Time for a harmless little quiz. What is a petrichor? Is it (1) a type of Biblical fruit; (2) the type of key actually used in Biblical times; or (3) a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. If you chose (3) then you are correct and if you knew that word before today, you are some kind of genius. However, we all have experienced a petrichor in our lives. Haven’t you noticed how wonderful it smells after a good rain? That comforting aroma is better than any perfume or cologne and certainly rivals a lot of home-cooking smells. Possibly because there is always life-giving and heart-enriching moments waiting for us after a storm of any kind. Our First Reading today clearly agrees with this assessment. “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” Hardships of every kind have the potential of molding and shaping us into the treasures that Jesus sees in us and died to keep us free to develop in this life.
The price of carrying the cross for, with and because of Christ has rewards that far exceed all of our wildest imaginations. Jesus made that more than perfectly clear in the Gospel. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” The very operative word in this wonderful quote from the Lord is how He qualifies the gift he is offering us. It is peace, certainly, but not as the world give it. That means that there is something deficient about what the world considers to be peace and something overwhelmingly wonderful about the peace that He gives. It has to do with what lasts forever. We may experience a type of comfort or peace when we get through a problem or crisis, but the peace Jesus promises has everything to do with where we will be spending the rest of eternity. Amen. Alleluia!Leave a comment
“He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” Pruning is a very necessary and productive activity that is nearly an art. It involves trimming a tree, shrub, or bush by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth. It is an amazing thing that the Lord does for those who truly want to follow and enter into new realms of mystery and fulfillment. He challenges us to strip away the things that bog us down and keep our vision and view so cluttered and selfish. Many times we need to cut back and prune off some growth in order to make room for new blooms in the spiritual life.
What is the dead growth in your life? Your job? A relationship? Clutter? Your health? Excess weight? Anger? Jesus clearly tells us what we need to do. “Remain in me, as I remain in you, says the Lord; whoever remains in me will bear much fruit.”Leave a comment
“I am reminding you, brothers and sisters, of the Gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand.” This moving opening phrase from our First Reading today makes a remarkable yet subtle assumption that is quite important for all of us to clearly understand and adopt if we have any hope of living a life of integrity. Many times we encounter people who think that following Jesus and proclaiming our position as Christian is some kind of hobby or much like a political affiliation. The Readings today, however ask us to go much deeper and avoid any semblance of shallowness or a lack of courage. The reason we are Christian is because of Christ; the reason we follow so closely and intensely is because he died to set us free: “…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In the Gospel of today, Jesus makes it obvious of the great benefits that await us by being loving and devoted followers of the Gospel of Life and all that it entails. In a world where many have lost their way, live by lies and promote a culture of death, the role and essential place of those of us who follow Christ is needed in a very powerful way. We must take strong and bright stands in this life so that we may be the light that we are called to be for the world. Archimedes has been quoted in several locations as saying, “Give me a place to stand and I shall move the earth.” If we stand with Jesus, our world would never be the same.Leave a comment
“I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” The Gospel of today has the potential of warming our souls with the greatest of all possible messages: Jesus wants to be my friend. Let us sit back for a moment and allow that invitation to truly permeate all of the strata of our lives right now, no matter how good or not-so-great they are right now. We may have discovered by now that our true friends are not the people we meet that make our problems disappear. They are those precious and few souls who never disappear when we are in the mire of crisis and worrisome problems. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” This is what the Lord has done for each one of us and by his suffering and death on the cross, we have been washed clean and redeemed, and by his resurrection, we can and should walk completely in hope no matter how dismal or hopeless any situation appears to be.
“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” Now, for our part, as a good friend would do, what should be our response to this amazing invitation to walk with Jesus? The very obvious answer is to communicate, acknowledge the eternal gifts and invite others to do the same. Silence as a response to God only works if we are intent on truly listening to him but not if we remain inactive to the call to holiness. For you see, in the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. “This I command you: love one another.”
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“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” -St. Teresa of Calcutta
“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.” (Gospel) The word hate is generally defined as intense, extreme hostility and aversion to something or someone, usually stemming from fear, anger or a sense of injury. We use it to cover an enormous range of feelings and situations, from the child who hates broccoli or doing math homework, to the insane dictator who tries to exterminate everyone of a certain religion or ethnicity. It may be intertwined with other emotions, such as fear or anger, but it is distinctly different from them. Why do you think that the Lord would describe the world’s reaction to him and, by extension, all of those who want to follow him for the rest of their lives?
“… because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.” There is probably a deep and wonderful clue found here at the center of the Gospel passage we have today. If there is indeed such a thing as a science of hatred, it might include the very basic principle that there is an intrinsic and deep repulsion and enmity between two very different sets of aspirations. Thus, in the spiritual life, the tension between what is above and what is below represents the eternal struggle of humanity leading all the way to eternity. What shall we do? St. Paul has the relieving and essential answer. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”Leave a comment
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.” On this beautiful Sabbath, ask yourself the question, “what would bring me the greatest joy?” No doubt there would be as many answers from as many different people as there are in the entire world. However, the one thing that they would have in common, is the length of that joy. Wouldn’t we opt for a joy that lasts for a longer period of time than just one minute, or an hour or even a day? What if that joy could last forever? We could then say that it is certainly complete. “…the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the Word.” Only God can guarantee complete and forever in this life. The Holy Spirit as the primary source of inspiration and wisdom seals and protects this complete joy that will take us into Heaven having won the battle of our lives while alive on this planet. So how do we know that we are in his presence and under his protection?
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” Jesus clearly wants to invite all of us into the deep and wonderful relationship of love that will take us through this life and make sense of all that happens to us with the real prospect of living forever in Heaven with him. This requires fidelity and keeping the commandments. This is no impossible task because we were created for love, a real joy that seeks the best for the other and never looks back. What is complete is that love involves the self-emptying of the one who seeks to love, the faith in the promise that this is the way to peace and the joy that Heaven is waiting for us.
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“Death and love are the two wings that bear the good soul to heaven.” -Michelangelo
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father…” What does the Gospel of today tell us as we begin a brand new and bold week ahead?
First, The Lord describes and reveals the true nature of the Holy Spirit as “the Advocate” which is not some ambiance or feeling ascribed but rather the deep and everlasting meaning and source of all truth. Application: when we speak the truth, we act with and in the Holy Spirit; to speak falsely cannot possibly please God for this reason.
“… he will testify to me. And you also testify…” To give witness is a powerful aspect of faith. We have to think that if someone really believes in someone or something, the very natural consequence is shared with as many others as possible. The Holy Spirit gives witness to Jesus and thus the disciples must do the same.
“I have told you this so that you may not fall away.” The Spirit that gives life and truth also necessarily protects and guides us from all harm and evil. This is a marvelous promise! How many parents who are reading this would give everything to make sure that all their children would always be guided and protected after they grow up and leave home. Yet, and amazingly so, this is what the Spirit of Truth accomplishes in us and for us.
“…I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.” Everyone encounters hardships and obstacles as we live and move and have our being. The Spirit of Truth also comforts and solidifies peace in the heart of those who love Jesus and wish to serve Him with all their heart and soul. This must be the greatest source of joy we could ever imagine.
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“The wizard of Oz says look inside yourself and find self. God says look inside yourself and find the Holy Spirit. The first will get you to Kansas. The latter will get you to heaven. Take your pick.” -Max Lucado
“But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go.” Departure and distance help us appreciate the people who mean the most to us. Think about that for a while. Perhaps you have heard this another way: “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Whichever the format or accompanying experience, it is certainly true that we could never know or have the most intimate relationship with Jesus if it were not for the Holy Spirit. In the great scheme of things, Jesus had to leave physically before the descent of the Holy Spirit could ever take place.
“I will send to you the Spirit of truth, says the Lord; he will guide you to all truth.” The Scripture, nestled within the Alleluia Chant before the Gospel, confirms what Jesus intended to do all along. So much has happened to Christ in his life during the short span of three years while he was here among us, that it would take centuries to process it all, and then have the courage to actually place the mystery of Jesus in our lives especially in the ways we deal with one another. It looks like we still need a lot of work, because according to some historians, we human beings have only been entirely at peace for only eight percent of recorded history. This is why Jesus had to ascend to his Father and send his Holy Spirit to fill all hearts with the fire of his love! His temporary, physical departure from us meant an eternity of intimacy with him.
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“We spend our lives, all of us, waiting for the great day, the great battle, or the deed of power. But that external consummation is not given to many: nor is it necessary. So long as our being is tensed, directed with passion, towards that which is the spirit of all things, then that spirit will emerge from our own hidden, nameless effort.” -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Our first Reading today reveals a remarkable experience which St.Paul had when speaking to the deeply religious Greeks living in Athens at the time. “You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious.” As we recall, the Greeks had an altar to an unknown or unrecognizable deity and the brilliant St. Paul utilized this moment in what had to have been a breath-taking moment. He built on their spiritual experience of something beyond their immediate grasp and began to introduce the wonders and miraculous comfort of our God who clearly does not want to remain hidden or distant and who has been and will always be patiently awaiting an epiphany on the part of every individual who is looking for truth and meaning in their lives. “God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent.”
“But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” These wonderful passages are preparing us for the great Feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost which are being anticipated by the whole Church in the coming weeks. First, Jesus must physically leave to prepare a place for us and second, the Holy Spirit must come down upon the Church so that Christians everywhere may fully enter the mystery of grace and salvation at a level of comfort, vision and understanding. We pray during this time for an infusion of wisdom so that we might comprehend what is happening in our lives and place all those events, good and bad, happy and tragic, onto the backdrop and perspective of our eternal life in Heaven. Allow these days of waiting for Pentecost to make a real impact on your life. It promises to be amazing even if it is just one small insight that is received. It could make a huge difference.
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“I pray to start my day and finish it in prayer. I’m just thankful for everything, all the blessings in my life, trying to stay that way. I think that’s the best way to start your day and finish your day. It keeps everything in perspective.” -Tim Tebow
“He went to visit them and, because he (Paul) practiced the same trade, stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.” (First Reading) Tent-making, in general, refers to the activities of any Christian who, while dedicating him or herself to the ministry of the Gospel, receives little or no pay for Church work, but performs other (“tent-making”) jobs to provide support. Specifically, tent-making can also refer to a method of missionary outreach in which (mostly) young people attempt to support themselves by working full-time in a regular job using their skills and education, instead of receiving financial support from a Church while spreading the Word of God. This insightful term comes from the reference we just read that confirms that St. Paul supported himself by making tents while living and preaching in Greece.
“I will not leave you orphans, says the Lord; I will come back to you, and your hearts will rejoice.” This promising, comforting phrase that is found in the Alleluia Verse for today reminds us that life is too short to waste without fully realizing what it means to follow Jesus. Most of our readers would agree that all people are seeking authentic relationships, significance and success but perhaps struggle with how their faith is relevant to their own personal vocation and lives in the world. How can we become tent-makers? The answer is balance. We know we have to work or go to school or support a family. The joy of living is finding the right and correct balance of paying the bills and living the Gospel which are not exclusive of each other. Witnessing to our friends, praying before casual eating gatherings and never being ashamed of the Gospel are profound ways to be a light in this world. Pray, study, witness and learn all you can so we can live out our God-given calling and transform culture through Christ. What’s in your tent?
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“People pay attention when they see that God actually changes persons and sets them free. When a new Christian stands up and tells how God has revolutionized his or her life, no one dozes off. When someone is healed or released from a life-controlling bondage, everyone takes notice.” -Jim Cymbala
“You’ll never understand life until it grows within you.” (Sandra C. Kassis) “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.” The Gospel today presents us with yet another powerful and insightful image to help understand the depths of our spiritual lives and how we can best understand and live them to their fullest with Jesus Christ always before us. The basic wisdom at play here is really quite simple: the greater the goal, the greater the sacrifice, the greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward. “Christ had to suffer and to rise from the dead, and so enter into his glory.” Jesus accomplished everything for us with a great amount of pain and suffering. But look at the results. Our salvation and place in heaven has been assured and guaranteed. All we need to do is get there. Consider the following two quotes and allow for some quality time today to reflect on them.
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“If God gives you an abundant harvest of trials, it is a sign of great holiness which He desires you to attain. Do you want to become a great saint? Ask God to send you many sufferings. The flame of Divine Love never rises higher than when fed with the wood of the Cross, which the infinite charity of the Savior used to finish His sacrifice. All the pleasures of the world are nothing compared with the sweetness found in the gall and vinegar offered to Jesus Christ. That is, hard and painful things endured for Jesus Christ and with Jesus Christ.” -Saint Ignatius of Loyola
“When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly.” -St. Sebastian Valfre
“Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow that I’ll say good night until tonight becomes tomorrow.” (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2, Line 185) “I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” How can separation and painful longing be good? Perhaps we could also remember the adage that is repeated a million times all over the globe which states emphatically that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Is that true? Because of our weakened humanity always longing for things that will never disappoint, anger or end, we can see how separation allows us to be much more aware and grateful of the people and the things around us. Think of the patient in a cold, removed hospital room who misses the outdoors. Then imagine the first day out of the hospital. What joy it will be!
There is yet another sweetening factor here. “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” Please realize today and for the rest of our tomorrows what access we have been given after the Ascension and in the power of the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost. We can and must ask God for all of our needs with the assurance and confidence that the Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus has given us. “Ask and you will receive” is better than all the promises of the world combined. That is why the parting of Christ at the Ascension is such sweet sorrow.Leave a comment
The Feast that we celebrate today brings a newness of understanding and a fresh and bold way to continue the path we have chosen all the way to Heaven. This virtual retreat that started on St. Valentine’s Day / Ash Wednesday, culminating on Easter Sunday, is now being fully realized and planted in our hearts as Pentecost looms with the promise of the Holy Spirit. “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” (First Reading) You see, this does not mark an end of the relationship Jesus has with us, the Church, but rather a new beginning and new way of how we relate to him as he returns to the Father. We are the Body of Christ, and thus we have also ascended with him in a very hopeful and powerful way. This must change how we look at our lives today knowing that the greatest is still yet to come for all of us. “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.” Our very nature now is in transition between Heaven and earth and it will be up to us to decide how we are to act while we live and move and have our being. That must involve praying for, waiting for and living in the gifts of wisdom and knowledge. We must be witnesses! “But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”
“We must show our Christian colors if we are to be true to Jesus Christ.” (C. S. Lewis) Perhaps the most awesome lesson to learn from today’s Feast is the fact that Jesus is coming back just as he said he would. This certainly does not mean that we lie in wait, scared and anxious about the cataclysmic doomsday that is so popular in science-fiction and pop culture. Actually, the opposite is true. Doesn’t it make more sense that if you knew someone you deeply loved was coming to see you, you would be outside eager and happy to greet them, having prepared a lavish welcome with mind and heart ready and poised to hold and embrace and even shout with song upon seeing them again? Absolutely. To be honest, it is not always easy to maintain such a joyful demeanor especially when there are crises we must face and problems we must address. Sometimes we are allowed to hit rock bottom so that we may clearly discover and know that God is the rock at the bottom. Discovering this mysterious truth, we are then set to face whatever comes with the strength inside from him who is actually returning just as he left. Indeed, we could and should shout with the Psalmist today. “God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.”Leave a comment
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Here we have the most awesome and life-changing promise that the Lord offers to us to ensure that we know that he is absolutely and eternally serious about what he intends to provide for us for all time. He promises to make the ultimate sacrifice for those he loves intensely.
“Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles.” Today is also the Feast of St. Matthias who in effect replaced the fallen traitor Judas following the horrible sequence of events after the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. Again, we have an example of the love Christ has for his Church by continually stocking and staffing good and solid leaders to shepherd and protect the flock. God never leaves us orphans because we definitely live in the time of Christ until we live with him forever in Heaven.Leave a comment
The beautiful passage we have been given today in the Gospel is known in many circles as “The Prayer of Jesus” and in others, “The High Priestly Prayer.” Regardless of these handles, we can certainly learn volumes about how Jesus prays by reviewing the veritable jewels we have been given: “Father, the hour has come.” He prays in and for the present moment: “Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.” He prays with solid intention and purpose: “They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” He prays with love and inclusion: “And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.” He prays with hope.
So the inescapable conclusion that we must make here is that as Jesus prays, so must we. We must pray in and for the present moment: “Blessed day by day be the Lord, who bears our burdens; God, who is our salvation.” We must pray with solid intention and purpose: “God is a saving God for us; the LORD, my Lord, controls the passageways of death.” We must pray with love and inclusion: “Your flock settled in it; in your goodness, O God, you provided it for the needy.” We pray with hope: “A bountiful rain you showered down, O God, upon your inheritance; you restored the land when it languished.”
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“The one who prays is never alone.” -Pope Benedict XVI
“Consecrate them in the truth.” (Gospel) What does it mean to consecrate someone or something? Some definitions render the word as the act by which something or someone is made sacred and or dedicated for a clear and religious purpose. When Jesus continues his prayer to the father in Heaven and asks that those who would follow him, his Apostles, the early Church and all of us who seek the truth in the Church to be consecrated, it is clear that he is asking that we be set apart and made sacred for a specific role and place in this world.
“As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.” How can we live this consecration on a daily basis? First, it means that we are people of truth and not lies. Second, we continue to seek to be in union with Jesus always staying in communication with him just as he was with his Father. And finally, we must keep in mind the powerful description that Jesus gives to all of us today: “They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.” When worry, anxiety, anger or deep-seated sorrow begin to overtake us, we must cling to this promise. We simply do not belong to this world; we belong to Jesus. Seen in this perspective, even the greatest problems we may ever have to encounter will always be met with Jesus at our side. “You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them, for the One who is in you is greater that the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)Leave a comment
“Father, they are your gift to me.” Imagine how wonderfully enlightening and comforting this sentence uttered by Jesus in the Gospel can be for each and every one of us. A gift that is the real embodiment of quality over quantity, the value of thought over any amount of expenditure, time spent over exotic wrapping paper gives us a keen insight as to what it means that we are actually the most wonderful gift that God the Father gives to Jesus, his Son. The foregone conclusion to this awesome truth is that we must keep this in mind for as long as we can so that we may act accordingly, not just the way we communicate in prayer but how we treat others who are as precious to God as we are.
“You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” The joy of the Readings today is that the more open the gifts of self and generosity each day we are alive, the more we will appreciate them. Time is then the greatest help to understanding and appreciating our gifts. Do not waste a single moment!
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“Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” -Leo Buscaglia
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Nowhere else in all of Scripture is there such a meaningful, emotional and theological repetition of questions as the one that appears in the Gospel of today. How often have you been asked this question? How many times in a day do you ask it? Perhaps we could posit that the reason it is repeated is because of the importance of the answer. God will always respond to our question if we are loved in the positive but the real concern in our lived faith daily experience is how we will answer. Do I really love Jesus?
Let’s see if we can glean anything from how we interact with each other as to whether or not we can essentially be called friends. Do we act the same way around Jesus as we do around other friends? Are we more ready to do something for Jesus than he would ask something from us? Are we ever afraid of saying we love Jesus in front of anyone? If we can answer these in the positive, then we all know what we must do next: “And when he had said this, he said to him, ‘Follow me.'”Leave a comment
“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.” Today is the last day before great celebration of Pentecost which simultaneously ends the Easter Season and effectively engenders and empowers the active and lively Church we have in the present moment. “The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven. His eyes behold, his searching glance is on mankind.”
“I will send to you the Spirit of truth, says the Lord; he will guide you to all truth.” What this strongly suggests to all of us is that the best is always yet to come. What we await in Pentecost is another installment of the deep understating of why we are here, what our purpose is and where we are going. These are life-changing and life-sustaining questions that require clear and truthful answers. These answers can only come with the aid of grace and the Holy Spirit. Jesus cares deeply about each one of us; the time has come for us to open our minds and welcome the Spirit of Jesus with full acceptance and tremendous joy. The happiest people do not have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything. For this, we need the Holy Spirit.Leave a comment
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” This is one of those days that we can honestly greet each other with the happy phrase, “Happy Feastday!” Why is that? Today the Church celebrates Pentecost when the Holy spirit came down upon the Apostles and many gathered with them and the birth of the Church ensued. In some ways, we could say that this is our birthday celebration because this is how it all began. This is how all of life is transformed and made new again. This is the force of the Gospel, especially when it is lived through and in the hearts of believers. This is what motivates the Psalmist to invite us to sing with all our hope and might: “When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.”
“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.” Our Second reading clarifies another compelling reason to ask and openly receive all the gifts that God wishes to impart to us through the Holy Spirit. We are not alone in this life. We have great impact and a deep call for service for and with each other. This is what makes the Church a mystery and a hopeful presence in a world that is often without it. Make this day special by renewing your Baptism and continuing to ask God for strength of mind and heart. The best, as we have often said here, is yet to come.
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“Without Pentecost the Christ-event – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – remains imprisoned in history as something to remember, think about and reflect on. The Spirit of Jesus comes to dwell within us, so that we can become living Christs here and now.” -Henri Nouwen
“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom.” Our First Reading today not only opens our discussion and thoughts about God’s will for us, but also poses a very poignant and intriguing question: who is wise? The answer may at first seem complex, but in actuality, as so often is the case, is quite simple. “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.”
This level of peace and tranquil living that is filled with the most complete, loving trust in God, can only be achieved and mastered through and by prayer. This is why, as we move forward from the entire grace-filled Easter Season and on this first day after Pentecost, our commitment to a deep life of prayer must be renewed and re-confirmed. “’Why could we not drive the spirit out?’ He said to them, ‘This kind can only come out through prayer.’”
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“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” -Max Lucado
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” We have heard and have been told many times that the true innocence of a child in the ways of living life produce the best and most abundant fruit. Why is that? Children seem to have a natural and inherent ability to trust, to express themselves without reservation, to love without counting the costs and live care-free as if God is walking right behind them because he truly is. They do not seem to worry about who is first or greatest or who has the most. Innocent children are genuinely happy when a friend of theirs receives something wonderful because sharing is almost always inevitable. Not so for some of the disciples in our Gospel passage today who were bickering about something rather trivial and petty. “But they remained silent. For they had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.”
Perhaps the best advice we can receive today concerning the hope that we can awaken the child in all of us comes directly from our first Reading: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.” Thus, here it is in a nutshell: Stay close to God, confess your sins as often as possible, and say yes when you mean yes, and no when you mean no.
“A simple, childlike faith in a Divine Friend solves all the problems that come to us by land or sea.” -Helen Keller
“You have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears.” It is quite a sobering message that we have today in our First Reading from the always timely and pertinent messages of the Book of James. No one truly knows what tomorrow will bring but we must live our lives with the confidence that God gives us without forgetting the great love the Lord has for us or even presuming that we are always right. “All such boasting is evil. So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is a sin.”
Then how are we to live in order to escape the arrogance of the self-righteous and the presumption of those who do not believe? The Responsorial Psalm has great pearls of wisdom on that account: “Yet in no way can a man redeem himself, or pay his own ransom to God; Too high is the price to redeem one’s life; he would never have enough to remain alive always and not see destruction.” Jesus makes it clear that he wants with all the might of the universe to be our way, our truth and our life, but he would never nor will ever impose upon us, restricting our freedom or our own use of free will.
Consider these words from a teacher to her students: “Life is too short to argue and fight with the past. Count your blessings, value your loved ones and move on with your head held high.”Leave a comment
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” The Gospel, as usual, does not mince words today. Temptation is hard enough for each of us to encounter as we search for better ways to follow the Lord Jesus which makes a strong case that we certainly do not need any help from our friends or from anyone else for that matter. However, by extension, think of all the good we do for one another, especially in our daily routines and casual conversations. We can actually help each other get to heaven.
“Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.” Clearly, as always when reading the Scriptures, we are presented an awesome choice to go forward: either we help or hurt. Every relationship can be viewed in this light as well. Is this helping me move closer to heaven or not? This is why wisdom from the Holy Spirit is so critical and pivotal. Life is good. It is better with Jesus in it.Leave a comment
“Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged.” (First Reading) “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment.” (Gospel) There seems to be well-founded argument in play here with the two beautiful Scriptures we have today. Is it possible that a complaining spirit produces a hard heart that propels a negative and nonspiritual way throughout life? Some have actually studied the matter and have surmised that some people complain to get attention, remove personal responsibility, inspire envy, and keep doing it for so long that they do not even realize they are doing it. Sounds dangerous, and oddly familiar.
“The Lord is kind and merciful.” Jesus provides a much better approach to life: kindness and mercy. Imagine what your own life would be like if for the next twenty-four hours you would avoid all negative bickering and complaining from either your own lips or those from another. Put on your personal agenda exactly what the Psalm of today suggests: “Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” There is no better time to try than today.
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“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” ~Abraham Lincoln
“The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.” Our First Reading makes a heart-warming case for the deep relationship between our sins, our pain, our incessant desire for healing, and the free offer of forgiveness of the sins that cause us so much pain and guilt. What is beautifully clear today is the Lord truly wants us to be safe, happy and holy. Our own sins and failings often stand in the way and present an enormous stumbling block to achieving all that God has intended for us, including acknowledging and receiving his healing forgiveness to a greater healthier spiritual life.
“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” It is, however, in the Gospel where the real truth to unlock the mystery of true inner freedom that is characteristic of a child of God and those who desperately want to get to Heaven. It is to take seriously the innocence, total trust and openness of a child. Jesus made this more than crystal clear in the Gospel. It is so easy to make a child happy because they trust that we will do what we say we will do: protect, feed and provide for them. How much more is God our Father that loving, eternal parent?
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“The child is in me still and sometimes not so still.” ~Fred (Mr.) Rogers
Experiencing a sense of belonging is important in seeing value in life, coping with painful emotions, and bringing a deep understanding of reality through a connection to all people in our world. People who feel as if they do not belong can develop a deep antisocial and even violent posture toward the world that they imagine is treacherous and abandoning to the most vulnerable. This is why the words of the First Reading for us today hold so much value. “This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.” Once a person fully accepts that we all belong to one God who loves all equally, the immediate and expected reaction is joy. “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.”
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” This very beautiful sense of belonging to the family of God is guaranteed and solidified by the Holy Spirit and is exactly the blessing and truth which Jesus intends for each and every one of us. By the very fact that we are alive and breathing upon the earth, we belong to God. The very fact that we have a chance to go to Heaven because Christ died for every human being, we belong to God. That guarantee will never disappoint and will never be forgotten. “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”Leave a comment
Today we celebrate Memorial Day in the United States and likewise around the world most countries have similar commemorations whether it is Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand or Remembrance Day in England, all people know in their heart that we must pause in somber states of mind and thank those who made our freedom possible and livable. It is no doubt a sad day for some remembering loved ones who left for battle and never returned, but there is always that bright promise of immortality always present like a newborn child’s grin. “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (First Reading)
“’Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For men it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.’” On this awe-filled Memorial Day, please stop and pray for all the brave men and women who gave all to make freedom ring in the ears of those who would never know them or even get to meet them. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross blesses in a fundamentally deep way all the sacrifices that are made out of love for others. This is why this day is so important. A grateful heart is indeed a magnet for miracles and we are sure that miracles continue to happen because nothing, absolutely nothing is impossible for God. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)Leave a comment
“… be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct.” Too often in casual conversation, we may have heard someone seriously doubt that they can be holy or anything like a saint. We ourselves may have uttered such sentiments in an attempt to produce a veil of humility or even to avoid sounding proud or boastful or even presumptuous. However, there is a big problem with this selection of mind frame. If our ultimate goal is to make it into Heaven, and Heaven is overwhelmingly and predominately inhabited by holy ones, that is, saints, then we better get cracking!
“Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.” Perhaps part of the problem we have encountered here is what people think a saint really is. Furthermore, the image of a person nearly poised in an other-worldly trance with a breathless smile and eyes locked downward probably does not paint the most accurate picture that is needed for this all-important discussion. The real mystery of holiness is really not hard to comprehend. It will involve remembering how wonderful it was to be a child again in all its simplistic wonderment about the world and the immense level of trust. This element of wonder can be reflected in the order in which God places things rather than in the way we do: “But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.” What the world deems important and critical is not always what God does. Begin your day and end it with joy because God has been, is now and will forever be in control. “Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done wondrous deeds.”Leave a comment
“You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” It seems there is an ongoing tight-wire balance of attitudes throughout the Scriptures which has translated into definite behavior on the part of those of us who are desperately trying to follow Jesus. Either there is too much emphasis on the glory of the Resurrection, forgetting the sacrifice and suffering it took to get there, or too much attention given to the Cross, forgetting that in just a short and cleansing moment, victory is ours. Today in our beautiful Gospel passage, the former condition seems to have sway, even eliciting the stunning comment from Jesus trying to clarify at least the motivation for asking to sit either side of Jesus in glory. This same balancing act continues today for each one of us. What does this mean for us and how are we to walk this spiritual tight rope?
“Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere brotherly love, love one another intensely from a pure heart.” The answer to our reflection brings us back to the most simple, the most obvious and the most beautiful: love. When love is our first priority, when God is at the top of that list and when we nourish our entire lives with the grace of the Sacraments and the wonderful words of the Scriptures, we can hope to find and maintain that healthy balance between Good Friday and Easter Sunday living. “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of the field; the grass withers, and the flower wilts; but the Word of the Lord remains forever.”Leave a comment
Generosity is a willingness to give, even at a cost to oneself. It expresses concern for meeting the needs of others, even if it means sacrificing something of one’s own. We are to extend ourselves to all of mankind, especially the most needy. When we do so, we are emulating Jesus who went after the one lost sheep. To love is to give. God loves us and he gives us everything he wants us to have. When we give, as our Lord encourages, we truly deny ourselves. Generosity must be done in silence in order to merit grace from God and not merely the thanksgiving of mortal men. It is very easy to be generous to our relatives or friends but that is not generosity because we will be repaid for that with friendship, thanksgiving, and praise. Generosity must extend to the poor and the needy. It is a quest for justice as we have the work of God to provide for those who don’t have.
The most excellent example of generosity, after Jesus himself, is the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the fullness of grace, our Blessed Mother exhibits the fullness of love and truth. She is generous in charity, patient, kind, and gentle; she is good and faithful, chaste, modest, and temperate. Her spirit rejoices in God her savior and she is at peace even in trying times because of her trust in the Lord. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.” (Gospel)
Three times in this life Mary was blessed in a special way by the Holy Spirit: at her Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation and at Pentecost. We are the beneficiaries of the immeasurable fruits of the Spirit produced in Mary. Through her maternal protection and intercession, we obtain pardon for our sins, health in times of sickness, strength of heart when we are weak, consolation in the face of affliction and help when we are in danger. Above all, she is the mother of Christ our redeemer, and our mother.
Today, we recall Mary’s famous visit to her cousin Elizabeth, when John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth’s womb, foreshadowing our joy at the birth of Mary’s son, Jesus. Mary shows us quintessentially how to evangelize, bringing Jesus to others at every opportunity and she powerfully reminds us that every encounter we have has the potential of bringing the Good News to someone who truly needs it. Thank you, Mary, for your wonderful yes.Leave a comment
“When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs. And he said to it in reply, ‘May no one ever eat of your fruit again!’” There is an interesting encounter between Jesus and a fig tree that should, in some ways, be of great concern for many of us. Plainly the issue here is whether or not the Lord can find fruit in our lives. It also concerns the timing of that fruit-search. “The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry.” Jesus was hungry and this hunger could be seen at least on two different and wonderful levels: the physical hunger of wanting to enjoy something that the earth bountifully produces, and spiritual fruit which abides in all of us to one extent or another.
“Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf.” From a distance, the fig tree was apparently in leaf and not necessarily in season for figs, but it could have been. The color of the fruit and the leaves often blended together to give the appearance of fruit, at least it was potentially on the way. It is clear that just the appearance of growing spiritually is simply not enough. It is not sufficient to only know what we should do; we must also fulfill what the Lord has given us to do: love and forgive and this much is quite certain. We know this because Jesus cursed the tree and after that event, it did not have much chance of surviving, withering to a barren stalk of nothingness in a matter of hours. So what are we to make of all this? Our answer happily lies within the confines of our First Reading: “The end of all things is at hand. Therefore be serious and sober-minded so that you will be able to pray. Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.”Leave a comment
“By what authority are you doing these things? Or who gave you this authority to do them?” The word “authority” can be used to mean the right to exercise power given by a government or by academic or intellectual knowledge in a specific area or discipline, and it can also refer to spiritual realities. So when the chief priests, scribes and elders asked the Lord the pointed question above, what was really going on? First and foremost, their own authority was threatened and they were afraid of losing the power that it gave them over people. Second, they were too blind to see the source of all authority standing right in front of all of them. Finally and most telling, they did not even realize the real meaning of authority.
“Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” The only way to appreciate true authority, to recognize in others and ourselves and faithfully execute the duties of that power whether we are parents, employers or leaders in government and the Church is to focus on the mercy and love of Jesus and never take our eyes off this supreme goal. We must always remember where true power has its source and stay faithful to that loving command to love one another. Only in this way is true authority felt and used for the betterment of everyone.
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“You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility.” -Byron Dorgan
“We will do everything that the LORD has told us.” Memory is a wonderful gift. At times it may not be pleasant but in the end, even the ability to remember tragic or sad events enriches our souls to an extent that we could never ever imagine. You see, tears are sacred, whether they be of grief or of great joyful relief, even humor. Jesus knew this about our humanity because that is exactly the way that God made us.
“For this reason he (Jesus) is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance.” For such a long time, humanity was without a chance to return to the promised land of Heaven but not without a glimmering hope that was chronicled throughout the Old Testament preparing all for Jesus Christ who through his blood would ransom the world from terrible destruction. This is what and why we are called to remember through the sacrifice of the Mass the great victory of salvation and redemption.
“’Take it; this is my body.’” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.'” All of life is a journey that is connected with the memory of friends and family and an endless series of meals, some eaten alone, some with literally hundreds of people. What they all have in common is what they propel us to do: be Christ to one another and celebrate love and forgiveness every chance we get. Our lives are supernatural because of the ultimate destiny nestled deep within them. For a supernatural life, we need supernatural food, The Eucharist.
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“There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, he would have given it to us.” -St. John Vianney
“‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.” The sad turn of events in the parable that Jesus uses to continue to get through to the chief priests, scribes and elders is one of rejection. The truth is, we make literally hundreds of choices every day we walk on this planet from what we will eat and not eat to whom we we will call or not. The wisdom here is what to reject and what not to reject. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?”
We are in fact today given the perfect prescription of how we must go forward in this world of so many choices and rejections. “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love.” The truth of the wealth of meaning found in the Scriptures today is simple but not simplistic. The road to Heaven must be taken with great expectation of the great promises that Jesus has sealed with his blood on the cross. It is an exciting adventure toward fulfillment or it is nothing at all.Leave a comment
“Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Depending on how you view the scene, this question has traveled down throughout the centuries as famous or infamous. It has become a famous question because it almost always begins the age-old discussion about the relationship between the Church and the government, or the state. It has become infamous because of the sinister motivation behind the ones asking this trick-question of Jesus. “Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, ‘Why are you testing me?'”
Both perspectives are actually beneficial for us on the journey toward Heaven. The discussion about the Church-State relationship is important to distinguish about authority, power and the greater good for society. The Church should never be in the business of governing and the government should not be established as a spiritual force that mandates or even polices morality. And in this same paragraph, it is important to remember that not everyone who asks religious questions is really out for a religious outcome. People can hide behind the veil of piety just to be right, access power or obtain the upper hand in any given situation. Our First Reading gives us plenty of insight as to how to follow a straight and narrow path toward justice and peace. “Therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and to fall from your own stability.”
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“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” -Amy Carmichael
“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” There are more than just a few people who have wondered what may sound to others to be unthinkable: is it possible that pursuing happiness is actually a cause of sour, distasteful unhappiness? Perhaps in all of Scripture there can be found no more perfect of a focus group to highlight those who have fallen into a happiness trap than the sad group, no pun intended, in today’s Gospel Reading. “Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and put this question to him…” The real clue here as to why these people are so miserable is because they do not hope for or believe in the resurrection. How sad for the Sadducees.
“You are greatly misled.” This is definitely not a phrase you or I would ever want to hear from Jesus which is why we are so richly blessed to have the Word nourish us today. The resurrection of Christ is everything. Life would not be worth living if we did not realize that a much better eternal life was simply waiting for us when our time approaches. Today, lift your head and shake off any regrets or sadness that could lead you to take your focus off the great miracle of the resurrection of Jesus. Commit this phrase to memory as you may never know when you might need it for yourself or to share it with someone who needs it even more. “He is not God of the dead but of the living.”Leave a comment
“You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” Imagine a long journey to visit someone very special in your life, perhaps a grandmother or an old friend who lives far away in a small town where you used to live and haven’t visited for quite a while. As your vehicle leaves your city and travels into the country, the surroundings and the signs begin to remind you of a happier, less complicated time. Then the smells kick in. Just think of the aromas of childhood and blissful memories as they begin to flood every fiber of your being. You are almost there! You are not far. This experience must have filled the scribe in our Gospel today. We must be eager for that same intimate familiarity as well and it is truly ours as the Second Reading relates.
“Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God, a workman who causes no disgrace, imparting the word of truth without deviation.” This eagerness to grow closer to Jesus is the best way to travel toward Heaven in this life. Wanting with every effort we can muster to be acceptable and pleasing to God who loves us as we are, doing everything as if no one was watching except the one, and always attempting to speak the truth is our plan of action. With this, we can rest assured that we are not far at all.Leave a comment
“I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks.” (First Reading) For many, the human heart is the center of all character and personality that a human being can muster and show to the world. For the longest time it has been seen as sacred and the very center of the Christian ideal, something that Jesus truly imparts to us today. There is power and dignity in the human soul and this begins with the early passages in the Book of Genesis where the Lord God formed us out of the dust of the ground and breathed life into us. “Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name.”
Today on this Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we concentrate and send our gaze upon that one heart, human and divine, which loves us all with such an intensity and outpouring for grace more than we could ever imagine. “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.” As Christians, we cannot call our vocation a hobby, a pastime or even a club membership. When we consider how much love Jesus has for each one of us, the world must look different and we must act differently in it. Our call is simple and yes, dramatic. Today, of all days, let us ask for the courage and the strength to be able to absorb and fully understand “what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
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“God loves each of us as if there were only one us.” -Saint Augustine
“After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.” Today the Gospel Reading takes us to the meaning of the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, best known to many as Finding of the Child Jesus. How could we faithfully summarize what we witnessed through the powerful Word of God today? It is clear that Jesus loved the art of teaching, asking and answering questions and in every encounter with the Lord, there was always something astounding.
“Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And there is something else quite telling that we must not forget or miss today. The question his mother Mary asked him was also truly astounding. How cold the Lord, even as a child, bring or cause in any way, even indirectly, anxiety to his parents? Since we could not honestly assume that it was the Christ-child’s motive, what shall we make of the subsequent fear of losing a child in such a huge horde of people on the move? We could start with the obvious answer to the question as to where he was. Jesus was in the Temple not to abandon his parents, but in his Father’s house to do something for them and all humanity that would certainly last into eternity. He was beginning the framework for his suffering , death and resurrection which would culminate in his own body, the temple not made by human hands. When we feel we have lost Jesus in our lives, we must remember this element of today’s Scripture and never lose hope: “be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient.” Let us pray:
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“Lord, help me confidently reach for what lies ahead and help me seek you in the midst of my struggles. Lord, help me rejoice in the hope of tomorrow and give me the strength to keep going. Amen.”
“Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” This interesting phrase uttered by Jesus in the Gospel must have surprised a number of people who first heard it. Was he distancing himself from his own blood relations? Was he suggesting that family was not only who is related to you but those who believe in you? Clearly we can ascertain that the only true intimate relationship and spiritual connection we can have with the Lord is by opening our hearts to receive his message of ongoing conversion and living a healthy, holy transformed life. This would include and be exhibited by the way we treat other people, yes, even members of our own family. Being close only by blood, location or intellectual attraction to ideals is simply not enough.
“For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.” We recall from the dynamic unfolding of events from the First Reading that we lost our chance of entering the Promised Land of Heaven through the horrible turn of events in Eden and the onset of original sin. However, the hope of eternal life continues to shine upon us as we move toward a greater intimacy and relationship with Jesus who desperately wants us even closer to him than any family could ever experience. This is the real joy of today’s message and should ring in our ears with every waking moment. “I trust in the LORD; my soul trusts in his word. More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the Lord.”Leave a comment
“…he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.” In our First Reading today, Barnabas had a front-row seat to the marvelous effects of loving Jesus to the degree that those in Antioch had achieved. It must have been quite a beautiful sight. This is what happiness is when those who are searching for happiness in this world find it in Jesus. Great things always happen. “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God. Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands; break into song; sing praise.”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” The secret of their success, and ours, is given beautifully in the Gospel. Jesus, like Moses in the Old Testament, comes down the mountain to deliver and impart the new law of love, and much like the Ten Commandments, these give life and point the clear way to salvation. These are known as the Beatitudes and “are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching.” (CCC 1716) “They shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life.” (CCC 1717) And “they respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the one who alone can fulfill it.”
Today, sometime before it is all over and done with, take some time to revisit this passage in Matthew’s Gospel. Go over each Beatitude slowly and with positive intention. Tell the Lord that you want to succeed. And you will. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”Leave a comment
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You are the salt of the earth.'” Let’s take a look at some of the uses/characteristics of salt. It is a preservative, gives flavor, is bright white, used as a fertilizer and produces thirst. As a preserving agent in this world, every Christian is to be in the world but not of the world and doing whatever is in their power to keep those around from spoiling or degenerating. Christians can add flavor or joy to the world while living a life of purity and understanding while increasing the fruitfulness of those struggling along side of us. Just as salty food makes us thirsty, Christians, as salt of the earth, can make others thirsty for Jesus. “I want to be like you because you love God and it is obvious.”
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You are the light of the world.'” What does light do and why do we need it so much? It exposes the hidden pockets of evil, enlightens greatness in this world and definitely shows us the way out of a dark space. This is precisely why we followers of Jesus need each other so much. We simply cannot do this alone. We need help more than just a few times to point out what is evil in this world to avoid it and to help us realize the many blessings we have been given so we may be grateful lovers of God. We need help at every step and stage of our lives from others who love Jesus to find our way either out of crisis, grief seasons or just painful moments.
“Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Is there some hidden, secret recipe for being salt and light in this life, that we have just discovered it. It has everything to do with living a holy, healthy and happy life full of purpose. This is why we need to beg to be filled with the Holy Spirit while their is breath in our body. We have the Commandments and Beatitudes, we have the Sacraments and the Mass, and we are constantly being challenged to continue to pray without ceasing or losing heart. This will be nourished by our reading and reflecting over the powerful Word of God as we do here. This is our life, our call, our invitation to greatness.
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“Being salt and light demands two things: we practice purity in the midst of a fallen world and yet we live in proximity to this fallen world. If you don’t hold up both truth in tension, you invariably becomes useless and separated from the world God loves.” -David Kinnaman
“The God who answers with fire is God.” We have been presented with more than just an average display of God’s power and might, the incredible and undying faith of Elijah, and the almost comical and deeply ironic conclusion when the pathetic false gods of others are pitted against the mighty works of God our Father. The false promises of false powers that claim to have power over life were literally left in the listless pangs of silence: “But there was not a sound; no one answered, and no one was listening.” This experience of the deepest of disappointment when misdirected requests and longings go unanswered continues to play out even in the modern world. How many people do you know who are lost and empty because they backed the descendants of Baal and not the God of Elijah? Too many to mention, no doubt.
“But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” What is clear about the lesson of today should be evident: there are two sources of power in the universe, good and evil. Whatever is not of the God who has revealed himself to us through Jesus Christ cannot ever hope to satisfy or bring about the goodness in this life for which we long. What we must do for the rest of our lives is look for light and love and vision from the only source that can help us. This is where our prayer nourished by Scriptures is not only essential but the only real guarantee of our happiness in this world. “You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.”
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“Remember this. When people choose to withdraw far from a fire, the fire continues to give warmth, but they grow cold. When people choose to withdraw far from light, the light continues to be bright in itself but they are in darkness. This is also the case when people withdraw from God.” -Saint Augustine
“Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.” There is a running theme throughout the Scriptures that highlights the wisest way to live on this planet without being distracted, unbearably hurt or ruthlessly disappointed. The simple quotient to life is basically to live it now, here in the present moment. The challenge we face, however, is that we live in a temporal reality where past, present and future are all around us and form an inescapable way of growing, learning and living. Clearly we are to be formed by the past but make choices today in view of what we hope to achieve in the future which is our eternal home in heaven. There must be a way of living with these aspects in mind without losing hope no matter what the circumstance and Jesus has fundamentally shown us what that is.
“I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” Loving each other with the heart of Christ is the only true and surest way to live in the present moment, look for the best in everyone and for the best possible outcome in every situation no matter how seemingly desperate or hopeless. Let us also remember that the desire on the part of Jesus to love one another was not just a suggestion. It was and is a commandment.
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“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” -Albert Einstein
“After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.” During our sometimes dramatic walk with the Lord toward the Promised Land of Heaven we may find that we arrive at crossroads where one might ask, “why can’t I hear what the Lord is saying to me?” Our First Reading describes the various scenarios where we must wait for the silence that follows various events in our lives before finding the real voice of God behind them. “but the LORD was not in the wind.” You cannot see the wind but you can see what it does. Change is the most constant aspect of our lives and many times we are not ready for it. Only looking back in peace do we find the message. “but the LORD was not in the earthquake.” Tragedies strike hard when they do which is why patience in suffering is the only way to discover their meaning. “but the LORD was not in the fire.” Destruction, anger and even deep transformation in our lives desperately need the calm and reflective inspiration we receive from the Holy Spirit so we may fully and wisely make sense of these aspects in our lives.
“Wait for the LORD with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.” God whispers calmly and deliberately and it is those moments of reflection and waiting when we are still and allowing Him to speak do we find His presence and love for each and every one of us. Like the beautiful words of the Psalm, we, too, long to see the face of God, certainly at the end of our life, but most assuredly right here and right now as we live and move and have our being: “Wait for the LORD with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.”
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“Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love or other Christians is learning to listen to them.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’” Our speech is a powerful gift that God has given to all humanity. It describes how we live and love and develop relationships with the world and all those who will populate our years and create masterpieces with their friendship and care for us. Our words can also betray us and there is in the present world much temptation to lie and damage the truth and cause pain even to those who want to love us and care for us. We could say in that in some ways, our speech is a two-edged sword in that it can create or destroy depending on the integrity of the one who utters the host of words in a given lifetime.
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,’ Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.'” In the Gospel of today, Jesus also addresses the deep and dynamic power of our words. He goes beyond the legal aspects of vows and promises and makes sure that even our daily conversations, especially our casual conversations, are imbued with truth and light and the desire to serve the truth. Otherwise evil will thrive and not because of the bad people we encounter but because and mostly due to the good people in our lives who do and say nothing. Silence may be golden, but sometimes it is yellow (cowardice).
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“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.” -William Faulkner
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” This ever-popular Gospel passage should also enthuse those cooking aficionados among our readers. Is anyone aware of the various uses of mustard, other than being spread on hot dogs, hamburgers, and sandwiches? The following may send you searching through the internet to secure the validity of these claims. It has been used as a mild burn relief; a cosmetic face mask for skin rejuvenation; relief for sore muscles and sore throats; and the removal of the toxic and awful odor of the shrewd skunk in case you find yourself ever-too-close and sprayed with mayhem.
“We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” Living in the Kingdom means relief from the scorching rays of a hostile world and facing it with renewed vigor and the glow of the Spirit. It means relief from the wear and tear on our bodies as we desperately travel the moral roads through unknown lands while bravely clearing our throats to preach the Gospel, in season and out. It also means throwing off the stench of sinfulness and accepting the sweetness of forgiveness freely and mercifully offered in confession. Accept all the wonderful promises Jesus has made to you and those you love and ask for the courage to walk in light and carry your faith to all aspects of your life. May today’s reflection put a smile on your face and help you keep going.
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“I have a mustard seed; and I am not afraid to use it.” -Pope Benedict XVI
“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” In our Gospel today, Jesus makes the very famously stark comparison between the seemingly merciless application of the Law of Moses and the fulfillment of the same by Jesus himself, the new lawgiver. “When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.” The old ways always kept score and made sure that revenge was the way we people ought to act. But there was, and is, a terrible problem with that. It makes no allowances for the saving mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the strict justice to be paid by each one of us for our own sins. “For you, O God, delight not in wickedness; no evil man remains with you; the arrogant may not stand in your sight.” There is a “new game in town” and it has everything to do with forgiveness and mercy which always outweighs the painful curse that has been infected by our humanity.
“A lamp to my feet is your word, a light to my path.” The Word Made Flesh, Jesus the Christ redeems this fallen world with his sacrifice on the cross and we are the primary beneficiaries of such a loving act. If he has shown mercy and forgiveness to all of us, then who are we to deny to others, who in fact might deserve much more than they deserve for treachery in this life. But there is operative phrase, in this life. We let God handle the wages that justice demands while we show and live in the ocean of mercy that he has created for us. Anything else will simply not work.
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“If the Spirit, Who is Life, exacted an eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth, this world would indeed be peopled with the blind and the toothless.” (Henry Powell Spring)
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Once again, Jesus, the new Moses and lawgiver, transforms our way of life by exacting upon us which some believe is virtually impossible. However, it is not impossible. In the First Reading we are reminded of the ultimate source of all power in this universe who is the ultimate judge and dispenser of all justice. “Since he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his time.” The act of forgiveness and exuding mercy does so much for the heart that displays such intentions that it becomes clear that when the Lord asks us to forgive our enemies, He really and truly wants the best for our souls so that they be freed of any hatred and the scourge of evil.
“Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.” Our world is definitely filled with people who have been hurt, mocked and humiliated. This would explain why it’s easy to see how hurting people hurt people. As Christians we are charged to remember that all people carry wounds whether they were self-inflicted or not. We all suffer in one way or another and what we truly need is patience and love rather than judgement.
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“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” -Abraham Lincoln
“As they walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” This remarkable and breathtaking scene in the First Reading today reveals much about the intense relationship that is waiting for us when we want to truly give our entire selves to God, nourished by the Sacraments and supported by a strong and daily prayer life. The Catechism in the section dedicated to Prayer, lends further light on the central figure of Elijah: He is the “father” of the prophets, “the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.” Elijah’s name, “The Lord is my God,” foretells the people’s cry in response to his prayer on Mount Carmel. St. James refers to Elijah in order to encourage us to pray: “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” (2582) A dedicated and devoted prayer life is like the fiery chariot that brings us even closer to our loving God: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him.”
The life of Elijah was certainly dramatic and memorable, especially his encounter with the priests of Baal that we addressed earlier. But what about our paths to prayer and our own spiritual chariots? Jesus in our Gospel today has a remarkable suggestion: “But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” It seems that the more close and intimate our prayer with God is, the more effective and fruitful it will be. Prayer doesn’t change the world. It changes people and they change the world.Leave a comment
“Nothing was beyond his power; beneath him flesh was brought back into life. In life he performed wonders, and after death, marvelous deeds.” Our First Reading paints a remarkable character study on Elisha, the protege of Elijah and the recipient of the power of the Holy Spirit. This dramatic description also serves another purpose for us today. It prefigures the great hope that awaits us in the Gospel and fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah and totally revealed in Jesus Christ. We have, them, two wonderful corridors of meaning here today that together help us understand what real power is and how one can tap into it and live a happy, holy and healthy life, right here, right now.
“This is how you are to pray:” We have often heard that there is power in prayer but perhaps more aptly said, prayer attracts power to change oneself, witness to others to change themselves in freedom and therefore, by extension, the hope to change the world. Saint Augustine brilliantly described in his powerfully concise and succinct theological finesse what we truly have in the prayer of the Our Father: “Run through all the words of the holy prayers [in Scripture], and I do not think that you will find anything in them that is not contained and included in the Lord’s Prayer.” With all this in mind, let us all take some deep and realistic time to slowly pray as we must, given the Scriptures today and the humble invitation to have real power in our lives.
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“The Lord’s Prayer is the most perfect of prayers. . . . In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them.” -Saint Thomas Aquinas
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light.” Today, the Scriptures, among many other issues, address our hold on what we deem important to us, namely, our priorities. Our eyes can be used to see that which is good or evil in this world and thereby make the important decisions that either bring us closer to the will of God or further away from following the Lord. If we look for the good in this life, we will certainly see and find it and thereby and hopefully follow and imitate it. However, if we allow our eyes and minds to focus and obsess on what is evil in this life, we are so affected by what we see that darkness actually begins to emanate from within and can corrupt us and those around us. If it is important to us, we will find a way. If not, we will somehow and very conveniently find an excuse. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 2:34) “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
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“It’s not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.” -Mary O’Connor
“Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it.” -Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor (161-180 AD)
“Although prophets were sent to them to convert them to the LORD, the people would not listen to their warnings.” In many ways, the Readings today pick up from yesterday’s theme concerning priorities. What we deem as important will always occupy the top of our priority list. This has been true since the beginning of our time on earth and was also chronicled by the First Reading in light of the great and powerful messages from the great line of prophets delivered in the Old Testament.
“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.” Today’s Gospel reinforces our belief that being single-hearted must be essential if we truly want to follow the Lord Jesus. If we please God, it does not matter whom we displease. If we displease him, it does not matter who we please. Remember today how much God has blessed you with riches beyond count and measure. We owe him everything especially a top place on our priority list. How will you respond today? There may be some among us who are trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil.Leave a comment
“The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.” This is truly an amazing feast that we have today. It is the day that we remember the birth of John the Baptist who occupies a number of wonderful categories including cousin to Jesus, the last prophet and outstanding voice that calls us all to listen and be ready for the greatest news we could ever receive. The Readings make this an even more thought-provoking Sunday as we recall how great it is to love the Lord and follow him with every fiber of our being. John would later express this very same desire when he stated that he himself should decrease while Jesus must increase. This we can remember because from here on, after the birth of John the Baptist, the days will start getting shorter as compared to the days after Christmas which get longer.
“Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the LORD, my recompense is with my God.” The place of John the Baptist could never be overplayed or misunderstood. He forms one of the most significant members of the cloud of witnesses that helps us all look intently at Jesus and never let it stray. “John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.” For the many of us who are giving all we have to be the best we can be and please the Lord, we are heartened by the fact that God always prepares the way for us to find Jesus and stay ever-so-close to him in this life and the next. “The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.” Our call is to let Jesus increase in our lives and our selfishness decrease. With the help of the Holy Spirit and the wonderful Eucharist, success in this field is within our reach.Leave a comment
“You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” Today we are being treated with a very famous morsel of Scripture quotes which most people have heard even if they have never read anything else in the Bible. Perhaps much of its popularity is due in part to the widespread experience that everyone has with this issue. We could ask ourselves what is truly the problem with hypocrisy? When someone condemns the sinful behavior of others then engages in the very same behavior, we seem to lose it, or at least, some of the time. Obviously it is objectionable to realize that someone is not practicing what they are preaching but it goes much deeper than that: a hypocrite is trying to convince us that they are more holy, righteous and moral than the rest of people. This is what makes it so hateful.
“And though the LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and seer, ‘Give up your evil ways and keep my commandments and statutes, in accordance with the entire law which I enjoined on your fathers and which I sent you by my servants the prophets,’ they did not listen, but were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who had not believed in the LORD, their God.” (First Reading) For those of us who are sincerely trying to follow Jesus and live by the Gospel, we must be convinced that our behavior shapes our personality and therefore all of our moral and otherwise important decisions in life. The scriptures clearly show the track record of those who have abandoned their own set of values and goals toward heaven and those who never gave up even though it was tough at times to stay focused and faithful. It is all about balance and humility. Jesus wants us all in heaven and every day we are either moving closer or further away from this awesome destiny of ours. Today, let us carry Jesus deep within our souls so that we do or say nothing that would displease him. This is both the challenge and fruit of being loving people who love God and our neighbor. It is truly an exciting adventure.
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“Truth without love is brutality and love without truth is hypocrisy.” -Warren W. Wiersbe
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Again we have yet another very familiar biblical reference which is familiar to most people even when repeated even in polite conversation. Basically this passage from the Gospel is generally interpreted to be a warning by Jesus to his disciples including all of us that we should not offer biblical doctrine to those who are unable to value and appreciate it. This is also very similar to another warning about giving sacred things to dogs. In these very telling examples, Jesus uses dogs and pigs as representative of those who would ridicule, reject, and blaspheme the message of the Gospel and, by extension, the messengers or evangelizers of the Good News. It is clear that we are not to expose the elements of our faith in Jesus Christ to those who have no other purpose than to trample it and return to their own evil ways.
“How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” However, this pointed command was never intended to restrict, to ever hide, or be afraid of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We must remember that Jesus himself ate with and taught sinners and tax collectors and those whom society regraded as outcast and even dirty. We are to be always ready to share our faith, but, when it becomes apparent that we and our message are not welcome, we are simply to move on. It is also appropriate to put it this way: we are responsible for the process it takes to live our lives in an integral way and share what we believe but we are not responsible for people’s response. Just as animals could never appreciate pearls or the finer things in life, there are those who cannot or will not appreciate what God has done for them. Jesus’ instruction to his apostles on how to handle rejection was simply to move on to those who are still waiting to hear the greatest story ever told.Leave a comment
“Every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.” This is yet another profound and useful image to understand our role and purpose in this life. How often have we asked ourselves or heard others ask about why we are here and what exactly is our purpose? Sometimes our vision for ourselves falls short of what is actually going on in our lives. At times our perspective on the world around us becomes bitter and thus our actions and words become rude, unkind and thoughtless with numbing regularity. We mistakenly think there is no good fruit to be found but the real truth lies in the fact that we haven’t spent enough quality time with our beautiful and loving God. When we allow ourselves the time to realize how great our God is, we begin to see and bear good fruit. Then and only then does it become much easier to choose gratitude over complaint.
This now brings us to this very telling and provocative warning from the Lord: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.” At the heart of the battle for our souls is a real enemy who prowls around seeking someone to devour. Evil will never stop to gain new ground and move others away from the Lord. This is yet another reason why we must be aware of those who just “talk the talk.” “By their fruits you will know them.” We must also realize that we will be able to recognize the true person living in every human being by their fruits. That includes you and me especially in our day-to-day interaction with our fellow sojourners on this planet toward heaven, always knowing and trusting that the Lord Jesus will make a great harvest even out of our most humble intentions as long as we remain faithful. Be great today! You may never know what kind of rich harvest you will be planting.
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“Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.” -Robert Schuller
“He did evil in the sight of the LORD, just as his forebears had done… In place of Jehoiachin, the king of Babylon appointed his uncle Mattaniah king, and changed his name to Zedekiah.” The selection of Scriptures opens up for us today with the strange tale of Jehoiachin, who was the son of a puppet king of Egypt, imprisoned by the king of Babylon to make room for another puppet king, taken in the second wave of exiles to die in Babylon. It was certainly not the best of resumes ever collected in the pages of the Bible. But it is here for a reason and that explanation is clearly taken up with heart of the Gospel: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
Lip service is no service at all. We can believe that actions prove who someone is while their words just prove who they want to be. Nothing prospers when evil is done in the sight of the Lord, especially from those from whom so much more is expected. So what are we to make of all this in application to our spiritual lives?
Again, the Gospel takes us even deeper: “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” So here we have the trifecta of a very successful spiritual life: listen, act, repeat. Everyone hears something; not everyone listens. Everyone does something, not everyone acts within the will of God. In the end, everything will depend on where we placed our belief and trust and where we built the foundation upon which we will die. We remember what happened to Jehoiachin and we know what happens to those who build on sand. Disaster, plain and simple. Building on Jesus the rock means everything.
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“To build your house on rock is to hear what Jesus says and obey.To be foolish and build your house on the sand is to hear and ignore.” -Kevin DeYoung
Without a doubt, the beautiful Scripture passages today speak directly about the notion of rescue and God’s hand in this wonderful redemptive activity: “Now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.” (St. Peter) “The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.” (Responsorial Psalm) “And 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.” (Second Reading) It should not be of any surprise that the Lord seeks and wants to rescue us all. However, what is interesting is the nature of the word, rescue. It is derived from the word meaning to shake, which suggests getting rid of something, as it were, to shake something free that is dangerously affixed or stuck to a person or animal.
We have that suggestion explained in the Gospel of today: “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.” Today we celebrate the great Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul with the promise that we as the people of God, the Church, are to be rescued literally from here to eternity. These two great Saints were initially responsible for evangelizing and announcing the truths of our faith to all of the known world at the time of their lives. These formed the concrete basis and foundation of the Christian message for the following two millennia. This brings us to the completely jubilant truth that God wants, desires and continues to rescue us. Evil can and does attach its ugly self to us by two distinct ways: meanness and weakness. By recalling and remembering the great love that Peter and Paul had for the Lord Jesus and the courage that was firmly placed within their hearts when they both faced martyrdom, we can find the hope of change in our own personalities when we find that being or saying something mean is tempting. Being mean is being lazy and an obvious sign of evil that has crept into our hearts and begun encrustation. Everyone carries human weakness and that often manifests itself when we are tired, frustrated or lacking in patient civility. Let us today with this great commemoration of Peter and Paul find the courage and motivation to shake free of meanness and weakness and give Jesus the glory in this life as we wait to see Him face-to-face in the next.Leave a comment
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” Here on the very last day of the month, we are greeted and challenged by this very familiar phrase from the Scriptures which are recalled during the Sacrifice of the Mass right before the Body and Blood of Christ are to be received. The term, “under my roof” refers primarily to the authority that one is called to acknowledge and respect when living or even visiting someone else’s home or abode. At the core of all courtesies known to us is the deference and dignity we show to those whose homes we enter, that is, while we are “under their roof.” What is at issue for us today is that of authority or in other words, the power to achieve something great.
“And Jesus said to the centurion, ‘You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.’ And at that very hour his servant was healed.” We have in fact witnessed something great happen as the Gospel continues: a miracle! Perhaps we could say that the centurion told Jesus that He did not have to come under his own roof but rather, the centurion had to submit and believe and trust by living in the Kingdom, virtually, under God’s roof. When each of us lives our lives completely in trust in the wonderful grace that God provides, with the ultimate assurance that all is well and all will be well, we, too will have our own miracle, right under our roof.
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“God will always give us more than we deserve.” -St. Padre Pio
“God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.” On the very first day of our new month we are greeted by this most heart-lifting message about life. Our God clearly wants us to live and breathe and have our being solely and completely in Him. In a world where there is much destruction and death, this message is certainly wonderfully needed and appreciated by those of us who want to seek life and love in this world. We also believe that we have been rescued as we have been reminded through the Scriptures practically throughout the previous month and even today: “O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld; you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.” For some, the pit could refer to a long list of disappointments and discouragements, grief-inflicting events, or even the sometimes lonely bouts of sadness and feelings of rejection. All these Jesus faced and conquered and we are the direct beneficiaries of His victories. This is why the best news we have today is that we worship a God who not only loves us but also is the source of all life and love that flows through our veins and through our lungs.
“For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” What we have been gifted today is yet another glimpse into the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus, that is, the Word becoming Flesh. God became one of us so that all the misery and suffering that we endure would be sacrificed and taken up into His own being and then redeemed. We have been set free but even that gift of freedom has to be fully and freely accepted and lived because without freedom we could never appreciate or understand the powerful opportunity that we have right here in front of us. We have two remarkable examples of the power of miraculous love that was showered upon a little girl who dies and a woman who had been suffering horribly with twelve-year hemorrhage. Both of these examples show us two very important aspects of following Jesus: “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Interestingly enough, they are quite related, that is to say the more fear we allow, the less faith we experience and consequently the more faith we grow the less fear fills our days and nights as we witnessed in the deep trust that the woman in the Gospel displayed: “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” With just a little faith, miracles can begin to appear everywhere we look. Let us begin today remembering that there truly is not enough space in our souls for both worry and faith. We must decide which one will occupy our space.Leave a comment
The beautiful Scriptures today paint a sobering picture that can and should help us and encourage us on our spiritual journey after, perhaps, the sting of truth subsides. The Prophet Amos begins this honest appraisal in the First Reading: “Because they sell the just man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of sandals. They trample the heads of the weak into the dust of the earth, and force the lowly out of the way.” The text of the Responsorial Psalm also continues the examination of the lawless and godless way even among those who proclaim and assert that they are following God at last with their speech: “Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth, Though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you?”
To be certain, we must make the honest application to our daily lives if we are to enjoy any semblance of integrity and the peace which comes from living a life of freedom, respect and trust. Jesus makes it clear that following Him to the brink of eternity is really not an option if we seek the final goal of heaven: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” Why do you think we stumble and fall at times? What nervous and erroneous mental distractions come between us and true happiness? It will inevitably come down to whether or not we are people who pray. Some have assembled the main reasons why we do not pray. We think we do not have the time, or that it is important, and or that blindly think it makes no difference. All these excuses are beyond silly, they are not even true. Today, let us be fed with the wisdom of the Scriptures and make and find the time to pray. The rewards are literally out of this world.Leave a comment
“Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.’” There was a young father who often spoke about a trip he took with his little boy who was two-and-a-half years old at the time. It was the first time the father and the boy had been away, just the two of them. The first night they spent in a hotel, the father moved his bed close to the little boy’s, and when they were both tucked in, he turned out the light. After a few minutes, a little voice said: “It sure is dark isn’t it?” “Yes,” said the father, “it’s pretty dark but everything is going to be all right.” There was silence for a few more minutes, and then a little hand reached over and took his father’s hand. “I’ll just hold your hand,” said the little boy, “in case you get scared.”
Do we ever doubt the Lord Jesus like Thomas? I am sure we do. However, even though this Apostle earned a negative label, he was not lacking in other outstanding virtues like great courage and loyalty. The need and want for proof of our faith in Christ is directly proportionate to the level and depth of our spiritual life. Although the Scriptures today portrays good St. Thomas as a skeptic, he never stayed there in doubt. He still wanted to see. He persisted in knowing. And then, after a life of experience and spreading the faith and preaching the Gospel, he did in fact feel the wounds of Christ in his own body by glorifying God with a martyr’s death: “Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”
So how do we keep from doubting our Jesus? First, we must return solidly to God in prayer when experiencing any threat, large or small, to our beliefs. Second, we must recognize that all of us who want to follow Christ actually and daily are involved with a spiritual battle. We can never take anything or anyone for granted. Finally, we must take His hand. This means a total and life-changing trust in the one who has died for me personally and cannot wait to see me in heaven. Of this I have no doubt.Leave a comment
From the very depths of our hearts, we celebrate freedom today. On the most outward and national level, we commemorate the historical proceedings that led us here today. However, not everyone who will review this commentary lives in America, but the values for which this country stands, may and should serve a beacon of life and hope for a better tomorrow for all citizens of the world. Today let us share the peace and joy that is looking for a permanent place in the hearts of all. “To the upright I will show the saving power of God.” (Alleluia verse)
The bottom line is that there are real, tangible and on-going miracles all around us. Just think for a minute about your own life and those precious to you. For some, the miracle began when they gave their heart to Jesus early on, while for others, it was the turning point when a person welcomed the Holy Spirit and allowed that Spirit to work within them. Today, this is our witness: we are free. We have tasted the slavery of dysfunction and co-dependence and have chosen freedom. We have had to struggle to survive financially and we have chosen hope. We have tasted lust and selfishness and have chosen love. We know that we are the person we are when no one is looking. We have chosen integrity. Can we abuse this freedom? Can we ever forget what has brought us to this moment? Can we become yet another statistic? Yes, we can, but we won’t because we have spiritual freedom and nothing in life can replace that. “The Father willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (Alleluia Verse)
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Let us Pray: Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, and all I have and all my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, and that is enough for me. Amen. (St. Ignatius of Loyola)
“Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” According to some, maybe most, the call to actively practice forgiveness is perhaps the hardest aspect of the Christian life these days. Part of the challenge rests in the fact that there are so many opportunities that confront the human spirit from friends and foes alike in this life. With the advent of social media and the informational-communication technology that has exploded in recent years, there are many more opportunities to help and hurt one another. This can be a daunting wall of difficulty in the face of universal and nanosecond speed of intercommunication and how that so often adversely affects the development of friendships and family ties that must be addressed in the most serious and effective of ways.
“Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” Before we can have a realistic discussion about forgiveness and all of its medicinal and spiritual affects on the body and soul, we have to be clear. When a stranger hurts us or says something about us, it is hard enough. But when someone we love and cherish hurts us, it appears that the world has split from beneath our feet. Then the rage and the cold-hearted approach to life sets in like a really bad infection. Perhaps we have found a deeply wise and comforting clue in our conflict with the pain over which we must forgive. Look carefully at the phrase that Jesus utters today in the Gospel and the three-part way to love through forgiveness: get up, collect your thoughts, and be on your way. Grudges and the like truly keep us from living and stifle our appreciation for being alive. And besides all this, Jesus promises to be right here with us if we allow Him to enter our desire to forgive and live. Before you retire for the evening, slowly pray the words of the Our Father and then drift into a night of insight and clarity. Tomorrow is certainly another day.
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“If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive.” -St.Teresa of Calcutta
“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” There was a university study conducted in 2003 which calculated that by age 3, a child with an enriched life has already heard thirty million words. It means that, if the study is worth its salt, you and I hear about thirty thousand unique words a day. That, my friends, is a whole lot of words! Imagine God trying to make His way into our hearts and minds and having to compete with this literal avalanche of sentences and phrases, not to mention the different kinds of emotions that accompany such delivery. This is why a steady dose of the Scripture is absolutely necessary to balance the scales and hopefully make sense of all the things that come our way on any given twenty-four-hour period of our life. It is true that we need the Word of God to live in this environment of many thoughts and approaches that are hurled our way.
“‘Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest,’ says the Lord.” This remarkable invitation is the best one we will ever receive in this life. It places us face-to-face with the one who has all the answers and the best way to live which always includes mercy and forgiveness. What is perhaps the most profound of all these gifts is the call to show mercy and forgiveness to ourselves first before moving forward with our lives, especially how we treat other people. “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Thus, here is the bulk of our marching orders for today: Jesus asks us to spend quality time with Him then show His face to everyone we meet.
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“Mercy is what moves us toward God, while justice makes us tremble in His sight.” -Pope Benedict XVI
“On that day I will raise up the fallen hut of David; I will wall up its breaches, raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old.” A great number of people who have experienced a true, eye-opening encounter with the Lord Jesus have remarked that life seems new and fresh even though they may have lived for more that a few years. Some have remarked that since they have begun this life-changing relationship with the Lord, they never have a bad day any more, though they would be quick to remind us that some days are definitely better than others. The point is simple: once we meet the Lord Jesus there really is no turning back, not against Him nor back to old, pathetic or unhealthy sinful ways.
“Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” By now, most of our readers and followers can accept the obvious fact that one constant truth in the universe is change. Everything changes. Change is inevitable. The sobering aspect of this truth’s application is even more somber: we are either getting better or worse, that is to say, by definition we really cannot stay the same. The hope and desire of Jesus for each one of us is also as clear as a cloudless day. We are invited to change always for the better which means the old self and the old attitudes must give way to new and loving ways that more than not begins with the not-so-subtle act of forgiveness. Every morning is yet another opportunity to begin a brand new day and a completely new strategy for life. Pour the freshness of this opportunity and this day with all its struggles and hurdles into a soul that is ever new and ever growing.
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“No old road leads to new destinations! Change begins when one realizes that it is unwise to pour a new wine into an old wine skin. If you change your mind, you have to change your actions too!” (Israelmore Ayivor)
If one were to take a quick review of the swarm of studies conducted to discover how many marketing ads the average person sees each day takes us in rough estimates of anywhere from three hundred to seven hundred messages daily. Even that may seem excessive at first glance, the real overwhelming data reveals that over five thousand advertisements and branding messages are hurled at us each and every day. It is no wonder why are eyes are tired at the end of a day. And that doesn’t include the important and spiritual images that we try to find a place and access into our souls: “Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.” We also have indication from our First Reading that there are those who would not want to listen even if the Lord’s voice was the only voice left: “Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you.”
Perhaps some of our readers and followers find themselves at a point in their spiritual lives where they know they want to grow deeper and with more integrity but there is weakness in the human condition and often we can clearly commiserate with St. Paul who longs to do the right thing but also experiences the pull of selfishness. This is where this great Biblical writer who has penned the majority of the New Testament is brilliant. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Clearly, when we accept our humanity and the people we truly are, we will see the great need we have for the Lord Jesus. Nothing and no one else will ever satisfy. But when we do not trust and practice honesty, disappointing things are soon to follow: “So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.” The key here is to keep our eyes on Jesus and let Him lead us to healthy living by helping us be honest with ourselves, confess our sins and make solid efforts to change what we can and move forward. We must see first, then act and with all things we must rely on His grace to make it through this life to the next.Leave a comment
“I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the LORD.” If someone told you that God wanted to marry you, one can only imagine what might be going through your head at that moment, everything from wondering if the person was joking, in their right mind or off their rocker. That may be on account of what we harbor as pre-conceived notions as to what marriage is, what it should be or even more personally, how my marriage is. However, in the end, the fact that our First Reading makes this wonderful assertion has nothing to do with social mores of the married state and everything to do with the deep intimacy of life and love that two people experience, or hopefully experience in marriage. God wants this kind of rich closeness so that both God and His beloved could not be thinking of existing even one nanosecond without each other.
“Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” It is this closeness which God truly wants to have with us that produces the rich and deep faith to face any challenge or cross that we should endure especially when the moment of death draws near for us and/or for anyone we love. This deep, personal love which God has placed in our hearts to share with others draws its strength and vigor from the life of Christ and His salvific actions for all humanity. It is up to us to respond with the greatest of all enthusiasm to His invitation to walk, live and love with Him. What will you say to the Lord’s proposal today. Let it be a resounding, “I do!”Leave a comment
“I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me.” While the image of a shepherd may not resound with many people in this day and age, the essential nature and quality of the person who takes care among sheep should never be forgotten or overlooked. A shepherd in the modern sense could easily apply to anyone who actively takes care of another, looking out for their needs and communicating to those whom they serve the greatest amount of respect, devotion and commitment. We could say that among the more recognizable modern shepherds among us are parents, godparents, teachers, coaches and mentors. Furthermore, we could also assert that these shepherds are Christ-figures for the world today acting in such a way that those receiving these acts of love and care will, with their own volition and freedom, pass the blessings forward to their own children and or those in need in their own future.
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Here is the central issue and main concern of the meaning of the Scriptures today. Be like Christ! Whenever possible, find someone to save and save them. Pass on to them what you have received and ask for nothing in return but the knowledge and satisfaction that you are doing the work of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. What a profound idea to consider when we realize how much we have been blessed by the Good Shepherd. With all those in the world who truly need guidance and vision, now is the time to shepherd those whom God has given us to love.
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“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good.Yours are the hands through which He blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are His body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” -St. Teresa d’Avila
“Seek always the face of the Lord.” The refrain from today’s Responsorial Psalm sets in motion the direction our reflection will take as we breathe in the hope of the Scriptures for us. As we consider this pointed direction from the Psalmist today, we could take a slight deviation and state, especially to the delight of our dog-lover readers and followers, that we can learn a lot from our four-legged canine friends. Have you ever noticed that dogs always seem to be looking up at their masters? They seem to be getting their cues and orders from just the facial expressions and of course the voice of those who provide them with food and friendship. That is why they stay so connected with us. They want to know what to do next. The same by comparison is true with us if we were only to be convinced that our gaze must remain upon the face of God, that is, our constant connection with Jesus made stronger with each passing day.
“As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” So what are we to do next? The Gospel fills in that blank quite eloquently. Live and witness your life always remembering from whence it came. Several times we have mentioned in these reflections that how we live our lives, especially through our actions through the course of any given day makes a profound impact on those we meet and encounter. This is no more powerfully and so overwhelmingly true and applicable as when it comes to our children and students. We can preach a much better sermon with our lives than with just our words. Whether we are aware of it or not, someone is looking up to us or at least waiting for us to act and yes, seeing how long it takes for us to forgive. We influence people every minute and it is clear that they need to see God’s love expressed through us, who say that we believe and love God with all of our hearts. This is how we actually proclaim the Kingdom of God, by living it joyfully.
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“Be careful how you live. You may be the only Bible some person ever reads.” -William J. Toms
“Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.” Have you ever walked into a room and automatically felt that something was terribly wrong? And by “terribly wrong,” what is meant is an atmosphere or attitude that is so negative and critical that you just cannot get away from there fast enough. In fact, the departure is so quick and determined that you leave a trail of dust behind. The Lord Jesus knows exactly the kind of world we occupy. It is full of negative and sinful postures that seek to choke and stifle the beautiful Gospel message. He also knows that we can trust Him with every good gift and wise choice. This is why we are forewarned and thus forearmed: any belligerent or hyper-critical encounter over the Gospel must end with an encounter with the closest door and move to the next page that God has already written and waiting for us.
“For I am God and not man, the Holy One present among you; I will not let the flames consume you.” The great news today, among the many other blessings we see and cannot see, is the fact that the Lord has once again reaffirmed His great love for us and His constant protection over every single step we take no matter what kind of encounter is waiting for us. All we have to do is remain faithful to His Word, be fed constantly with the Eucharist, and never ever lose hope, even in the face of seemingly hostile and hateful rejection.
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“Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.” -Dr. Steve Maraboli
Have you ever wondered why so many (maybe yourself included) consider Friday the 13th such an ominous and almost terrifying event? As you might imagine, the association with numbers and symbolic days have long been a part of lore and legend of our human race. It is likely that there would be a larger base of agreement that since it was on a Friday that Jesus was crucified, the day itself has been associated with “general ill omen.” In the Middle Ages, for instance, weddings were not held on Fridays and it was usually avoided as a day someone would set out on a long trip or journey. It was also the day in medieval times when executions took place known as “hangman’s day.” As for the “unlucky” or ill-fortunate number 13, since Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus was the last and 13th guest, the scary number almost seemed to ask for trouble.
“My mouth will declare your praise.” (Responsorial Psalm) However, the greater issue before must not be ignored or forgotten. How can any day be unlucky? What kind of power or force are we blindly following to make a day, an hour or even a single minute blessed or cursed? “Straight are the paths of the LORD, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.” Superstition in every form is a useless use of time and waste of energy. The Lord Jesus in our Gospel today made a very poignant observation that could help our understanding of this: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” What makes today blessed, fortunate, and lucky (if you will) has nothing to do with some outside uncontrollable force over which we have no power, but on one simple fact: Jesus died for us sinners and now we have a shot at eternal life.
“Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the LORD, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.” Today is hardly an unlucky day! We have all been blessed by the complete and selfless act of self sacrifice that Jesus accomplished on the cross. By His blood we have been washed and made clean and we can and should avail ourselves of all the promised blessings every single day we are alive. Shallow people believe in luck; strong people believe in cause and effect; blessed, healthy and happy people believe in Jesus.Leave a comment
“Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.” One of the greatest experiences of living in the state of grace and joyfully swimming in the promised ocean of mercy is the elation of the freedom from ugly and dark secrets that imprison so many around us, even among our own family members. “Sick as our secrets” is a well-known and repeated phrase among those blessed by the recovery process in Alcoholics Anonymous. Its basic truism is simply understood that a secret kept in the dark grows and becomes more harmful, but once it is exposed to the light and release, real life can begin. This is because shame is a powerful force and one that is often implemented by the evil one by attempting to make us feel unlovable and totally manipulated. This is precisely why the message of Jesus Christ expressed wonderfully through His Word in the Bible breaks this awful hold and has the potential to make us new and fresh and forgiven: “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”
Since it should be plainly obvious that rooftops and ledges are not the best of platforms to communicate, the only other reference about the rooftops has to deal with how each of us lives our lives, in the open, as if we were shouting from the top of a building. What we are saying about our beliefs and deep faith has everything to do with the way we act at home, at school, at work and in everyday life. “And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Jesus brings true freedom now and completely in the life to come. While we walk this earth, we must walk with Him who never shames or ridicules us for our past mistakes. He does, in fact, asks us to come clean and tell our story, yes, even the more embarrassing, awkward and disturbing chapters so that at the end, we all live happy ever after.
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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” -Maya Angelou
“He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts.” There is this very interesting detail in the Gospel today that certainly has more to do with the quality of our mission here on earth than what we take on a trip. Interesting collection of what not to bring: a stick, food, sack or money, all the things that none of us would dream of leaving home and forgetting. That is, however, the entire point. Traveling light means traveling with complete and unabashed trust in the one who has sent us forward in this life. “In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will.” When we are open to God’s voice in our lives and trust Him to enrich us with what we need to move forward, we will be safe and we will be successful.
“The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” When the Lord sends us into life, He always sends us traveling with His grace which is a love that has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Jesus which is its very source. It is a powerful, divine and vital piece of our existence and it is the only reason we are able to open our eyes each morning. God’s grace is more than a second chance; it is a third, fourth, fifth, and on and on. It is the quintessential love and gift that keeps on giving regardless of what happens to us or by us if we travel light completely depending on the Lord to see us through.
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“The will of God will not take us where the Grace of God cannot sustain us.” -Billy Graham
“Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.” It used to be the case that in post offices all around the country and now more popular with some websites and other means through the internet, you could view a wanted poster, often times with the ominous words, “dead or alive.” This is basically a poster distributed to let the public know of an alleged criminal whom authorities wish to apprehend. The poster will usually include a description of the wanted person and the crime for which they are sought. Typically, there is a set monetary reward offered to whoever catches the wanted criminal advertised on the poster. These types of posters were also referred to as reward posters. “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple–amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
As we begin a brand new week together with the Lord squarely on our side, let us reflect a while on this idea of being wanted and receiving a reward. Of course, the application must be devoid of criminal activity and our pictures strewn all over the postal outlets and the internet, but there is this interesting connection with our spiritual life. In earlier reflections we asked the proverbial question, “if it was against the law to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” The truth is we are certainly wanted by God, at the and of our life, that is, dead or right here right now, alive. The reward, however, is much more different. It is eternal. The beautiful and amazing truth for us to begin this week is simple. We are wanted and the reward is great. Let’s add up plenty of evidence so that for all eternity we may have been clearly caught in the act of a deeply fulfilling and happy Christian life.
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“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” -Sir Winston Churchill
It is not certain whether or not this phrase is known to some or any of our readers. It is defined as an ironic or humorous exclamation of sorrow or distress. It is, however, quite a familiar phrase to the human race for quite a while first appearing in the Book of Job (10:15) This Book is one of the oldest in the Bible, some versions dating from about 1200 BC, making the phrase 3,200 years old in its original language. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!” is the powerful phrase and threat uttered in today’s Gospel to those, who in the Lord’s estimation, were not listening and not heeding the words and warnings of God to their very and most certain peril. This follows from a very similar warning in our First Reading when something very similar was about to happen to Ephraim accompanied with a similar warning: “Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm!”
The news today, however, is not bleak at all. It is simply the necessary caution that must be taken should we confront any temptation to sway away from the life-giving message of the Gospel, to turn away from sin and death and follow Jesus, right here and right now: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Stubbornness, when it comes to listening to and following the Gospel in this life, has nothing to do with personality or character flaws. This life is the only one we have and we must make the very best and complete best of it, especially when we are dealing with our eternal destination after death. Once again, we are called to be determined in life, but not stubborn. This comes down to the very basic truth that the greatest mistake any of us can make is to substitute our own will for the will of God.
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“Woe is me. Me thinks I’m turning into a God.” -Vespasian
“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.” There is a popular little story that has been circulating around for quite a while now with a relatively simple plot. A little boy walks up to his mother in the kitchen as she is preparing supper, and she gets a little annoyed that her son can’t seem to wait until everything is ready. Well, then he hands her an invoice! Exactly. He is basically charging the family for things like cutting the grass, cleaning his room, babysitting, etc. And there he stands, waiting for payment with hand outstretched. The reflection continues with his mother recalling all the memories of her son from the day she told her husband that she was pregnant, to the day they brought him home, to that very moment in time. Her response was not only brilliant, poetic and moving, but also laced with pure truth. She took his “bill” and turned it over, then wrote the following: For the nine months I carried you in my womb, NO CHARGE. For all the times you were sick and I took care of you, NO CHARGE. For all the hours I worried about you, NO CHARGE. For everything we ever bought for you, NO CHARGE. For all the meals we served you, NO CHARGE. For a nice home, good parents and a happy life, NO CHARGE.
The story ends beautifully with the little boy crying a bit, telling his mom how much he loves her and then taking the pen, he crosses out the bill and writes in big bold letters, PAID IN FULL. The Lord is calling out to you and me to re-capture the joy and innocence of being a child who is carefree, loved, and small-minded at times. Let us move forward as His children and love being loved by the one who is love.
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Let us pray: I am God’s precious child and have been bought at a price. There is no reason to lose hope because God will never fail me. May I remember this and smile and rejoice. Amen.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Today, we readers of the Scriptures are treated to a lesson in word usage and phrasing that will hopefully help us remember the great wisdom that is contained for our use on our spiritual journey. If you were listening to the Word proclaimed today, you might think that the word yolk was meant instead of yoke. Most people know that a yolk is that soft, yellow center of an egg that comes to our plate in a myriad of uses and presentations. However, a yoke, as is mentioned in the Gospel today, is a very large piece of wood or even a metal composition that is placed on the top of the necks of beasts of burden in order to drag and complete the unearthing of the land to plant and sometimes harvest. But this does present even more issues as to why this large, obstructive tool could be easy or even light. There must be something more to this. And there is.
“The way of the just is smooth; the path of the just you make level.” When you think of the yoke, there is always room for two. When Christ offers His own yoke, what is clear about the invitation, is both simple and stunning. It is as if the Lord is saying to us, “I am asking you to carry this heavy load but I will be on one side of the yoke while you are on the other. We will do this together. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest, says the Lord.” This is truly great news! No matter what I have to carry today, no matter how great or small, this will pale in comparison if I had to carry this cross alone. We are never alone and this promise Jesus always completes and answers. This is why the daily regimen of the Scriptures linked with solid prayer and devoted reception of the Eucharist is absolutely necessary if we are going to make it to heaven. You see, when we put our problems in His hands, He puts peace in our hearts.
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“The one who prays is never alone.” -Pope Benedict XVI
“Thus says the LORD: Put your house in order, for you are about to die; you shall not recover.” While it is true that none of us may have much control over the exact time and date when we have to leave earth and face Jesus face-to-face, we do in fact have a remarkable amount of say and sway over how we leave and what impact we wish to have on our families and those we hold dear in this life. As the First Reading soberly reminds us, the Lord tried to remind King Hezekiah that now is the best time to place our house in order before it is too late. No one of course wants to think about the end and how overwhelming or frightening it might be, but it is clear from the wisdom of the Scriptures that facing our mortal departure helps us to face the daily crosses that we must carry in order to make it to the Promised Land after our death. But how do we accomplish that in this life? Perhaps we could consider some very poignant and solid ways to at least begin thinking about ways we can begin this type of life management.
“Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.” As responsible people, we must be careful of how we manage our spending, especially how we take care of feeding those in our immediate family. This also means making sure our finances are in order, having sufficient instructions about the event of catastrophic illness and the subsequent funeral plans and making amends with family who may have been estranged or at odds. “My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow me.” Practice this every day: every morning is a gift ready to open so give God thanks for that awesome gift. At the end of each day, count the good things and the happy memories and avoid becoming sad-faced about any regrets. Keep your house and life in order because you never know when Jesus, our special guest, will make His last appearance.Leave a comment
“The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.” Veteran firefighters know what to do when a fire breaks out in a home. It is better to know and practice these things even before the near tragic occurrence takes place but that can also apply to what we should do with our souls every single day that we are alive. One of the first things is to avoid the overwhelming temptation to panic. This will give us the necessary energy and sound mind to act immediately when we are aware of a terrible crisis and let others know as well. If at all possible, and recommended, we should have a cold wet towel ready to keep from breathing in the toxic smoke which will rob the body of much needed oxygen. One of the last things to do is to route the escape and not run out like we are used to, but actually get down on both knees and crawl to safety outdoors.
“God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” All of this analogy with fire and a burning house could help us understand and be comforted by the fact that Jesus gives us everything we need to walk through this valley of tears and sometimes darkness to find His will for our lives. We must remember that as in a real-life emergency, we are called to remain calm, alert others to the ways of good and evil and remain in the posture of prayer and humility to find our way to safety. God is so good and we choose never to forget this awesome fact.Leave a comment
“My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow me.” (Gospel) There was a remarkable encounter with a visiting and potential donor to one of the many outreach clinics in the poorest part of Calcutta, India where the Sisters of Charity and Mother Teresa served the poor and dying. This visitor saw a young nun tenderly washing a gaping wound of a man who was clearly dying of malnutrition and infection. Her reaction to the young religious sister was surprising: “I wouldn’t do that for all the money in the world!” The nun’s response was equally surprising: “Neither would I, Ma’am. Neither would I.” “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
The great lesson for all of us today is simple: God loves us and that is the only reason for His divine sacrifice for our eternal happiness. “In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ.” There is no money possibly gathered in all the lifetimes and eons of history on this planet that could even come close to what the Father has done for us in giving us His only begotten Son, Jesus for our salvation. In the light of all this, what is our response to others? Love often takes the form of forgiveness and patience even when it does not appear to be merited or proper. Yet, if we truly wish to honor what has been done for us by the death and resurrection of Christ, then perhaps we could learn much from The Good Shepherd’s tale: God loves me more in a single moment than anyone could in a lifetime.Leave a comment
“Hear what the LORD says: Arise, present your plea before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice!” Those who are into music and the recognition some musicians receive for their craft are certainly familiar with The Grammy Awards. They are named such because of the miniature gramophone affixed to the coveted prize. This, moreover has its roots from the trademark image originated from a painting by Francis Barraud titled His Master’s Voice famously showing a cute dog apparently listening intensely to the original record player and then later adopted as the trademark by the Victor Talking Machine Company. According to available publicity material, the dog, a terrier named Nipper, had originally belonged to Barraud’s brother, Mark. When Mark Barraud died, Francis inherited Nipper, with a cylinder phonograph and recordings of Mark’s voice. Francis noted the peculiar interest that the dog took in the recorded voice of his late master emanating from the horn, and conceived the idea of committing the scene to canvas.
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” What a powerful image we have been given today as we begin a brand new week in walking with the Lord Jesus. To be so attuned to the voice of Christ and to be so drawn and driven in listening to it no matter what the cost, is the goal of all who want to find their way to Heaven with the great and powerfully loving assistance of the Good Shepherd. However, this search must not become one of superstition and doubt. “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.” There is no website, Twitter account or Facebook page that accomplishes the value and depth of speaking and listening directly with the Lord in prayer strengthened by our daily dose of the Scriptures and Eucharistic nourishment. Let us decide this week to make the time and listen intensely to our Master’s voice. He is always ready to start a conversation.
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“Listen in silence because if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of God.” -St. Teresa of Calcutta
“O my people, what have I done to you, or how have I wearied you? Answer me!” Did you notice the stark difference in the tone of Micah’s writing from yesterday to today? Yesterday he was speaking about pain and disappointment all because the people were not faithful and not following their loving God. They were not paying attention to the signs around them and were going to pay for it severely. “Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance?” So what changed? They did. They realized that God was indeed a refuge and a stronghold for them all. Then and only then did their lives turn around. This exuberance with God in their lives is echoed in the Psalm when we sing aloud with Church: “Lord, show us your mercy and love.”
Then the Gospel takes us to yet another profound truth about following the Lord found deep within the answer Jesus gives about who truly are members of His family: “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Author Dan Schwager has this brilliant insight: “When an admirer wished to compliment Jesus by praising his mother, Jesus did not deny the truth of the blessing she pronounced. Her beatitude (which means blessedness or happiness) recalls Mary’s canticle: “All generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:48) Mary heard the word spoken to her by the angel and she believed it. Today He takes this application to an entirely new level when He pointed out that our true mother and brothers and sisters are those who hear the word of God and do it. This is because they are truly blessed because they know their God personally and they find joy in hearing and obeying his word. This underscores our very goal in life, the very reason we were created in the first place, which is for union with God. We were made for God and our hearts are restless until they rest in him. Those who follow Jesus Christ and who seek the will of God enter into a new family, a family of saints here on earth and in heaven. Jesus changes the order of relationships and shows that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood. Our adoption as sons and daughters of God transforms all of our relationships and requires a new order of loyalty to God and His Kingdom.This is what draws us into a most marvelous and mystical membership of family, forever.
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“In God’s family, there are no outsiders, no enemies.” -Archbishop Desmond Tutu
In just one short month from now, it will be 79 years to the date (August 25) that one of the most famous movies ever produced was initially released to its first of many millions of movie-goers. This is, of course, the musical fantasy film of The Wizard of Oz and according to the Library of Congress, it is the most seen film in movie history. Believing that most, if not all of our readers know the basic plot, it is not necessary to review the unfolding scenes of this timeless wonder but suffice to say, for our spiritual purposes here, that there is a lot to learn from the famous journey to Oz, and back. The basic premise is quite simple: all that you need for this life, you already have. “We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.”
The miracle of the Incarnation, that is, the Word becoming Flesh in Jesus, has bestowed on all of us a remarkably present miracle that lies deep within us and is destined to grow and mature through our own Baptism and constant communion with the same God who has loved us very much. “For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” Our goal in life, then, is to believe that this treasure exists and then to spend every waking moment that we have to dig and discover the beauty that has been placed deep within our very being.
“Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” The treasure map, if you will, will be read much easier and with much more clarity with the attitude of service and generosity to each other while we walk this path together. Inviting and cultivating the disposition of service to each other brings about the transformation in the human spirit that readily and specifically finds the great treasure of Jesus present within us and willing to share that happiness with those with whom we have been given. This is so because this is precisely why Jesus was sent to us, as true God and true man, to begin the total transformation of our society and world. However, this work must continue with us and invigorate our desire to get up every morning and go forth: “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
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“Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living.” -Albert Einstein
In our First Reading, God speaks in an almost wistful, forlorn tone as if He lost someone very close to His heart this fine day: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how you loved me as a bride, Following me in the desert, in a land unsown.” The Lord remembers the zeal and dedication of His chosen Israel in the early days after their redemption from Egypt. However, and almost eight hundred years later, things have changed for the worst. Horrible idolatry and willful rejection of the commandments now characterize the nation and Jeremiah’s heart is broken, as is God’s. You see it seems that the happiness, the joy, the excitement, and the zeal of belonging to God has been sorely forgotten, and like a spouse who senses the slowly developing distance in a once spirited relationship growing painfully obvious, we sense the sadness of what could have been because, after all, it once was. Do any of us remember the joy and excitement that filled our souls when we first accepted Christ? Do we remember how the love of God was poured into our hearts and we couldn’t wait to tell everyone about Jesus? Today’s Scriptures clearly reveal to us that the Lord remembers. God still remembers the devotion of our youth and is at times grieved by our passing forgetful nature and our silence. How does anyone recapture the initial spark and joy of any relationship that began so strong and seems to be going out like a bed of coals on a cold and rainy night?
“To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” The answer is simple: honesty. Similarly as in our human relationships, we must face God in the very depths of our hearts and tell him everything. Something like, “I miss you and I realize that I have moved, not you!” Transparency coupled with integrity are priceless tools and assets in every relationship and they can be the difference between a full and happy life with God and others, and just a fading memory of what used to be so awesome and fulfilling and now is over. “Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted and I heal them.” Today we pledge to be open and honest with God and assure Him that we know He loves us and that we will do all we can today to rekindle and keep the fire of faith glowing, especially when and how we interact with others. How great to be young again!
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“We are the Bibles the world is reading; we are the creeds the world is needing; we are the sermons the world is heeding.” -Billy Graham
“I will appoint over you shepherds after my own heart, who will shepherd you wisely and prudently.” Today we have two very enlightening images to express the great love and care that God has for each and every one of us, the first being that of the shepherd. The shepherd’s primary responsibility is the safety and welfare of the flock. He or she must also protect the sheep under his care at times using guard dogs or other guard animals. The sheep under the shepherd’s care are also susceptible to diseases and may be bothered by insects, some of which carry disease. Shepherds are often responsible for minor injuries or basic medical treatment, especially when they work in isolated areas far from veterinary services. All these aspects should help us realize how awesome it is to be loved by God. There should be no doubt that He wants to protect and guide us throughout this life in every way possible. Sin is the most debilitating scourge we face and that is why He sent His Son Jesus to save us from ourselves and the evil one.
“Hear the parable of the sower.” The second loving image is that of the one who sows seeds in the field and harvests the fruits of that planting. This brings a special nuance to the image that Jesus imparts to us to exemplify His love and care for the world. When you think about it, plants and crops are similar to people, each having their own unique personality and preferences for water, sunlight, soil type, and best growing conditions. The Lord knows this about us so He attends to the varying needs of each of us in terms of what is best for us to grow and bear fruit in this life. Like plants, we too can harvest energy from the sun, that is, the Son of God. Water is absolutely necessary for life and so are the waters of baptism. Just like plants, human beings need nutrients both for the body and soul and for this we are fed on the Word of God in the Scriptures and Eucharist, the Body of Christ. And just like the plant world needs the soil that holds all the water and nutrients needed for growth, Jesus has given us the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We also must recognize the rocks and thorns in our lives that can distract and choke the grace we need to grow in love for and with God and that is why we remain open to his beautiful Word today and always.
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“You can have faith or you can have control, but you cannot have both. If you want God to do something off the chart, you have to take your hands off the controls.” -Mark Batterson
“Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.‘” There is certainly another interesting morsel for us to enjoy with the Scriptures on this fine Saturday. The Gospel especially has the potential of unleashing a flurry of conversational bits and pieces about asking God to change the course of history, both universal and personal, to suit the ends of what we hope for and desire, believing that our way must be the only true way of providence. But there is a problem with this line of thinking and this was raised in the conversation between the farmer and his well-intentioned friends. If we pull up and destroy the destructive effect of weeds in our lives we may also endanger what is good with our lives (the wheat) and, for that matter, all of humanity. No, says he, we must wait to the end, the harvest, the hour of our death to see what must really happen and which side in this life we chose to live. This is a frightening prospect. The only real choice we have in this life is to proclaim with our lives the God we love and serve and then await the final approach of the one who loved us into existence. “Reform your ways and your deeds, so that I may remain with you in this place.” This means that every day is a dress rehearsal for eternity. In this very moment we find all of our lives without the need to wait for something more to happen. We are called to reform what is before us right here, right now.
“Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.” We cannot allow this week to end without calling special attention to this wonderful phrase, “humbly welcome.” How does anyone welcome the Word with humility? The truth is that so much happens in this life that we do not and cannot understand with the limited amount of intellect and wisdom that each of us possesses. This is why with the gentle and unpretentious acceptance of the things we simply cannot change and the drive to reform those that we can, especially within ourselves, is the path to holiness and happiness until we await the author of life. Until then, we pray, we live and move and place our entire being into the safe hands of the Lord Jesus. The best is yet to come.
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“But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over.” -C.S. Lewis
“And when they had eaten, there was some left over, as the LORD had said.” What can we safely assume when we think of leftovers? Let us begin with our own collective experiences growing up in a family. Leftovers meant that while there was still food from a previous meal, good money-saving etiquette dictated that we eat what we have first before buying something more. It meant that we were not a wasteful family. It meant that there was more than the distinct possibility that some dishes actually tasted better after a day or two of marinating and bathing in sauces and gravies which made for the repeat even better than the premier. “The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” It also powerfully suggested that somehow, someway we were all going to eat because the Lord Jesus was truly the head and constant guest of the family.
“I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” With the perennial presence of such over-abundance of love and joy, our response to such memories was and is clear. We are to treat each other as members of the much larger family we know as Church and practice the same over-generous spirit with which the Lord God shows to us. “So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.” This mega-generous reveal cannot be lost on any of us today. On that day in the Gospel, the leftovers barely filled vast bread baskets and over-flowing storage because there would literally be billions coming after that miracle to be fed and then finally to a place where there will be no more hunger or pain, only Jesus.
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“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.'” -Erma Bombeck
“The LORD said to me: Go buy yourself a linen loincloth.” What could be so important about a small piece of an undergarment? This, of course, is a completely understandable, rational question but the real query should sound something like this: to what mystery is this little thing pointing? As we read further into the First Reading we find more and more clues that will answer our curious minds. You see, God was very specific in his analogy of the loincloth to the people of Judah and Israel. He chose these people to be His own. However, after some time and relentless social temptations, they developed harmful pride and hubris which inevitably led them all astray like sheep without a shepherd, becoming slaves to their desires and throwing away the love in their hearts that belonged to their loving God and began worshiping the idols of the strange demands of deities from surrounding cultures. Their ears and eyes were closed, and they could not hear or see anything but their own personal enjoyments. Pride rotted their hearts leading to horrible and unfortunate neglect in their relationship with God. Pointedly, the very same way that Jeremiah ignored and neglected his loincloth, the people pushed God away and then, almost like Adam and Eve in Genesis, hid themselves from God in the similar way that Jeremiah hid the cloth: “This wicked people who refuse to obey my words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts, and follow strange gods to serve and adore them, shall be like this loincloth which is good for nothing.”
The Gospel continues this stately theme by bringing us more seemingly unimportant goods to help us discover the depths of the mysteries which Jesus wishes with all His heart to share with us: a tiny mustard seed and a few sprinkles of yeast: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.” “The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” Both the seed and the portion of yeast are very small things in comparison to so many other elements in nature and yet, with time, attention and great hope, they make a huge difference. These little things are great treasures of faith believing that Christ walks among us, loving us, holding us and when we truly approach life with this in mind and heart, we will find our way home to heaven. As we begin yet another week in this journey we call life, let us find Jesus in the little things with great hope. He is found there and when we find Him, we shall never be the same.
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“Perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset, the giggle of a grandchild, the first snowfall. It is the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events. Joy comes in sips, not gulps.” -Sharon Draper
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” In the natural world, weeds wreck havoc on the land. They reduce farm and forest productivity, invade crops, smother pastures and in some cases harm livestock. They aggressively compete for water, nutrients and sunlight, resulting in reduced crop yield and poor crop quality. They also hide the very core of crops especially at the all important harvest time so that the collection of crops is incomplete. They have also been known to hide the symptoms of pests and diseases that will stress plants and crops and decrease the yields. For these very pointed reasons and many others, they make an awesome example and point to the essential nature of evil which Jesus provides for all of us today. Allowing evil into our lives keeps us from truly being happy and fulfilled. The very nature of evil essentially blocks all the goodness that can come from our faith in action by confusing and trapping the light that is willfully desiring to emanate from us especially in our dealings with one another.
“Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over her incurable wound.” We must accept the truth that our free will stays intact so that we may love with a free and giving heart. That being said, we must also accept the fact that evil seeks only to destroy and sabotage that freedom. But as we know and believe, there is always hope because of the one who defeated death and evil forever: “The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower; all who come to him will live for ever.” As we close down this month and anticipate the blessings and challenges of the new month tomorrow, let us ask the Lord for courage to enter the fields of the future with great hope and faith in Jesus who has already defeated evil and has planted a harvest of hope in our hearts. Thank you, Jesus for everything!Leave a comment
“Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?” What happens when we cry, exactly? A salty fluid full of protein, water, mucus and oil is released from a gland in the upper, outer region of the eye. This fluid is what we call tears. According to most researchers, it all starts in the cerebrum where sadness is registered and then, we begin to cry. Emotional tears are common among us when we see something terribly sad or suffer a personal loss. The phrase “having a good cry” suggests that crying can actually make us feel physically and emotionally better, which many people believe. Some scientists agree with this theory, asserting that chemicals build up in the body during times of elevated stress. These researchers believe that emotional crying is the body’s way of ridding itself of these toxins and waste products. “I will free you from the hand of the wicked, and rescue you from the grasp of the violent.” We broach the subject of tears and crying because there seems to be quite a bit of them in our First Reading today. This should signal a deep sigh of relief for all of us who are attempting to keep the Lord Jesus right in front of our eyes, especially as we begin a brand new month of our journey toward heaven. It is clear that we suffer and it is also a great effort to lift those groans towards the only one who can help us in our moments of crisis, sadness and pain: “God is my refuge on the day of distress.” Complaining becomes a prayer when we direct our hurts to God and expect and wait for the solutions and comfort to be forthcoming with the same faith that we have come to believe in Jesus who sacrificed everything He had for our souls.
“When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” Interestingly enough, when the oyster has an irritation seep into its shell, it too produces a type of tear which the civilized world calls a pearl. Imagine something so precious caused by discomfort. It is a good image for the spiritual life because it is the deep and lasting confidence in the Lord that He has everything in His sacred hands and every eventuality planned ready to bring into existence. Nothing is more valuable in this life than the faith that can withstand every crisis, disappointment dark night. This is why the gospel expresses the desire to forsake everything to get that awesome bead and never lose it. This is what it means to follow Jesus. It produces a pearl of great price as a result of unrelenting hope in the face of pain.
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“All suffering is worth it to follow Jesus. He is that amazing.” -Nabeel Qureshi
“Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.” The First Reading and Gospel today have something quite unique and precious in common. Did you notice it? In terms of the potter, we need to remember how close and involved the artisan is with his medium, the clay. At first, it is just like mud, shapeless and without form and probably makes the surrounding area very messy as well. What a perfect comparison with those of us who find ourselves in complete and utter need of the Lord in this life. The image of the potter immersed and close to the finished product is both amazing and comforting. That is how close we are to the Lord and He to us. We could say that this is the quintessential “hands-on approach” to life and love.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.” The Gospel then presents us with yet another loving image that describes the great love God has for us. Anyone who has ever used a net to fish must know how equally involved the net must be with the hands of the fisherman. In a way, like the clay in the hands of the potter, the net must be one with the one looking for a great catch. This is how God wants us to see Him as intricately and eternally involved with our souls from conception till death and beyond. “Open our heart, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son.”
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“I’d rather be in this wheelchair knowing God than on my feet without Him.” -Joni Eareckson Tada
“Whatever I command you, tell them, and omit nothing.” “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Did you know that this little sentence covers the most important lies we hear (use) daily? If someone tells you something that is not a fact then we call this a lie of commission. This type of lie is telling someone something that is simply not true. Another type of lie is one where you leave out an important part of information, hence the name lie of omission. This is when someone omits an important detail from a statement. These are beastly because they are harder to spot and take less effort from the person who is lying. Sometimes people will tell you something completely unrelated to the truth to cover up a lie. This is what we call a character lie or a lie of influence. These lies are meant to make you believe the liar or to make the liar seem like a great person that they are unlikely to be suspected of lying. This little “crash course” on the truth is needed today on the First Friday of this brand new month because the integrity of our speech emanates directly from the integrity of our hearts. Remember, we may be the only Bible someone will read today and God’s message of love and forgiveness must not be hampered in any way, especially from a loose grip on telling the truth. “Perhaps they will listen and turn back, each from his evil way.” Each one of us has this deep and innate responsibility to live lives of honest struggle and service to the truth so that our lives will joyfully and realistically proclaim the mystery of salvation that the Lord has placed deep within us at our Baptism. “The word of the Lord remains forever; this is the word that has been proclaimed to you.”
Our critical lesson on living the Christian faith has a remarkable and timely conclusion. What happens when there is no trust in the Word or serious doubt in the one who is delivering it? Look what happens when, for whatever the reason, people are far from living a holy life and distrust the very moment when salvation steps right in front of them: “And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.” People sometimes lose faith in Christ because they cannot see Him in Christians. This is something we must painfully accept if we are to move forward and be the best versions of ourselves which God always sees in us. While we believe forgiveness is ours for the asking, reform and change is always on the other side of repentance.
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“It doesn’t matter if you can quote the Bible if you live like you’ve never opened it.” -David Alan Campbell
“His disciples came and took away the corpse and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.” Most of the time, perhaps, when we are Biblically served the account of the seemingly cruel fate of St. John the Baptist, as we are today in the Gospel, we are understandably and keenly aware of the place and prophetic role of the one who announced to the world that “this is the Lamb of God!” The dramatic episode leading up to the martyrdom of John and the evil intrigue surrounding the court of King Herod normally take front and center stage of our attention; however, just for today, let us take note of the last phrase of the Gospel. His disciples and friends went to tell Jesus everything that transpired. Why did they do that? Certainly they were outraged by the injustice and echoed the same sentiments which Jeremiah expressed to his enemies in the First Reading: “But mark well: if you put me to death, it is innocent blood you bring on yourselves, on this city and its citizens.” They were also saddened and crushed by this horrible death whose experiences are not only relevant to each one of us but also sung with prayerful hope in the Responsorial Psalm: “But I am afflicted and in pain; let your saving help, O God, protect me.” Running to Jesus has been and will always be the only way to deal with crises and crosses in this life. We are very blessed to remember this.
“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” Before moving on from our thoughts today, we must address the issue of suffering for the Kingdom, for what is right and for being a Christian. These experiences may or may not be wide-spread in a world that boasts of its own tolerance, depending on the cause, but it is certainly a moment to ponder especially when it comes to the suffering caused by personal or public rejection. This kind of suffering has always had the greatest potential of solidifying our relationship with Jesus, following Him no matter what the cost, and finding our way to the promised land of heaven. Instead of asking “why me?,” we ask for the courage to ask, “why not me?”
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“Persecution is the touchstone of sincerity. It discovers true saints from hypocrites. Unsound hearts look good in prosperity but in time of persecution, fall away. Hypocrites cannot sail in stormy weather. They will follow Christ to the Mount of Olives but not to the Mount of Calvary.” -Thomas Watson
“One does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” Scientists and researchers at The University College in Dublin discovered that many people love the smell of bread. They determined, among other things, that it makes eighty-nine percent of people happy and for sixty-three percent of those studied, walking into a room of freshly baked bread brings many happy and joyful memories. Their study also revealed that some of the other important memories evoked by the smell of bread with this burst of good feeling were mothers, childhood, grandparents and home. “… be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” In the same way that beloved memories are triggered by ordinary and perhaps even mundane objects, our souls are lifted to a place where the meaning of life and love are brought in to such clarity and beauty that all we can do is sit back and enjoy the experience. “I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.” Bread has an amazing eight-thousand-year history with the human race and exists in every known culture in one form or another. Whether it is called a tortilla, naan, focaccia, matzo or soft warm pretzel, bread, its taste and smell, invites a flurry of memories with equal warmth and taste as if we were sampling morsels from heaven’s five-star menu.
“The Lord gave them bread from heaven.” During the expanse of the entire history of the Bible, the Lord invited us to taste of the bread from heaven, starting with Moses in the desert and continuing with the celebration of the first Eucharist, the Last Supper of Jesus which is for us a magnificent, movable feast. “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” On this beautiful first Sunday of the new month, consider all the ways that we are hungry: loneliness is hunger for family and compassion; despair, hunger for hope; sadness, hunger for joy; and dangerous isolation hunger, for meaning and purpose. Nothing gives a person inner wholeness and peace like a distinct understanding of where they are going. Robert Bryne once wrote, “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” In order to arrive anywhere we need to define our true goal in life and the sooner we define it, the clearer everything else will become. This is what Jesus promises us in the Eucharist and our existence as an intricate member of His body, the Church. A life without purpose is one without a destination. Our destination is heaven and our most sincere and wonderful purpose is to be one with Christ.
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“Jesus made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day, He is there. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, comeback to that Adoration.” -St. Teresa of Calcutta
“Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” Do you realize that you and I have been placed on this earth for a specific reason and purpose? Every day becomes an opportunity to strive and realize that reality, especially when things look dark and bleak. If I have a purpose in life, and I do, then everything that is happening around me today is either a part of that reality and I should stay focused on its messages and lessons, or it is keeping me from my purpose and direction and therefore I should move on and as quickly as possible. This is certainly one very important way we can understand transformation and transfiguration. In our First Reading, the vision was more than remarkable: “His clothing was bright as snow, and the hair on his head as white as wool; his throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire.”
“We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.” Jesus becomes transfigured to prepare the disciples and all of us for His resurrection which in turn prepares us for our resurrection, our ultimate transfiguration. “And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.” This complete transformative moment when we see Jesus as He exists in total glory in heaven is both an inspiration and goal while we walk and continue our spiritual journeys. We must find true happiness in this world to make a suitable place in our souls and hearts for the message of the Gospel of Jesus.
The most unhappy people in the world have made it their life’s mission to make as many people around them as miserable as they are with every ounce of strength they can muster. Surely, this can’t be news to us. Remember, only wounded people wound people. Our best stories will come from our struggles. The seeds of our successes are in our failures. Keep standing. Seasons change. There is no such thing as a storm that lasts forever. On this Feast of the Transfiguration, let us all ask God to help each and every one of us continue to uncover and discover our purpose in this great adventure we call life. He proclaimed as much today in the Gospel: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”Leave a comment
“Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea.” In today’s Gospel, we have all been gifted with one of the more famous and breathtaking moments in all of the Scriptures, at least in the top ten! Try to imagine the scene where hurricane-force gale winds are blowing mercilessly against a tiny boat while the crashing sounds of the thunder in the distance are only rivaled by the crashing of the waves. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” The drama unfolds in three distinct phases: first, there’s a horrible storm that scares everyone on board; second, they see Jesus walking over the storm, literally; third, Peter begs Jesus to empower him to walk toward the Lord and he starts with great trepidation; fourth, Peter sinks because he doubts; and finally, Jesus saves Peter and calms everyone’s storm. This process is the quintessential outline and summary of our spiritual lives! We face our storms of doubt, we call upon Jesus, He makes His loving presence known and empowers us to believe, then we doubt again and the cycle starts all over again but each time it does, we are actually closer and closer to Jesus who never leaves our ship of life.
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” This raises the age-long question that has faced every Christian since Jesus first walked the earth: why do we doubt and how do we deal with this very human and expected experience? First, doubt is a natural process of every intellectual and moral process. It is almost necessary because it is a way of strengthening our ideals and beliefs but it must never overtake the very treasure we are trying to discover. We must realize that doubt is part of natural growing pains of faith and having said that, it is also a mystery. No one human being could ever totally grasp the fullness of who God is, so understandably there will be gaps due to our limitations. But gaps do not make for abandoning Jesus or why we are here on this planet. Perhaps the greatest spiritual gift we need when confronted with doubt is humility. Humility reminds us that faith is a powerful gift that must be opened slowly and without pretense. This is precisely how we run to Jesus on the water and everywhere else.
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“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” -Brene Brown
“With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you.” When we think about the response of people concerning God’s love for us, we might say that there are at least two main groups: those who almost casually assume that God loves them and then give it very little thought, and those who actually doubt His love. Both of these camps base their assertions on their own lives and their particular circumstances. We can also safely ascertain that these two different approaches produce two very different kinds of people. People who were raised in homes of tremendous love and acceptance more times than not have very little problem believing and experiencing God’s love and mercy all around them for the majority of their lives. We might say that these people exude confidence, peace and acceptance for others. They clearly believe the following: “The Lord will guard us as a shepherd guards his flock.” Even in times of trouble, these people can find joy and blessings everywhere they look. There is always God’s loving presence and beauty in ordinary things even when they hit rock bottom, because, after all, it is rock.
“Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Can you possibly imagine the very different outcome if the woman to whom Jesus addressed His mysterious comments about scraps had been a person of the second group of people who are somehow predisposed to doubt God’s love? Disastrous. Yet, we probably know people like those who never see the silver lining and only expect the darkness. This teaches us a very important lesson in life: always be patient with those whose faith is weak and precarious. Invite people to see the Lord in everything and never criticize or condemn them. Look what Jesus did for the one who never gave up and never gave in to her doubts: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” Trust in the miracle that is within you. God loves you forever. He sent His most cherished and powerful messenger who took that message to the cross and beyond.
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“Doubts and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer and the large mind transcend.” -Helen Keller