Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
This invitation from Jesus is one that we may need to hear far more often than we realize. It’s a gentle invitation to let our Lord lighten our daily burden, relieve our worries, our stress, our concerns and all that weighs us down. It’s an invitation of love and mercy and is one we should always accept.
What is it that burdens you? What is it that weighs you down and tempts you to fall into depression, sorrow or even despair? Is there something that you tend to think about obsessively? Is there some concern that you can’t seem to shake? Whatever it is that troubles your heart, Jesus wants to lift it.
Sometimes we can go through life with heavy burdens that we are afraid to let go of. We can be fearful of coming to Jesus and fearful of letting Him in. Coming to Jesus means we must face whatever it is that burdens us with honesty and openness and we must face these burdens in the presence of Jesus.
But the key thing we need to know is that Jesus is gentle, merciful and generous in forgiveness and grace. He longs to lift our burdens far more than we long to have them lifted. He sees the oppression many face and so deeply desires to have that oppression eliminated.
Reflect, today, upon that gentle invitation from Jesus: “Come to me.” Come to Him without fear and without hesitation. Turn everything over to Him and let Him sort things out. He loves you more than you know and will set your feet on the right path.
Lord, I do come to You and I do lay down my life and every burden before You. I give You my life, my hopes, my fears, my past, my future and everything that worries me. Jesus, I give You everything. Jesus, I trust in You.
“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
Life is complicated. Or is it? That’s a good question. At times things can seem very complicated. Situations we find ourselves in, relationships with family and friends, our future, our past, etc., can all seem burdensome and complicated at times. But the truth is that it doesn’t have to be. The truth is that God’s answers to the most “complex” questions in life are often simple enough for a child to understand.
In the passage above, Jesus affirms that the Father reveals His answers and wisdom to those who are childlike. Interestingly, He also states that the Father has “hidden these things from the wise and learned.” So this begs the question…is it better to be “wise and learned” or “childlike?” Obviously the answer is that it’s better to be childlike.
This may seem confusing at first. It can seem strange to say that it’s not good to be “wise and learned.” But what that means is that it’s not good to be a person who thinks they have it all figured out. It’s not good to be arrogant and a know-it-all. It’s not good to be so filled with pride that we think we have all the answers.
The ideal is to have certain characteristics of a child. In particular, it’s good to be one who is open, curious, and willing to learn. It’s good to look at life in the simplest of ways and to stick to the basics. Sure, it’s good to grow in wisdom and knowledge of the things of God. But true wisdom and knowledge always maintain a certain innocence and simplicity. They maintain a basic goodness and acceptance of right and wrong. Life does not have to be complicated, it needs to become exceptionally simple.
Reflect, today, upon how ready and willing you are to turn to God for the simple and clear answers to life’s most difficult questions. Reflect upon how willing you are to turn to God in trust and hope knowing that God has all the answers to your life.
Lord, once again I turn to You in trust. Help me to realize that all wisdom comes from You rather than myself. Help me to always turn to You as a child would and help my life to remain simple as You desire. Jesus, I trust in You.
Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!” Matthew 11:20-21a
What an act of mercy and love on the part of Jesus! He rebukes those in the towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida because He loves them and He sees that they continue to hold on to their sinful lives even though He has brought them the Gospel and performed many mighty deeds. They remain obstinate, trapped, confused, unwilling to repent, and unwilling to change their ways. In this context, Jesus offers a wonderful form of mercy. He chastises them! After the passage above He goes on to say, “I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.”
There is a wonderful distinction here that should help us hear what God may be saying to us at times, as well as help us know how to deal with those around us who habitually sin and cause hurt in our lives or the lives of others. The distinction has to do with Jesus’ motivation for chastising the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida. Why did He do that? And what was the motivation behind His actions?
Jesus chastises them out of love and out of a desire that they change. They did not immediately repent of their sin when He offered an invitation and powerful witness of His miracles, so He needed to take things to a new level. And this new level was a strong and clear rebuke out of love.
This action of Jesus could at first be perceived as an emotional outburst of anger. But that’s the key distinction. Jesus did not rebuke them strongly because He was mad and lost control. Rather, He rebuked them because they needed that rebuke to change.
The same truth can be applied to our lives. At times we change our lives and overcome sin as a result of the gentle invitation of Jesus to grace. But, at other times, when sin is deep, we need a holy rebuke. In this case we should hear these words of Jesus as if they were directed at us. This may be the specific act of mercy we need in our lives.
It also gives us great insight as to how we deal with others. Parents, for example, can learn much from this. Children will regularly go astray in various ways and will need correction. It certainly is proper to start with gentle invitations and conversations aimed at helping them make the right choices. However, at times this will not work and more drastic measures need to take place. What are those “more drastic measures?” Out-of-control anger and vengeful yelling is not the answer. Rather, a holy wrath that comes from mercy and love may be the key. This may come in the form of a strong chastisement or punishment. Or, it may come in the form of laying down the truth and clearly presenting the consequences of certain actions. Just remember that even this is love and is an imitation of Jesus’ actions. This is what we commonly refer to as “tough love.”
Reflect, today, on whether or not you need a rebuke from Jesus. If you do, let this Gospel of love sink in. Reflect also upon your responsibility in correcting the faults of others. Don’t be afraid to exercise an act of divine love that comes in the form of a clear chastisement. It may just be the key to helping those you love to love God all the more.
Lord, help me to repent daily of my sin. Help me to be an instrument of the repentance of others. May I always receive Your words in love and offer them in the form of love that is most effective. Jesus, I trust in You.
Jesus said to his Apostles: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.” Matthew 10:34-36
Hmmm…was this a typo? Did Jesus really say this? This is one of those passages that can leave us a bit baffled and confused. But Jesus does this all the time so we shouldn’t be surprised. So what does Jesus mean? Does He really want to bring the “sword” and division rather than peace?
It’s important when reading this passage that we read it in light of everything else Jesus has ever written. We must read it in light of all His teachings on love and mercy, forgiveness and unity, etc. But with that said, what was Jesus talking about in this passage?
In large part, He was speaking about one of the effects of the Truth. The Truth of the Gospel has the power to deeply unite us to God when we fully accept it as the Word of Truth. But another effect is that it divides us from those who refuse to be united to God in the Truth. We are not intending this and we ought not do so by our own will or intention, but it must be understood that by immersing ourselves in the Truth, we are also putting ourselves at odds with everyone who may be at odds with God and His Truth.
Our culture today wants to preach what we call “relativism.” This is an idea that what is good and true for me may not be good and true for you but that, in spite of all having different “truths,” we can still all be one happy family. But that’s not the Truth!
The Truth (with a capital “T”) is that God has established what is right and what is wrong. He has set His moral law over all of humanity and this cannot be undone. He has also set forth the truths of our faith and those cannot be undone. And that law is as true for me as it is for you or anyone else.
This passage above offers us the sobering reality that by rejecting all forms of relativism and by holding onto Truth, we also run the risk of division, even with those in our families. This is sad and this hurts. Jesus offers this passage especially to strengthen us when this happens. If division happens as a result of our sin, shame on us. If it happens as a result of the Truth (as offered in mercy), then we should accept it as a result of the Gospel. Jesus was rejected and we should not be surprised if that happens to us, too.
Reflect, today, upon how fully you are ready and willing to accept the full Truth of the Gospel no matter the consequences. The full Truth will set you free and will also, at times, reveal the division present between you and those who have rejected God. You must pray for unity in Christ, but not be willing to compromise so as to bring about a false unity.
Lord, give me the wisdom and courage I need to accept all You have revealed. Help me to love You above all things and to accept whatever the consequences are of me following You. Jesus, I trust in You.
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. Matthew 13:1-2
This is not a common experience. It is clear that people were in such awe of our Lord that they were drawn to Him with a holy and divine attraction. The crowds were mesmerized by Jesus and they hung on His every word. They were so drawn to Him that they crowded along the shore to listen as Jesus spoke from the boat.
This Gospel story should pose a question to you on a personal level. Are you drawn to Jesus in a similar way? There are many things we find ourselves drawn to. It may be some hobby, or a personal interest, perhaps it’s your job or some other aspect of your life. But what about our Lord and His holy Word? How drawn to Him are you?
Ideally, we should discover within our hearts a burning desire to be with Jesus, to know Him, love Him and encounter His mercy more fully in our lives. There should be a tug on our hearts that is placed there by Jesus Himself. This tug becomes a divine attraction that becomes the central motivation for our lives. From this attraction we respond to Him, listen to Him and give our lives more fully to Him. This is a grace given to those who are open and are ready and willing to hear and respond.
Reflect, today, upon the merciful Heart of our Lord calling you to turn to Him with all the powers of your soul. Allow Him to draw you in and respond by giving your time and attention to Him. From there, He will lead you where He desires you to go.
Lord, my life is Yours. Please draw me into Your most merciful Heart. Help me to be mesmerized by Your splendor and goodness. I give to You all the powers of my soul, dear Lord. Please take me and lead me according to Your most holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.
“Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.”
This is either a very consoling thought, or very frightening depending upon what you may have “concealed” or what you hold “secret” within your heart. What is there, in the depth of your conscience? What is hiding that only God sees for now? There are two extremes into which people can fall in this regard, and many places between the extremes.
The first extreme is that person who lives a phony public persona but secretly lives a very different life. These are those who fall into the sin of hypocrisy, or are what we may call “two-faced.” This is a frightening situation to be in. It’s frightening because those living this sort of life are never truly at peace. They are completely caught up in what others think and what their public image looks like. Interiorly, they are filled with much sorrow, anxiety and fear. This person struggles greatly with any and every form of true humility, honesty and integrity.
But with that said, there is also another form of person who lives a hidden life. This is the hidden life of the saint! Take, for example, the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was seen as a fornicator early in her life and this “public image” of her was never corrected in this world. How else would she have gotten pregnant with Jesus? many thought. But the truth was that her soul was the most beautiful, pure and holy creation God ever made. And now, the beauty of her interior life is manifest before the angels and saints and will be made manifest for all eternity!
The promise of the Scripture above is that everything within our heart and conscience will be made manifest for all eternity. Therefore, those living truly holy, humble and sincere lives of virtue now will be seen in this light for eternity. Those living hidden dark lives will have those lives visible for eternity in some way in accord with God’s mercy and justice.
Again, this will most likely be either consoling or frightening, depending upon our hearts. But what we should take from this, more than anything, is the importance of striving for a truly holy and pure heart here and now. It doesn’t matter if no one sees your holiness, only God needs to see it. The goal is to allow God to form a beautiful interior life for you and to allow Him to make your soul beautiful to Him.
Reflect, today, on how well you do this. How well do you daily allow God to treat your heart and conscience as His possession, making it a place of true beauty that gives His heart, and yours, much delight.
Lord, please come and make my heart Your dwelling place. Make my soul pleasing to You in every way. May Your glory be made manifest there and may You allow this glory to be made manifest for all eternity. Jesus, I trust in You.
Jesus said to his Apostles: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans.” Matthew 10:16-18
Imagine yourself being a follower of Jesus at the time He was preaching. Imagine that there is much excitement about Him and great hopes that He will be the new King and is the Messiah. There would be much hope and excitement about what is to come.
But then, out of the blue, Jesus gives this sermon. He says that His followers will be persecuted and scourged and that this persecution will continue over and over. This must have made His followers stop and seriously question Jesus and wonder if it was worth following Him.
The persecution of Christians has been alive and well throughout the ages. It has happened in every time and in every culture. It continues to be alive today. So what do we do with that? How do we respond?
Many Christians can fall into the trap of thinking that Christianity is all about simply “getting along.” It’s easy to believe that if we are loving and kind then everyone will also love us. But that’s not what Jesus said.
Jesus made it clear that persecution is going to be a part of the Church and that we should not be surprised when this happens to us. We should not be surprised when those within our culture step on us and act maliciously. When this happens it is easy for us to lose faith and to lose heart. We can get discouraged and feel like turning our faith into a hidden life we live. It’s hard to live our faith openly knowing that the culture and world does not like that and won’t accept it.
The examples are all around us. All we have to do is read the secular news to be made aware of a growing hostility toward the Christian faith. For that reason, we need to heed Jesus’ words today more than ever. We need to be aware of His warning and have hope in His promise that He will be with us and will give us the words to say when we need it. More than anything, this passage calls us to hope and confidence in our loving God.
Reflect, today, on how ready and willing you are to face the hostility of the world. You should not react with similar hostility, rather, you must strive to have courage and strength to endure any and every persecution with the help, strength and wisdom of Christ.
Lord, give me strength, courage and wisdom as I live my faith in a world hostile to You. May I respond with love and mercy in the face of harshness and misunderstanding. Jesus, I trust in You.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Matthew 10:8b
What is the cost of the Gospel? Can we put a price on it? Interestingly, we should put two prices on it. The first price is how much it should cost us to receive it. The second price is how much we “charge,” so to speak, to give the Gospel.
So how much should the Gospel cost us? The answer is that it’s of infinite value. We could never afford it monetarily speaking. The Gospel is priceless.
As far as how much we should “charge” to give the Gospel to others, the answer is that it’s free. We have no right to charge or expect anything so as to give away something that we do not own. The saving message of the Gospel belongs to Christ and He offers it freely.
Let’s start with the second half of the Scripture above. “Without cost you are to give.” This tells us that we are to offer the Gospel to others free of charge. But this action of freely giving the Gospel brings with it a sort of hidden requirement. The giving of the Gospel requires that we give of ourselves. And that means we must give of ourselves freely. What’s the justification for giving everything of ourselves freely? The justification is that we have received everything “without cost.”
The simple fact is that the Gospel is all about a total free gift to us which requires a total free gift of ourselves to others. The Gospel is a person, Jesus Christ. And when He comes and lives in us freely, we must then become a total and free gift to others.
Reflect, today, on both your complete receptivity of the Gospel as well as your complete willingness to give. May your understanding and reception of this glorious gift of God transform you into a gift for others.
Lord, may my heart be open to You in a total way so that I may receive You as the Living Gospel. As I receive You, may I in turn give You to others in my very person. Jesus, I trust in You.
Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. Matthew 10:1
Jesus gives His Apostles a sacred authority. They were able to drive out demons and heal the sick. They also won many converts to Christ by their preaching.
It’s interesting to look at this extraordinary charism the Apostles had to act miraculously. It’s interesting because we do not see this happen that often today. However, at the beginnings of the Church it seems that miracles were quite common. One reason for this is that Jesus made quite a statement in the beginning to set things in motion. The miracles He did and those of His Apostles were powerful signs of the power and presence of God. These miracles helped the preaching of the Apostles to be more believable and bring forth many converts. It seems that, as the Church grew, miracles in such great numbers were not as necessary for the authentication of the Word of God. The personal lives and witness of believers eventually were sufficient to spread the Gospel without the help of numerous miracles. Martyrdom and acts of great faith became the true signs of God’s presence.
This is helpful to understand because we see something similar in our own lives of faith and conversion. Often times, in the beginning of our faith journey, we have many powerful experiences of God’s presence. There may be deep consoling spiritual feelings and a clear sense that God is with us. But over time, these feelings can start to disappear and we can wonder where they went or wonder if we have done something wrong. There is an important spiritual lesson here.
As our faith deepens, the spiritual consolations we may receive at the beginning can often fade away because God wants us to love and serve Him out of a more purified faith and love. We should believe and follow Him not because He makes us feel good, but because it is good and right to love and serve Him. This can be a difficult lesson to learn but an essential one.
Reflect, today, upon how deep and sustaining your faith is. Do you know and love God even when things are hard and when He seems far away? Those moments, more than any, are the moments when your personal faith and conversion can grow the strongest.
Lord, help my faith in You and my love of You to be deep, stable and strong. Help me to rely upon that faith more than upon any external “miracles” or feelings. Help me to love You first and foremost out of a pure love for You. Jesus, I trust in You.
Irrationality vs. Normalcy
A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus, and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke. The crowds were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.” Matthew 9:32-34
What a stark contrast we see in the reaction of the crowds compared to the reaction of the Pharisees. It’s actually quite a sad contrast.
The reaction of the crowds, meaning normal everyday people, was one of amazement. Their reaction reveals a simple and pure faith that accepts what it sees. What a blessing it is to have this form of faith.
The reaction of the Pharisees was one of judgment, irrationality, jealousy and harshness. Most especially, it is irrational. What would lead the Pharisees to conclude that Jesus “drives out demons by the prince of demons?” Certainly it was nothing that Jesus did that would lead them to this conclusion. Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that the Pharisees were filled with a certain jealousy and envy. And these sins led them to this ridiculous and irrational conclusion.
The lesson we should learn from this is that we must approach other people with humility and honesty rather than jealousy. By seeing those around us with humility and love, we will naturally arrive at genuine and honest conclusions about them. Humility and honest love will enable us to see the goodness of others and rejoice in that goodness. Sure, we will also be aware of sin, but humility will help us to avoid making rash and irrational judgments about others as a result of jealousy and envy.
Reflect, today, on the way you normally think and speak about others. Do you tend to be more like the crowds who saw, believed and were amazed at the good things Jesus did? Or are you more like the Pharisees who tend to fabricate and exaggerate in their conclusions. Commit yourself to the normalcy of the crowds so that you, too, can find joy and amazement in Christ.
Lord, I desire to have a simple, humble and pure faith. Help me to also see You in others in a humble way. Help me to see You and to be amazed at Your presence in the lives of those whom I encounter every day. Jesus, I trust in You.
When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, “Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they ridiculed him. When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose. And news of this spread throughout all that land. Matthew 9:23-26
Jesus performed many miracles. He overwhelmed the laws of nature time and time again. In this Gospel passage He overcomes death by bringing this little girl back to life. And He does it in such a way that it appears to be quite normal and easy for Him.
It’s insightful to reflect upon Jesus’ approach to the miracles He performed. Many were amazed and in shock of His miraculous power. But Jesus appears to do it as a normal part of His day. He doesn’t make a big deal about it and, in fact, He often tells people to keep His miracles quiet.
One obvious thing this reveals to us is that Jesus does have complete power over the physical world and all the laws of nature. We are reminded in this story that He is the Creator of the Universe and the source of all that is. If He can create all things by simply willing it, He can easily recreate and transform the laws of nature by His will.
Understanding the full truth of His complete authority over nature should also give us confidence in His complete authority over the spiritual world and everything that makes up our lives. He can do all things and can do all things easily.
If we can arrive at a deep faith in His almighty power, and also arrive at a clear understanding of His perfect love and perfect knowledge of us, we will be in a position to trust Him on a level we never knew possible. Why wouldn’t we completely trust Him who can do all things and loves us perfectly? Why wouldn’t we trust Him who knows everything about us and desires only our good? We should trust Him! He is worthy of that trust, and our trust will unleash His almighty power in our lives.
Reflect, today, upon two things. First, do you understand the depth of His power? Second, do you know that His love compels Him to use that power for your good? Knowing and believing these truths will change your life and allow Him to perform miracles of grace.
Lord, I do believe in Your absolute authority over all things and Your complete authority over my life. Help me to trust in You and to trust in Your love for me. Jesus, I do trust in You.
“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 little ones.” Matthew 11:25
What a profound truth to understand! For many, if given the choice to be either a “little one” or “wise and learned” it can appear that being wise and learned is more attractive. The problem is that, according to Jesus, those who are little children are in fact far more wise and learned than those who simply act this way.
Those who are childlike are the ones who have the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven revealed to them. They are given a special grace to penetrate the truths of God’s inner life. This reveals, in part, the simplicity of God’s inner life. God and His will are never confusing and complex. We may make Him seem confusing and, as a result, experience God’s wisdom as overly complex. But in reality, the truth and beauty of God is only discernable by the simple mind who lives in a humble way.
One tendency we can all have is to spend excessive time and energy trying to “figure out God’s will.” We can think and think and think, talk and talk and talk, and in the end remain in confusion about this or that. If you find yourself in this situation, of thinking too much and ending in confusion, then this is a sign that you may not be properly discerning the will of God and may not be allowing yourself to properly hear Him speak.
God speaks to us simply, clearly and only what we need to know, when we need to know. Therefore, it’s important to always approach our Lord in a humble and simple way, waiting for Him to speak the simple and profound truth we need to hear in His time. Ultimately, it comes down to patience with our Lord.
Reflect, today, upon whether you find yourself spending excessive time thinking about the mysteries of life only to be left confused. If so, seek to grow in humility so as to allow the Lord to reveal the simple yet profound truths He desires to reveal. Strive to be childlike in God’s eyes and you will become wiser and more learned than you could ever become on your own.
Dear Lord, help me to have a simple and childlike faith in You and, through this simple faith, come to know the beautiful mysteries You desire to reveal to me. Give me wisdom and knowledge, dear Lord, beyond what I could ever obtain by myself. Jesus, I trust in You.
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Matthew 9:14-15
Do you want to be free? Do you want to discover true liberty in your life? Most certainly you do. But what does that mean? And how do you obtain it?
Liberty is what we are made for. We are made to be free to live life to the fullest and to experience the unfathomable joys and blessings God desires to bestow upon us. But all too often we have a misconception of what true freedom is all about. Freedom, more than anything else, is an experience of the joy of having the Bridegroom with us. It’s the joy of the wedding feast of the Lord. We were made to celebrate our unity with Him for eternity.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus clearly states that the wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them. However, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
It is helpful to look at the relationship between fasting and freedom. At first this may seem like a strange combination. But if fasting is properly understood, it will be seen as a pathway toward the glorious gift of true freedom.
There are times in our lives when “the Bridegroom is taken away.” This can refer to many things. One thing it particularly refers to are the times when we experience a sense of the loss of Christ in our lives. This can certainly come as a result of our own sin, but it can also come as a result of us growing closer to Christ. In the first case, fasting can help free us from the many sinful attachments we have in life. Fasting has the potential to strengthen our will and purify our desires. In the second case, there are times when we are growing very close to Christ and, as a result, He hides His presence from our lives. This may seem strange at first but it is done so that we will seek Him all the more. In this case, also, fasting can become a means of deepening our faith and commitment to Him.
Fasting can take on many forms, but, at the heart, it is simply an act of self-denial and self-sacrifice for God. It helps us overcome earthly and fleshly desires so that our spirits can more fully desire Christ.
Reflect, today, on how deeply you desire Christ in your life. If you see that there are other competing desires that tend to drown out Christ, consider offering acts of fasting and other forms of self-denial. Make them small sacrifices for God and you will see the good fruit they produce.
Lord, I desire You in my life above all things. Help me to see the things that compete for Your love and to offer sacrifice so that my soul can be purified and live in the freedom You desire for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” John 20:24-25
It’s easy to be critical of St. Thomas for his lack of belief reflected in his statement above. But before you allow yourself to think poorly of him, think about how you would have responded. This is a difficult exercise to do since we know clearly the end of the story. We know Jesus did rise from the dead and that Thomas ultimately came to believe, crying out “My Lord and my God!” But try to put yourself in his situation.
First, Thomas probably doubted, in part, out of extreme sadness and despair. He had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah, he had dedicated the last three years of his life to following Him, and now Jesus was dead…so he thought. This is an important point because very often in life when we encounter some difficulty, disappointment or painful situation, our faith is tested. We are tempted to allow despair to draw us into doubt and when this happens we make decisions based more upon our hurt than upon our faith.
Second, Thomas was also called to deny the physical reality that he witnessed with his own eyes and believe something that was completely “impossible” from an earthly perspective. People simply do not rise from the dead! This simply doesn’t happen, at least from an earthly perspective alone. And even though Thomas had seen Jesus perform such miracles before, it took much faith to believe without seeing with his own eyes. So despair and an apparent impossibility went to the heart of Thomas’ faith and extinguished it.
Reflect, today, upon two lessons we can take from this passage: 1) Do not ever allow despair, disappointment or hurt to be the guide of your decisions or beliefs in life. They are never a good guide. 2) Do not doubt the power of God to be able to do anything and everything He chooses. In this case, God chose to rise from the dead and so He did. In our own lives, God can do anything He wills. We must believe that and know that what He reveals to us in faith will come to be if we but trust in His provident care.
Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief. When I am tempted to give in to despair or to doubt Your almighty power over all things in life, help me to turn to You and to trust in You with all my heart. May I cry out, with St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God,” and may I do so even when I see only with the faith You put into my soul. Jesus, I trust in You.
Courage to Seek Forgiveness
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9:2b
This story concludes with Jesus healing the paralytic and telling him to “rise, pick up your stretcher and go home.” The man does just that and the crowds are amazed.
There are two miracles that happen here. One is physical and one is spiritual. The spiritual one is that this man’s sins are forgiven. The physical one is the healing of his paralysis.
Which of these miracles are more important? Which one do you think the man desired the most?
It’s hard to answer the second question since we do not know the man’s thoughts, but the first question is easy. The spiritual healing, the forgiveness of his sins, is by far the most important of these two miracles. It’s the most significant because it has eternal consequences for his soul.
For most of us, it’s easy to pray to God for things like a physical healing or the like. We may find it quite easy to ask for favors and blessings from God. But how easy is it for us to ask for forgiveness? This may be harder to do for many because it requires an initial act of humility on our part. It requires that we first acknowledge we are sinners in need of forgiveness.
Acknowledging our need for forgiveness takes courage, but this courage is a great virtue and reveals a great strength of character on our part. Coming to Jesus to seek His mercy and forgiveness in our lives is the most important prayer we can pray and the foundation of all the rest of our prayers.
Reflect, today, upon how courageous you are in asking God for forgiveness and how humbly you are willing to acknowledge your sin. Making an act of humility like this is one of the most important things you can do.
Lord, give me courage. Give me courage, especially, to humble myself before You and to acknowledge all my sin. In this humble acknowledgment, help me to also seek Your daily forgiveness in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Deliver Us From the Evil One
When Jesus came to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him. They were so savage that no one could travel by that road. They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?” Matthew 8:28-29
This Scripture passage reveals two things: 1) Demons are ferocious; 2) Jesus has complete power over them.
First of all, we should notice that the two demoniacs “were so savage that no one could travel by that road.” That’s a very significant statement. It’s clear that the demons possessing these two men were vicious and filled those in the town with great fear. So much so that no one would even come near them. This is not a very pleasant thought, but it is reality and it is worth understanding. True, we may not encounter evil in such a direct way very often, but we do face it at times. The evil one is alive and well and is constantly striving to build his demonic kingdom here on Earth.
Think of times when evil appeared to be manifest, oppressive, malicious, calculated, etc. There are times in history when the evil one appeared to triumph in powerful ways. And there are ways that his activity is still manifest in our world today.
That brings us to the second lesson of this story. Jesus has complete authority over the demons. Interestingly, He casts them out into the herd of swine and the swine then run down the hill and die. Bizarre. The towns people are so overwhelmed they then ask Jesus to leave the town. Why would they do that? In part, the reason seems to be the fact that Jesus’ exorcism of these two men causes quite a commotion. This is because manifest evil does not depart quietly.
This is an important lesson to remember in our day and age. It’s important because the evil one appears to be making his presence known to a greater and greater degree today. And he certainly has plans to make his presence even more known in the coming years. We see this in the moral downfall of our societies, the public acceptance of immorality, the secularization of the various world cultures, the increase of terrorism, etc. There are countless ways that the evil one appears to be winning the battle.
Jesus is all-powerful and will win in the end. But the hard part is that His victory will most likely cause quite a scene and it will make many uneasy. Just as they told Him to leave their town after He freed the demoniacs, so also there are many Christians today who are all too willing to ignore the rise of the kingdom of the evil one so as to avoid any contention.
Reflect, today, if you are willing to face the “consequences,” so to speak, of confronting the kingdom of the evil one with the Kingdom of God. Are you willing to do what it takes to stand strong in a culture that is continually deteriorating? Are you willing to remain steadfast in the face of the noise of the evil one? Saying “Yes” to this will not be easy, but it will be a glorious imitation of our Lord Himself.
Lord, help me to remain strong in the face of the evil one and his kingdom of darkness. Help me to confront that kingdom with confidence, love and truth so as to bring forth Your Kingdom in its place. Jesus, I trust in You.
They came and woke Jesus, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. Matthew 8:25-26
Imagine you were out on the sea with the Apostles. You were a fisherman and spent countless hours on the sea throughout your life. Some days the sea was exceptionally calm and other days there were big waves. But this day was unique. These waves were huge and crashing and you feared that things would not end well. So, with the others on the boat, you woke Jesus in a panic hoping that He would save you.
What would have been the best thing for the Apostles to do in this situation? Most likely, it would have been for them to allow Jesus to remain asleep. Ideally, they would have faced the fierce storm with confidence and hope. “Storms” that seem overwhelming may be rare, but we can be certain they will come. They will come and we will feel overwhelmed.
If the Apostles would not have panicked and would have allowed Jesus to sleep, they may have had to endure the storm a bit longer. But eventually it would have died down and all would have been calm.
Jesus, in His great compassion, is OK with us crying out to Him in our need as the Apostles did on the boat. He is OK with us turning to Him in our fear and seeking His help. When we do, He will be there as a parent is there for a child who wakes during the night in fear. But ideally we will face the storm with confidence and hope. We will ideally know that this too will pass and that we should simply trust and stay strong. This seems to be the most ideal lesson we can learn from this story.
Reflect, today, on how you react to hardship and problems in your life. Be they big or small, do you face them with the confidence, calm and hope that Jesus wants you to have? Life is too short to be filled with terror. Have confidence in the Lord no matter what you face each day. If He seems to be asleep, allow Him to remain asleep. He knows what He is doing and you can be certain that He will never allow you to endure more than you can handle.
Lord, whatever may come my way I trust You. I know You are always there and will never give me more than I can handle. Jesus, I do trust in You.
“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
The Church, throughout the ages, has been hated, misunderstood, slandered, ridiculed, and even attacked. Though sometimes ridicule and rebuke come as a result of the personal faults of Her members, most often the Church has been and continues to be persecuted because we have been given the mission of clearly, compassionately, firmly, and authoritatively proclaiming, with the voice of Christ Himself, the truth which liberates and sets all people free to live in unity as children of God.
Ironically, and sadly, there are many in this world who refuse to accept the Truth. There are many who instead grow in anger and bitterness as the Church lives out Her divine mission.
What is this divine mission of the Church? Her mission is to teach with clarity and authority, to pour forth God’s grace and mercy in the Sacraments, and to shepherd God’s people so as to lead them to Heaven. It is God who gave the Church this mission and God who enables the Church and Her ministers to carry it out with courage, boldness and fidelity.
Today’s Solemnity is a very appropriate occasion to reflect on this sacred mission. Saints Peter and Paul are not only two of the greatest examples of the Church’s mission, but they are also the actual foundation upon which Christ established this mission.
First, Jesus Himself in today’s Gospel said to Peter, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.”
In this Gospel passage, “the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” are given to the first pope of the Church. St. Peter, the one entrusted with the divine headship of the Church on Earth, is given the authority to teach us all we need to know in order to attain Heaven. It’s clear from the earliest days of the Church, that Peter passed these “Keys to the Kingdom,” this “ability to authoritatively bind and loose,” this divine gift that today is called infallibility, on to his successor, and he on to his successor and so forth until today.
There are many who get angry at the Church for clearly, confidently and authoritatively proclaiming the liberating truth of the Gospel. This is especially true in the area of morality. Often, when these truths are proclaimed, the Church is attacked and called every sort of slanderous name in the book.
The primary reason that this is so sad is not so much that the Church is attacked, Christ will always give us the grace we need to endure persecution. The primary reason this is so sad is that most often those who are the angriest are, in fact, those who need to know the liberating truth the most. Everyone needs the freedom that comes only in Christ Jesus and the full and unaltered Gospel truth that He has already entrusted to us in Scripture and that He continues to make clear to us through Peter in the person of the Pope. Furthermore, the Gospel does not ever change, the only thing that changes is our ever deeper and clearer understanding of this Gospel. Thanks be to God for Peter and for all of his successors who serve the Church in this essential role.
St. Paul, the other Apostle we honor today, was not himself entrusted with the keys of Peter, but was called by Christ and strengthened by his ordination to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. St. Paul, with much courage, traveled throughout the Mediterranean to bring the message to all he met. In today’s Second Reading, St. Paul said of his journeys, “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear” the Gospel. And though he suffered, was beaten, imprisoned, ridiculed, misunderstood and hated by many, he was also an instrument of true freedom to many. Many people responded to his words and example, radically giving their lives over to Christ. We owe the establishment of many new Christian communities to St. Paul’s tireless efforts. When facing the opposition of the world, Paul said in today’s epistle, “I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.”
Both St. Paul and St. Peter paid for their faithfulness to their missions with their lives. The First Reading spoke of Peter’s imprisonment; the epistles reveal Paul’s hardships. In the end, both became martyrs. Martyrdom is not a bad thing if it is the Gospel for which you are martyred.
Jesus says in the Gospel, “Fear not the one who can bind your hand and foot, rather fear him who can throw you into Gehenna.” And the only one who can throw you into Gehenna is yourself because of the free choices you make. All we ultimately need to fear is wavering from the truth of the Gospel in our words and deeds.
The truth must be proclaimed in love and compassion; but love is not loving nor is compassion compassionate if the truth of the life of faith and morals is not present.
On this feast of Saints Peter and Paul, may Christ give all of us, and the entire Church, the courage, charity, and wisdom we need to continue to be the instruments that set the world free.
Lord, I thank You for the gift of Your Church and the liberating Gospel it preaches. Help me to always be faithful to the truths You proclaim through Your Church. And help me to be an instrument of that truth to all in need of it. Jesus, I trust in You.
Jesus said to his apostles: “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
Jesus explains an interesting consequence of choosing to love family members more than God. The result of loving a family member more than God is that one is not worthy of God. This is a strong statement meant to evoke serious self-reflection.
First, we should realize that the only way to authentically love one’s mother or father, son or daughter, is to first love God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength. Love of one’s family and others must flow from this pure and total love of God.
For that reason, we should see Jesus’ warning as a call to make sure we are not only loving Him fully, but also a call to make sure we fully love our family by allowing our love o
f God to become the source of our love of others.
How is it that we may violate this command of our Lord? How would we love others more than Jesus? We act in this sinful way when we allow others, even family members, to take us away from our faith. For example, on a Sunday morning while you are getting ready to go to church, a family member tries to convince you to skip Mass for some other activity. If you concede so as to appease them, then you are “loving” them more than God. Of course, in the end, this is not an authentic love of the family member since a decision was made contrary to the will of God.
Reflect, today, upon how you can truly love those in your family by turning your heart and soul first toward the love of God. Allow this complete embrace of the love of God to become the basis of love in every relationship. Only then will good fruit come forth from the love of others.
Lord, I give to You my whole mind, heart, soul and strength. Help me to love You above all things and in all things and, from that love, help me to love those whom You have put in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” Matthew 8:8
This familiar phrase is repeated every time we prepare to go to Holy Communion. It’s a statement of great humility and trust from the Roman Centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant from a distance.
Jesus is impressed with this man’s faith stating that “in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” This man’s faith is worth pondering as a model for our own faith.
First, let’s look at his humility. The centurion acknowledges that he is “not worthy” to have Jesus come to his home. This is true. None of us are worthy of such a great grace. The home that this spiritually refers to is our soul. We are not worthy of Jesus coming to our souls so as to make His dwelling there. At first this may be hard to accept. Are we really not worthy of this? Well, no, we are not. That’s just the fact.
It’s important to know this to be the case so that, in this humble realization, we can also acknowledge that Jesus chooses to come to us anyway. Recognizing our unworthiness should do nothing other than fill us with great gratitude at the fact that Jesus comes to us in this humble state. This man was justified in the sense that God poured His grace on him for his humility.
He also had great trust in Jesus. And the fact that the centurion knew he was unworthy of such a grace makes his trust all the more sacred. It’s sacred in that he knew he was unworthy but he also knew that Jesus loved him anyway and desired to come to him and heal his servant.
This shows us that our trust in Jesus must not be based on whether or not we have a right to His presence in our lives, rather, it shows us that our trust is based on our knowledge of His infinite mercy and compassion. When we see that mercy and compassion, we will be in a position to seek it out. Again, we do this not because we have a right to it; rather, we do it because that’s what Jesus wants. He wants us to seek out His mercy despite our unworthiness.
Reflect, today, on your own humility and trust. Can you pray this prayer with the same faith as the centurion? Let him be a model for you especially every time you prepare to receive Jesus “under your roof” in Holy Communion.
Lord, I am not worthy of You. I am especially not worthy of receiving You in Holy Communion. Help me to humbly recognize this fact and, in that humility, help me to also recognize the fact that You desire to come to me anyway. Jesus, I trust in You.
His leprosy was cleansed immediately. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one, but go show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” Matthew 8:3b-4
An amazing miracle takes place and Jesus simply tells the one healed to “tell no one.” Why does Jesus say this?
First, we should start by reflecting upon what Jesus did. By cleansing this leper He restored this man’s entire life to him. He was living as an outcast, separated from the community; his leprosy, in a sense, took everything from him. But he had faith in Jesus and presented himself to the care and mercy of God. The result was that he was made whole and restored to full health.
Jesus often would tell those who were healed to tell no one. One reason for this was that Jesus’ acts of love and mercy were not done for His own benefit, rather, they were done out of love. Jesus loved this leper and wanted to offer Him this precious gift of healing. He did it out of compassion and, in return, only wanted the man’s gratitude. He did not need to make this a public spectacle, He only wanted the man to be grateful.
The same is true with us. We need to know that God loves us so much that He wants to lift our heavy burdens and heal our weaknesses simply because He loves us. He doesn’t do it first because it will benefit Him, rather, He does it out of love for us.
One lesson we can learn from this has to do with our own acts of love and mercy toward others. When we go out of our way to show love and compassion, are we OK with no one knowing? Too often we want to be noticed and praised. But the nature of an act of love and compassion is such that it should be done simply out of love. In fact, doing something loving and compassionate that is not noticed by anyone helps us grow in love and compassion. It purifies our intentions and enables us to love for love’s sake.
Reflect, today, on your motivation for the acts of kindness you do. Pray that you also can desire to act in hidden ways in imitation of our divine Lord.
Lord, may I grow in love of others and express that love in a pure way. May I never be motivated by a desire for vain praise. Jesus, I trust in You.
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.” Matthew 7:24-25
This passage above is followed by the contrast of one who built his house on sand. The wind and rains came and the house collapsed. It’s a clear contrast that leads anyone to conclude that having your house built on solid rock is much better.
The house is your life. And the question it raises is simply, how strong am I? How strong am I to face the storms, hardships and crosses that will inevitably come my way?
When life is easy and all goes smoothly, we do not necessarily need great inner strength. When money is plentiful, we have many friends, we have our health and our family all gets along, life can be good. And, in that case, life can even be easy. But there are few who can go through life without facing some storm. When that happens, our inner strength is tested and the strength of our inner convictions is required.
In this story from Jesus, the rain, floods and wind that buffeted the house are actually a good thing. Why? Because they allow the foundation of the house to manifest its stability. So it is with us. The foundation of our lives must be our fidelity to the Word of God. Do you believe the Word of God? Have you pondered it, studied it, internalized it and allowed God’s Word to become the foundation of your life? Jesus makes it clear that we will have a solid foundation only when we listen to His words and act on them.
Reflect, today, upon how deeply you believe all that Jesus says. Do you trust in every word He has spoken? Do you believe Him enough to rely upon His promises even in the midst of life’s greatest challenges? If you are not sure, then this is a good day to recommit yourself to the prayerful reading of His Word. All He says in Scripture is true and those truths are what we need to create a firm foundation for the rest of our lives.
Lord, help me to listen to Your words and to act on them. Help me to believe in Your promises and to trust You even when the storms of life seem fierce. Jesus, I trust in You.
Fidelity to God After a Fall
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Luke 1:63-64
Zechariah provides a great witness to all of us of one who sinned by lacking faith in God, but after suffering the humiliation of his sin, he became truly faithful and ended up “blessing God.”
We are familiar with his story. His wife became pregnant with John the Baptist by a miracle in her old age. When it was revealed to Zechariah by an angel that this would take place, he failed to have faith in this promise and doubted. The result was that he was struck mute until the moment that John was born. It was at that moment when Zechariah acted in fidelity to the revelation of God by naming his baby “John” as the angel had requested. This act of fidelity on Zechariah’s part loosened his tongue and he began to speak the praises of God.
This witness of Zechariah should be an inspiration to all who seek to follow the will of God in their lives but have failed. There are many times when God speaks to us, we hear Him, but we fail to believe in what He says. We fail in fidelity to His promises. The result is that we suffer the effects of that sin.
At first, the effects of sin in our lives can seem like a punishment. Indeed, in many ways they are. It’s not a punishment from God; rather, it’s a punishment of sin. Sin has devastating consequences in our lives. But the good news is that those consequences of sin are permitted by God as a way of drawing us back to fidelity to Him. And if we allow them to humble us and change us like Zechariah did, we will be able to turn from a life of infidelity to the will of God to a life of fidelity. And a life of fidelity will enable us to ultimately sing the praises of our God.
Reflect, today, upon the ways that you have not been faithful to God in your life. But think of it in the context of hope. Hope that God will receive you back and transform your life if you return to Him. God is waiting and His mercy is abundant. Allow His mercy to fill you with a heart that blesses the goodness of God.
Lord, help me to see my past sins not so much in despair, but as reasons to return to You in greater fidelity. No matter how many times I have fallen, help me to get back up and to faithfully sing Your praises. Jesus, I trust in You.
“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
This familiar phrase was a command from God established in the Old Testament. It’s a good rule of thumb by which to live.
What would you have others “do to you?” Think about that and try to be honest. If we are honest, we must admit that we want others to do a lot for us. We want to be respected, to be treated with dignity, to be treated fairly, etc. But on an even deeper level, we want to be loved, understood, known and cared for.
Deep down, we should all try to recognize the natural longing that God gave us to share in a loving relationship with others, and to be loved by God. This desire goes to the heart of what it means to be human. We as humans are made for that love. This Scripture passage above reveals that we must be ready and willing to offer to others that which we desire to receive. If we can recognize within us the natural desires for love, we should also strive to foster a desire to love. We should foster a desire to love to the same extent that we seek it for ourselves.
This is harder than it sounds. Our selfish tendency is to demand and expect love and mercy from others while at the same time we hold ourselves to a much lower standard regarding how much we offer. The key is to put our attention on our duty first. We must strive to see what we are called to do and how we are called to love. As we see this as our first duty and as we strive to live it, we will discover that we find much greater satisfaction in giving than in seeking to receive. We will find that “doing onto others,” regardless of what they “do to us,” is what we actually find fulfillment in.
Reflect, today, on the natural desire you have in your heart for the love and respect of others. Then, make this the focus of how you treat those around you.
Lord, help me to do to others what I desire they do to me. Help me to use the desire in my own heart for love as the motivation for my love of others. In giving of myself, help me find fulfillment and satisfaction in that gift. Jesus, I trust in You.
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” Matthew 7:1-2
Being judgmental can be a difficult thing to shake. Once someone falls into the habit of regularly thinking and speaking in a harsh and critical way, it’s very difficult for them to change. In fact, once someone starts down the road of being critical and judgmental, chances are that they will continue down that road becoming more critical and more judgmental.
This is one of the reasons Jesus addresses this tendency in such a strong way. After the passage above Jesus states, “You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first…” These words and Jesus’ strong condemnation of being judgmental is not so much because Jesus is angry or harsh toward the judgmental person. Rather, He wants to redirect them from the road they are heading down and help to free them of this heavy burden. So an important question to ponder is this: “Is Jesus talking to me? Do I struggle with being judgmental?”
If the answer is “Yes,” fear not and do not get discouraged. Seeing this tendency and admitting it is very important and is the first step toward the virtue which is opposite of being judgmental. The virtue is mercy. And mercy is one of the most important virtues we can have today.
It seems that the times we live in demand mercy more than ever. Perhaps one of the reasons for that is the extreme tendency, as a world culture, to be harsh and critical of others. All you need to do is read a newspaper, browse social media, or watch the nightly news programs to see that our world culture is one that is continually growing in the tendency to analyze and criticize. This is a real problem.
The good thing about mercy is that God uses either our judgmentalness or our mercy (depending upon which is more manifest) as the measuring rod of how He treats us. He will act with great mercy and forgiveness toward us when we show that virtue. But He will also show His justice and judgment when this is the path we take with others. It’s up to us!
Reflect, today, on mercy and judgmentalness in your life. Which one is greater? What is your primary tendency? Remind yourself that mercy is always far more rewarding and satisfying than being judgmental. It produces joy, peace and freedom. Put mercy in your mind and commit yourself to seeing the blessed rewards of this precious gift.
Lord, please do fill my heart with mercy. Help me to set aside all critical thinking and harsh words and replace them with Your love. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Perfect Love and Knowledge of God
“Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31
It’s comforting to know that the All-Powerful God of the Universe knows every detail about our lives and is deeply concerned about every single detail. He knows us infinitely better than we know ourselves and He loves each one of us more deeply than we could ever love ourselves. These facts should give us much peace.
Imagine the truth contained in this Scripture above. God even knows how many hairs we have on our head! This is stated as a way of emphasizing the depth of intimacy by which God knows us.
When we can come to the realization of the Father’s perfect knowledge of us AND His perfect love of us, we will be in a position to put our complete trust in Him. Trust in God is only possible when we understand who we are trusting. And when we do begin to more completely understand who God is and how much He cares about every detail of our lives, we will more easily entrust to Him those details, allowing Him to take control of all.
Reflect, today, upon these basic truths of God’s perfect knowledge of us and His perfect love. Sit with those truths and ponder them. As you do, allow them to become the basis of an invitation from God to let go of your own control of life in favor of His control. Try to make an act of total surrender to Him and you will begin to discover the freedom that comes with this surrender.
Father in Heaven, I thank You for Your perfect knowledge of every detail of my life. I thank You, also, for Your perfect love. Help me to trust in this love and to trust in Your daily invitation to surrender all. I do surrender my life to You, dear Lord. Help me to surrender more fully this day. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Heart of the Mother of God
…his mother kept all these things in her heart. Luke 2:51b
Today we honor our Blessed Mother. In particular, we honor her Immaculate Heart just as we honored Jesus’ Sacred Heart yesterday. The two go hand in hand.
The Heart of our Blessed Mother is a sign of her perfect love for us. It is “Immaculate” in that it is spotless and perfect in love.
When reflecting upon the perfection of love, we also acknowledge that her love is the perfection of a mother’s love. This is a unique love of the highest order. A mother’s love is not just love of neighbor or a friendship. Rather, a mother’s love is such that it is completely invested, nurturing, sacrificial and total. This is the love our Blessed Mother has for us.
Today is a good day to reflect upon whether or not you have allowed her to love you with this perfect motherly love. Have you consecrated yourself to her, choosing her as your queen and mother?
The Immaculate Heart, and therefore, the Immaculate love of our Blessed Mother is a glorious gift from God. She is the instrument through which Salvation Himself came into our world. She is also, therefore, the continuing instrument through which all the grace given by Christ comes into the world. She is the Mediatrix of Grace. Why does she have this role? Because God destined it to be so. God could have saved us any way He chose, but we must humbly and honestly acknowledge that the way He chose to save us is through the mediation of the Blessed Mother.
God does not change His mind today. He chose her as the instrument of salvation over 2,000 years ago and He continues to choose her today. He continues to pour forth His grace on the world through her and she continues to distribute His love and mercy through her Immaculate and motherly Heart.
Reflect, today, upon the beauty and perfection of the love radiating from her life for you. Run to her and make an act of faith in her motherly care. Consecrate yourself to her and let her be the instrument God wants her to be.
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. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Heart of Perfect Love and Self-Giving
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. Matthew 11:29
Happy Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!
To some, this can seem like an old and outdated celebration in the Church. It can be seen as one of those ancient feasts that have little meaning in our lives today. Nothing could be further from the truth!
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is exactly what we need to know, experience and receive in our lives today. His heart, that heart which was pierced by the lance and from which flowed blood and water, is the sign, symbol and source of the burning love of His very soul. The blood is an image of the Most Holy Eucharist and the water is an image of the cleansing waters of Baptism.
This celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a celebration of Jesus pouring out on us His whole life and all of His love. He held nothing back which is symbolized by the pouring forth of the last drop of this blood and water from His Heart as He lay there dead on the Cross. Though it’s a very graphic image, it’s graphic to make a point. The point, again, is that He held nothing back. We need to realize that Jesus continues to give us everything if we are willing to receive it.
If you are finding that you need to know His love more deeply in your life this day, try spending time reflecting on this Scripture: “…but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out” (John 19:33-34). Spend time reflecting upon that last self gift, the gift of that water and blood flowing from His wounded Heart. It is a sign of His infinite love for you. Reflect upon it being poured out especially for you. See it, be immersed in it, and be open to it. Let His love transform and fill you.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. I thank You, dear Lord, for giving all to me. You held nothing back from me and You continue to pour out Your life for my good and for the good of the whole world. May I receive all You give to me and hold nothing back from You. Jesus, I trust in You.
“This is how you are to pray: Our Father who art in heaven…” Matthew 6:9
The following is an excerpt from the My Catholic Worship! book, Chapter Eleven, on the Lord’s Prayer:
The Lord’s Prayer is indeed a summary of the entire Gospel. It is called “The Lord’s Prayer” in that Jesus Himself gave it to us as a way of teaching us to pray. In this prayer, we find seven petitions to God. Within those seven petitions we will find every human longing and every expression of faith found within the Scriptures. Everything we need to know about life and prayer is contained in the wonderful prayer.
Jesus Himself gave us this prayer as the model of all prayer. It is good that we repeat the words of the Lord’s Prayer regularly in vocal prayer. This is also done in the various sacraments and liturgical worship. However, saying this prayer is not enough. The goal is to internalize each and every aspect of this prayer so that it becomes a model of our personal petition to God and an entrustment of our entire life to Him.
The Foundation of Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer begins not with a petition; rather, it begins with us acknowledging our identity as children of the Father. This is a key foundation for the Lord’s Prayer to be prayed properly. It also reveals the foundational approach we must take in all prayer and in the entire Christian life. The opening statement preceding the seven petitions is as follows: “Our Father who art in Heaven.” Let’s take a look at what is contained in this opening statement of the Lord’s Prayer.
Filial Boldness: At Mass, the priest invites the people to pray the Lord’s Prayer by saying, “At the Savior’s command and formed by divine teaching we dare to say…” This “daring” on our part comes from the foundational understanding that God is our Father. Each Christian is to see the Father as my Father. We must see ourselves as God’s children and approach Him with the confidence of a child. A child with a loving parent is not afraid of that parent. Rather, children have the greatest trust that their parents love them no matter what. Even when they sin, children know they are still loved. This must be our fundamental starting point for all prayer. We must start with an understanding that God loves us no matter what. With this understanding of God we will have all the confidence we need to call on Him.
Abba: Calling God “Father” or, more specifically, “Abba” means we cry out to God in the most personal and intimate of ways. “Abba” is a term of endearment for the Father. This shows that God is not just the Almighty or the All-Powerful. God is so much more. God is my loving Father and I am the Father’s beloved son or daughter.
“Our” Father: To call God “our” Father expresses an entirely new relationship as a result of the New Covenant that was established in the blood of Christ Jesus. This new relationship is one in which we are now God’s people and He is our God. It’s an exchange of persons and, therefore, deeply personal. This new relationship is nothing other than a gift from God to which we have no right. We have no right to be able to call God our Father. It’s a grace and a gift.
This grace also reveals our profound unity to Jesus as the Son of God. We can only call God “Father” in so far as we are one with Jesus. His humanity unites us to Him and we now share in a deep bond with Him.
Calling God “our” Father also reveals the union we share with one another. All who call God their Father in this intimate way are brothers and sisters in Christ. We, therefore, are not only deeply connected together; we also are enabled to worship God together. In this case, individualism is left behind in exchange for fraternal unity. We are members of this one divine family as a glorious gift of God.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Jesus, I trust in You.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.” Matthew 6:1
Very often when we do something good, we want others to see. We want them to be aware of how good we are. Why? Because it feels good to be recognized and honored by others. But Jesus tells us to do the complete opposite.
Jesus tells us that when we do a work of charity, fast or pray we should do it in a hidden way. In other words, we should not do it so as to be noticed and praised by others. It’s not that there is anything wrong with others seeing our goodness. Rather, Jesus’ teaching goes to the heart of our motivations for our good actions. He’s trying to tell us that we should act in a holy way because we want to grow close to God and serve His will, not so that we can be recognized and praised by others.
This offers us a great opportunity to look deeply and honestly at our motivations. Why do you do what you do? Think about the good things you try to do. Then think about your motivation in doing those things. Hopefully you are motivated to do holy things simply because you want to be holy and want to serve the will of God. Are you content with God and God alone seeing your good actions? Are you OK with no one else recognizing your selflessness and acts of love? Hopefully the answer is “Yes.”
Holiness is especially found in your hidden life. There, where you are seen only by God, you must act in a way that pleases God. You must live a life of virtue, prayer, sacrifice and self-giving when only God sees. If you can live this way in your hidden life, you can also be certain that your hidden life of grace will affect others in a way that only God can orchestrate. When you strive for holiness in a hidden way, God sees that and uses it for good. This hidden life of grace becomes the foundation for who you are and how you interact with others. They may not see all you do, but they will be affected by the goodness within your soul.
Lord, help me to live a hidden life of grace. Help me to serve You even when no one sees. From the solitude of those moments, bring forth Your grace and mercy for the world. Jesus, I trust in You.
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:44-45a
This is not an easy command from our Lord. But it is a command of love.
First, He calls us to love our enemies. Who are our enemies? Hopefully we do not have “enemies” in the sense of those who we have willfully chosen to hate. But we may have people in our lives who we are tempted to have anger toward and who we have a difficult time loving. Perhaps we can consider anyone we struggle with as our enemies.
To love them does not necessarily mean we must become best friends with them, but it does mean we must work toward having a true affection of care, concern, understanding and forgiveness toward them. This can be hard to have toward everyone but it must be our goal.
The second part of this command will help. Praying for those who persecute us will help us grow in the proper love and affection we need to foster. This aspect of love is quite straightforward even though it is also quite difficult.
Think about those whom you have a very difficult time loving. Those toward whom you have anger. It could be a family member, someone at work, a neighbor or someone from your past with whom you have never reconciled. It is in keeping with this Gospel passage to honestly admit that there is at least someone, or perhaps more than one person, with whom you struggle, either externally or internally. Admitting this is simply an act of honesty.
Once you identify this person or persons, think about whether you pray for them. Do you spend time regularly offering them to God in prayer? Do you pray that God pours forth His grace and mercy upon them? This may be hard to do but it is one of the healthiest acts you can do. It may be difficult to show love and affection toward them, but it is not hard to consciously choose to pray for them.
Praying for those with whom we have a hard time is key to letting God foster a true love and concern in our hearts toward them. It’s a way of letting God reform our emotions and feelings so that we will no longer have to hold on to feelings of anger or even hate.
Commit yourself this day to prayer for the person you struggle with the most. This prayer will most likely not change your love for them over night, but if you commit to this form of prayer every day, over time God will slowly change your heart and free you of the burden of anger and hurt that may keep you from the love He wants you to have toward all people.
Lord, I pray for the person for whom You want me to pray. Help me to love all people and help me to especially love those who are hard to love. Reorder my feelings toward them and help me to be free of any anger. Jesus, I trust in You.
“But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.” Matthew 5:39
Ouch! This is a hard teaching to embrace.
Did Jesus really mean this? Often, when put in the situation where someone wrongs us or hurts us we can tend to immediately rationalize away this Gospel passage and presume it doesn’t apply to us. Yes, it’s a hard teaching to believe and an even harder one to live.
What does it mean to “turn the other cheek?” First, we should look at this on a literal level. Jesus did mean what He said. He is the perfect example of this. Not only was He slapped on the cheek, He was also brutally beaten and hung on a cross. And His response was, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Therefore, Jesus does not call us to do anything that He Himself was not willing to do.
Turning the other cheek does not mean that we need to cover up another’s abusive actions or words. We ought not pretend that they have done nothing wrong. Jesus Himself, in forgiving and in asking the Father to forgive, acknowledged the grave injustice He received at the hands of sinners. But the key is that He did not allow Himself to be drawn into their malice.
Often times, when we feel like another flings mud at us, so to speak, we are tempted to fling it right back. We are tempted to fight and push the bully back. But the key to overcoming the malice and cruelty of another is to refuse to be drawn down into the mud. Turning the other cheek is a way of saying that we refuse to degrade ourselves to foolish bickering or arguing. We refuse to engage irrationality when we encounter it. Instead, we choose to allow another to reveal their malice to themselves and to others by peacefully accepting it and forgiving.
This is not to say that Jesus wants us to perpetually live in abusive relationships that are more than we can handle. But it does mean that we will all encounter injustice from time to time and we need to handle it with mercy and immediate forgiveness, and not become drawn into returning malice for malice.
Reflect, today, on any relationships that are difficult for you. Especially reflect upon how ready you are to forgive and to turn the other cheek. Doing this may just bring you the peace and freedom you seek in that relationship.
Lord, help me to imitate Your great mercy and forgiveness. Help me to forgive those who have hurt me and help me to rise above any injustice I encounter. Jesus, I trust in You.
“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
Happy Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, our Lord and God! What a Gift we celebrate today!
The Eucharist is everything. It’s all things, the fullness of life, eternal salvation, mercy, grace, happiness, etc. Why is the Eucharist all this and so much more? Simply put, the Eucharist IS God. Period. Therefore, the Eucharist is all that God is.
In his beautiful traditional hymn, “Adoro te Devote,” St. Thomas Aquinas writes, “I devoutly adore You, O hidden Deity, truly hidden beneath these appearances. My whole heart submits to You, and in contemplating You, it surrenders itself completely. Sight, touch, taste are all deceived in their judgment of You, but hearing suffices firmly to believe…” What a glorious statement of faith in this wondrous gift.
This statement of faith reveals that when we worship before the Eucharist, we worship God Himself hidden under the appearance of bread and wine. Our senses are deceived. What we see, taste and feel do not reveal the reality before us. The Eucharist is God.
Throughout our lives, if we were raised Catholic, we were taught reverence for the Eucharist. But “reverence” is not enough. Most Catholics reverence the Eucharist, meaning, we genuflect, kneel, and treat the Sacred Host with respect. But it’s important to ponder a question in your heart. Do you believe the Eucharist is God Almighty, the Savior of the world, the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity? Do you believe deeply enough to have your heart moved with love and profound devotion every time you are before our divine Lord present before us under the veil of the Eucharist? When you kneel do you fall down prostrate in your heart, loving God with your whole being?
Perhaps this sounds like it’s a bit excessive. Perhaps simple reverence and respect is enough for you. But it’s not. Since the Eucharist is God Almighty, we must see Him there with the eyes of faith in our soul. We must profoundly adore Him as the angels do in Heaven. We must cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” We must be moved to the deepest of worship as we enter into His divine presence.
Ponder the depth of your faith in the Eucharist today and strive to renew it, worshiping God as one who believes with your whole being.
I devoutly adore You, O hidden Deity, truly hidden beneath these appearances. My whole heart submits to You, and in contemplating You, it surrenders itself completely. Sight, touch, taste are all deceived in their judgment of You, but hearing suffices firmly to believe. Jesus, I trust in You.
“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the Evil One.” Matthew 5:37
This is an interesting line. At first it seems a bit extreme to say that “Anything else is from the Evil One.” But of course since these are the words of Jesus, they are words of perfect truth. So what does Jesus mean?
This line comes to us from Jesus within the context of Him teaching us about the morality of taking an oath. The lesson is essentially a presentation of the basic principle of “truthfulness” found in the Eighth Commandment. Jesus is telling us to be honest, to say what we mean and mean what we say.
One reason Jesus brings this up, within the context of His teaching about taking oaths, is that there should be no need for a solemn oath regarding our ordinary daily conversations. Sure, there are some oaths that take on solemnity such as Marriage vows or vows and promises solemnly taken by priests and religious. In fact, in every Sacrament there is some form of solemn promise taken. However, the nature of these promises is more of a public expression of faith than a way of keeping people accountable.
The truth is that the Eighth Commandment, which calls us to be people of honesty and integrity, should suffice in all daily activity. We do not need to “swear to God” about this or that. We should not feel a need to convince another that we are telling the truth in one situation or another. Rather, if we are people of honesty and integrity, then our word will suffice and what we say will be true simply because we say it.
Reflect, today, upon how honest you are in all areas of life. Have you built a habit of truthfulness in both big and small matters of life? Do people recognize this quality in you? Speaking the truth and being a person of the truth are ways of proclaiming the Gospel with our actions. Commit yourself to honesty today and the Lord will do great things through your spoken word.
Lord, help me to be a person of honesty and integrity. For the times that I have twisted the truth, deceived in subtle ways, and outright lied, I am sorry. Help my “Yes” to always be in accord with Your most holy will and help me to always turn from the ways of error. Jesus, I trust in You.
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” Matthew 5:29-30a
Does Jesus really mean this? Literally?
We can be certain that this language, which is shocking, is not a literal command but is rather a symbolic statement commanding us to avoid sin with great zeal, and to avoid all that leads us to sin. The eye can be understood as a window to our soul where our thoughts and desires reside. The hand can be seen as a symbol of our actions. Thus, we must eliminate every thought, affection, desire and action that leads us to sin.
The true key to understanding this passage is to allow ourselves to be affected by the powerful language that Jesus uses. He does not hesitate to speak in a shocking way so as to reveal to us the calling we have to confront with much zeal that which leads to sin in our lives. “Pluck it out…cut it off,” He says. In other words, eliminate your sin and all that leads you to sin in a definitive way. The eye and the hand are not sinful in and of themselves; rather, in this symbolic language they are spoken of as those things that lead to sin. Therefore, if certain thoughts or certain actions lead you to sin, these are the areas to target and to eliminate.
Regarding our thoughts, sometimes we can allow ourselves to dwell excessively upon this or that. As a result, these thoughts can lead us to sin. The key is to “pluck out” that initial thought that produces the bad fruit.
Regarding our actions, we can at times put ourselves in situations that tempt us and lead to sin. These occasions of sin must be cut off from our lives.
Reflect, today, upon this very direct and powerful language of our Lord. Let the forcefulness of His words be an impetus for change and avoidance of all sin.
Lord, I am sorry for my sin and I ask for Your mercy and forgiveness. Please help me to avoid all that leads me to sin and to surrender all my thoughts and actions to You every day. Jesus, I trust in You.
“Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. 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 5:25-26
That’s a scary thought! At first, this story could be seen to portray a complete lack of mercy. “You will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” But in fact, it’s an act of great love.
The key here is that Jesus wants us reconciled to Him and to one another. Specifically, He wants all anger, bitterness and resentment removed from our souls. That’s why He says to “Settle with your opponent quickly on the way to court with him.” In other words, apologize and be reconciled before you find yourself before the judgment seat of divine justice.
God’s justice is completely satisfied when we humble ourselves, apologize for our faults, and sincerely seek to make amends. With that, every “penny” is already paid. But what God does not accept is obstinacy. Obstinacy is a serious sin and one that cannot be forgiven unless the obstinacy is let go of. Obstinacy in refusing to admit our fault in a grievance is of the greatest concern. Obstinacy in our refusal to change our ways is also of great concern.
The penalty is that God will exercise His justice upon us until we finally repent. And this is an act of love and mercy on God’s part because His judgment is focused especially upon our sin which is the only thing standing in the way of our love of God and others.
Paying back the last penny can also be seen as an image of Purgatory. Jesus is telling us to change our lives now, to forgive and repent now. If we do not, we will still have to deal with those sins after death, but it’s much better to do so now.
Reflect upon what it is that you have to “settle with your opponent” today. Who is your opponent? Who is the one you have a grievance with today? Pray that God will show you the way to being freed of that burden so that you can enjoy true freedom!
Lord, help me to forgive and to forget. Help me to seek anything that keeps me from fully loving You and all my neighbors. Purify my heart, oh Lord. Jesus, I trust in You.
“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 5:18
This is an interesting statement from Jesus. There are many things that could be said about it regarding the law and Jesus’ fulfillment of the law. But one thing worth reflecting upon is the great lengths Jesus goes to identify the importance of not only one letter of the law, but more specifically, the smallest part of a letter.
The ultimate law of God, as brought to fulfillment in Christ Jesus, is love. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength.” And, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the ultimate fulfillment of the law of God.
If we look at this passage above, in light of the perfection of the law of love, we can hear Jesus saying that the details of love, even the smallest detail, is of grave importance. In fact, the details are what makes love grow exponentially. The smaller the detail one is attentive to in love of God and love of neighbor, the greater is the fulfillment of the law of love to the greatest degree.
Think, today, about those whom God has put in your life to love. This would especially apply to family members and especially to spouses. How attentive are you to every small act of kindness and compassion? Do you regularly look for opportunities to offer an encouraging word? Do you make an effort, even in the smallest of details, to show you care and are there and are concerned? Love is in the details and the details magnify this glorious fulfillment of God’s law of love.
Lord, help me to be attentive to all the big and many small ways I am called to love You and others. Help me, especially, to look for the smallest of opportunities to show this love and thus fulfill Your law. Jesus, I trust in You.
“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:13a &14a
Salt and light, that’s us. Hopefully! Have you ever pondered what it means to be salt or light in this world?
Let’s start with this image. Imagine you cook some wonderful vegetable soup with all the best ingredients. It slowly simmers for hours and the broth looks very tasty. But the one thing you are out of is salt and other spices. So, you just let the soup simmer and hope for the best. Once it’s fully cooked you try a taste and, to your disappointment, it’s somewhat tasteless. So, you search until you find the missing ingredient, salt, and you add just the right amount. After another half hour of simmering you try a sample and are greatly delighted. It’s amazing what salt can do!
Or imagine going for a walk in the forest and getting lost. As you search for your way out, the sun sets and it slowly becomes dark. It’s overcast so there are no stars or moon. About a half hour after sunset you find yourself in complete darkness in the middle of the forest. As you sit there, you suddenly see the bright moon peek through the clouds. It’s a full moon and the overcast skies are clearing up. Suddenly, the full moon sheds so much light your way that you are able to once again navigate the dark forest.
These two images provide us with the importance of just a little salt and a little light. Just a little changes everything!
So it is with us in our faith. The world we live in is dark in so many ways. The “flavor” of love and mercy is also quite void. God is calling you to add that little flavor and produce that little light so that others can find their way.
Like the moon, you are not the source of light. You only reflect the light. God wants to shine through you and He wants you to reflect His light. If you are open to this, He will move the clouds at the right time so as to use you in the way He has chosen. Your responsibility is to simply be open.
Reflect, today, upon how open you are. Pray each day that God will use you in accord with His divine purpose. Make yourself available to His divine grace and you will be amazed at the way He can use the small things in your life to make a difference.
Lord, I do want to be used by You. I want to be salt and light. I want to make a difference in this world. I give myself to You and Your service. Jesus, I trust in You.
…for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
…for they will be comforted.
…for they will inherit the land.
…for they will be satisfied.
…for they will be shown mercy.
…for they will see God.
…for they will be called children of God.
…for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
…for your reward will be great in heaven.
(See Matthew 5)
Listed above are all the rewards of living the Beatitudes. Read them slowly and prayerfully. Do you desire these good fruits? These rewards of the Beatitudes? Of course you do! It’s a good spiritual practice to start with the reward, the effect of something, and to let the desire for that reward grow. The same is true of sin. It’s a good practice, especially when one struggles with a habitual sin, to start with the effect of that sin (the negative effect) and ask whether or not you desire it.
But today we have the Beatitudes. And as we ponder the fruits of the Beatitudes, we can’t help but conclude that we deeply desire them. This is a good and healthy realization to come to.
From there, we only need to add one extra step. Once we’ve concluded, with a deep conviction, that we desire the fruits of the Beatitudes, we then only need to add the first step.
We insert the Beatitude into this desire so that we can understand and believe that the Beatitude is good and desirous. But what about the Beatitudes? Do you desire…
To be poor in spirit,
to be meek,
to hunger and thirst for righteousness,
to be merciful,
to be clean of heart,
to be a peacemaker,
to accept persecution for the sake of righteousness,
and to be insulted and persecuted and to have every kind of evil uttered about you falsely because of Jesus?
Hmmm, perhaps or perhaps not. Some seem desirous while others seem burdensome. But if these Beatitudes are properly understood in the context of their fruits (i.e., the blessings they produce), then our desire for the means to that good fruit (the Beatitude) should grow as well.
Perhaps, today, you can look at which Beatitude is most difficult for you to want and desire. Once you find it, look at the fruit it produces and spend time looking at that Beatitude within that context. It will help you grow in blessedness!
Lord, help make me humble and meek, pure of heart and merciful, a peacemaker and one who accepts any persecution that comes my way. Help me to receive all with joy and with a longing for Your Kingdom. Jesus, I trust in You.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” John 3:16
The Trinity! The inner life of God! The Greatest Mystery of our Faith!
We all are used to the idea that there is one God. And we fully accept that this one God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. On the surface, this seems like a contradiction. How can God be one and three at the same time? It’s a mystery that is worth penetrating and contemplating.
First, we need to understand that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three divine Persons. Each one distinct from the other. Each Person has a perfect intellect and free will. Each one is capable of knowing and loving to a perfect degree.
But it is this “perfection” of their ability to know and love that makes them one. They each share in the one divine nature and, within that divine nature, are perfectly united. This means that each one knows and loves the other perfectly. And that knowledge (an act of their perfect intellect) and love (an act of their perfect will) brings about a unity so profound and deep that they live and act as one God.
What’s also inspiring to know and understand is that the unity they share by their mutual knowledge and love also offers each one of them perfect fulfillment as a Person. This shows that “personhood” is fulfilled by unity. What a wonderful lesson this is for each of us.
We are not God, but we are made in God’s image and likeness. Therefore, we find fulfillment in the same way that God does. Specifically, we find fulfillment in life by our love of others and our freewill choice to enter into a knowledge of each person, forming a communion with them. This will take on different forms depending upon our relationships. Of course, husband and wife are called to share in the deepest unity in imitation of the life of God. But all relationships are called to share in God’s life in their own unique way.
Reflect, today, as we celebrate this Trinity Sunday, on the relationships to which God has called you. How completely do you imitate the love of the Trinity in your relationships? Certainly we will all find areas in which to grow. Make a commitment to take another step deeper and, in that step of love, allow God to give you a greater fulfillment as a result.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, help me to know You and to love You. Help me to discover the love You share within Your own divine life. In that discovery, help me to also love others with Your heart. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I trust in You.
Spiritual vs. Material Wealth
“Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” Mark 12:43-44
All she put into the basket was two small coins worth only a few cents. Yet Jesus declares that she put in more than all the rest. Are you buying that? It’s hard to accept that it’s true. Our tendency is to think of the monetary value of the large sums of money being deposited before this poor widow’s.
Those deposits are far more desirable than the two small coins she put in. Right? Or not?
If we take Jesus at His word then we should be far more grateful for the widow’s two coins than the large sums of money deposited before her. That’s not to say that the large sums of money were not good and generous gifts. They most likely were. God took those gifts also and used them.
But here Jesus is highlighting a contrast between spiritual wealth and material wealth. And He’s saying that spiritual wealth, and spiritual generosity, is of far greater importance than material wealth, and material generosity. The poor widow was materially poor but spiritually rich. Those with the large sums of money were materially rich, but spiritually poorer than the widow.
In the materialistic society we live in, it’s hard to believe this. It’s very hard to make the conscious choice to embrace spiritual wealth as a far greater blessing. Why is this hard? Because in order to embrace spiritual wealth one must give up everything. We must all become this poor widow and contribute all we have, our “whole livelihood.”
Now, some may immediately react to this statement as extreme. It’s not extreme. There is nothing wrong with being blessed with material wealth, but there is something wrong with being attached to it. What is essential is an interior disposition which imitates the generosity and spiritual poverty of this poor widow. She wanted to give and she wanted to make a difference. So she gave all she had.
Each person must discern how this looks practically in their lives. This doesn’t mean that everyone must literally sell all they have and go become a monk. But it does mean that everyone must have an interior disposition of complete generosity and detachment. From there, the Lord will show you how to use the material things within your possession for your greatest good, as well as the good of others.
Reflect, today, upon the contrast of these two forms of wealth and choose that which lasts for eternity. Give all you have and all you are to our Lord and allow Him to direct the generosity of your heart in accord with His perfect will.
Lord, please give me the generous and selfless heart of this poor widow. Help me to look for ways that I am called to give completely of myself to You, holding nothing back, seeking above all the spiritual riches of Your Kingdom. Jesus, I trust in You.
The great crowd heard this with delight. Mark 12:37b
This passage comes from the end of today’s Gospel. Jesus just gave a teaching to the crowd and they listened to it “with delight.” Jesus’ teaching produced much pleasure in their souls.
This is a common reaction to the teaching and presence of Jesus in our lives. The Psalms are filled with images like this. “I delight in the Lord.” “How sweet are Your words.” “I delight in Your commands.” These and many other references reveal one of the effects of Jesus’ words and presence in our lives. His word and His presence in our lives is extraordinarily pleasurable.
This fact begs the question, “Do I delight in Jesus’ words?” Too often we see the words of Christ as a burden, restriction or limitation to what we want in life. For that reason, we can often see the will of God as something difficult and burdensome. Truth be told, if our hearts are rooted in sin or in the pleasures of the world, then the words of our Lord may sting and feel like a burden to us. But that’s just because we find them in contradiction to the many unhealthy things to which we have become attached.
If you find that the Word of God, Jesus’ words, are hard to hear, then you are starting to head down the right road. You are starting to let His Word “do battle,” so to speak, with the many other lures and enticements that ultimately only leave us dry and empty. This is the first step to being able to delight in the Lord and His words.
The good news is that if you can allow His Word to cut through the many unhealthy attachments you have in life, you will begin to discover that you greatly love His Word and delight in His presence in your life. You will begin to discover that the pleasure and delight you experience from His presence in your life far outweighs any other passing attachment or pleasure you may have. Even sin can produce a false sense of satisfaction. In that case, the satisfaction is more like a drug that soon wears off. The delight of the Lord is something that continually draws you higher and fulfills you more deeply every day.
Spend time, today, pondering whether or not you truly do allow yourself to be filled with delight in the Lord’s presence and His words. Try to taste their sweetness. Try to let yourself be drawn in. Once “hooked,” you will seek Him all the more.
Lord, I desire to delight in You. Help me to turn away from the many attractions and enticements of this world. Help me to seek You and Your Word always. In the discovery of Your Word, fill my soul with the greatest delight. Jesus, I trust in You.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31b
It’s interesting to see how these two great commandments go together!
First of all, the commandment to love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength is pretty straight forward. The key to understanding this is that it’s an all-consuming and total love. Nothing can be held back from loving God. Every part of our being must be fully dedicated to the love of God.
Though much could be said about that love so as to understand it in a deeper and deeper way, it’s also important to see the link between the First and Second Commandments. Together, these two commandments summarize the Ten Commandments given by Moses. But the link between the two is essential to understand.
The Second Commandment says you must “love your neighbor as yourself.” So this begs the question, “How do I love myself?” The answer to that is found in the First Commandment. First and foremost, we love ourselves by loving God with all we have and all we are. Loving God is the best thing we can do for ourselves and, therefore, is the key to loving ourselves.
The connection, then, between the two commandments is that loving our neighbor as we love ourselves means that everything we do for others should help them to love God with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength. This is done by our words, but especially by our influence.
When we love God with everything, our love of God will be contagious. Others will see our love of God, our passion for Him, our desire for Him, our devotion and our commitment. They will see it and be attracted to it. They will be attracted to it because love of God is in fact very attractive. Witnessing this sort of love inspires others and makes them want to imitate our love.
So reflect, today, on how deep your love of God is. Just as importantly, reflect upon how well you let that love of God shine forth for others to see. You should be very free in letting your love of God be lived and expressed in an open way. When you do so, others will see this and you will be loving them as you love yourself.
Lord, help me to follow these commandments of love. Help me to love You with my whole being. And in that love of You, help me to share that love with others. Jesus, I trust in You.
This Scripture comes from the passage where some Sadducees were trying to trap Jesus in His speech. This has been a common theme in the daily readings as of late. Jesus’ answer is one that cuts to the heart of the problem. He does clear up their confusion, but He starts by simply laying down the clear truth that the Sadducees are misled because they do not know either the Scriptures or the power of God. This should give us reason to pause and look at our own understanding of the Scriptures and the power of God.
It is easy to try to figure life out on our own. We can think and think and think and try to analyze why this happened or that. We can try to analyze others actions or even our own. And often times in the end, we are just as confused and “misled” as when we began.
If you find yourself in such a confusing situation about anything you are trying to understand about life, perhaps it’s good to sit and listen to those words of Jesus spoken as if they were spoken to you.
These words should not be taken as a harsh criticism or rebuke. Rather, they should be taken as a blessed insight from Jesus to help us step back and realize that we are often misled about the things of life. It’s very easy to let emotion and errors cloud our thinking and reasoning and lead us down the wrong path. So what do we do?
When we find ourselves feeling “misled” or when we realize we do not really understand God or His power at work, we should stop and take a step back so that we can pray and seek what God has to say.
Interestingly, praying is not the same as thinking. Sure, we need to use our mind to ponder the things of God, but “thinking, thinking, and more thinking” is not always the way to the correct understanding. Thinking is not prayer. We often do not understand that.
A regular goal we must have is to step back in humility and acknowledge to God and ourselves that we do not understand His ways and will. We must strive to silence our active thoughts and set aside all preconceived notions of what is right and wrong. In our humility, we need to sit and listen and wait on the Lord to take the lead. If we can let go of our constant attempts to “figure it out” we may find that God will figure it out for us and shed the light that we need. The Sadducees struggled with a certain pride and arrogance which clouded their thinking and led to self-righteousness. Jesus attempts to gently but firmly redirect them to clear thinking.
Reflect, today, upon whether you are struggling in any way with misleading and confusing thoughts. Humble yourself so that Jesus can redirect your thinking and help you to arrive at the truth.
Lord, I do want to know the truth. At times I can allow myself to be misled. Help me to humble myself before You so that You can take the lead. Jesus, I trust in You.
Navigating the Snares of Life
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” Mark 12:14a
This statement was made by some of the Pharisees and Herodians who were sent to “ensnare” Jesus in His speech. They act in a sneaky and cunning way to draw Jesus in. They are trying to get Him to speak in opposition to Caesar so that they can get Him in trouble with the Roman authorities. But interestingly, what they say of Jesus is quite true and is a great virtue.
They say two things that highlight Jesus’ virtues of humility and sincerity: 1) “You are not concerned with anyone’s opinion;” 2) “You do not regard a person’s status.” Of course they went on to then try to trick Him into breaking Roman law. Jesus does not fall for their trick and does outsmart them in the end.
However, these virtues are good for us to reflect upon because we should strive to have them alive in our own lives. First, we should not be concerned with others’ opinions. But this must be properly understood. Sure, it’s important to listen to others and to consult them and to be open minded. Other people’s insights can be crucial to making good decisions in life. But what we should avoid is the danger of allowing others to dictate our actions out of fear. Sometimes the “opinions” of others are negative and wrong. We can all experience peer pressure in various ways. Jesus never gave in to the false opinions of others nor did He allow the pressure of those opinions to change how He acted.
Secondly, they point out that Jesus does not allow the “status” of another to influence Him. Again, this is a virtue. What we have to know is that all people are equal in the mind of God. A position of power or influence does not necessarily make one person more correct than another. What’s important is the sincerity, integrity and truthfulness of each person. Jesus exercised this virtue perfectly.
Reflect, today, upon whether these words could also be said about you. Strive to learn from the statement of these Pharisees and Herodians; strive to live a life of integrity and humility. If you do so, you will also be given a share in the wisdom of Jesus so as to navigate the most difficult snares of life.
Lord, I do want to be a person of honesty and integrity. I want to listen to the good advice of others but not be influenced by the errors or pressures that may also come my way. Help me to always seek You and Your truth in all things. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Cross, the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother
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 19:26-27
On March 3, 2018, Pope Francis announced that a new memorial would be celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday, entitled “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.” Henceforth, this memorial is added to the General Roman Calendar and is to be universally celebrated throughout the Church.
In instituting this memorial, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said:
This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed, the Virgin who makes her offering to God.
“Anchored” to the Cross, the Eucharist, and the Blessed Virgin Mary who is both “Mother of the Redeemer” and “Mother of the Redeemed.” What beautiful insights and inspiring words from this holy Cardinal of the Church.
The Gospel chosen for this memorial presents to us the holy image of the Blessed Mother standing before the Cross of her Son. While standing there, she heard Jesus say the words, “I thirst.” He was given some wine on a sponge and then declared, “It is finished.” Jesus’ Blessed Mother, the Mother of the Redeemer, stood as a witness as the Cross of her Son became the source of the the redemption of the World. As He took that last drink of wine, He completed the institution of the New and Eternal Passover Meal, the Holy Eucharist.
Additionally, just prior to Jesus expiring, Jesus declared to His mother that she would now be the “Mother of the Redeemed,” that is, the mother of each member of the Church. This gift of Jesus’ mother to the Church was symbolized by Him saying, “Behold, your son…Behold, your mother.”
As we celebrate this new and beautiful universal memorial within the Church, ponder your relationship to the Cross, to the Eucharist and to your heavenly mother. If you are willing to stand by the Cross, gaze at it with our Blessed Mother, and witness Jesus pour forth His precious blood for the salvation of the world, then you are also privileged to hear Him say to you, “Behold, your mother.” Stay close to your heavenly mother. Seek her maternal care and protection and allow her prayers to daily draw you closer to her Son.
Dearest Mother Mary, Mother of God, my mother, and Mother of the Church, pray for me and for all your children who are so deeply in need of the mercy of your Son as it was poured out from the Cross for the redemption of the world. May all your children draw ever closer to you and to your Son, as we gaze upon the glory of the Cross, and as we consume the Most Holy Eucharist. Mother Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You!
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Acts 2:2–4
Do you think there was really a “noise like a strong driving wind” at this first outpouring of the Holy Spirit? And do you think there really were “tongues as of fire” that came and rested on everyone? Well, there most likely was! Why else would have it been recorded that way in the Scriptures?
These physical manifestations of the coming of the Holy Spirit were made present for numerous reasons. One reason was so that these first recipients of the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit would have concretely understood that something amazing was happening. By seeing and hearing these physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit they were more properly disposed to understand that God was doing something awesome. And then, upon seeing and hearing these manifestations, they were touched by the Holy Spirit, consumed, filled and set on fire. They suddenly discovered within themselves the promise Jesus made and they finally began to understand. Pentecost changed their lives!
We most likely have not seen and heard these physical manifestations of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but we should rely upon the witness of those in the Scriptures to allow ourselves to arrive at a deep and transforming faith that the Holy Spirit is real and wants to enter our lives in the same way. God wants to set our hearts on fire with His love, strength and grace so as to effectively live lives that effect change in the world. Pentecost is not only about us becoming holy, it’s also about us being given all we need to go forth and bring the holiness of God to all those we encounter. Pentecost enables us to be powerful instruments of the transforming grace of God. And there is no doubt that the world around us needs this grace.
As we celebrate Pentecost, it would be helpful to ponder the primary effects of the Holy Spirit in a prayerful way. Below are the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. These Gifts are the primary effects of Pentecost for each and every one of us. Use them as an examination of your life and let God show you where you need to grow more deeply in the strength of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, send forth Your Spirit in my life and set me on fire with the Gifts of Your Spirit. Holy Spirit, I invite You to take possession of my soul. Come Holy Spirit, come and transform my life. Holy Spirit, I trust in You.
Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter
There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written. John 21:25
Imagine the insights that our Blessed Mother would have had about her Son. She, as His mother, would have seen and understood so many hidden moments of His life. She would have watched Him grow year after year. She would have watched Him relate and interact with others throughout His life. She would have noticed that He was preparing for His public ministry. And she would have witnessed so many hidden moments of that public ministry and countless sacred moments of His entire life.
This Scripture above is the final sentence of the Gospel of John and is one we do not hear very often. But it offers some fascinating insights to reflect upon. All we know about the life of Christ is contained in the Gospels, but how could these short Gospel books ever come close to describing the totality of who Jesus is? They certainly cannot. To do that, as John says above, the pages could not be contained in the whole world. That’s saying a lot.
So a first insight we should take from this Scripture is that we know only a small portion of the actual life of Christ. What we know is glorious. But we should realize that there is so much more. And this realization should fill our minds with interest, longing and a desire for more. By coming to know how little we actually do know, we will hopefully be compelled to seek Christ more deeply.
However, a second insight we can gain from this passage is that, even though the numerous events of Christ’s life cannot be contained in countless volumes of books, we can, nonetheless, discover Jesus Himself in what IS contained in the Holy Scriptures. No, we may not know every detail of His life, but we can come to meet the Person. We can come to encounter the Living Word of God Himself in the Scriptures and, in that encounter and meeting of Him, we are given all we need.
Reflect, today, on how deeply you know Jesus. Do you spend sufficient time reading the Scriptures and meditating on them? Do you speak to Him daily and seek to know and love Him? Is He present to you and do you regularly make yourself present to Him? If the answer to any of these questions is “No” then perhaps this is a good day to recommit yourself to a deeper reading of the Sacred Word of God.
Lord, I may not know everything about Your life, but I do desire to know You. I desire to meet You every day, to love You and to know You. Help me to enter more deeply into a relationship with You. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:17
Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Why three times? One reason was so that Peter could “make up” for the three times he denied Jesus. No, Jesus did not need Peter to apologize three times, but Peter needed to express his love three times and Jesus knew it.
Three is also a number of perfection. For example, we say God is “Holy, Holy, Holy.” This triple expression is a way of saying that God is the Holiest of all. By Peter being given the opportunity to tell Jesus three times that He loved Him it was an opportunity for Peter to express His love in the deepest of ways.
So we have a triple confession of love and a triple undoing of Peter’s denial going on. This should reveal to us our own need to love God and seek His mercy in a “triple” way.
When you tell God that you love Him, how deep does that go? Is it more a service of words, or is it a total and all-consuming love? Is your love of God something that you mean to the fullest extent? Or is it something that needs work?
Certainly we all need to work on our love, and that is why this passage should be so significant to us. We should hear Jesus asking us this question three times also. We should realize that He is not satisfied with a simple, “Lord, I love You.” He wants to hear it again, and again. He asks us this because He knows we need to express this love in the deepest way. “Lord, You know everything, You know that I love You!” This must be our ultimate answer.
This triple question also gives us the opportunity to express our deepest longing for His mercy. We all sin. We all deny Jesus in one way or another. But the good news is that Jesus is always inviting us to let our sin be a motivation for deepening our love. He doesn’t sit and stay angry at us. He doesn’t pout. He doesn’t hold our sin over our heads. But He does ask for the deepest of sorrow and a complete conversion of heart. He wants us to turn from our sin to the fullest extent.
Reflect, today, upon the depth of your love for God and how well you express it to Him. Make a choice to express your love for God in a triple way. Let it be deep, sincere and irrevocable. The Lord will receive this heartfelt act and return it to you a hundredfold.
Lord, You do know that I love You. You also know how weak I am. Let me hear Your invitation to express my love for You and my desire for Your mercy. May I offer this love and desire to the fullest extent. Jesus, I trust in You.
Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Lifting Your Eyes to Heaven
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
“Lifting His eyes to Heaven…” What a great phrase!
As Jesus lifted His eyes to Heaven, He prayed to His Father in Heaven. This act, of lifting His eyes, reveals one unique aspect of the presence of the Father. It reveals that the Father is transcendent. “Transcendent” means that the Father is above all and beyond all. The world cannot contain Him. So, in speaking to the Father, Jesus begins with this gesture by which He acknowledges the transcendence of the Father.
But we must also note the imminence of the Father’s relationship with Jesus. By “imminence” we mean that the Father and Jesus are united as one. Their relationship is one that is profoundly personal in nature.
Though these two words, “imminence” and “transcendence,” may not be a part of our daily vocabulary, the concepts are worth understanding and reflecting upon. We should strive to be very familiar with their meanings and, more specifically, with the way that our relationship with the Holy Trinity shares in both.
Jesus’ prayer to the Father was that we who come to believe will share in the unity of the Father and the Son. We will share in God’s life and love. For us, this means we start by seeing the transcendence of God. We also lift our eyes to Heaven and strive to see the splendor, glory, greatness, power, and majesty of God. He is above all and beyond all.
As we accomplish this prayerful gaze to the Heavens, we must also strive to see this glorious and transcendent God descend into our souls, communicating to us, loving us, and establishing a deeply personal relationship with us. It’s amazing how these two aspects of God’s life go together so well even though, at first, they can appear to be complete opposites. They are not opposed but, rather, are wedded together and have the effect of drawing us into an intimate relationship with the Creator and sustainer of all things.
Reflect, today, upon the glorious and all-powerful God of the Universe descending into the secret depths of your soul. Acknowledge His presence, adore Him as He lives within you, speak to Him and love Him.
Lord, help me to always lift my eyes to Heaven in prayer. May I constantly turn to You and Your Father. In that prayerful gaze, may I also discover You alive in my soul where You are adored and loved. Jesus, I trust in You.
Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
“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. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.” John 17:14–17
“Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.” That’s the key to survival!
Scripture reveals three primary temptations we face in life: The flesh, the world and the devil. All three of these work to lead us astray. But all three are conquerable with one thing…the Truth.
This Gospel passage above specifically speaks of the “world” and the “evil one.” The evil one, who is the devil, is real. He hates us and does all he can to mislead us and ruin our lives. He tries to fill our minds with empty promises, offers fleeting pleasure, and encourages selfish ambitions. He was a liar from the beginning and remains a liar to this day.
One of the temptations that the devil threw at Jesus during His forty day fast at the beginning of His public ministry was a temptation to obtain all the world has to offer. The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the Earth and said, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
First of all, this was a silly temptation given the fact that Jesus already was the Creator of all things. But, nonetheless, He allowed the devil to tempt Him with this worldly enticement. Why did He do this? Because Jesus knew we would all be tempted with the many enticements of the world. By “world” we mean many things. One thing that comes to mind, in our day and age, is the desire for worldly acceptance. This is a plague that is very subtle but affects so many, including our Church itself.
With the powerful influence of the media and the global political culture, there is pressure today, more than ever, for us as Christians to simply conform to our age. We are tempted to do and believe what is popular and socially acceptable. And the “gospel” we are allowing ourselves to hear is the secular world of moral indifferentism.
There is a powerful cultural tendency (a global tendency due to the Internet and media) to become people who are willing to accept anything and everything. We have lost our sense of moral integrity and truth. Thus, the words of Jesus need to be embraced more today than ever. “Your Word is Truth.” The Word of God, the Gospel, all that our Catechism teaches, all that our faith reveals is the Truth. This Truth must be our guiding light and nothing else.
Reflect, today, on how much of an influence the secular culture has on you. Have you given into secular pressure, or the secular “gospels” of our day and age? It takes a strong person to resist these lies. We will resist them only if we stay consecrated in the Truth.
Lord, I do consecrate myself to You. You are the Truth. Your Word is what I need to stay focused and to navigate through the many lies all around me. Give me strength and wisdom so that I may always remain in Your protection away from the evil one. Jesus, I trust in You.
Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you.” John 17:1
Giving glory to the Son is an act of the Father, but is also an act to which we should all be attentive!
First of all, we should recognize the “hour” that Jesus speaks of as the hour of His Crucifixion. This may, at first, seem like a sad moment. But, from a divine perspective, Jesus sees it as His hour of glory. It’s the hour when He is glorified by the Father in Heaven because He perfectly fulfilled the Father’s will. He perfectly embraced His death for the salvation of the world.
We must also see this from our human perspective. From the standpoint of our daily lives, we must see that this “hour” is something that we can continually embrace and bring to fruition. The “hour” of Jesus is something that we must constantly live. How? By constantly embracing the Cross in our lives so that this cross is also a moment of glorification. In doing this, our crosses take on a divine perspective, becoming divinized so as to become a source of the grace of God.
The beauty of the Gospel is that every suffering we endure, every cross we carry, is an opportunity to manifest the Cross of Christ. We are called, by Him, to constantly give Him glory by living His suffering and death in our lives.
Reflect, today, upon the hardships you endure. And know that, in Christ, those hardships can share in His redeeming love if you let Him.
Jesus, I surrender my cross and my hardships over to You. You are God and You are able to transform all things into glory. Jesus, I trust in You.
Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter
“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.” Jesus answered them, “Do you believe now? Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone.” John 16:30–32
Have you come to believe in Jesus? How deep is that faith? And why do you believe? Are you ready and willing to hold on to that faith no matter what comes your way? Are you ready to follow Him even if it’s difficult and unpopular? Are you ready to suffer as a result of your faith? These are important questions. They are questions that we must answer both when it’s easy to be a Christian as well as when it’s hard.
It’s easy to be a Christian and to follow Jesus when everyone else is doing it. For example, at a baptism or wedding it’s normal to want to belong and to let others know of our support and belief in what they are doing. But what about those moments when your faith is ridiculed or put down? Or when you have to make the difficult choice to turn from cultural pressures and stand out for your faith? These are more challenging times to be a follower of Christ.
In today’s Gospel, there were many who had been analyzing Jesus’ teaching, listening to Him and talking about Him. It seems clear that the consensus was that Jesus was a man of holiness and a great prophet. Many were even coming to believe He was the Messiah. So there was a sort of positive momentum present that made it easier for many people to say that they believed in Him and they believed that He came from God.
Jesus quickly points out to them that, though they believe now, there will be a time that comes soon when most everyone will abandon Him, when they are scattered, and they will leave Him alone. This is obviously a prophesy of His coming persecution and Crucifixion.
One of the greatest tests of our faith is to look at how faithful we are when following Christ is not all that popular. It is in these moments, more than the easy moments, that we have an opportunity to manifest our faith and deepen our resolve to be a Christian.
Reflect, today, on how deep your commitment to Christ goes. Are you ready to follow Him to the Cross? Are you willing to give up everything to Follow Him? Hopefully the answer is a definitive yes. It must be a “Yes” that directs our lives no matter the situation of life we find ourselves in.
Lord, I do believe. Help me to let that faith in You stay strong at all times. Help me to say yes to You and to live that yes always. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Ascension of the Lord
The Ascension of the Lord
The heart-piercing flash of time when the wife’s eyes lock with her husband’s as she steps into the lifeboat, but he stays on board the listing ship. The wailing and crying as mothers and children are ripped apart on the platform at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The well-loved cousin who leaves his far-flung relatives’ home after a visit, everyone knowing he will never pass that way again. The emotional farewell. The final, bittersweet call. The last hug and tender kiss on the teary cheek. History, literature, and everyday reality are thick with dramatic goodbyes.
Departures can be painful, none more than the mysterious finality of a soul’s departure from this life. For those without faith, confusion deepens the pain. Without God there is, after life, just the void. The real absence. Emptiness, chaos, and guesswork about what frightening reality awaits behind the curtain. Today’s Feast of the Ascension is a peek behind that curtain and what the believer sees is life, fulfillment, and hope. In the Ascension, we have a preview of coming attractions and much, much more. Forty days after His Resurrection from the dead, the disciples witness the Lord go away. But they are not sad. Saint Luke relates that the disciples were full of joy upon returning to Jerusalem after witnessing Jesus’ Ascension on the Mount of Olives. Jesus had gone away but had not died. He had departed but was fully alive. Christ showed that there was an alternative path, a different way to “do” leaving time and space.
Most memory is happy memory. We naturally forget what causes us pain and embarrassment and more easily retain what brings smiles and light. Our Catholic religion serves us well when it remembers truths on our behalf. The Church tells us year in and year out where we came from—God. It reads to us at Mass the stories of our salvation. It reminds us that death and suffering are painful but not the end. And in the Ascension the Church preserves the very positive memory of man’s greatness. The Ascension reinforces our dignity. It is a shot of vitamin B right into the spine. We stand taller and straighter when we know that we are meant to live forever in the Father’s house in heaven.
Many modern biologists point to a pile of wet clay and say, “Look, here is man.” Modern visual artists often show bloody, suffering, degraded man and say, “Look, here is man.” Pontius Pilate stood the broken and bloody body of Jesus before the rabble and said the same, “Ecce Homo.” Today the Church asks its believers to gaze up at the Ascension and to say, “Here is man too. Here is the body restored, in all of man’s resplendent power.” It is not enough for us to guess about our origins. We must reflect upon our destination. Where we are going says more about us than where we came from. Man is not a small pile of dirt. He is not his broken jaw, his foreclosed home, his failed marriage, or his carnal desires. He is these things, but he is more. Man is great because God is great. At Mass the priest says, “Lift up your hearts,” and the people respond, “We lift them up to the Lord.” Indeed. Today we marvel at the spectacle of the God-Man Jesus Christ ascending to heaven and to home. From that high place, and only from there, can we properly gauge our dignity. The Ascension should not invite speculation about the number of rooms in the Father’s mansion, or how exactly the Lord zoomed up into the clouds. The Ascension is about what comes next. It’s about our dignity. It teaches us that self importance is nothing. It is union with God that makes us great and makes us happy.
Lord Jesus, You were from Mary biologically but from the Father theologically. On this Feast of the Ascension, You return to the Father’s house. Help all who believe in You and who belong to You in the Church to one day join You in that heavenly home forever and ever.
Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter
“I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father.” John 16:25
Why does Jesus speak in “figures of speech” rather than speaking clearly? Good question.
We see this same fact in the many parables that Jesus spoke. Most likely, when people would hear His parables they would walk away asking, “What do you think He meant by that?” So why does Jesus speak in a veiled language rather than speaking clearly and directly?
The answer has to do with us and our lack of openness to the Truth. If we were fully open to the Truth, and if we were completely ready to embrace the Truth no matter what it was, Jesus would be able to speak to us clearly and we would respond immediately. But this is so rarely the way it happens. The key to understanding this is to understand the connection between knowledge of God’s will and the willingness to immediately fulfill that will.
So often, we want Jesus to tell us His will, mull over it, consider it, and then come back with our response. But it doesn’t happen that way. Rather, if we want Jesus to speak to us clearly, we must say yes to Him even before we know what He wants. Willingness to embrace His will is a prerequisite to understanding His will.
Of course our Blessed Mother is the perfect example of this in her fiat. Prior to the angel coming to her, she continually said “Yes” to the will of God. Then, when the angel came to her and told her what would happen, she asked for clarity. And she did indeed get that clarity as a direct response to her question. “The Holy Spirit will overshadow you and the power of the Most High will come upon you…” the angel said. But the only reason the angel, as a messenger of God, spoke so clearly was because she had already shown her heart to be fully compliant with God’s plan no matter what it would be.
Reflect, today, upon how clearly you hear God speak to you. Do you want Him to be clearer to you? Do you want Him to speak to you with greater clarity? If so, work on surrendering your will over more completely to that which you do not even know. Say “Yes” to that which God wants of you tomorrow, and say “Yes” to it today. Building this habit of saying yes immediately will open the door to greater clarity in all God wants to say.
Lord, the answer is “Yes.” I choose Your will today, tomorrow and always. I choose nothing but Your will. As I say “Yes” to You, help me to grow in greater clarity of all you ask of me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter
“When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” John 16:21–22
Anguish in life is common. In small ways, we will experience anguish each and every day. And, from time to time, we will experience the very heavy pains of a particular anguish in our lives.
Does an experience of anguish mean you are not in God’s grace? Does it mean that God has left you?
Or does it mean that you are doing something wrong? Certainly not. In fact, all we have to do is look at the life of Jesus to see this is not the case. He was in constant anguish throughout His earthly life as He continually entered more deeply into the mission of His Father. Just prior to His public ministry He was in anguish for forty days in the desert. Throughout His public ministry, He experienced the anguish and exhaustion of His earthly life. He experienced the criticism of others, misunderstanding, ridicule, rejection, harsh treatment, and so much more. In the end, we know His fate on the Cross.
Our Blessed Mother had the “sword of sorrow” pierce her heart. She was misunderstood and ridiculed from the beginning as a result of her mysterious pregnancy out of wedlock. She carried a perfect love of her Son and anguished over His future as He grew. She watched many love Him and others harass Him. She watched His mockery of a trial and His Crucifixion.
But think of their lives now. They now reign from Heaven as the glorious Queen of All Saints and the King of the Universe. They live in glory now for eternity. Their anguish has turned to perfect joy.
Reflect, today, upon your own trials in life. The Scripture passage above reveals the promise that God makes to those who endure them with faith. If you feel as though you have been dealt an unfair hand or have been treated unfairly, you are in good company. The key is to walk through this life with grace and dignity. Do not let the trials of this life or its pains get you down. Know that as you remain faithful walking down the path God has set for you, the end result is that you will rejoice! This is simply a fact. Hold on to that hope and keep your eyes on the finish line. It’s worth it in the end.
Lord, I surrender my anguish and burdens to You. I unite them to Your Cross and trust that You will be there in all things walking with me through my life. May I keep my eyes on the goal and rejoice in Your steadfast love. Jesus, I trust in You.
Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Sorrow to Joy – Ascension of the Lord
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” John 16:20
Grief, mourning and even weeping is a part of life. Children will often weep at the slightest difficulty, but all of us face grief and sorrow throughout life.
In this passage above, Jesus informs His Apostles that sorrow and grief will be a part of their lives. This is a very sober but realistic statement on the part of our Lord. It’s an act of love, on His part, to be up front with His Apostles about the coming hardships they will face.
The good news is that Jesus follows this statement with the hopeful news that their “grief will become joy.” This is the most important part of what Jesus says.
The same is true in our lives. Jesus does not promise us that our lives will be free from hardship and pain. He does not tell us that following Him means that all will be easy in life. Instead, He wants us to know that we will follow in His footsteps if we choose to follow Him. He suffered, was mistreated and ultimately killed. And this would be tragic if He did not ultimately rise from the dead, ascend into Heaven and transform all prior grief and pain into the very means of the salvation of the world.
If we follow in His footsteps, we need to see every bit of grief in our lives as potentially a means of grace for many. If we can face the hardships of life with faith and hope, nothing will ultimately keep us down and everything will be able to be used for God’s glory and will result in great joy.
Reflect, today, upon these words of Jesus. Know that He was not only speaking them to His Apostles, but also to you. Do not be scandalized or shocked when life deals you some difficulty. Do not despair when suffering is placed before you. Surrender all things to our Lord and let Him transform it into the joy that He promises in the end.
Lord, I surrender to You all suffering in my life. My grief, hardships, sorrow and confusion I place in Your hands. I trust that You are all-powerful and desire to transform all things into a means of Your glory. Give me hope in times of despair and trust when life is hard. Jesus, I trust in You.
Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Jesus said to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” John 16:12–13
As we continue to get closer to the wonderful Solemnity of Pentecost, we continue to focus in on the Holy Spirit. This passage specifically points to the Holy Spirit as the “Spirit of Truth.”
It’s interesting how Jesus introduces the Holy Spirit under this title. He explains that He has much more to tell them, but they cannot bear it now. In other words, the “Truth” is too much for them to bear unless the Holy Spirit is alive within them and teaching them. This gives us two wonderful insights worth pondering.
First, if we have not truly opened our lives to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we can be certain that we cannot bear the Truth. We cannot understand the deep truths of God and we cannot believe them unless the Holy Spirit is alive within us. That’s a frightening thought in that, when the Holy Spirit is not fully immersing someone, that person is left in the dark regarding all Truth. And, sadly, they will not even realize they are in the dark!
If that does not make sense then perhaps you, too, suffer a bit from a lacking of the Spirit of Truth. Why? Because when the Spirit of Truth is alive within, you will know that you know the Truth.
Secondly, when you have fully opened your mind and heart to the Holy Spirit, you will become hungry for the Truth. The Holy Spirit will “guide you to all truth.” And one of the effects of being guided into all truth is that you will be amazed with the journey. You will be in awe at the understanding of things that open up in your mind. You will be able to make sense of things in a new way. The Holy Spirit is the perfect “guide” and the journey toward the Truth is glorious.
Reflect, today, upon the Truth as it resides in the mind of the Father in Heaven. How open are you to the Truth? How fully do you embrace all that God wants to reveal to you? Open yourself more fully to the Holy Spirit and seek all that He wishes to reveal to you.
Holy Spirit, come consume my life. Teach me and guide me into all Truth. Holy Spirit, Divine Lord, Merciful Father, I trust in You.
Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
“But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:7
The hearts of the Apostles were conflicted. They were filled with grief, but they were also trying to trust what Jesus said to them. Jesus told them He was ascending to His Father and that it was better for them that He go. Why? Because if He goes, He will send the Holy Spirit to them.
On a human level, it would have been quite hard for the Apostles to let go of their daily interactions with Jesus. They certainly missed seeing Him with their eyes, touching Him and hearing Him. But Jesus made it clear that even though He was leaving He would be with them always. And He would also send the Holy Spirit upon them to lead them, give them courage, and teach them all truth. They would now be His presence in the world by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We never had the privilege of seeing Jesus in the way the Apostles did. But we do have the same privilege of Him being with us always. And we have the same privilege of receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit. This is good. It is very good. But it is a good that we often miss. We may have been confirmed, but we may also still fail to let the Holy Spirit in and transform our lives.
In less than two weeks, we will celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost. This is the annual celebration of the fulfillment of this promise of Jesus. On that day we commemorate the fact that the Holy Spirit has come and that we are now in the time of the Holy Spirit.
Reflect, today, and over the next couple of weeks about the Holy Spirit. Humbly admit to yourself if you need to let the Holy Spirit become more alive in your life. Trust that Jesus wants you to receive Him in His fullness. And be not afraid to let this union take place.
Holy Spirit, please come to me. Help me to fan into flame Your presence in my life. May I receive You who was promised by Jesus in Your fullness. Holy Spirit, Divine Jesus, Merciful Father, I trust in You.
Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter
“They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.” John 16:2–4
Most likely, as the disciples listened to Jesus tell them they would be expelled from the synagogues and even killed, it went in one ear and out the other. Sure, it may have disturbed them a bit, but they most likely moved on rather quickly not worrying too much about it. But this is why Jesus said, “I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.” And you can be certain that when the disciples were persecuted by the scribes and Pharisees, they did remember these words of Jesus.
It must have been a heavy cross for them to receive such persecution from their religious leaders. Here, the people who were supposed to point them to God, were wreaking havoc in their lives. They would have been tempted to despair and lose their faith. But Jesus anticipated this heavy trial and, for that reason, warned them that it would come.
But what’s interesting is what Jesus did not say. He did not tell them they should fight back, start a riot, form a revolution, etc. Rather, if you read the context to this statement, we see Jesus telling them that the Holy Spirit will take care of all things, will lead them and will enable them to testify to Jesus. To testify to Jesus is to be His witness. And to be a witness to Jesus is to be a martyr. Thus, Jesus prepared His disciples for their heavy cross of persecution by the religious leaders by letting them know that they would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to give witness and testimony to Him.
And once this began to take place, the disciples began to recall all that Jesus had told them.
You, too, must realize that being a Christian means persecution. We see this persecution in our world today through various terrorist attacks upon Christians. Some see it also, at times, within the “Domestic Church,” the family, when they experience ridicule and harsh treatment for trying to live out their faith. And, sadly, it’s even found within the Church itself when we see fighting, anger, disagreement and judgment.
The key is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit plays a significant role right now in our world. That role is to strengthen us in our witness to Christ and to ignore any way the evil one would attack. So if you feel the pressure of persecution in any way, realize that Jesus spoke these words not only for His first disciples, but also for you.
Reflect, today, upon any way that you experience persecution in your life. Allow it to become an opportunity for hope and trust in the Lord through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He will never leave your side if you trust in Him.
Lord, when I feel the weight of the world or persecution, give me peace of mind and heart. Help strengthen me by the Holy Spirit that I may give joyful witness to You. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Coming of the Spirit of Truth
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept…” John 14:15–17
On this, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, we begin to turn our eyes toward the coming of the Holy Spirit. In this passage above, Jesus speaks of asking the Father to send another Advocate to be with us always. This Advocate is the Holy Spirit.
Interestingly, Jesus uses the title, “Spirit of Truth” to refer to the Holy Spirit. He also points out that the world cannot accept the Holy Spirit.
We are currently living in what we may call the “Age of the Holy Spirit.” This is the age that Jesus spoke about with His Apostles. Therefore, it’s good to look at the coming of the Holy Spirit in the way Jesus revealed it.
First, regarding the title, “Spirit of Truth,” we should ponder whether we are able and willing to accept the full Truth that comes with receiving the Holy Spirit. If we are of the world, embracing worldly ideas and values, then we will not be able to accept the Holy Spirit. However, if we are able to see the errors of our world and the many false values within it, we will more easily be able to reject those values and embrace the Holy Spirit and the many truths that the Spirit reveals.
Furthermore, if we are open to the coming of the Holy Spirit, we will receive the greatest Advocate we can have in life. The Holy Spirit is THE Advocate, meaning, the only helper we need. Becoming consumed by the Holy Spirit provides us with every grace necessary in life.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that Jesus’ promise to His Apostles has been fulfilled and that you have the ability to receive that promise here and now in your life. Say a prayer to the Holy Spirit and anticipate celebrating Pentecost Sunday in two weeks.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen. Jesus, I trust in You.
Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
“Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” John 15:20
Do you want to be like Jesus? If so, beware of what that means. It’s easy to think that the closer we grow to Christ the more we will be loved and understood by the world. We can think that everyone will see our holiness and admire it and all will be good and easy in life.
But all we have to do is look at the life of Christ to know this is not the case. He was obviously perfect in every way. As a result, He was treated with great malice and persecution. It’s hard to fathom the dark truth that they actually killed Him. In the dark of the night, He was arrested, given a mock trial, found guilty and sentenced to death. His punishment was then carried out immediately.
Why did they do this to the Son of God? Why would someone so perfect and merciful in every way be so cruelly treated?
If we were there, as His first followers, we would have most likely been shocked, frightened, scandalized and confused. We may have thought that Jesus messed up and lost hope in Him. But His plan was perfect in every way and His plan did centrally involve Him enduring false accusations and malicious persecution. And by freely accepting this abuse, He redeemed the world.
So back to the original question, “Do you want to be like Jesus?” This is a tough question when we look at it in the light of what happened to Him. “No slave is greater than his master.” “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” These are tough sayings to accept and agree to.
Persecution is something from which we should not run. We should not despair if it happens and we should not hold our head low. Why? Because persecution is a clear sign that we are following in the footsteps of our Master. We are more deeply united to Christ as a result of persecution than we could ever realize.
The key is to know that God intends to use all maltreatment for good if we let Him. And we let Him use it for good when we surrender it to Him and receive it freely, not begrudgingly. Our response must be to “rejoice and be glad” that we have been found worthy to follow in the steps of our Divine Lord.
Ponder today any form of persecution or injustice you suffer for the sake of your faith and embrace of the Gospel. The Lord wants to use that if you let Him.
Lord, I do surrender to You all that weighs me down. I give any suffering I receive for being Your follower. May I not only imitate You in Your suffering, but also in Your willing embrace of it. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter
“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” John 15:16
Children love to play games. When a game is organized between two teams, kids will often line up and wait to be chosen. Each child hopes to be chosen first. It is affirming to be wanted for the team. When a child is chosen last this can be difficult and hurtful.
This reveals the desire within each of us to belong and to be wanted. The good news is that God does choose each one of us. He wants us as a member of His family and He wants us to belong to Him. This is essential to understand and, when it is understood, it is very affirming.
It is a good spiritual practice to regularly reflect upon the fact that God chose us even before we were born. He knew us from all eternity and set His eyes upon us, longing to bring us into His fold. We need to understand this, accept it and believe it. We do belong.
God not only chooses us to belong to Him, He also chooses us for His mission. He wants to use us to go and bear fruit for His Kingdom. He wants to use us for a sacred purpose and a divine calling. Being a member of His “team” means that our lives have purpose and meaning. No matter how “unqualified” we may feel at times to make a difference, we must remember that God does not see us that way. Rather, He sees the infinite potential within each of us and chooses to use that potential for the building up of His Kingdom.
Reflect, this day, on two short phrases: “I have chosen you” and “Go and bear fruit.” Accepting your call from God will change your life and will also change the lives of those whom you are called to serve.
Lord, I know You have chosen me. I accept Your call in my life. I accept the fact that You have appointed me to fulfill Your mission in a unique and glorious way. Help me to continually say “Yes” to Your call. Jesus, I trust in You.
Peter said… “Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.” So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles. Acts 1:21–26
And with that we have the first new bishop!
The Feast of St. Matthias is a celebration of the continuation of the apostolic ministry. By honoring St. Matthias we honor the fact that Jesus enabled His first Apostles to pass on the sacred power of their ordination to others as their successors. St. Matthias took the place of Judas. And as the Church continued to grow, there were others picked and given the grace of ordination as bishops. Today, every one of our bishops has a direct line of succession to one or more of the Apostles. This unbroken succession is our direct connection to the priestly ministry of Jesus as it is passed on to the Church.
What a gift this is! It’s true that not every bishop or priest is a saint. We are all quite aware of that. But it is also true that every bishop and priest shares in the wonderful gift of Christ’s priestly ministry. And this ministry is not for them, it’s for you.
Jesus desired that He continue His ministry in a concrete, personal and human way. He desired that He would be present at every Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion. He desired to personally be there administering these graces to His people. And He is there, through the ministry of the bishop or priest.
The key is to see Christ in that ministry. Every priest or bishop is a unique representation of Christ in his own way. They each reflect Christ in their human personality and holiness. But, more importantly, they represent Christ by acting in His very person. Jesus speaks His words of absolution and consecration through them. So we need to see beyond the surface and see Christ Jesus. This is entirely possible if we approach God’s ministers in faith.
Reflect, today, upon the way you approach God’s priests and bishops. How do you speak about them? Do you seek Christ in them? Are you open to Christ ministering through them? The apostolic ministry in which they share is a true gift from Christ and must be loved and accepted as if we were accepting Christ Himself…because that’s exactly what we are doing.
Lord, thank You for the gift of your ordained ministers. Thank you for the bishop and for all the priests who have ministered Your Word and Sacraments to me. I pray for them today that they may continue to be holy instruments of Your love. Jesus, I trust in You.
Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”
Are you willing to let yourself be pruned? Pruning is necessary if a plant is to produce an abundance of good fruit or beautiful flowers. If, for example, a grapevine is left to grow without pruning, it will produce many small grapes that are good for nothing. But if care is taken to prune the vine, the maximum number of good grapes will be produced.
Jesus uses this image of pruning to teach us a similar lesson in bearing good fruit for His Kingdom. He wants our lives to be fruitful and He wants to use us as powerful instruments of His grace in the world. But unless we are willing to go through the purification of spiritual pruning from time to time, we will not be the instruments that God can use.
Spiritual pruning takes the form of letting God eliminate the vices in our lives so that the virtues can be properly nourished. This is especially done by letting Him humble us and strip away our pride. This can hurt, but the pain associated with being humbled by God is a key to spiritual growth. By growing in humility, we grow ever more reliant upon the source of our nourishment rather than relying upon ourselves, our own ideas and our own plans. God is infinitely wiser than us and if we can continually turn to Him as our source, we will be far stronger and better prepared to let Him do great things through us. But, again, this requires that we let Him prune us.
Being spiritually pruned means we actively let go of our own will and our own ideas. It means we give up control over our lives and let the master grower take over. It means we trust Him far more than we trust ourselves. This requires a true death to ourselves and a true humility by which we acknowledge we are completely reliant upon God in the same way a branch is reliant upon the vine. Without the vine, we shrivel and die. Being firmly attached to the vine is the only way to life.
Pray this day that you will let the Lord prune away all that is not of Him in your life. Trust in Him and His divine plan and know that this is the only path to bearing the good fruit God wants to bear through you.
Lord, I pray that You prune away all my pride and selfishness. Purify me of my many sins so that I can turn to You in all things. And as I learn to rely upon You, may You begin to bear an abundance of good fruit in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
“Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27
What a wonderful reminder that we all need to hear on a regular basis. “Do not let your heart be troubled.” And “Do not let your heart be afraid.” How often do you follow that advice?
Interestingly, it’s actually more than advice. It’s a command of love from our Lord. He wants to be clear and wants us to know that a fearful and troubled heart is not of Him. To be troubled and fearful is a great burden and weighs us down. Jesus desperately wants us to be free of these burdens. He wants us to be free so that we can experience the joy of life.
So what is it that burdens you in life the most? Is there something in your life that you obsess about, are angry about, can’t let go of or that tends to dominate your life? Or perhaps your burden is more subtle. Perhaps there is nothing that overwhelms you but, instead, is a constant burden in a small way, always there in the background. These burdens can be quite difficult when they last from year to year.
The first step to freedom is to see the burden for what it is. Identify it and seek to identify the underlying cause. If the cause of your burden is your own sin, repent of it and seek Confession. This is the best way to experience immediate freedom.
If, however, your burden is the result of another’s actions or some situation in life that is out of your control, then you are in a unique position to surrender to our Lord, giving Him complete control of this situation. Freedom is found in total surrender, trust and abandonment to His will.
Spend some time today reflecting upon that which burdens you the most in life. What is it that weighs heavily upon you? It is this, more than anything else, that Jesus wants to enter into and lift for you. He wants you free so that you can experience the joy that He has to offer you in life.
Lord, I want to be free. I want to experience the joy You have in store for me. When the burdens of life weigh me down, help me to turn to You in my need. Jesus, I trust in You.
Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Indwelling of the Trinity
“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” John 14:23
Children seem to get it. They seem to understand that God dwells in their hearts. Of course if you asked them how they know this they may look at you with a confused look and not know how to respond. But, nonetheless, somehow they do understand that God dwells within them.
So what would you say if someone asked you, “How do you know that God comes and makes His dwelling within you?” Perhaps you also may be at a loss for words to describe this incredible mystery of our faith. Do you believe this to be true? That God wants to make your heart and soul His dwelling place? If so, how does this happen?
By the gift of faith we, like little children, just know that God wants to dwell within us. We know that He wants to possess our souls, speak to us, strengthen us, lead us and guide us. We know, by the gift of faith, that God is real and desires the deepest and most intimate relationship with us. We just know.
The good news is that faith leads to understanding. This means that the more we are attentive to the voice of God speaking within us, leading and guiding us, the more we begin to understand His indwelling presence. As St. Augustine said, “Faith is to believe what you do not see. The reward of faith is to see what you believe.” Faith in God’s indwelling presence leads us to the answer of the question above. The answer is one that God and God alone can give to us. We can share our faith with others, give witness to His presence in our lives, and give those around us the answer to that question through faith. How do I know God dwells within me? The answer: Because I see Him there, I speak to Him there, and He speaks to me.
Reflect, today, upon the Lord living within you. Let Him speak to you and, in that ever deepening conversation, allow His Indwelling Presence to grow and to become manifest to others. God wants to not only dwell within you, He also wants to shine through you.
Lord, come live in my heart. Make my heart Your dwelling place. Help me to see You there, to meet You there, to converse with You and to love You in my soul. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Only Way to Salvation
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
Are you saved? Hopefully the answer to this is “Yes” in three ways: You were saved by grace through Baptism, you continue to be saved by God’s grace and mercy as you freely choose to follow Him, and you hope to be saved in your final hour so as to enter the glories of Heaven. Anything we accomplish in life means nothing if we cannot answer “Yes” in this threefold way.
It’s also important to be reminded of how we are saved. How is it that we were, are and hope to receive the precious gift of salvation? The answer is simple: Through the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our one and only Way to the Father. There is no other way we obtain salvation than through Him.
Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that we achieve salvation by simply being “good.” In other words, do your good works save you? The proper answer is both “Yes” and “No.” It is “Yes” only in the sense that our good works are a necessary part of union with Christ. Without Him we can do nothing good. But if we have accepted Christ into our life and, thus, if we are on the road to salvation, then good works will be necessarily present in our life. But the answer is also “No” in the sense that Jesus and Jesus alone is the only Savior. We cannot save ourselves no matter how hard we try to be good.
This discussion is especially familiar among our evangelical Christian brothers and sisters. But it’s a conversation we should be quite familiar with also. At the heart of this conversation is the Person of Jesus Christ. He and He alone must be the central focus of our lives and we must see Him as the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the only Way to Heaven, He is the fullness of the Truth we must believe, and He is the Life that we are called to live and is the source of this new life of Grace.
Reflect, today, upon the central and singular role of Jesus in your life. Without Him you are nothing, but with Him you obtain the life of perfect fulfillment. Choose Him in a very personal and concrete way this day as your Lord and Savior. Humbly admit that you are nothing without Him and let Him into your life so that He can offer you to His loving Father in Heaven.
My Lord and my Savior, I say “Yes” to You this day and accept You into my life as my Lord and Savior. I thank You for the gift of Baptism which began my life of grace and I renew my choice to follow You, this day, so that You may enter more fully into my life. As You enter into my life, please offer me to the Father in Heaven. May all my actions be directed by You so that I may be an eternal offering with You, dear Jesus. Jesus, I trust in You.
Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter
These words from Jesus, once again, reveal the intimate unity He has with His Father. He and the Father are one and what He says also comes from the Father. John’s Gospel is filled with this language as a way of highlighting their perfect unity.
Though there is much we could say about the unity of the Father and the Son, it’s important to remind ourselves that these words spoken by Jesus should also ideally be words we speak. How wonderful it is to be able to say that WE also do not speak on our own but that the Father speaks through us. This should be our constant goal.
If we speak words to others on our own, relying upon our own wisdom and insights, then we must also humbly admit that our words will not be that powerful. This is hard to admit but is true. We can easily fall into the trap of thinking our opinions are right and that others need to listen to us.
If, on the other hand, we are able to speak words that have the backing of the Father, words that are spoken from His heart, then we will begin to see that those words make a true difference in the lives of others. Words matter and we should always be very careful as to what we say and how we say it.
Allowing the Father to speak in and through us suddenly gives our words new conviction and power. They become words that God speaks to others and words that enable God to make a difference in their lives.
Reflect, today, upon your daily speech. If you struggle with not knowing what to say, or how to say it at times, then a good prayer to pray is for the grace to speak only that which the Father gives you to speak; nothing more and nothing less. Pray that prayer and be confident that God has a lot to say through you.
Lord, give me Your words to speak. Help me to always turn to You in my heart in confidence so that You are the source of all truth and goodness. May that truth and goodness come forth from me each and every day. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter
“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” John 14:2–3
From time to time it’s important that we focus in on the glorious reality of Heaven! Heaven is real and, God willing, one day we will all be united there with our Triune God. If we properly understood Heaven, we’d long for it with a deep and burning love and we’d look forward to it with a powerful desire, being filled with peace and joy every time we think of it.
Unfortunately, however, the thought of leaving this Earth and meeting our Maker is a frightening thought for some. Perhaps it’s the fear of the unknown, the realization that we will leave our loved ones behind, or possibly even a fear that Heaven will not be our final resting place.
As Christians, it’s essential that we work at fostering a great love of Heaven by gaining a proper understanding of not only Heaven itself, but also the purpose of our lives on Earth. Heaven helps order our lives and helps us stay on the path that leads to this eternal beatitude.
In the passage above we are given a very consoling image of Heaven. It’s the image of the “Father’s house.” This image is a good one to reflect upon because it reveals that Heaven is our home. Home is a safe place. It’s a place where we can be ourselves, relax, be with loved ones, and feel as if we belong. We are God’s sons and daughters and He has decided that we belong there with Him.
Reflecting on this image of Heaven should also console those who have lost a loved one. The experience of saying goodbye, for now, is very difficult. And it should be difficult. The difficulty of losing a loved one reveals that there is true love in that relationship. And that is good. But God does want the feelings of loss to also be mingled with joy as we ponder the reality of our loved one being with the Father in His home for eternity. They are happier there than we will ever be able to imagine, and we will one day be called to share in that joy.
Reflect, today, upon this image of Heaven: our Father’s House. Sit with that image and let God speak to you. As you do, let your heart be drawn to Heaven so that this desire will help to direct your actions here and now.
Lord, I do long to be with You eternally in Heaven. I long to be comforted, consoled and filled with joy in Your home. Help me to always keep this as my goal in life and to grow, daily in a desire for this final resting place. Jesus, I trust in You.
Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter
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 we read between the lines we can hear Jesus telling us two things. First, that it’s good to see ourselves as slaves and messengers of God, and second, that we are to always give the glory to God. These are important points to live in the spiritual life. Let’s look at both.
Normally, the idea of being a “slave” is not all that desirable. We are not as familiar with slavery in our day and age, but it is real and has caused extreme damage throughout the history of our world in many cultures and at many times. The worst part about slavery is the cruelty with which the slaves are treated. They are treated as objects and property which is completely contrary to their human dignity.
But imagine the scenario where a person is a slave to one who loves him perfectly and has as his primary mission to help that “slave” realize his true potential and fulfillment in life. In this case, the master would “command” the slave to embrace love and happiness and would never violate his human dignity.
This is the way it is with God. We should never fear the idea of being a slave of God. Though this language may carry baggage from abuses of human dignity of the past, slavery to God should be our goal. Why? Because God is the one we should want as our master. In fact, we should desire God as our master even more than we desire to be our own master. God will treat us better than we treat ourselves! He will dictate to us a perfect life of holiness and happiness and we will be humbly submissive to His divine will. And what’s more, He will give us the necessary means to achieve all that He dictates to us if we let Him. Being a “slave of God” is a good thing and should be our goal in life.
As we grow in our ability to let God take control of our life, we must also regularly enter into an attitude of thanks and praise of God for all that He does in us. We must point all the glory to Him for letting us share in His mission and for being sent by Him to fulfill His will. He is greater in every way, but He also wants us to share in that greatness and glory. So, the good news is that when we glorify and thank God for all He does in us and for all the dictates of His law and His commands, we will be elevated by God to participate in and share in His glory! This is one fruit of the Christian life that blesses us beyond what we could ever come up with ourselves.
Reflect, today, upon letting yourself become a complete slave of God and His will today. That commitment will start you down a path of tremendous delight.
Lord, I submit myself to Your every command. May Your will be done in me and only Your will. I choose You as my Master in all things and trust in Your perfect love for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Evangelising Through Unity
Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.” John 12:44–45
Now on a literal level, this is hard to comprehend. How is it that those who looked at Jesus were looking also at the Father? How is it that seeing Jesus was seeing the Father in Heaven?
The answer is quite simple. The unity that the Father and the Son share is a perfect unity. They remain distinct Persons but they are also united as one. They are united in their perfect love and in the perfect communion of their wills.
For that reason, knowing Jesus is also knowing the Father. But the truth is that the Father’s presence is veiled just as the divinity of the Son is veiled. Though we do not have the experience of seeing Jesus walk the Earth as the first disciples did, we find the same reality every time we come before the Holy Eucharist. When we enter a church and genuflect before the tabernacle, it’s important to always be exceptionally cognizant of the fact that we are in the full divine presence of God the Son. And for that reason, we are also in the full and divine presence of the Father! Their presence is real and absolute. It’s just that they are hidden from our five senses.
But one key thing to ponder here is the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Prayerfully reflecting upon their unity is a very healthy meditation for our prayer life. Why? Because we are called to share in their unity, and we are called to share in unity with one another.
Unity is hard. It takes a tremendous amount of love. It means being fully present to the other, seeking to fully understand, accept and know them. And the Trinity is our model for this. Be it parents and children, spouses, friends or others, we are called to a deep and abiding unity.
Think about someone you know well. And think about someone that person knows well and loves. To a certain degree, you may feel you know that other person just by knowing the one who knows them. For example, say you have a very close friend who has a child and your friend shares much with you about their child. What you’re experiencing is the unity of that parent and child in your relationship with your friend.
So it is with God. As we come to know God the Son, we automatically come to know God the Father. And the good news is that if we know God, and then let another get to know us, the effect is that we will be letting them come to know God through us. This is one of the wonderful ways to evangelize and bring God to those whom we know and love.
Reflect, today, upon your relationship with God and how that relationship shines through in all other relationships you have. Commit yourself more fully to knowing and loving God so that others around you may also benefit from your love of Him.
Lord, help me to come to know and love You and, in that relationship, to come to know and love the Father and the Holy Spirit. And as I grow in love for You Most Holy Trinity, help me to bring that love into every relationship I have so that I may be an instrument of Your love to others. Most Holy Trinity, I trust in You.
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe.” John 10:24–25
This statement of Jesus may have left His followers confused. They wanted to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and so they asked Him to tell them plainly if He was the Messiah. And how did He respond? He tells them that He already told them and they failed to believe. This is an interesting situation.
The first thing to say about this is that Jesus was not being critical. He was helping them to understand His language. He was helping them to understand that the answer to their question was not a matter of Jesus simply telling them, “I am the Messiah!” Rather, the answer to their question had to come to them from the Father in Heaven, spoken to their hearts as they listened to Jesus and witnessed His miracles. The answer was to be given to them by the gift of faith that had to be received from within. This gift of faith would give them the certainty they so desired.
The same is true with us. Perhaps you’ve wanted God to come down from Heaven at times and tell you “plainly” the answer to this or that question. But He does not do that. He does it in His perfect way with His perfect language. It’s the language of faith and it requires a complete submission of our minds and wills to God to hear and understand. This is the only way to become converted in the way God wants us to be.
Reflect, today, how well you listen to God speak. You most likely can learn to listen to Him more clearly, discerning His voice of Truth. As you hear Him, let yourself become completely convinced of all that He says. And let that deep conviction rule your life.
Lord, I so often do not let myself hear You plainly through the gift of faith. I so often want the easy answer to the difficult questions. Help me to grow in patience so that I may know You and allow You to become my true Shepherd. Jesus, I trust in You.
Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
The Voice of the Shepherd
“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.” John 10:11-13
What are you most familiar with in life? What voice or voices echo in your mind most of the time? There are many influences we receive on a regular basis. Some are good and some are not so good. Often times we can talk ourselves into believing that the many “voices” or influences that we encounter on a daily basis do not affect us. We are pressured by the voice of the media, pop culture, love of money, a desire for recognition and so much more. These are powerful influences and, whether we want to believe it or not, they do affect us.
The Gospel above gives us insight into this internal struggle in that it contrasts the voice of the Shepherd with the voice of a stranger. The sheep are easily taught and conditioned. They learn the voice of their shepherd because it was common practice for shepherds to regularly speak to their sheep. Once the sheep became used to the shepherd’s voice, they would turn and follow him when he called.
So it is with us. We will follow the voice of that which we are most familiar. Whatever it is that we immerse ourselves in each and every day will grow on us and draw us, even unknowingly, to follow.
This begs the question, “What are you most familiar with?” Ideally, we spend sufficient time in God’s Word, learning His language, tone and voice. Ideally, we dedicate some portion of our day, every day, to silent contemplation of God. As we do this, we build a habit of hearing Him speak and we become comfortable with and comforted by His voice.
Once this habit is established in us, it will be much easier to go about our busy day hearing God whenever He chooses to speak. We will immediately recognize it is Him and we will follow.
Reflect, today, upon that which calls to you the loudest. Don’t let the many other voices in our world drown out God’s voice. Instead, prepare yourself for the moments He chooses to speak. And when He does speak, let that voice grab your attention so that you can follow.
Lord, help me to know and love Your gentle voice throughout my daily life. May that voice overwhelm all others that compete for my attention. I choose You, dear Lord, as my one Shepherd and guide. Jesus, I trust in You.
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Christ the Good Shepherd of Us All
“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. ” John 10:2-4
Four things happen in this story:
First, the gatekeeper opens the gate for the shepherd.
Second, the shepherd calls his own sheep by name.
Third, the sheep hear his voice.
Fourth, the shepherd leads the sheep through the gate.
Who is the “gatekeeper?” Saint Augustine says that one answer to this is that the gatekeeper is the Holy Spirit. The role of the Holy Spirit is to open our minds to the truth, to a deeper understanding of Scripture, and therefore, to a deeper understanding of Christ Himself. Therefore, the Holy Spirit will open your mind and your heart to know and love Christ as your shepherd, if you let Him.
Once this happens, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will speak your name, personally. Not audibly, but through the gift of faith. You are not only one of many sheep; rather, you are His dear one whom He knows and loves on an intimate and personal level. Therefore, this passage calls us to an intimate and personal relationship with Christ the Good Shepherd.
Knowing we are personally and intimately loved by Christ, that we are called by name, invites and encourages us to listen. Do you listen? And if you listen, do you hear? “Hearing” Christ speak to us in this personal and intimate way should motivate us to action.
What action? To be led. Normally a shepherd walks behind the sheep and they run on ahead. But in this story, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, Who calls you by name, leads you “through the gate.” Jesus Himself is the Gate. We are called to become one with Him and, through Him, to enter into the bosom of the Father in Heaven. Through Him we enter into new life itself, life of union with Him Who is our Shepherd.
Reflect, today, upon this fourfold journey to which you are called. Pray to the Holy Spirit that your mind and heart will be opened to know and love Christ. Then prayerfully listen for Christ to speak to you. Hear Him, respond to Him and allow Him to draw you into His open heart of perfect love.
Holy Spirit, please open my ears to the Voice of the Good Shepherd and my mind to all that He speaks. My precious Lord Jesus, You are my Shepherd, I choose, this day, to follow Your voice when You speak, and to do so with complete trust and abandon. I love You, my Lord, and I thank you for loving me with such tender and intimate care. Jesus, my Good Shepherd, I trust in You.
Saturday of the Third Week of Easter
The Profound Teaching of the Holy Eucharist
As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
What a perfect response from Peter. The context of this story is quite fascinating and revealing. Jesus had just completed His beautiful and profound discourse on the Holy Eucharist stating clearly that His flesh is real food and His blood is real drink and that unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life in you.
As a result of His teaching on the Eucharist, there were many who “returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with Him.” In other words, Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist was difficult for many to accept and believe.
Interestingly, after Jesus speaks this profound teaching on the Eucharist, and after many leave Him as a result, He does not backpedal or change what He said. Instead, He asks His Apostles if they wish to leave also.
This question by Jesus to the Apostles is important to understand. By asking it of them in a very direct way, Jesus is giving them complete freedom to choose. He does not pressure them to believe what He just taught. This is significant because the level of detachment that Jesus offers is a way of inviting a completely free acceptance, on the part of the Apostles, of His glorious teaching on the Eucharist. They are truly free to accept or reject it. It is this freedom that allows them to radically deepen their faith in Jesus.
Peter speaks up and gives a wonderful response. “Master, to whom shall we go?” These words of Peter reveal clearly two things. First, this was a difficult situation in that people were walking away from Jesus. But secondly, Peter and the other Apostles were aware that they must believe despite the difficulty. Just because many left Jesus and refused to accept His words was no reason for the Apostles to leave Him, also. In fact, we can hear in Peter’s words a manifestation of faith that they have come to believe in Jesus so completely that leaving Him would be utter foolishness. Where would they go? Why would they leave? Peter reaffirms his faith in Jesus even though following Him at that moment was not the “popular” thing to do.
Reflect, today, upon your own level of commitment to Jesus. Know that you are completely free to follow Him or to leave Him. But if you choose to follow Him, do not do it half way. Know that Jesus’ words are powerful, challenging and demanding. He wants you to believe in Him and follow Him with your whole heart and with profound commitment. Jesus alone has the words of eternal life and we must accept and believe those words with all our might.
Lord, to whom else shall I go if I do not follow You? You and You alone are the one whom I choose to believe in and follow. Help me to embrace all that You have taught and help me to freely choose You each and every day of my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday of the Third Week of Easter
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you.” John 6:52–53
Certainly this passage reveals much about the Most Holy Eucharist, but it also reveals the strength of Jesus to speak the truth with clarity and conviction.
Jesus was facing opposition and criticism. Some were upset and challenging His words. Most of us, when we find ourselves under the scrutiny and wrath of others, will back down. We will be tempted to be overly concerned about what others say about us and about the truth we may be criticized for. But Jesus did exactly the opposite. He did not give in to the criticism of others.
It’s inspiring to see that, when Jesus was faced with the harsh words of others, He responded with even greater clarity and confidence. He took His statement about the Eucharist being His Body and Blood to the next level by saying, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you do not have life within you.” This reveals a man of the utmost confidence, conviction and strength.
Of course, Jesus is God, so we should expect this from Him. But nonetheless, it is inspiring and reveals the strength we are all called to have in this world. The world we live in is filled with opposition to the truth. It’s opposed to many moral truths, but it is also opposed to many of the deeper spiritual truths. These deeper truths are things such as the beautiful truths of the Eucharist, the importance of daily prayer, humility, abandonment to God, putting God’s will above all things, etc. We should be aware of the fact that the closer we grow to our Lord, the more we surrender to Him, and the more we proclaim His truth, the more we will feel the pressure of the world trying to steal us away.
So what do we do? We learn from the strength and example of Jesus. Whenever we find ourselves put in a challenging position, or whenever we feel as though our faith is being attacked, we must deepen our resolve to be all the more faithful. This will make us stronger and turns those temptations we face into opportunities for grace!
Reflect, today, upon the way that you react when your faith is challenged. Do you back down, give into fear and allow the challenges from others to affect you? Or do you strengthen your resolve when challenged and allow persecution to purify your faith? Choose to imitate the strength and conviction of our Lord and you will become a greater visible instrument of His grace and mercy.
Lord, give me the strength of Your conviction. Give me clarity in my mission and help me to serve You unwaveringly in all things. May I never cower when faced with the challenges of life but always deepen my resolve to serve You with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.
Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
Jesus said to the crowds: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.” John 6:44
This Scripture passage reveals to us a wonderful spiritual principle we need to understand and live if we are to grow close to God. It’s the principle of being drawn to Jesus by the Father.
First of all, it’s important to understand the first part of what Jesus says: “No one can come to me unless…” This tells us that coming to Jesus in faith, growing in that faith, and growing in our love of God is not something we can do on our own. Coming to faith is a response to God’s action in our life.
This is important to understand if we wish to establish an authentic relationship with Christ because it reveals to us the fact that we have to let God take the first step in that relationship. When we let Him do this, it’s our responsibility to then respond.
Of course this does not mean we just sit back in a passive way waiting for God to reach out. God is constantly reaching out, constantly speaking and constantly drawing us to Himself. So our first responsibility is to tune into His gentle “wooing.” This comes in the form of gentle promptings of grace inviting us to turn more completely to Him and to surrender more fully each and every day.
In our busy world, it’s so very easy to let ourselves become distracted by the many competing voices. It’s easy to hear the pulling, and even pushing, of the world and all its enticements. The world has become quite good at penetrating our short attention spans and offering quick satisfactions that ultimately leave us empty.
But God’s voice and His invitation are quite different. They are found in interior silence. However, we need not be in a monastery in order to achieve this interior silence. Rather, it’s achieved by faithful periods of prayer each day, and a formed habit of turning to God in all things. It’s achieved when we respond to God’s calling, and then do it again, and again, and so forth. This builds a habit of being drawn, hearing, responding and being drawn in even closer so as to respond again.
Reflect, today, upon how well you listen to God. Try to find at least a few minutes (or more) of silence today. Close your eyes and listen. Listen to God speaking to you. When He draws you, respond to Him with much generosity. This is the best choice you can make each day!
Lord, please draw me in, draw me close and help me to recognize Your voice. As I hear You calling, help me to respond to You with much generosity. My life is Yours, dear Lord. Help me to desire You all the more. Jesus, I trust in You.
Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter
This week's Wednesday Word
Never Rejected, Always Loved!
“I will not reject anyone who comes to me.” John 6:37
This little line says much about our Lord’s Divine Mercy. It is a line repeated often in St. Faustina’s Diary of Divine Mercy and it’s a statement that many people need to hear.
Why is this important to hear? Because, very often, we can carry the burden of rejection. Without even realizing it, there are many who have experienced rejection in their life and, as a result, are afraid to be vulnerable in a relationship out of fear of being hurt. Once you have been hurt in a relationship, you proceed with caution. This hurt can come from a family member, spouse, friend or anyone we’ve tried to reach out to in love only to receive hurt and rejection. And that hurts.
Jesus’ words are especially important because they help to reassure us that Jesus is trustworthy. It is true that we can come to Him, open our hearts to Him, become completely vulnerable to Him, and He will treat us with the utmost tenderness, respect, kindness and care. Jesus will treat us with more care than we even treat ourselves!
Reflect upon these words of Jesus today. Say them over and over. “I will not reject anyone who comes to me.” Know that He wants you to come to Him and to open your heart to Him completely. Doing so will allow Him to manifest His love for you and enable you to trust Him beyond what you ever imagined possible.
Lord, I want to come to You in my sufferings and rejection. I know You are the Divine Healer and will bring comfort to my soul. Help me to trust You and to let You love me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
Hunger and Thirst for the Eucharist
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 6:35
Wouldn’t it be nice if you were never hungry or thirsty again? What’s fascinating is that Jesus uses these very natural human experiences to teach us about Himself. He uses natural hunger and thirst to teach us that we long to be satisfied spiritually. And there is only one way to satiate these spiritual longings…through Him.
It is a good spiritual practice to reflect upon your natural longings as an analogy for your spiritual longings. Naturally speaking, we regularly get hungry and thirsty. We eat and drink, but several hours later we hunger and thirst again. This is a cycle we cannot avoid. Our body continually craves food and drink.
The same is true on a spiritual level. We cannot pray once and satisfy our spiritual longings forever. We cannot simply believe in Jesus and then be satisfied forever. Why? Because prayer and unity with Jesus is something that must take place daily throughout your day.
The Eucharist offers insights into this hunger and thirst in that it provides us with our “daily” food. It is a gift that we must daily seek. Some of the Sacraments are given to us only once (Baptism and Confirmation). But the Eucharist is a gift that we must continually consume and long for. The fact that we must continually go to Mass and receive the Eucharist tells us that our Christian life is not something that can be fulfilled by one definitive decision. Rather, it’s something that needs daily nourishment and fulfillment.
What do you do to satisfy this Christian longing each and every day? Perhaps you cannot attend Mass every day, but do you seek to fulfill your Christian desire for Christ each and every day? Do you seek Him who is the Bread of Life every day? Do you seek to satiate your thirst with Christ each and every day?
Loving Jesus and following Him is a decision that must be renewed not only each day, it must also be renewed throughout your day. It must be renewed as often as you become physically hungry and thirsty.
Reflect, today, upon these natural longings you have for food and drink to continually remind yourself of your much deeper spiritual longing for Christ. Praying to Him, listening to Him and receiving Him into your soul is the food that satisfies like nothing else. Jesus is the true Bread of Life and your true Spiritual Drink. He is what you are made for. Let Him satisfy your deepest desires in life!
Lord, I do long for You. I long to be satisfied. Help me to turn to You at all times and in all things. Help me to always remember that You are what I need and You alone satisfy. Jesus, I trust in You.
Monday of the Third Week of Easter
Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
This Scripture goes straight to the heart of our priorities in life. What are you working for? Are you working hard for the “food that perishes” and only working slightly for the “food that endures for eternal life?” Or vice versa?
For some reason, we can easily become obsessed with working for the “things” of this world. In the passage above, people were looking for Jesus because He had fed them the day before and they were hungry again. They were looking for food, literally. Jesus gently rebukes them, taking this as an opportunity to point out the real reason they should be seeking Him. The real reason is that He wants to provide the spiritual food of eternal life. What is the food Jesus wants you to seek? That’s a question you must let our Lord answer in your heart.
There are two key questions we should ponder here so as to let Him answer us. First, “What do I want in life?” Spend time with that. Spend time all by yourself and try to be honest with this question. What do you want? What is your heart’s desire? If you are honest and if you let yourself face your desires you will most likely find that you have some desires, or even many, that are not put in your heart by Christ. Recognizing what these desires are is the first step to discovering what the true food is that Jesus wants to give you.
The second key question is this: “Are you seeking Jesus for the right reason?” When we are sick we seek a doctor for a cure. When a child is hurt, this child often runs to a parent for comfort. This is OK. We do the same. When we are lost and confused we often turn to God for answers and help. But, ideally, we will eventually seek God for more than just healing or comfort. We will ultimately seek God for the reason of love. We will seek Him simply because we love Him and want to love Him all the more.
Reflect, today, upon your desire to seek Jesus, or lack thereof. When you can begin to seek out Jesus simply because you love Him and want to love Him more, you are on the right road. And as you walk down that road, you find it is a road of the utmost delight and fulfillment.
Jesus, help me to seek You. Help me to seek You for the help and healing I need. But more than that, help me to seek You out of love. My Jesus, I do love You. Help me to love You more. Jesus, I trust in You.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” Luke 24:31–32 (Year A)
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. Luke 24:45 (Year B)
These two passages above, from two subsequent appearances of Jesus to the Apostles, produced a unique blessing. In each story, Jesus opened the minds of the Apostles to the Scriptures in a new way. These were ordinary men who were given an extraordinary gift of understanding. It didn’t come to them as a result of long study and hard work. Rather, it came to them as a result of their openness to Christ’s powerful action in their lives. Jesus unlocked the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven to them. As a result, they suddenly understood truths that could never be learned on their own.
So it is with us. The mysteries of God are vast and wide. They are deep and transforming. But so often we fail to understand. We often even fail to want to understand.
Think about those things in your life now, or in your past, that have left you confused. You need a special gift of the Holy Spirit to make sense of them. And you need this gift to make sense of the many good things of God found in the Scriptures also. This is the Gift of Understanding. It’s a spiritual gift that unlocks the many mysteries of life for us.
Without the Gift of Understanding, we are left on our own to try to make sense of life. This is especially true when we are faced with hardship and suffering. How is it, for example, that an all-powerful and all-loving God can allow the good and the innocent to suffer? How is it that God can seem absent at times from human tragedy?
The truth is that He is not absent. He is centrally involved in all things. What we need to receive is an understanding of the profound and mysterious ways of God. We need to understand the Scriptures, human suffering, human relationships, and divine action in our lives. But this will never happen unless we allow Jesus to open our minds.
Allowing Jesus to open our minds takes faith and surrender. It means we believe first and understand later. It means we trust Him even though we do not see. St. Augustine once said, “Faith is to believe what you do not see. The reward of faith is to see what you believe.” Are you willing to believe without seeing? Are you willing to believe in the goodness and love of God even though life, or a particular situation in life, does not make sense?
Reflect, today, upon the Gift of Understanding. Believing in God means we believe in a person. We believe in Him even though we find ourselves confused about particular circumstances. But this gift of believing, the gift of faith, opens the door to a depth of understanding that we could never arrive at on our own.
Lord, give me the Gift of Understanding. Help me to know You and to understand Your actions in my life. Help me to especially turn to You in the most troubling moments of life. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Gift of Understanding
“These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17–18
Did Jesus mean this literally? Yes. He certainly did. And throughout the history of the Church we have seen great miracles and mighty deeds performed by His followers in His name as God willed it in various times and places. So, yes, He meant what He said.
But there is also another level of meaning we should not miss. Though this is not literally going to be lived out by everyone who believes, it will be lived out according to a deeper and spiritual meaning.
There are four basic things Jesus promises will happen here. He promises that those who have faith will: 1) be victorious over the evil one, 2) communicate in a new way, 3) face worldly dangers and be protected, and 4) be a source of healing for others.
First, the evil one is real and is constantly trying to frighten us and overwhelm us. But, by analogy, the evil one is like a 3-pound dog who has a vicious and obnoxious bark, and little bite. The “barking” may be frightening at times, but the power of Christ is like a steel-toed boot that can easily handle this menace.
Second, we are called to “speak new languages” in that we are called to communicate the words and truth of God in a way that is beyond our natural abilities. We are called to speak and communicate in the language of God and to become His mouth for a world in need.
Third, there will be many struggles we face in this life. Not only from the evil one, but also from the world and from our own distorted struggles. Again, Jesus promises the grace to overcome the many dangers and struggles we will face in life if we but let Him.
Lastly, Jesus came to heal, especially our souls, and he wants us to be instruments of healing for those whom we encounter every day.
St. Mark, whom we honor today, was a great evangelist for Christ. Reflect, today, upon the fact that we are all called to share in the mission of evangelization. Ponder these callings in life as outlined above and if one stands out and speaks to you in a unique way, listen to it carefully. It may be God calling you to share more fully in His divine mission.
Lord, I do believe and I do choose to let You use me as an instrument of Your grace. May the faith You have given me be also a source of grace for a world in need. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday of the Second Week of Easter
When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. John 6:5–6
God always knows what He is going to do. He always has a perfect plan for our lives. Always. In the passage above, we read a snippet from the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. Jesus knew He was going to multiply the few loaves and fish they had and feed over five thousand people. But before He did this, He wanted to test Philip, and so He did. Why does Jesus test Philip and why does He test us at times?
It’s not that Jesus is curious about what Philip will say. And it’s not that He is just playing games with Philip. Rather, He is seizing this opportunity to let Philip manifest His faith. So, in fact, this “testing” of Philip was a gift to him because it gave Philip the opportunity to pass the test.
The test was to let Philip act on faith rather than just on human logic alone. Sure, it’s good to be logical. But very often the wisdom of God supersedes human logic. In other words, it brings logic to a whole new level. It brings it to a level where faith in God is brought into the equation.
So Philip, in that moment, was being called to offer a solution given the fact that the Son of God was there with them. And he fails the test. He points out that two hundred days’ wages would not be enough to feed the crowd. But Andrew somewhat comes to the rescue. Andrew states that there is a boy who has a few loaves and some fish. Unfortunately he adds, “but what good are these for so many?”
This little spark of faith in Andrew, however, is enough faith for Jesus to have the crowds recline and to perform the miracle of the multiplication of the food. It seems that Andrew at least had a small insight into the fact that these few loaves and fish were important to mention. Jesus takes this from Andrew and takes care of the rest.
Reflect, today, upon the precious gift of even a little faith. So often we find ourselves in difficult situations where we don’t know what to do. We should strive to have at least a little faith so that Jesus has something to work with. No, we may not have the full picture of what He wants to do, but we should at least have a small inkling of the direction God is leading. If we can at least manifest this little faith then we too will pass the test.
Lord, help me to have faith in Your perfect plan for my life. Help me to know that You are in control when life seems out of control. In those moments, may the faith I manifest be a gift to You so that You can use it for Your glory. Jesus, I trust in You.
Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
No Rationing of the Spirit
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit. John 3:34
At wartime, when soldiers have a scarce amount of food, they have to ration it. They only eat small measured portions each day so that the food will last as long as possible. If they do not, they may run out and starve.
What if this were the case with God and His grace? What if the Holy Spirit were to say to us, “Now I’m only going to help you to a limited degree. Once you use up the grace I’m offering you, you’re on your own.” Ouch! That would be problematic.
Of course the good news is that God acts in the completely opposite way with us. He commits to a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit and offers all the grace we could ever need or want. The problem is that we often “ration” His grace anyway. We don’t do this because we believe God is limited. Rather, we often do it because we are afraid to let God unleash His almighty power in our lives.
Reflect, today, upon what your life would look like if you let God do whatever He wanted with you. What would change? How would your daily life, your relationships, your words, your actions and your future be different? Intellectually speaking, we know it’s right to fully embrace the will of God in all things. But when it actually comes to doing it, there is often much hesitancy. It may be fear of the unknown. Or it may be that we do not fully want to change. Whatever the case may be, God is offering you an unlimited amount of grace by the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It’s up to you to decide if you will ration or not.
Lord, I do want to let You do whatever You want in my life. I want to be fully immersed in Your grace. Help me to say “Yes” to You no matter what that leads to and help me to trust in this glorious “Yes” You are calling me to make. Jesus, I trust in You.
Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter
And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. John 3:19
What a strange thing to be so true. God the Father sent the Son into the world to be Light for us all. He is the Light that dispels all darkness. But, according to the Gospel above, “people preferred darkness to light.” They preferred their own sins to freedom from sin. Why is that?
As an example of this reality, all we have to do is watch the news or read the newspaper. It seems that 90% of what is reported in the news media is a sensationalistic presentation of darkness. We hear of one murder after another or one scandal after another. Why does the media focus upon this so much? Because it’s what sells. And why does it sell? Because we too often are drawn to darkness more than we are to light.
Certainly that is not the case for everyone. So many are quite disinterested in the darkness of the world and the sensationalistic sins all around us. But the fact that the darkness of evil is so front and center all the time should offer us a certain warning about our fallen human nature. We tend to be drawn into mud and too often are all too happy there.
Easter is a time to examine what it is you are drawn to. Do you let yourself be drawn into the Light? Are you attracted by those things that brighten your day? Are you drawn to the many ways that God is present and active in the world all around you? Hopefully you are. But there is most likely some degree of pull toward disorder, sin and darkness. There can be an interior conflict that everyone experiences. It’s good to be aware of this, to identify it as part of our fallen human tendency, and to seek to shed all interest in the chaos and evil all around us.
As a follower of Christ, we are called to keep our eyes on Him and on Him alone. We are called to penetrate the darkness with our faith and to let our whole being be attracted to and drawn toward Christ Jesus. Perfection means that even our passions and desires are ultimately drawn to Christ as the Light of our life.
Reflect, today, upon that which you are drawn toward the most. Commit yourself to the Light this Easter Season. Move your eyes from the temptation to become drawn in and fascinated by the evil around us, to the joyful vision of our Resurrected Lord alive and at work all around us. Let this Light guide your daily life.
Lord, help me to live in the light. Help me to keep my eyes firmly focused upon the glory of Your Resurrection. May the joy of that gaze keep me from the countless distractions of evil all around me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter
The Effects of the Holy Spirit
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:7–8
Do you sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? In this passage, Jesus offers an image of how the Holy Spirit works in us. He analogizes the Holy Spirit to the wind. We can hear the wind blowing but cannot see it. We do, however, perceive the effects of the wind. For example, when you see a tree swaying, you know that the wind is blowing.
So it is with the Holy Spirit in our lives. Though we may not be able to tangibly perceive where the Holy Spirit comes from, we will be able to see the effects of the Spirit. When we perceive a new strength within us, or an increase in virtues, or an ability to forgive, etc., we are aware of the fact that the Holy Spirit is present, leading us, transforming us and guiding us.
Additionally, we do not know where the wind goes once it passes. So it is with the Holy Spirit. If our lives are under the power and care of the Holy Spirit, we do not know where we will be led. The Holy Spirit leads us in the moment but does not typically reveal our whole future. We must be content to be led by the daily gentle presence of God, allowing ourselves to be moved here and there. This requires much trust and abandonment.
Reflect, today, upon the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. Look for the effects of the Holy Spirit to discern whether or not you are being truly led by God. Allow yourself to be led and moved by the Breath of God and anticipate great things in your life.
Come Holy Spirit, renew within me the grace of my Baptism and lead me each and every day in accord with Your divine will. I abandon myself to Your glorious care and trust in the promptings of Your presence in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Monday of the Second Week of Easter
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” John 3:5
Are you born again? This is a common question among many of the evangelical Christians. But it’s a question that we should ask ourselves also. So are you? And what does that exactly mean?
Hopefully each one of us answers that question with a wholehearted “Yes!” Scripture is clear that we must receive a new birth in Christ. The old self must die and the new self must be reborn. This is what it means to become a Christian. We take on a new life in Christ.
Being born again happens by water and the Holy Spirit. It happens in baptism. When we are baptized we enter into the waters and die with Christ. As we rise from the waters, we are reborn in Him. This means that baptism does something truly amazing in us. It means that, as a result of our baptism, we are adopted into the very life of the Most Holy Trinity. Baptism, for most of us, happened when we were infants. It’s one of those things we do not think about very often. But we should.
Baptism is a sacrament that has an ongoing and eternal effect in our lives. It implants an indelible character upon our souls. This “character” is a constant source of grace in our lives. It is like a well of grace that never goes dry. From this well we are constantly nourished and renewed to live out the dignity we are called to live. We are given from this well the grace we need to live as sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven.
Reflect, today, upon your own Baptism. Easter is a time more than any when we are called to renew this Sacrament. Holy water is a good way to do just that. Perhaps the next time you are at church it would be good to consciously remind yourself of your baptism, and the dignity and grace you have been given through this sacrament, by making a sign of the cross on your forehead with holy water. Baptism has made you into a new creation. Seek to both understand and live that new life you have been given during this Easter season.
Heavenly Father, I renew today my baptism. I forever renounce sin and profess my faith in Christ Jesus Your Son. Give me the grace I need to live out the dignity to which I have been called. Jesus, I trust in You.
On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.
(Diary of Divine Mercy #699)
This message, spoken by Jesus to Saint Faustina in 1931, has now come true. What was spoken in the solitude of a cloistered convent in Płock Poland, now is celebrated by the Universal Church throughout the whole world!
Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Blessed Sacrament was known to very few people during her lifetime. But through her, God has spoken the message of His abundant mercy to the entire Church and world. What is this message? Though its content is endless and unfathomable, here are five key ways that Jesus desires this new devotion to be lived:
The first way is through meditation on the sacred image of The Divine Mercy. Saint Faustina was asked by Jesus to have an image of His merciful love painted for all to see. It’s an image of Jesus with two rays shining forth from His Heart. The first ray is blue, indicating the font of Mercy coming forth through Baptism; and the second ray is red, indicating the font of Mercy poured forth through the Blood of the Holy Eucharist.
The second way is through the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday. Jesus told Saint Faustina that He desired an annual solemn Feast of Mercy. This Solemnity of Divine Mercy was established as a universal celebration on the Eighth day of the Octave of Easter. On that day the floodgates of Mercy are opened and many souls are made holy.
The third way is through the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. The chaplet is a treasured gift. It’s a gift that we should seek to pray each and every day.
The fourth way is by honoring the hour of Jesus’ death every day. “ It was at 3 o’clock that Jesus took His last breath and died upon the Cross. It was Friday. For this reason, Friday should always be seen as a special day to honor His Passion and ultimate Sacrifice. But since it took place at 3 o’clock, it is also important to honor that hour each and every day. This is the ideal time to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. If the Chaplet is not possible, it’s at least important to pause and give thanks to our Lord every day at that time.
The fifth way is through the Apostolic Movement of The Divine Mercy. This movement is a call from our Lord to actively engage in the work of spreading His Divine Mercy. This is done by spreading the message and by living Mercy toward others.
On this, the Eighth Day of the Octave of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, ponder the above desires of the heart of Jesus. Do you believe that the message of Divine Mercy is meant not only for you but also for the whole world? Do you seek to understand and incorporate this message and devotion into your life? Do you seek to become an instrument of mercy to others? Become a disciple of The Divine Mercy and seek to spread this Mercy in the ways given to you by God.
My merciful Lord, I trust in You and in Your abundant Mercy! Help me, this day, to deepen my devotion to Your merciful heart and to open my soul to the treasures that pour forth from this font of Heavenly riches. May I trust You, Love You and become an instrument of You and Your Mercy to the whole world. Jesus, I trust in You!
But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. Mark 16:14
Why did the Apostles fail to believe Jesus had risen from the dead? They had seen so many amazing miracles first hand from Jesus. They lived with Him day in and day out for three years. They heard Him preach and teach with perfect authority and grace. And now, after He rose from the dead, their hearts were hardened and they did not immediately believe. Jesus had to appear to them and offer this proof to their own eyes.
This struggle that the Apostles went through is one that is all too common. It’s the struggle of a hardness of heart. They wanted to believe, but they couldn’t let themselves freely embrace the Resurrection with true faith until they had some proof. Little did they know that all the proof they needed was already within them.
So often we are invited by Jesus to have faith and believe in Him and to accept many things as a matter of faith. The gift of faith is like a small flame within our hearts that we carelessly expose to the winds. This carelessness allows the flame of faith to be extinguished before it can grow.
The goal of our Christian walk is to let that flame of faith become the blazing fire that God wants. And it’s possible! It’s entirely possible to let that flame become so all-consuming that nothing can put it out. Are you willing to do what you need to so as to let that flame glow brightly? And how do we do this?
The path to this blazing fire of faith within has to do with the way we handle that spark which is already there. We have to care for and nurture that small flame. We have to treat the beginnings of our faith with great care. We must guard it and feed it so that it grows. This is done, in part, by avoiding carelessness in our life of prayer.
Prayer is the key to letting God grow within. He is there, speaking to us and calling us to believe. Every time we doubt, or harden our heart, we expose that tiny flame to the elements. But every time we intensely focus upon that flame, we enable it to grow and take hold. Praying, listening, seeking, loving and believing are the ways to the faith God wants to bestow upon us. And if the Apostles would have just let that gift of faith, planted deep within, grow by a softening of their hearts, they would have quickly and easily believed that Jesus was alive without having a need to see Him with their own eyes.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that we do not see the Resurrected Christ in a physical way, but we do have the same ability as the Apostles to know and love Him. What are you doing every day to let this love and knowledge of Christ grow? What are you doing in your own faith life to let this flame become a blazing and all-consuming fire? Recommit yourself this day to prayer, and watch your faith in Christ grow brightly!
Lord, I love You and I believe in You. Help me to fan the flame of faith planted in my heart into a blazing and all-consuming fire. Help me to know and love You so that this knowledge and love transform me. Purify my soul by this fire and free me from any hardness of heart. Jesus, I trust in You.
Fishing for Souls with Jesus
“Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. John 21:6
Every fisherman would love to have the experience that Jesus offered the Apostles in the passage above. The Apostles were fishing all night and caught nothing. Then, in the morning, Jesus appeared on the shore but they did not realize it was Him. He then gave them a simple command to cast their net off the right side of the boat. And they caught so many fish they could not pull them in. What an exciting catch!
This catch of fish was much more than just a favor from Jesus to help them with their work. It was highly symbolic. The central symbolism is that Jesus was giving the Apostles a new calling. They would no longer be fishing just for fish, rather, they were now to fish for souls. And the important part is that if they attempted to do this by their own efforts, they would come up empty handed. If, however, they did it at the Lord’s command, in His way, within His timing, then their efforts would provide an abundance of good fruit. More than they could ever imagine!
This miracle of Jesus begins to reveal to the Apostles (and to us) the command that comes to evangelize the world. This revelation comes after His Resurrection as Jesus gives His final instructions to the Apostles to carry out His mission of salvation. We should see in this miracle our own call to spread the Good News. And we must see in this miracle the command to spread the Good News only at the command of Jesus, in His way and within His timing.
Sometimes Christians tend to come up with many “good” ideas to spread the Gospel. But the key is to humble ourselves before God and realize that we are incapable of spreading the Good News of the Gospel unless the Lord is leading the way and giving the direction. This tells us we should wait on Him and let Him speak. We must listen to His voice and respond only when He leads. Evangelization is a response to Jesus rather than something we do by our own effort. This is the central message of this miraculous event.
As we continue our Easter Day celebration, it is a good time for each of us to reflect upon our own responsibility to evangelize. We all have a calling to share in this work of Jesus. It will take on different forms for each of us according to our vocation and mission. But the real question is this: “Am I responding to the call from Jesus to evangelize in the way He is directing me?” This is an important question. We should know that the particular mission Jesus gives us is not entrusted to anyone else. And He does want to use us.
Reflect, today, upon this command our Lord gave to the Apostles and hear Him speak this same command to you, calling you to “fish for souls” in accord with His holy will. Let the Lord speak to you this week and let yourself be open to His direction. God wants to use you, so make sure you let Him!
Lord, I do want to be used by You. I do want to evangelize in accord with Your will. Help me to confidently answer the call, and help me to sincerely listen to the direction You give. Use me, dear Lord, to save many souls for Your Kingdom. Jesus, I trust in You.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. Luke 24:41–43
“Incredulous for joy!” What a great description of the disciples’ reaction to Jesus! To be “incredulous” means that the disciples were not sure what to believe. They were hesitant to believe in what they were seeing. There was Jesus, whom they saw crucified, standing before them with the wounds in His hands and feet. He was talking to them and asked for something to eat. They were in a bit of shock, disbelief and uncertainty.
But the description says that they were incredulous “for joy!” It’s as if they were waiting to explode with joy, they wanted to experience joy in what they were seeing, but something was holding them back. It all seemed to be too good. Was it true? Could it be that Jesus really conquered death and was once again back with them?
This reaction of the disciples reveals an experience that we all have at times when invited by God to enter into His glory and grace. So often, when God invites us closer to Himself, when He invites us to experience the joy of His Resurrection, we react with hesitancy. We can find it hard to actually let ourselves experience the reality of the Resurrection in our lives.
This can happen for many reasons. Discouragement is one cause for our hesitancy to fully embrace the Resurrection. The disciples were deeply discouraged at the death of Jesus. And now that He had risen, and was standing there before them, they were hesitant to let go of that discouragement they let take hold.
So also, we can easily let the weight of the world, our sin, or the sins of others get to us. We can get angry or upset and find ourselves brewing over the apparent problems we face. Taking joy in the Resurrection means we turn our eyes away from those things and look intently at the realities God wants us to focus on. It does no good to become discouraged with the many problems that come our way. Instead, our Lord is regularly calling us to look beyond them to something greater. He is calling us to look to His victory! Looking at His victory is freeing and produces an incredible faith in our lives. And that faith in the Risen Lord will have the effect of a wonderful joy that God wants us to have.
Reflect, today, upon your own reaction to the reality of the Resurrection of our Lord. Spend some time today gazing upon the Risen Lord. Look at His victory. Look at His glory. Look at Him who calls you to a deep faith. With your eyes fixed on Him, all else that tempts you to discouragement simply fades away.
Lord, I do want to gaze upon You. I want to see Your splendor and glory. I want to see You risen from the dead and take great joy and delight in this reality. Help me, dear Lord, to experience the incredible joy that comes from knowing You, our Resurrected Lord. Jesus, I trust in You.
Recognising Jesus in Your Daily Life
That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. Luke 24:13–16
This appearance of Jesus to two of His disciples is intriguing and fascinating. They were quite distraught and didn’t seem to know what to think about Jesus’ death. They had hoped He was the Messiah but then He was killed. And then there were some who claimed His tomb was empty. What should they make of all this?
As the story goes on, Jesus “interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.” With that, these disciples realized that this man with whom they were speaking had incredible wisdom and understanding, so they invited Him to stay with them. Jesus stayed and sat down with them in their home. While there, Scripture says that “he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.”
Again, this is intriguing and fascinating. Why did Jesus appear to them, conceal who He was, sit down and break bread with them, allow them to suddenly recognize Him and then vanish into thin air? Well, He did it for a reason and we should be very attentive to this.
Jesus wanted those disciples, as well as all of us, to know that He who rose from the dead was very much alive and that we would recognize Him in the breaking of the bread. We would recognize Him in the Most Holy Eucharist!
This appearance of Jesus to these disciples was, in fact, an appearance to teach all of us the simple truth of His presence in the Eucharist. It was at that moment, as they “took bread, said the blessing, broke it,” that Jesus was suddenly made manifest to their minds and souls. Jesus is alive in the Eucharist! But it also tells us that He is veiled in the Eucharist. This combination of being veiled and truly present gives us wonderful guidance in our faith.
Jesus is here, right now, in our presence, but we most likely do not see Him. But He is truly here! These disciples were in the presence of Jesus and they did not realize it. The same is true for us. We are constantly in His presence and we do not realize it. This is especially true when we are at Mass but it is also true in countless other ways throughout our day. We must commit ourselves to seeing Him, to recognizing Him and to adoring Him. We must discover the resurrected presence of Jesus all around us.
Too often we think that our Lord is present only in extraordinary ways. But that is not true! He is constantly present to us in very ordinary ways. He is here with us right now, loving us, speaking to us, and calling us to love Him. Do you see Him? Do you recognize His presence?
Reflect, today, upon the experience of these disciples. If you were them, you’d be blessed to be in the presence of the Savior of the world. What an honor! The truth is that God is with you now and always. He is constantly with you and is constantly speaking with you. Look for Him and listen to His voice. You may be surprised at how near He really is.
Lord, thank You for loving me so much that You are always with me. Help me to see You and to recognize Your gentle and still voice. Give me the eyes of faith to see You present in the Most Holy Eucharist, and help me to discern Your presence in every ordinary event of my day. I love You, dear Lord. Jesus, I trust in You.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him. Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” John 20:15–17
Mary Magdalene had been outside Jesus’ tomb weeping because she didn’t know what had happened to His sacred body. Jesus appears to her suddenly in her grief and she is overwhelmed, crying out “Rabbouni!” Jesus tells her to stop holding on to Him. Why would Jesus say this? What did He mean?
As we can imagine, this was a very emotional moment for Mary. She had been there watching the entire Crucifixion. She knew Jesus well and loved Him dearly. She watched Him die and now, all of a sudden, Jesus was alive and in her presence. Her emotions must have been overwhelming.
Jesus was not being critical of Mary when He told her not to hold on to Him. He was actually giving her beautiful advice and direction in her spiritual journey and in her relationship with Him. He was telling her that His relationship was now going to change, and deepen. He told her not to hold on to Him because He had “not yet ascended to the Father.” At that moment, Mary’s relationship with Jesus was primarily on a human level. She had spent much time with Him, been in His physical presence, and loved Him with her human heart. But Jesus wanted more. He wanted her, and all of us, to now love Him in a divine way. He was soon to ascend to the Father, and from His heavenly throne He could descend to begin a new relationship with Mary, and with all of us, that was far more than one on a human level. From His throne in Heaven He could now enter Mary’s soul. He could enter into a new and much deeper communion with her and with all of us. He could live in us and we in Him. He could become one with us.
By letting go of the more human and emotional aspects of her relationship with Jesus, Mary could soon cling to Him in a way that she couldn’t do through her human interaction with Him. This is the divine marriage, the divine communion to which we are all called.
Reflect, today, upon your own clinging to Jesus. He is now fully resurrected and ascended and we can experience the full fruits of the Resurrection as a result. We, with Mary, can now hold on to Him in our souls because He is primarily the one holding on to us.
Lord, may I cling to You as You cling to me. May my heart, mind and soul be Yours. Come live in me so that I may live in You. I give my life to You, dear Lord, help me to offer You all that I am. Jesus, I trust in You.
Overjoyed at the Resurrection!
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce the news to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. Matthew 28:8–9
They went away “fearful” but also “overjoyed.” What a fascinating combination! These two experiences do not at first seem like they go hand in hand. How is one fearful while also filled with joy? Wouldn’t fear undermine joy? And wouldn’t joy seem to cast out fear? This all depends upon what sort of “fear” these holy women were experiencing.
It seems that the fear these women were experiencing was one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gift of holy fear. This is not a fear in the normal sense of being afraid. Rather, it’s a fear that is better defined as a deep reverence, wonder and awe. It’s a gift that enabled these women to recognize the profundity of what they were presently experiencing. They were in awe, holy shock, amazement and filled with joy all at the same time. They would have suddenly experienced the amazing realization and hope that Jesus had beaten death itself. They were most likely confused but also filled with a faith that left them with a conviction that something extraordinary had just taken place.
This is the experience we must have today. Today is the second day in the Octave of Easter. That means today is Easter Day once again. We celebrate Easter Day for eight straight days culminating with Divine Mercy Sunday. So these next eight days are days when we should spend extra time trying to penetrate and experience the same experience these holy women had as they first discovered that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. We must let ourselves engage the mystery of the Resurrection. We must see it for what it is. We must strive to comprehend this gift and the amazing fact that in His Resurrection, Jesus destroys the effects of sin. He destroys death itself. Truly amazing!
Do you understand the Resurrection of Christ? Not well enough. It’s only the humble truth for each of us to admit that we need to understand the Resurrection more. We must let not only the truth of the Resurrection sink in, we must also allow the effects of the Resurrection to change us. We must allow the Resurrection of Christ to enter into our souls and invite us to share in this new life today.
As these holy women left the tomb, the Scripture tells us that they met the Resurrected Christ on their way. And it tells us that when they saw Jesus they, “approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.” This is no small act of adoration and love. This act of worship and adoration of Jesus shows that they not only believed, but also acted by worshiping Him. We must do the same.
Reflect, today, upon the awesome event of the Resurrection and spend time this week in this humble adoration. Try to literally bow down to the ground in homage before the Resurrected Christ. Try to do this literally. Perhaps in the silence of your room, or in a church, or any place that you can comfortably express this literal and physical act of worship and adoration. As you do this, let yourself come face to face with the Risen Lord. And let Him begin to more deeply transform your life!
Lord, I do believe. I believe You rose victorious over sin and death. Allow me, especially during this Octave of Easter, to enter into the great mystery of Your Resurrection. Help me to understand and experience this overwhelming glory in my life. I adore You with a profound love, dear Lord. Help me to worship You with all my might. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Lord has Risen! Alleluia!
And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Matthew 28:2–6b
What an experience that must have been! Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb early in the morning to pay tribute to our Lord’s sacred body. They brought the oils and perfumes that they planned on placing on his beaten and bruised body. They came to offer Him their last act of love. But as the women arrived, the earth quaked and the angel of God appeared to them.
As they left, Scripture says they then left the tomb quickly, “fearful yet overjoyed.” All they could think about was telling the other disciples of their encounter when another incredible joy befell them. Jesus Himself met them on the way. In their amazement, the women fell at His feet and did Him homage. Not the homage they planned on doing to a dead body, but the homage due to a risen Savior. They worshipped Him. Jesus then spoke: “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Mt. 28:10).
It was true. All they had hoped for came true. They saw Jesus arrested. They saw Him beaten. They saw Him falsely accused. They saw Him sentenced to death. And they saw Him die. Now for the miracle of miracles, they saw their Savior alive. Every hope that they had came true. Everything came to fruition in that moment. All that was lost was restored a hundredfold.
The Resurrection of Christ is not simply an event that took place long ago. It’s an event that continues to take place when we patiently walk with our Lord through the trials, crosses and sufferings of life, with hope and trust in His power to do all good things. Evil always loses in the end when we remain steadfast in our hope in Him.
As we celebrate the reality of the Resurrection of Christ, ponder the promise He has spoken to you. If you have surrendered all to Him and died to the world of sin, keep your eyes now on the Resurrection. Have hope in Him and in His power to breathe new life into your heaviest cross.
Sometimes we have hope in our own ideas of the Resurrection. We ask for some hope to come true because we think it is what we need. But the Resurrection of Christ should teach us that His plan for new life for each one of us is far superior than what we could ever imagine. Do you believe that? Do you maintain your hope in Christ even when all seems lost?
Reflect, today, upon the unfathomable plan that God has for your life. Know that if you remain faithful until the end, our Lord will bring forth greater joys in your life than you could ever think possible. It may not happen according to your schedule or your wishes, but it will happen in accord with His perfect divine will. Do not doubt. Do not be afraid. Have hope and trust, and anticipate the moments when the power of the Resurrection brings forth the greatest joys you could ever imagine.
My Resurrected Lord, I trust You with all my mind, heart, soul and strength. I believe that You are faithful to perfection and that Your fidelity will never fail. Give me hope when I need it the most and help me to keep my eyes on the glory that awaits. You have conquered all evil. May I always trust in You!
Today, there is a great silence. The Savior has died. He rests in the tomb. Many hearts were filled with uncontrollable grief and confusion. Was He really gone? Had all their hopes been shattered? These and many other thoughts of despair filled the minds and hearts of so many who loved and followed Jesus.
It is on this day that we honor the fact that Jesus was still preaching. He descended to the land of the dead, to all the holy souls who had gone before Him, so as to bring them His gift of salvation. He brought His gift of mercy and redemption to Moses, Abraham, the prophets and so many others. This was a day of great joy for them. But a day of great sorrow and confusion for those who watched their Messiah die on the Cross.
It’s helpful to ponder this apparent contradiction. Jesus was accomplishing His act of redemption, the greatest act of love ever known, and so many were in complete confusion and despair. It shows that God’s ways are so far above our own ways. What appeared to be a great loss actually turned into the most glorious triumph ever known.
So it is with our lives. Holy Saturday should be a reminder to us that even those things which seem to be the worst of tragedies are not always what they seem. God the Son was obviously doing great things as He laid in the tomb. He was accomplishing His mission of redemption. He was changing lives and pouring forth grace and mercy.
The message of Holy Saturday is clear. It’s a message of hope. Not hope in a worldly sense, rather, it’s the message of divine hope. Hope and trust in God’s perfect plan. Hope in the fact that God always has a greater purpose. Hope in the fact that God uses suffering and, in this case, death as a powerful instrument of salvation.
Spend time in silence today. Try to enter into the reality of Holy Saturday. Let divine hope grow within you knowing that Easter is soon to come.
Lord, I thank You for the gift of Your suffering and death. Thank You for this day of silence as we await Your Resurrection. May I also await Your triumph in my life. When I struggle with despair, dear Lord, help me to be reminded of this day. The day when all appeared as loss. Help me to see my struggles through the lens of Holy Saturday, remembering that You are faithful in all things and that the Resurrection is always assured to those who put their trust in You. Jesus, I do trust in You.
Ponder today, this dark day, the final words of Jesus. Scripture records seven last statements, or the “Seven Last Words.” Take each phrase and spend time with it. Seek the deeper spiritual meaning for your life.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Jesus’ forgiveness of others was radical and to a degree never seen before. While hanging on the Cross and enduring the cruelty of others, Jesus spoke words of forgiveness. He forgave them in the midst of His persecution.
What’s more is that He even acknowledged that those crucifying Him were not fully responsible. They clearly did not know what they were doing. This humble acknowledgment of Jesus shows the depth of His tender mercy. It reveals He died not in anger or resentment, but in willing sacrifice.
Can you say these words? Can you call to mind the person who has hurt you and pray that the Father forgives them? Leave judgment to God and offer mercy and forgiveness.
“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
What a consolation it must have been for the good thief to hear these words. He must have been experiencing a certain despair in life at that moment as he, along side of Jesus, was dying on a cross. What a gift it was to be there next to the Savior of the World, sharing in the sufferings of Christ in such a real way. And this man was privileged to be among the first to receive this gift of salvation won by Jesus on the Cross.
Jesus offers us the same assurance. He offers salvation to us beginning today. And He offers it to us in the midst of our own suffering and sin. Can you hear Him offer you this gift of mercy? Can you hear Him invite you to share His gift of everlasting life? Let Him speak this invitation to you and let the eternal life of paradise begin to take hold more deeply today in your soul.
“Woman, behold your son.”
What a gift! Here, dying on the Cross, Jesus entrusted His own mother to John. And in so doing, He entrusted her to each one of us. Our unity with Jesus makes us a member of His family and, thus, sons and daughters of His own mother. Our Blessed Mother accepts this responsibility with great joy. She embraces us and holds us close.
Do you accept Jesus’ mother as your own spiritual mother? Have you fully consecrated yourself to her? Doing so will place you under her mantle of protection and love.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus was not abandoned but He allowed Himself to feel and experience this complete loss of the Father in His human nature. He felt the deep experience of despair. He allowed Himself to know and experience the effects of sin. Therefore, He knows what we go through when we despair. He knows what it feels like. And He is there with us in those temptations enabling us to press on through any despair toward total faith and trust in the Father.
What a meaningful statement. He thirsted physically at that moment for water to quench His dehydration. But more than that, He thirsted spiritually for the salvation of all of our souls. Jesus’ spirit still longs for this gift of salvation. He longs to call us His children. He thirsts for our love.
Ponder Jesus saying these words to you. “I thirst for you!” He says. It is a deep and burning thirst for your love. You satiate Jesus’ thirst by returning that love. Satiate His thirst this Good Friday by giving Him your love.
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
These are the words we need to pray more than any. These are the words of complete surrender to God. Prayer is ultimately about one thing. It’s about surrender. It’s about trust. Say these words over and over today and let this perfect surrender of Jesus also be your surrender.
Surrender means God is in control. It means that we let go of our own will and choose only God’s. And it means that God pledges to accept our surrender and guide us into the perfect plan He has in mind for us.
“It is finished.”
It’s significant that He said “It is finished” as His last words. What does this mean? What is finished?
This spiritual statement from Jesus is one that affirms that His mission of the redemption of the whole world is accomplished. “It” refers to His perfect sacrifice of love offered for all of us. His death, which we commemorate today, is the perfect sacrifice which takes away the sins of all. What a gift! And what a sacrifice Jesus endured for us!
We are used to seeing this sacrifice on the Cross. We ponder this sacrifice every time we look at the crucifix. But it is important to note that our over-familiarity with the Cross can tempt us to lose sight of the sacrifice. It’s easy for us to miss what Jesus actually did for us. He accomplished the act that saves us and He is now offering it to us. Let this completed act of Divine Mercy penetrate your soul. He desires to say that His sacrifice has “finished” its work in your soul.
So today, on this Good Friday, it would be good if we spent the day pondering the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice. Try to understand what it was like for God Himself to suffer and die. Contemplate what it was like for God Himself, the Creator of all things, to be put to death by those whom He created, to suffer at the hands of those whom He loved with a perfect love.
Understanding Jesus’ sacrificial love will enable us to love as He did. It will enable us to love those who have hurt us and those who persecute us. His love is total. It is generous beyond description.
Lord, I know You thirst for my soul. You finished what You started by dying on the Cross for my salvation and the salvation of the world. Help me to understand Your love and to accept it into my life. Help me to forgive. Help me to invite you into my own darkness and sin. Help me to abandon all to You. I thank You, dear suffering Lord, for the gift of Your Precious Blood, poured out for the salvation of the world. Jesus, I trust in You.
Cleansed by the Greatest Humility
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” John 13:8
It was a beautiful image of the deepest humility ever witnessed. Jesus, the Eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, was exercising the duty of a servant. One by one, Jesus went around and cleansed the feet of His disciples. It was the celebration of the Passover. A holy feast, a remembrance of God’s saving action to their ancestors the night they were set free from slavery in Egypt. However, this Passover “remembrance” was certainly one to be remembered, and embraced.
Peter was overwhelmed by Jesus’ humility and at first refused to have his Lord wash his feet. But Jesus says something that rings true for all eternity: “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” This was no ordinary washing, it was not in reference only to the washing of Peter’s dirty feet, it was an eternal washing of his immortal soul, and the “water” would soon flow forth from the pierced and Sacred Heart of Jesus Himself.
Less than twenty-four hours later, Jesus would be on a cross, and a Roman soldier would pierce His heart with a lance. From His heart flowed blood and water, the new font of grace and mercy itself. This “Last Supper” with our Lord was the sacramental institution of the cleansing power of His one and perfect Sacrifice which is now made present to us throughout time in the gifts of Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.
Every time we renew our Baptism, receive His Spirit more deeply into our lives and consume His sacred Body and Blood, we participate in this cleansing action of Christ to Peter and the other disciples. Jesus looks at each one of us, with a gaze of love, and says, “Unless I wash you…” What is your response to our Lord?
It takes humility to accept the humblest act of mercy ever known. We must humbly acknowledge that we need our Lord to cleanse us, to wipe the dirt from our souls, to redeem us and to offer us the inheritance of everlasting life.
It is at that Last Supper, the beginning of the first Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, that our Lord gazes through Peter to each one of us and offers to cleanse us of all sin. What is your response? How humble are you in your reception of this gift? How deeply do you believe in the saving Sacrifice of our divine Lord?
Reflect, this night, upon those sacred words of our Lord and hear them spoken to you: “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Say “Yes” to this offer of perfect humility and mercy from our Lord and let the saving Sacrifice of the Son of God enter more deeply into your life than ever before.
My merciful Lord, Your humility is awe-inspiring and overwhelming. Please wash me clean with the blood and water flowing forth from Your pierced Heart. Help me to receive this gift in the way it was given: with humility. I thank You, I say “Yes” to Your gift, I receive You and I invite You to cleanse me. I am a sinner, dear Lord. I need Your cleansing action in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.” Matthew 26:24–25
Was Judas in denial? Did he truly think that he was not the one who was to betray Jesus? We do not know for certain what was going on in Judas’ mind, but one thing is clear…he did betray Jesus. And it appears from his words that he didn’t see his act as a betrayal and, therefore, he was in deep denial.
Denial, if written out as an acronym, has been said to mean that I “don’t even know I am lying.” Perhaps Judas was so steeped in his own sin that he couldn’t even admit to himself, let alone to others, that he was lying and preparing to betray Jesus for money. This is a scary thought.
It’s scary because it reveals one of the effects of persistent sin. Persistent sin makes sin easier. And eventually, when one persists in the same sin, that sin is easily rationalized, justified and denied as sin altogether. When one gets stuck in this downward spiral of persistent sin it’s hard to get out. And often the only way to survive the psychological tension is to remain in denial.
This is an important lesson for us this Holy Week. Sin is never fun to look at and takes great courage to do so. But imagine if Judas would have actually confessed to what he was about to do. Imagine if he would have broken down in front of Jesus and the other Apostles and told them the whole truth. Perhaps that act of honesty would have saved his life and his eternal soul. It would have been painful and humiliating for him to do so, but it would have been the right thing to do.
The same is true with you. Perhaps you are not at a point where your sin is leading you to outright betrayal of Jesus, but everyone can find some pattern of sin in their lives this Holy Week. You must seek to discover, with God’s help, some pattern or habit you have formed. What a great discovery this would be if you could then face this sin with honesty and courage. This would enable you to shed any bit of denial regarding your sin and enable you to conquer that sin so as to discover the freedom God wants you to experience!
Reflect, today, upon Judas saying to Jesus, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” This sad statement from Judas must have deeply wounded our Lord’s Heart as He witnessed the denial of Judas. Reflect, also, upon the many times that you deny your sin, failing to sincerely repent. Make this Holy Week a time for honesty and integrity. The Lord’s mercy is so deep and pure that, if you would understand it, you would have no need to remain in any form of denial of your sins.
Lord, help me this Holy Week to have the courage I need to face my sin and weakness. I am a sinner, dear Lord, but it can be very hard for me to admit it. May I entrust my sin to You so that I may be set free and receive, in its place, Your abundant mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.
Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” John 13:21
It’s very important to note here that Jesus was “deeply troubled.” This shows His humanity. Jesus had a human heart and loved Judas with a divine love through His human heart. As a result of this perfect love of Judas, Jesus’ heart was deeply troubled. It was “troubled” in the sense that Jesus could do nothing more than He had already done to change the mind and heart of Judas. It’s not that Jesus was personally offended or angered by Judas’ betrayal. Rather, it’s that Jesus’ heart burned with a deep sorrow at the loss of Judas whom He loved with a perfect love.
Judas had free will. Without free will Judas could not freely love Jesus. But with free will, Judas chose to betray Jesus. The same is true with us. We have free will and we are given the same ability that Judas had to accept the love of Jesus or to reject it. We can let His loving gift of salvation and grace enter our lives or refuse it. It’s 100% up to us.
Holy Week is an ideal time to seriously contemplate the road you are on. Each and every day of your life you are invited by God to choose Him with all your might and love. But, like Judas, we so often betray Him by our refusal to enter Holy Week with Jesus, embracing His Cross as ours. We so often fail to give completely of our lives in a sacrificial and generous way, as our Lord did that Holy Week.
Reflect, today, upon the love Jesus had for Judas. It was His love for Judas, more than Judas’ sin, that brought so much pain to Jesus’ Heart. If Jesus didn’t love him, the rejection would not have hurt. Reflect, also, on the love Jesus has for you. Ponder whether or not His Heart is also troubled as a result of the actions in your life. Be honest and do not make excuses. If Jesus is troubled in any way as a result of your actions and choices this is no reason to despair as Judas did. Rather, it should be the cause of rejoicing that you are aware of your weakness, sin and limitation. Turn that over to Jesus who loves you more than you love yourself. Doing this will bring your heart much consolation and peace. And it will also bring much consolation and peace to the Heart of our Divine Lord. He loves you and is waiting for you to come to Him this Holy Week.
My dear suffering and rejected Lord, I do love You but I also know that I cause Your Heart to be troubled by my betrayal. Help me to see my sin honestly this Holy Week. In seeing it, may I let go of that which keeps me from loving You more deeply, so as to walk with You to the Cross to share in Your glorious triumph. Jesus, I trust in You
Anointing the Feet of Jesus
Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
What a humble and beautiful act of love toward Jesus. This perfume was worth 300 days’ wages. That’s a lot of money! It’s interesting to note that Judas objected to this act by claiming that he thought it should have been sold and the money given to the poor. But the Gospel states clearly that Judas was really only interested in the money himself since he used to steal from the money bag. Of even greater note is Jesus’ response to Judas. Jesus rebukes Judas and states, “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.”
If anyone else would have said this it would have sounded self-centered. But it was Jesus who said it and He was perfectly selfless in His love. So what was this all about? It was about the fact that Jesus knew what Mary needed. And in saying what He did, He revealed what each one of us needs. We need to worship Him, honor Him and make Him the center of our lives. We need to humble ourselves before Him and serve Him. Not because He needs us to treat Him this way, but because we need to treat Him this way. Honoring Him in our humility and love is what we need to do for our own holiness and happiness. Jesus knew this, so He honored Mary for this act of love.
This story invites us to do the same. It invites us to look to Jesus and to make Him the center of our adoration and love. It invites us to willingly pour out all our labor for Him (symbolized by the perfume worth 300 days’ wages). Nothing is too costly for Jesus. Nothing is worth more than an act of our worship.
Worship of God is right to do. Most importantly, it’s an act that will transform you into the person you were made to be. You were made for worship and adoration of God and this is accomplished when you humbly honor our Lord with your whole self.
Reflect, today, upon the depth of your own adoration of our Lord. Are you willing to “spill” your whole livelihood upon Him? Is He worth more to you than 300 days’ wages? Is He the most central part of your life? Do you daily humble yourself before Him and pour out your heart to Him in prayer? Reflect upon this humble act of worship that Mary offers Jesus and seek to imitate her beautiful example.
Lord, may I follow the example of this holy woman, Mary. Help me to humble myself before You and honor You with my whole life. Dear Lord, nothing in life is more important than You and my total adoration of You. Draw me in, dear Lord, humble me before Your glory and help me to love and worship You with my whole being. Jesus, I trust in You.