least some time of silence and solitude every day so as to sit at the feet of Jesus in prayer.

 

Reflect, today, upon your own call to prayer.  Do you pray?  Do you pray every day?  If this is lacking, then reflect upon the image of Mary being there at the feet of Jesus and know that Jesus wants the same from you.

 

Lord, help me to hear You calling me to stop what I’m doing and to simply rest in Your divine presence.  May I find those moments every day in which I can be refreshed in Your presence.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 5th October 2020

Bringing Mercy

 

“Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”  Luke 10:36-37

 

Here we have the conclusion to the familiar story of the Good Samaritan.  First, robbers beat him and left him for dead.  Then a priest walked by and ignored him.  And then a Levite walked by also ignoring him.  Finally, the Samaritan walked by and took care of him with great generosity.

 

Interestingly, when Jesus asked the disciples which of these three acted as a neighbor, they didn’t respond “the Samaritan.”  Rather, they responded, “The one who treated him with mercy.”  Mercy was the key focus.

 

It is so easy to be judgmental and harsh with one another.  If you read the newspapers or listen to the news commentators you can’t help but hear continual judgment and condemnation.  Our fallen human nature seems to thrive on being critical of others.  And when we are not critical, we are often tempted to act like the priest and Levite in this story.  We are tempted to turn a blind eye to those in need.  The key must be to always show mercy and show it in superabundance. 

 

Reflect, today, upon the call God gives you to show mercy.  Mercy, in order to be true mercy, must hurt.  It must “hurt” in the sense that it requires you to let go of your pride, selfishness and anger and choose to show love instead.  You choose to show love to the point that it hurts.  But that hurt is a true source of healing in that it cleanses you of your sin.  Saint Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”  Mercy is the kind of love that may hurt at first, but in the end leaves only love.

 

Lord, do make me an instrument of Your love and mercy.  Help me to especially show mercy when it is hard in life and when I do not feel like it.  May those moments be graced moments when You transform me into Your gift of love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 2nd October 2020

Guardian Angels

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”  Matthew 18:10

 

We honor, today, our glorious Guardian Angels!  They are treasures and helpers beyond what we could imagine.  

 

A few days ago we honored the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.  In that reflection we looked at the hierarchy of celestial beings created by God.  Though the Guardian Angels are on the bottom of that list, they are no less glorious and magnificent than the host of other celestial beings.  

 

Guardian Angels are traditionally said to have been created for the sole purpose of serving us in our needs.  Yes, God could have chosen to care for us directly without the use of angels, but He didn’t.  He chose to create angels as mediators of His grace and care.  

 

It’s fair to say that our Guardian Angels love us with a perfect love.  They know us, care for us and desire deeply that we become holy.  Their primary purpose is to get us to Heaven and to draw us into the heights of sanctity.  How do they do this?

 

They do it by mediating God’s grace to us.  The word “angel” means messenger.  Thus, our angels play a central role in communicating to us the will and mind of God.  They can speak all that God wants to say to us.  They are also protectors in that they bring grace from God to particular situations in life to fight against evil and to help us do good.  

 

Reflect, today, upon the gift of your own guardian angel.  This celestial being was created for the sole purpose of caring for you and getting you to Heaven.  Speak to your angel, today.  Rely upon your angel’s intercession and allow this holy angel to communicate to you God’s abundant grace.  

 

Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.  Angels of God, pray for me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 1st October 2020

Send Forth

 

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.”  Luke 10:1-2

 

The world is in great need of the love and mercy of Christ.  It’s like a dry and barren land waiting to soak up the gentle rain.  You are that rain and our Lord wants to send you forth to bring His grace to the world.

 

It’s important that all Christians understand that they are indeed being sent forth by the Lord to others.  This Scripture above reveals that the world is like a field of abundant fruit waiting to be picked.  Too often it sits there, withering on the vines, with no one to harvest it.  That’s where you come in.

 

How ready and willing are you to be used by God for His mission and purpose?  You may often feel as though the work of evangelizing and harvesting good fruit for the Kingdom of God is the job for someone else.  It’s so easy to think, “What can I do?”

 

The answer is quite easy.  You can turn your attention to the Lord and let Him send you.  Only He knows the mission He has picked for you and only He knows what He wants you to harvest.  Your responsibility is to be attentive.  Listen, be open, be ready and be willing.  When you sense Him calling you and sending you, do not hesitate.  Say “Yes” to His gentle promptings.

 

This is accomplished first and foremost through prayer.  This passage says, “Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”  In other words, pray that the Lord sends many zealous souls, including yourself, into the world to attend to the many hearts that are in need.  

 

Reflect, today, upon your willingness to be sent by Christ.  Give yourself to His service and wait to be sent.  When He does speak to you and send you on your way, go without haste and allow yourself to be amazed at all that God wants to do through you.

 

Lord, I give myself to Your service.  I lay my life down at Your feet and commit to the mission You have in store for me.  I thank You, Lord, for loving me enough that I may be used by You.  Use me as You will, dear Lord.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 30th September 2020

Hesitation

 

And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”  Luke 9:61-62

 

Jesus’ call is absolute.  When He calls us we ought to respond with complete submission of our will and with an abundance of generosity. 

 

In the Scripture above, God willed that this person immediately and completely follow Jesus.  But the person hesitates saying he wants to go and first say goodbye to his family.  That sounds like a reasonable request.  But Jesus makes it clear that he is called to follow Him immediately and without hesitation.

 

It’s certainly not that there is anything wrong with wanting to say goodbye to his family.  The family would most likely expect such a thing.  But Jesus uses this opportunity to show us that our number one priority must be to answer His call, when He calls, how He calls, and because He calls.  In the wonderful and even mysterious call to follow Christ, we must be ready to respond without hesitation.

Imagine if one of the persons in this story were different.  Imagine if one of them came to Jesus and said, “Lord, I will follow You and am ready and willing to follow You right now without qualification.”  That’s the ideal.  And, yes, the idea is quite radical.

 

In our own lives, we most likely will not receive the radical call to literally leave everything behind immediately and go serve Christ in some new form of life.  But the key is our willingness!  Are you willing?

 

If you are willing, you will start to discover that Jesus is daily calling you to fulfill His mission.  And if you are willing, you will daily see that His mission is glorious and fruitful beyond measure.  It simply comes down to you saying “Yes” without hesitation and without delay.

 

Reflect, today, upon your willingness to follow Jesus.  Put yourself into this Scripture and reflect upon how you would respond to Jesus.  Most likely you will see hesitation.  And if you see hesitation in your heart, try to surrender that over so that you will be ready for all our Lord has in mind for you.

 

Lord, I do love You and I do want to follow You.  Help me to overcome any and every hesitation in my life in saying “Yes” to Your holy will.  Help me to discern Your voice and embrace all You say every day.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 29th September 2020

Archangels

 

“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

 

Yes, angels are for real.  And they are mighty, glorious, beautiful and magnificent in every way.  Today we honor three of the multitude of angels in Heaven: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

 

These angels are “archangels.”  An archangel is the second order of angels just above the guardian angels.  In all, there are nine orders of celestial beings that we commonly refer to as angels and all nine of these orders are traditionally organized into three spheres.  The entire hierarchy is traditionally organized this way:

 

Highest Sphere: Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones.
Middle Sphere: Dominions, Virtues and Powers.
Lower Sphere: Principalities, Archangels and Angels (Guardian Angels).

 

The hierarchy of these celestial beings is ordered in accord with their function and purpose.  The highest of the beings, the Seraphim, were created solely for the purpose of surrounding the Throne of God in perpetual worship and adoration.  The lowest of the beings, the Guardian Angels, were created for the purpose of caring for humans and communicating God’s messages.  The Archangels, whom we honor today, were created for the purpose of bringing messages of great importance to us and to accomplish tasks of the highest importance in our lives.

 

Michael is well known as the archangel who was empowered by God to cast Lucifer out of Heaven.  Lucifer is traditionally thought to be of the highest sphere of celestial beings and, thus, being cast out by a lowly archangel was quite a humiliation.

 

Gabriel is well known for being the archangel who brought the message of the Incarnation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  

 

And Raphael, whose name means “God heals” is referred to in the Old Testament Book of Tobit and is said to have been sent to bring healing to Tobit’s eyes.

 

Though not much is known of these archangels, it’s important to believe in them, honor them and to pray to them.  We pray to them because we believe God has entrusted them with a mission to help us bring healing, fight evil and proclaim the Word of God.  Their power comes from God, but God has chosen to use the archangels, and all celestial beings, to accomplish His plan and purpose.

 

Reflect, today, upon your knowledge of the angels.  Do you believe in them?  Do you honor them?  Do you rely upon their powerful intercession and mediation in your life?  God wants to use them, so you should truly seek their help in your life.

 

Lord, thank You for the gift of the Archangels whom we honor today.  Thank You for their powerful working in our lives.  Help us to rely upon them and to love them for their service.  Archangels, pray for us, heal us, teach us and protect us.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday 28th September 2020

Supporting One Another

 

Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”  Luke 9:49-50

 

Why would the Apostles try to prevent someone from casting a demon out in Jesus’ name?  Jesus was not concerned about it and, in fact, tells them not to prevent him.  So why were the Apostles concerned?  Most likely because of jealousy.

 

The jealousy we see in this case among the Apostles is one that can creep into the Church at times.  It has to do with a desire for power and control.  The Apostles were upset because the person casting out demons did not follow in their company.  In other words, the Apostles were not able to be in charge of this person.

 

Though this may be hard to understand it may be helpful to see it in a modern context.  Say someone is in charge of a ministry at church and another person or persons start up a new ministry.  The new ministry is quite successful and, as a result, those who have been working in the older more established ministries may get upset and a bit jealous.

 

This is silly but it’s also reality.  It happens all the time, not only within a church setting but also in our daily lives.  When we see someone else doing something that is successful or bearing good fruit, we may get envious or jealous.  

 

In this case, with the Apostles, Jesus is quite understanding and compassionate about the whole thing.  But He is also quite clear.  “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”  Do you see things in life this way?  When someone does well do you rejoice or are you negative?  When another does good things in Jesus’ name, does that fill your heart with gratitude that God is using that person for good or do you get envious?

 

Reflect, today, upon the many good things going on all around you.  Reflect, especially, upon those who are furthering the Kingdom of God.  And reflect upon how you feel about them.  Pray that you will see them as your coworker in the vineyard of Christ rather than as your competitor.  

 

Lord, I thank You for the many good things taking place within Your Church and within society.  Help me to rejoice in all that You do through others.  Help me to let go of any struggle I have with envy.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday 25th September 2020

Who Do You Say I Am?

 

“Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”  Luke 9:18c-20

 

Peter got it right.  Jesus was “the Christ of God.”  Many others spoke of Him as one who was only a great prophet, but Peter saw deeper.  He saw that Jesus was uniquely the Anointed One who is of God.  In other words, Jesus was God.

 

Though we know this to be true, we can sometimes fail to fully comprehend the depth of this “Mystery of Faith.”  Jesus is human, and He is God.  This is hard to comprehend.  It would have been hard for those of Jesus’ time to comprehend this great mystery, also.  Imagine sitting before Jesus listening to Him speak.  If you were there before Him, would you have concluded that He is also the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity?  Would you have concluded that He existed from all eternity and was the great I AM WHO AM?  Would you have concluded that He was perfect in every way and that He was also the Creator of all things and the one who keeps all things in being?

 

Most likely none of us fully would have comprehended the true depth of the meaning that Jesus was “the Christ of God.”  We most likely would have recognized something special about Him, but would have failed to see Him for who He is in His full essence.

 

The same is true today.  When we look at the Most Holy Eucharist, do we see God?  Do we see the Almighty, Omnipotent, All-loving God who existed for eternity is the source of all good and is the Creator of all things?  Perhaps the answer is both “Yes”  and “No.”  “Yes” in that we believe and “no” in that we do not fully understand.

 

Reflect, today, upon the divinity of Christ.  Reflect upon Him present in the Most Holy Eucharist as well as His presence all around us.  Do you see Him?  Do you believe?  How deep and complete is your faith in Him.  Recommit yourself to a deeper understanding of who Jesus is in His Godhead.  Try and take a step deeper in your faith.

 

Lord, I do believe.  I believe You are the Christ of God.  Help me to comprehend even more what that means.  Help me to see Your divinity more clearly and to believe in You more fully.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Thursday 24th September 2020

Holy Curiosity

But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him. Luke 9:9

 

Herod teaches us both some bad qualities as well as some good ones.  The bad ones are quite obvious.  Herod was living a very sinful life and, ultimately, his disordered life led him to have St. John the Baptist beheaded.  But the Scripture above does reveal one interesting quality which we should try to imitate.

 

Herod was interested in Jesus.  “He kept trying to see him” the Scripture says.  Though this did not ultimately lead to Herod accepting John the Baptist’s original message and repenting, it was at least a first step.

 

For lack of better terminology, perhaps we can call this desire of Herod a “holy curiosity.”  He knew there was something unique about Jesus and he wanted to understand it.  He wanted to know who Jesus was and was intrigued by His message.

 

Though we are all called to go much further than Herod did in the pursuit of the truth, we can still recognize that Herod is a good representation of many within our society.  So many are intrigued by the Gospel and all that our faith presents. They listen with curiosity to what the pope says and how the Church reacts to injustices in the world.  Additionally, society as a whole often condemns and criticizes us and our faith.  But this still reveals a sign of its interest and desire to listen to what God has to say, especially through our Church.

 

Reflect, today, upon two things.  First, reflect upon your own desire to know more.  And when you discover this desire don’t stop there.  Allow it to draw you close to the message of our Lord. 

 

Secondly, be attentive to the “holy curiosity” of those around you.  Perhaps a neighbor, family member or coworker has shown interest in what your faith and what our Church has to say.  When you see that, pray for them and ask God to use you as He did the Baptist to bring His message to all who seek it.

 

Lord, help me to seek You in all things and at all times.  When darkness closes in, help me to discover the light You have revealed.  Then help me to bring that light to a world in great need.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday 27th September 2020

Dealing with Rejection

“And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.”  Luke 9:5

 

This is a bold statement from Jesus.  It’s also a statement that should bolden us in the face of opposition.

 

Jesus had just finished telling His disciples to go from town to town preaching the Gospel.  He instructed them not to bring extra food or clothing on the journey but, rather, to rely upon the generosity of those to whom they preach.  And He acknowledged that some will not accept them.  As for those who do in fact reject them and their message, they are to “shake the dust “ from their feet as they leave the town.

 

What does this mean?  It especially tells us two things.  First, when we are rejected it can hurt.  As a result, it’s easy for us to sulk and stew over the rejection and hurt.  It’s easy to sit and be angry and, as a result, to allow the rejection to do us even more damage.

 

Shaking the dust from our feet is a way of saying that we ought not allow the hurt we receive to affect us.  It’s a way of making a clear statement that we will not be controlled by the opinions and malice of others.  This is an important choice to make in life when facing rejection.

 

Secondly, it’s a way of saying that we must keep moving on.  Not only do we have to get over any hurt we have, but we need to then move on to seek out those who will receive our love and our message of the Gospel.  So, in a sense, this exhortation from Jesus is not first about dealing with the rejection of others; rather, it’s primarily about seeking out those who will receive us and will receive the message of the Gospel we are called to give. 

 

Reflect, today, upon any hurt you still carry in your heart because of the rejection of others.  Try to let go of it and know that God is calling you to seek out others in love so that you can share the love of Christ with them.

 

Lord, when I experience rejection and hurt, help me to let go of any anger I have.  Help me to continue with my mission of love and to keep sharing Your Gospel with those who will receive it.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday 22nd September 2020

Jesus' Family

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”  Luke 8:21

 

Perhaps you’ve wondered what it would be like to have a powerful and famous family member.  What would it be like if your sibling or a parent were the President of the United States?  Or a famous athlete?  Or some other famous person?  It probably would be the source of a certain joy and pride in a good way.

 

At the time Jesus walked on the Earth, He was becoming quite “famous,” so to speak.  He was admired and loved and followed by many.  And as He was speaking, His mother and brothers (which would have most likely been cousins) showed up outside.  No doubt people looked at them with a certain respect and admiration and perhaps even a bit of jealousy.  How nice it would be to be Jesus’ actual relative.

Jesus is quite aware of the blessing of being His own kin, part of His own family.  For that reason He makes this statement as a way of inviting everyone present to see themselves as an intimate member of His family.  Sure, our Blessed Mother will always retain her unique relationship with Jesus, but Jesus wants to invite all people to share His familial bond.  

 

How does this happen?  It happens when we “hear the Word of God and act on it.”  It’s that simple.  You are invited to enter the family of Jesus in a deep, personal and profound way if you but listen to all God says and then act on it.  

 

Though this is simple on one level, it’s also true that it’s a very radical move.  It’s radical in the sense that it requires a total commitment to the will of God.  That’s because when God speaks, His words are powerful and transforming.  And acting on His words will change our lives.

 

Reflect, today, upon the invitation of Jesus to be a member of His intimate family.  Hear that invitation and say “Yes” to it.  And as you say “Yes” to this invitation, be ready and willing to let His voice and His divine will change your life.

 

Lord, I accept Your invitation to become a member of Your intimate family.  May I hear Your voice speak and act upon all that You say.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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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