The Word of God

Daily Reflections

  • Forgiveness As A Fragrance

    Reflection on Mass Reading for August 13, 2020

    Violets are truly a bizarre and eccentric kind of flower. If one could say that they have quirks, then one of them must be the fleeting and puzzling aroma that these highly-recognizable purple flowers exude. Without launching into a lesson in botany, it is sufficed to reveal that these flowers contain a ketone compound called ionone, which temporarily desensitizes the receptors of the nose, thus preventing any further scent being detected from the flower until the nerves recover. Admirers will only sense the smell of violets for only a few moments at a time, before the ionone “blinds” the senses and then the aroma miraculously returns just as fragrant as before.

    Mark Twain must also have known of this phenomenon as he once commented: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Similarly, it is like the thought about forgiving our neighbor. It may be hard to grasp or comprehend at first but is always pleasant and surprising as it makes its way back to the one who forgives.

    “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?” Seven is God’s perfect number, and so the advice that Jesus gives to us today has little to do with quantity but rather with the quality of our intention when we say we forgive. If our desire to unburden another for whatever reason,  then it must be done in love. Maybe we could say that the most effective missionary at our disposal is our desire and ability to forgive. Life has the potential of becoming much more pleasant and wonderful when we learn to accept the apology we may never receive. It is a profound virtue.

    “Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.” Jonathan Lockwood Huie

  • If You Agree

    Reflection on Mass Reading for August 12, 2020

    “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and mark a ‘Thau’ (Tau) on the foreheads of those who moan and groan over all the abominations that are practiced within it.” Tau is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet (which looks like a “t”) and was used symbolically in the Old Testament. It is the sign placed upon the foreheads of the poor of Israel, which would save them from extermination. It was later adopted by the very first Christians, for two reasons: As the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, it prophesied the Last Day and had the same function as the Greek letter Omega as it appears in the Book of Revelation: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water without price from the fountain of the water of life … I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Rev. 21:6;22:13). And because it formed the symbol of a cross, which reminded Christians of the Cross on which Christ was sacrificed for the salvation of the world.

    “Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.” For those of today who are looking for meaning and understanding as we move through fifty percent of the week already, what is our mark? What could we say is our “Tau?” We can rest assured that the Old Testament Readings prepared us for the teaching of Jesus in the New. Since it is in God’s word that we must find in our accepted point of reference in life, we have reason to rejoice today. If we believe that Jesus died for our sins, that he will return on the last day, and that we will have to make an account of everything we have done and said in this life, that will certainly “mark” us and prepare us all for the Last Day when Jesus our King will come back. It seems almost too obvious that peaceful, generous, and forgiving people will live this way and that they will be very easy to spot and recognize on Judgment Day. Let’s agree to live like this every day.

    “Death is a challenge. It tells us not to waste time… It tells us to tell each other right now that we love each other.” Leo Buscaglia

  • Living By Example

    Reflection on Mass Reading for August 11, 2020

    There is a powerful story about a child’s reaction to the way his parents treated his grandfather. His grandfather was living with the family but apparently had some undesirable and understandable trouble getting around through life. Things like spilling food on the floor, knocking over the glass of milk or iced tea, and making grunting sounds while eating that seemed to anger the little boy’s parents which caused them to speak harshly to the old man on a daily basis.

    One day, the old man made a huge mess at the table which caused his own son (the boy’s father) to ban him from eating at the table with the rest of the family. The boy’s father brought out a smaller table, which was very hard and uncomfortable, and gave his father a wooden bowl and spoon to keep him from spilling his food on the floor or to at least make any further “messes.” The young boy saw all of this in sadness as his grandfather was demoted to a corner of the dining room with an occasional tear in his eye. Later in the week, the father of that boy heard something in the garage. He went out to see what was happening and was surprised to find his son working on some project, very focused. He called out, “Hey Son, what are you working on there?” His son replied, “Hi Dad! I’m working on the table and bowls that you and mom will eat on when you both get very old.” His father was completely astounded and stupefied by hearing these words that he later discarded the crude little table and bowl and brought his father back to eat with the rest of the family. From then on, they didn’t seem to mind all the spills and noises and that little boy was happy to have grandfather back eating with them for as long he lived.

    “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” The power of example is as much a part of the teaching process than the very content of the lesson. This is critical to understand how our faith is passed down from one generation to another and how we will maintain our fidelity to the God who loves us so much. Jesus Himself in the Gospel continues to expound on this very necessary requirement in our journey through life itself: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

    A man once wrote to his teenage son: “God is the reason why even in pain, I smile, in confusion I understand, in betrayal I trust and in fear I continue to fight.” These are not just words if they are put into practice and lived as best as possible. You and I must remember even long after this life is over, that our children, students, and friends will not follow our advice that they will indeed follow and remember our example.

  • Generous Genes

    Reflection on Mass Reading for August 10, 2020

    “Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Have you ever noticed that generosity makes people happier, even if they are only a little bit generous? Many people would agree. “Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” Generous people tend to be happy, more relaxed, willing to work hard, kind, free, and have better quality relationships and exude confidence: “The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”

    “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” Here is the wonderful irony of this comforting Monday to help us move into the week ahead: The more you give, the more you have. Dying to selfishness brings forth an immense flow of love and real life that knows no rival. And all of this is because of Jesus. He died to set us free and give us true freedom which is beyond measure or value, especially in a very selfish world.

    However, there is a catch and a warning, severe in every way. We must be super-careful that we do not become generous people just in order to receive something in return even if that be recognition. We must learn to give as Jesus did. Parents are uniquely exposed to this challenge more than most but all of us can and should have a share in this deep call to experience generosity from both sides of the equation. “…but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

    What do we receive in this life in exchange for generosity? We witness happiness, reach a deeper understanding of life, feel the love of Jesus, and receive what money could never buy, a world made more beautiful. Isn’t that the point of living here?

    “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” John Wesley

  • Storms, Earthquakes, And Fires

    Reflection on Mass Reading for August 9, 2020

    “Then the LORD said to him, ‘Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.’” It can be easily argued that today’s Scripture readings are not about natural disasters, but they are, in fact, about personal, spiritual, and emotional turmoil. At one point or another in most peoples’ lives, there are crises and problems that be compared to the kinds of disasters on the planet. Our world is shaken to its core, unexpected problems beseech us, and all that we dreamed and hoped goes up in smoke. Things like these are bound to happen, and can almost be expected because of that fact. What is not naturally anticipated is to automatically blame God, tell people that you “have a problem with the Almighty,” or because things haven’t evolved according to your own personal playbook, that God must be mean, distant, or even worse, does not exist at all. The Disciples in the Gospel had a certain experience with this and an understandable predicament which would later become a teachable moment for all of this today: “When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.”

    “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” It never fails to amaze how often a struggling individual will try to understand the mystery of evil while rejecting the Ultimate Good. Quite simply put, you cannot understand darkness without light, cold without heat, and, especially for our spiritual purposes here, goodness without evil, or, personally, disasters. The groundwork of our lives must be set early or at least properly. We must have faith. Faith in the person of Jesus determines everything and thus the lack or weakness thereof spells a disaster that no one should ever want to face alone. Pray today that God will increase your faith even as the storms, earthquakes, and fires rage on. It is the only way.

    “He who has faith has… an inward reservoir of courage, hope, confidence, calmness, and assuring trust that all will come out well – even though to the world it may appear to come out most badly.” B. C. Forbes

  • Nothing Is Impossible

    Reflection on Mass Reading for August 8, 2020

    “Are you not from eternity, O LORD, my holy God, immortal?” In 1811, an unknown author wrote a beautiful hymn entitled “What Wondrous Love is This?”And when you think about it, it’s message truly raises an amazing question that can still be addressed today: What kind of magnificent love would it take to inspire and motivate God to send His Son Jesus Christ to be born in a filthy manger, to live a poor life, and then be crucified for our sins? Perhaps a line from the Responsorial Psalm helps us answer this profound question: “The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of distress.” The third verse of the hymn then explodes with the enthusiastic joy of the awareness that is brought to the one who understands this gift and cannot help but be changed forever: “To God and to the Lamb, who is the great I AM, while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing, while millions join the theme, I will sing!” This, too, is underscored by the Alleluia Verse: “Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death and brought life to light through the Gospel.”

    This wondrous, wonderful love reveals the height and depth of such a love that carries us beyond our life here on earth to an eternal reward and life in Heaven. In the Gospel, a desperate man brought his own son for a miracle and he was not disappointed: “Lord, have pity on my son, who is a lunatic and suffers severely.” If and when our response to His wondrous love is returned with even the simplest of faith, miracles abound. Let us move forward in this life with new resolve and new hope. Darkness cannot and will not extinguish what we have been given. We will sing: “And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be, And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on, and through eternity I’ll sing on!” This is because nothing is impossible for God.

  • Carry Not Drag

    Reflection on Mass Reading for August 7, 2020

    “Celebrate your feasts, O Judah, fulfill your vows! For nevermore shall you be invaded by the scoundrel; he is completely destroyed.” As simple as it sounds, the real way to face all of the troubles of life lies squarely and assuredly in the total awareness that God is complete control of our lives and that He has provided for each and every eventuality that will befall us. One of the most memorable homilies I have ever heard was the same one our pastor preached every New Year’s Eve and Day. He reminded us that in the upcoming year we will have our worst day and our best day and the good news for all of us was that God is already there for both.

    “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” All this is great news for us who wish to follow Christ all the way to Heaven. It also addresses the quality of carrying the cross that we have been assessed and given. Some of us like to complain or make things worse when we suffer which is not usually a good witness to the Gospel. When we face powerlessness in this life perhaps reviewing a few possible approaches to our walk with the Lord in hopes of making our Christian journey the best it can be to:

    Calm Down: Yes, the appearance of powerlessness can almost always create a ripe breeding ground for anger. And when we can’t do anything about a certain situation, we turn to the only things we do have control over – which are our emotions. Anger is a volatile and perhaps the most destructive of all the vices. Unbridled, it can destroy us.

    Discover Your Own Real Motivations: Why do we want justice? Is it really revenge? Justice is a virtue, and revenge is a perversion of justice.

    Consider the Source: Who lied about us? Who has besmirched our reputation? Whenever we hear praise or harsh criticism, we must first consider its source. What someone says about us is never more important than the one who said it.

    Weigh Carefully the Consequences: This is where prudence rallies into our discussion. Will I bring more attention to myself and my own emotional spasm?

    Wait: Remember Jesus waited three days after His brutal murder to set things straight. Waiting and watching are deep spiritual exercises that separate us from the beasts of this world. My Italian friends put it best when they say, “Let God handle the need for revenge. He is much better at it.”

    “We all have a cross to carry. I have to carry my own cross. if we don’t carry our crosses, we are going to be crushed under the weight of it.” Jim Caviezel