There is a very interesting bit of Christmas trivia that should be part of our collected batch of important points of reference as we move closer and closer to this Christmas and beyond. It has to do with the name of the ever-so-famous little town where our Savior was born: Bethlehem. The actual name in Hebrew sounds more like Betel-lehem, which are two different words basically combined to make the phrase “House of Bread.”
“Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied.” This Christmas morsel is quite significant because of the nature of Jesus Himself, the Bread of Life for the world. Christmas can be a time when we can look to experience not only healing but also a moment of nourishment for our tired souls and the remedy for problems we might be experiencing here and now. Do you realize that God wants all of us to be happy? This is one of the deepest, most wonderful goals of the season to make things bright, both internally and externally. Open your heart to accepting this wonderful invitation to receive the Body of Christ and be filled with a divine love that knows no end. This is precisely why Christmas is merry.
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“Christ knew that by bread alone you cannot reanimate man. If there were no spiritual life, no ideal of Beauty, man would pine away, die, go mad, kill himself or give himself to pagan fantasies. And as Christ, the ideal of Beauty in Himself and his Word, he decided it was better to implant the ideal of Beauty in the soul. If it exists in the soul, each would be the brother of everyone else and then, of course, working for each other, all would also be rich.” Fyodor Dostoevsky
For many adults during this time of waiting and watching, the profound images of Santa and his flying reindeer figure are a larger-than-life episode in warm, comforting, and beautiful Christmas memories. “How does that work?” we might have asked. All we knew was that because of those remarkable creatures, Christmas night was to be a success every year. As we age, much of the childhood props begin to fade, and we are left with the only plausible explanation of why Christmas can and should make us very happy: “On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”
The great transition into adulthood allows us to keep hold of the wonder and priceless chill of a star-lit sky, hoping everyone receives what they want and need for Christmas. And isn’t that the core of belief at this time? Let everyone be lifted high to welcome the King of kings and the Lord of lords to bring us a great sense of love, forgiveness, and deep love for those whom the Lord has given us to love. That would be accomplished not by the light of deer but of other wonderfully inspired messengers and equally important for Christmas: “I give you praise, 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.”
We have probably heard it said that God never promised any of us an easy flight but certainly a safe landing. That is most definitely true. While adults watch children all around us appreciate their childhood again, bills, promises, and deadlines loom. But it is Jesus who makes all this understandable, warm, beautiful, and comforting for all of us, kids and big kids alike. That’s why we can believe every word of the Gospel today: “For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”
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“He always knew he was a little different, but he let his light shine regardless of what others said. Be more like Rudolph!” From An Autistic Christmas
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” Here in the first week of this great Season of Advent, 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. When we enter under the Lord’s roof/kingdom, great things happen.
“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, believe, and trust by living in the Kingdom, virtually, under God’s roof. When each of us lives our lives so 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. This is a great Advent lesson, learning how to live truly in the Kingdom and still walk in the world. What is really important to me? Who is really important to me? These are all very important life questions that must be answered if we are to truly enter the mystery of Christmas.
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“God will always give us more than we deserve.” St. Padre Pio
Brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus! We are here again at yet another installment of this adventure we call life, sandwiched between the two memory-seeking holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Although those super-technically astute would not agree, time is about to move faster and faster right about now. This we know from previous experiences of these days that are so filled with grace and opportunities for growth that there could be a time when time itself stands still. This is now the Advent Season, which has its own character and texture, and if we understand it and move forward with it, we stand to have an awesome Christmas and an amazing year and life ahead. What do the Scriptures beckon us to accomplish?
“Yet, O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.” Have you ever climbed anything really tall and overwhelming? Several aspects of such a feat are also applicable to our reflection. You’ve got to prepare, you must know the terrain, and you must decide that you are going to finish. During this spiritual season of Advent, our whole focus is on preparation, preparing to prepare, as it were. We are getting ready for yet another Christmas, but it cannot be the same old, same old. Our hearts must be open to wonderful moments of grace and beauty, and yes, joy as we await these beautiful celebrations.
“He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Have you ever noticed how our lives can be divided into the two segments of our 24-hour existence daily? Light and darkness. The Scriptures are clearly referring to good deeds and evil deeds of which temptations constantly surround our day-to-day living. It appears we are going to have to make choices all day and all night long. It is precisely in these choices that we will find the recipe for deep happiness or disaster. And thank God we will have the Scriptures to guide us through these moments leading up to the great experience of Christmas.
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.'” Carry on with our eyes wide open and ready for anything. In many ways, Advent is like a dress rehearsal for our last breath before seeing God face-to-face. Just think about the image for just a second. Christmas is the First Coming of Christ. The Second Coming will arrive when our time on this planet is finished. Will we be sad or worried? If we approach Christmas with the joy and love of a child’s heart, then we can hope to face our own death in the same way.
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“The problem is solved. Now go and utterly enjoy all remaining days. Not only is it “Always Advent,” but every day can now be Christmas because the one we thought we were just waiting for has come once and for all.” Richard Rohr
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy.” One of the hardest things we have to learn to do as human beings is waiting, and yet it is something that we do each and every day. We wait for the green light, we wait for the toast, we wait for lunch hour, and we wait to go home at the end of a long day. According to Taylor Forbush who is a traffic engineer in Utah, we spend about five months of our life waiting in traffic at the red light. That is certainly quite a bit, and yet we are called upon to wait for the Lord without becoming drowsy or listless.
Here is the point: Waiting for the Lord is not idle laziness, nor is it an abandonment of effort. It means that waiting can and should be an active process; that is, we are actively looking forward to hearing and listening and following Jesus and making sure that the normal distractions of this life do not block or confuse that peaceful, active waiting period we call life. It is also very possible that we must let go of the life we have planned so as to accept the one that He has waiting for us. “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”
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“Vigilance in oneself is very important. Vigilance means to be alert to what happens inside, so you can catch an old, collective habit pattern.” Eckhart Tolle
“In a vision, I, Daniel, saw during the night, the four winds of heaven stirred up the great sea, from which emerged four immense beasts, each different from the others.” Here we are treated to Daniel’s vision of four world kingdoms replaced by the Kingdom God. The four beasts out of the sea prepare for the new kingdom led and ruled by “one like a son of man.” So amidst the clamor and uproar of the background scene, the hope of Jesus is shown through the chaos for all to welcome or fear, depending on the disposition and readiness.
“Jesus told his disciples a parable. ‘Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near; in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near.'” In the Gospel of today, a different kind of imagery takes shape. This time, it is the fig tree, which is quite obvious in its appearance when it is ready to burst out with fruit for those patiently waiting.
So you must see the pattern: amidst the chaos, there are those who patiently wait for fulfillment and are not disappointed. It all depends on which chaos you choose and how much patience you can muster. The time to prepare is now. Let us resolve to take stock in our lives and see what is important and what is not. Jesus is coming!
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“I have an idea that the only thing which makes it possible to regard this world we live in without disgust is the beauty which now and then men create out of the chaos. The pictures they paint, the music they compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these the richest in beauty is the beautiful life. That is the perfect work of art.” W. Somerset Maugham
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Apart from being so close to the water and thus positioned by the Sea of Galilee, there must be other more powerful reasons why Jesus called Fishermen to follow Him and why fishing has become a very important image for all of us in discipleship. What do fishing and living a Christian life have in common?
Here are some possibilities:
You’ve got to be prepared. “And how can people preach unless they are sent?”
You’ve got to get up early. “At once they left their nets and followed him.”
You’ve got to be quiet. “The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul.”
You’ve got to wait. “Thus faith comes from what is heard…through the word of Christ.”
You’ve got to be determined. “The command of the LORD is clear enlightening the eye.”
You’ve got to enjoy the process. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!”
Let us conclude our Reflection today with the brilliant prayer of St. Andrew, whose feast is today:
O glorious St. Andrew, you were the first to recognize and follow the Lamb of God. With your friend, St. John, you remained with Jesus for that first day, your entire life, and now throughout eternity. As you led your brother, St. Peter, to Christ and many others after him, draw us also to Him. Teach us to lead others to Christ solely out of love for Him and dedication to His service. Help us to learn the lesson of the Cross and to carry our daily crosses without complaint so that they may carry us to Jesus. Amen.Leave a comment
The words “gravity,” “grave,” and “gravitas” all come from a basic concept. If you say that someone has gravitas, you mean that you respect them because they seem serious and intelligent with reserved dignity and good taste in behavior and speech thus they are “heavy,” as in the concept of gravity. They carry a lot of meaning and importance. They mean a tremendous amount to an individual or a society. We would unreservedly trust their opinion and take their advice without question. This is bad news for King Belshazzar, who threw his legendary feast for all his friends only to be visited, without invitation, by the original and after that proverbial “writing on the wall” with some very harsh and bad news: “…you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.”
How would you and I then gain weight, gravitas, that is? We know we will be put on some kind of scale when it is all said and done. So how will this work? “By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.”
“You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.” This is of extreme importance in our walk with God because, many times, our lives seem out of order, unorganized, and even chaotic. Bad and disappointing things happen, which may tempt us to believe that somehow the Lord has abandoned us, which is precisely why we constantly need to remember what marvels God has done and keeps on accomplishing. How do we translate this into our spiritual lives?
Here are some examples:
These are but just a few, and there will certainly be more revealed throughout the day. This is how the Lord would put it: “Remain faithful until death, And I will give you the crown of life.”Leave a comment
After a quick review of human history, it seems as if there has been a long (or protracted) preoccupation with the idea of how a person’s life and the world will end. The end of the universe as we know it has been a fascination of all cultures and all peoples for a long time, including the Scriptures today: “The great God has revealed to the king what shall be in the future; this is exactly what you dreamed, and its meaning is sure.” (Nebuchadnezzar was concerned about his demise). In the Gospel, the worry about the last days was becoming neurotic: “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them!”
Imagine spending a pretty penny on a novel or movie only to be told as you began reading or watching how the plot would be resolved and who would die, survive, marry, get arrested, etc. You would probably be thinking: “Spoiler Alert!” Why did you bother spending money on this? That concept works with entertainment venues, but it does not work concerning our Salvation. Jesus has already set the stage for our triumphant and glorious entry into Heaven, but we must take the necessary steps to get there. So this is what we know about the end of our world: a) it is going to happen, 2) it is going to happen when we least suspect, 3) there is no need for fear, just action: “Remain faithful until death, And I will give you the crown of life.”
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“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the Master calls a butterfly.” Richard Bach
There are many of our readers who undoubtedly have heard the phrase, “you are what you eat,” in several venues and circumstances, most likely in nutritional-based conversations. It seems to have its early beginnings in 1826 in a physiology book, which is better translated as, “tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” Without straying too far from our intent here, let us all agree on this much: what we allow into our lives, physically or spiritually, even emotionally, will have tremendous, even life-changing effects. Daniel must have known that in our First Reading today. “Please test your servants for ten days. Give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then see how we look in comparison with the other young men who eat from the royal table and treat your servants according to what you see.” The result there was amazing.
The opposite is also true: what we do NOT allow into our lives also has similar results. Take the poor widow in the Gospel: “…but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” The poor widow lived on a diet of trust and confidence in the Lord for her every need and want. Her selfless act has been sung throughout history, and all because she knew how to live, how to give back, how to depend on God, and how to avoid selfish foods that just make one arrogant and selfish. What’s on your plate?
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“The best things in life aren’t things.” Art Buchwald
“As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD, I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.” What a marvelous and glorious way to end the Church’s Calendar Year with the Feast of Christ the King! Next Sunday, we begin all over again with the First Sunday of Advent, but for now, let us finish a full year of faith and hopefully much spiritual growth since the last time we were at this “Movable Feast.” Why “movable”? Because in a very mysterious and providential way, we take this moment with us wherever we go, preparing one day to stand, as it were, face-to-face with Jesus when everything is said and done. “When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.” So, my friends, one day, it will indeed be our last reflection, our final use of our intellect on this planet, and the final moment to use the time we have been given to discover our purpose in this life and to uncover the courage necessary to meet the challenges we daily face.
What will they write on your tombstone or grave marker? How will people remember you? How do you remember the people you have loved and missed and cared for? The Gospel today gives us the most impeccable clue. “And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.'” We will be remembered based on all the times we sought and found the face of Jesus in the lives in which we were situated, especially the people we did not always see eye to eye or get along with. When did we ever turn and actually see Christ the King in our midst? It happened every day we got up from sleep and began our day!
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“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, and forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
There seems to be a common thread woven throughout all of our lives, especially when it comes to the issue of death. There certainly exists a vast disparity in the experience of one’s end versus the concluding hours of someone we love and over whom we will certainly grieve. That thread expands from deep isolation to outright anger. Worry is another casualty harbinger. Still, others miss the mark completely when confronted with the heaviness of dying and loss, as we saw today in the Gospel: “Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?” Jesus was standing right in front of these “learned” people with the very answer to life’s most perplexing question, “Why do we have to die?” and the only intelligent remark offered was hardly astute. This was because the larger picture was not appreciated because of their lack of faith and grave suspicion of Jesus. “Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death and brought life to light through the Gospel.”
The truth is simple. Jesus is the Lord of life and death. Everything He touches will be completely transformed and even better than we could ever imagine, both here on earth and in Heaven: “They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.” We could certainly learn a tremendous truth here. When we stand in front of Jesus, without the bothers and cares of this world, we simply won’t have any questions, except perhaps, “Do you know who I am?”
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“Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me.
The Carriage held but just Ourselves
“Now that our enemies have been crushed, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it.” The entire wealth of the Holy Scriptures is replete with celebrations. Sacrifices, parties, and gatherings of all kinds literally strewn the panorama of scenes set before us to highlight the kind of activity that accompanies all the experiences that humanity provides as a result of following the Lord and living in His presence.
Such was the episode when the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus, steps into the Gospel with riveting action: “Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, ‘It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” For this and many other actions and confrontations documented throughout the Gospels, the elite class of religiosity and other power-enthused leaders wanted to put Christ to death but could not find the effective means or vehicle “because all the people were hanging on his words.”
As we near the great and vigilant Season of Advent, this sweet and sour serving of Scripture has all the potential of the world to prepare us for great things ahead. Realizing that well done is always better than well said, let us begin the gargantuan task of bringing both the attractiveness and inspirational nature of the Word of God and fusing it with good and effective deeds every day we are given. In this way, we will begin to understand Heaven as the celestial banquet and live lives of grateful service to one another.
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“Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.” Robert Louis Stevenson
Perhaps some among us have come across people in our lives who, as we might say, “just don’t get it.” We should point out quickly, before time and comfort get the better of us, that we are most certainly in that very same category at least a few times in our lives. Why is it that the most profound answers and solutions to life’s most perplexing problems are right in front of us, and we don’t seem to notice? The answer to that may be found in the question that creeps upon us in the daily doses of Scripture, which we also have today: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
“As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it.” This apparent spiritual blindness was not just a simple, arbitrary aspect of human nature. It made Jesus cry. “How sad!” we might think, but let us be careful. Am I making Jesus cry right now as well? We would hope not because that would be an even sadder chapter of the fabric of our lives today. How could this be in a time when we want to be open and disposed to all that the Lord wants to give us and bestow upon us on a daily basis? The only explanation is the daily distraction of life that keeps us from thinking and praying about the things that really matter.
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“An unexamined life is not worth living, and an unexamined faith is not worth holding.” Ergun Caner
Our First Reading today is one of the most dramatic, heart-breaking scenes in all of Scripture: “Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother, who saw her seven sons perish in a single day, yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord.” The depth of faith and true integrity of life that existed in the mother of the seven sons is unfortunately sparsely witnessed today and is desperately and sorely needed. What is integrity? Some have stated that it is the choice we make when confronted with paths of doing what is convenient or what is right. It is how Jesus lived and died and thus calls us to emulate: “I chose you from the world, to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.”
If the central theme of our Readings today is the integrity of life, then the Gospel makes perfect sense: “I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
“While people were listening to Jesus speak, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the Kingdom of God would appear there immediately.” The gift and presence of integrity in a person’s life give true and lasting freedom. Why? Because if we live complete and honest lives, we have nothing to fear because we have nothing to hide. Therefore, we are guided by such a strong inner principle that we move toward the right thing to do in every circumstance and every opportunity because there is no pathetic guilt to stand in the way. Selfish, weak, and dishonest folks lose what little self-respect they have just to get by and be liked. You see, “image” is what we want people to think of us and work hard to maintain; integrity is the real story. It is who we know we are before God.Leave a comment
There are two very stellar examples of faith and integrity we have today whose names are also very telling: Eleazar, from the Hebrew meaning “my God has helped,” and Zacchaeus, which means “pure.” “This is how (Eleazar) he died, leaving in his death a model of courage and an unforgettable example of virtue not only for the young but for the whole nation.” Zacchaeus so wanted to see Jesus that he climbed a tree to catch a glimpse and so much more. Let’s take a look at the invitation from Christ and the tree-climber’s response:
The Invitation of Jesus: “Zacchaeus (calls by name), come down quickly (there is urgency), for today (now in the present moment) I must stay at your house (upfront and personal).”
The Response of Zacchaeus: “And he came down quickly and received him with joy (fruit of the decision brings deep happiness). When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” (there is always opposition) But Zacchaeus stood there (he faces the opposition in front of and with Jesus) and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.'” (Action follows commitment)
Both men stood their ground with the Lord in their midst. Both men believed their only long-term (eternal) happiness would depend on one simple decision to follow God. One was at the end of a long life of integrity, and the other was just beginning. Jesus went home with Zacchaeus, while Eleazar went home to God.
A happy ending, wouldn’t you agree?Leave a comment
Since the dawn of all the ages, there has been this remarkable and dramatic contest of strength between light and darkness, clarity and delusion, sight and blindness. These are all eternally wrapped up in our human existence, which by definition means they all have deep, spiritual roots over which our sweet Jesus holds sway. If all this is true, and we all know that it is, then each time we approach the Bible and the treasure lode of wisdom found there, we must address the issue of blindness in our lives and the ongoing resolutions to this plight. The Psalm prepares us for the only solution in sight: “I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows me will have the light of life.”
For any of us struggling with the day-to-day pull of responsibilities, deadlines, or seemingly endless worries, the Gospel is relief and miracle, all bound up into one passage of pure magnificence. Let’s take a closer look at this: “As Jesus approached Jericho a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging,
and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening.” The blindness of all sorts creates this mindless inertia and apathy within us, which creates an empty life full of taking and no giving. “On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.'” Jesus is always speaking to us, and just the slightest whisper from Heaven can make all the difference in the world to our only response is to cry out to Him with everything we have in store for our being, to which the Lord promises a response. “And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more.” There will be negative and unbelieving voices in our lives trying to move us away from the battle victory we desire in prayer, but we must not stop or give up. “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, please let me see.” And there will be sane and rational people who believe with all their hearts and minds and who continue to encourage and nourish us with their prayers. This is exactly the prayer point where we must be solidly aware of our true needs, trust 100% in the Lord, and then ask boldly with faith: “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” He immediately received his sight and followed him, giving glory to God.”
May it be done unto us according to His word.Leave a comment
In the Gospel that we are given on this great Sunday, we hear of the many talents that God administers to the world. It seems from the very notable parable that the most he gave were five, as in the five senses:
Talent One: EYES gift of sight: Think of the ability to see and comprehend
the world around us and God’s presence in it.
Talent Two: EARS gift of listening: Think of the ability to remain quiet in front of a sunrise or sunset, a friend who is telling us about their day and life, and before God in prayer.
Talent Three: NOSE-the gift of smell: Think of the ability to appreciate the fragrance of this created world and be soothed by the rich texture of nature’s aromas.
Talent Four: MOUTH gift of speech: Think of the ability to communicate and heal with words that are formed in your mind and expressed with your heart.
Talent Five: TOUCH-our effect on others. Think of how wonderful it is to be held, to accept the congratulatory handshake or the firm and reassuring pat on the back. Good touches warm the heart.
We cannot bury these talents any more than we can hide from the expectations that are thrust upon us. The lessons are irrefutable. First, this parable teaches us that success is a product of our work. God always gives us everything we need to do what he has called us to do. In the mystery of this awesome human life, we are not all created equally with the same gifts and talents. None of us can render judgment on any other. We work for the Master, not our selfish purposes, and for that very important and critical reason, we will all be held accountable.Leave a comment
“Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.” I don’t know about you, but every time I hear someone tell me, “Pay attention!” I stop what I’m doing and take special notice. The judge is being “pestered” by the widow to hear her complaint and do his job. Clearly, the judge is not God, and this is no ordinary widow. “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?”
You see, with the proper attentive reading of today’s word of God, we will come to realize that God is the one who “pesters” us to answer and act in this adventure we call life. “Will he be slow to answer them?” God is always poised and ready to answer all of our prayers. “I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.”
Talk to God now. He can’t wait to hear from you.
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“Many Christians have the mistaken notion that eternal life begins when they die. But that is not biblically accurate. Eternal life begins when we are born again into the Kingdom of God.” David Jeremiah
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” In the Gospel of today, a different kind of imagery takes shape. This time, the totally unexpected turn of events takes everyone by surprise.
So you must see the pattern: amidst the chaos, some patiently wait for fulfillment, and they are not disappointed. It all depends on which chaos you choose and how much patience you can muster. The time to prepare is now. Let us resolve to take stock in our lives and see what is important and what is not. Jesus is coming!
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“In the never-ending battle between order and chaos, clutter sides with chaos every time. Anything that you possess that does not add to your life or your happiness eventually becomes a burden.” John Robbins
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson went on a camping trip. After sharing a good meal and a bottle of fine French wine, they retire to their tent for the night. At about 3 AM, Holmes nudges Watson and asks, “Watson, look up into the sky and tell me what you see?” Watson said, “I see millions of stars.” Holmes asks, “And, what does that tell you?” Watson replies, “Astronomically, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, it tells me that it’s about 3 AM. Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you, Holmes?” Holmes retorts, “Someone stole our tent.”
“For she is the refulgence of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his goodness.” Perhaps the most disturbing hurdles Christians face in following the Lord are distractions. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the most expected places to the most surprising. The issue here is how to spot the obvious signs and wonders which Jesus places right in front of our eyes.
When one follows another, the journey cannot be lonely because at least two are involved. What is required of all of us is not being brilliant, clever, or even knowledgeable. What is needed is faithfulness and courage. The disciple of Jesus sets out for the land of absolute freedom when following the Lord into his destiny as the most awesome and divine Hero. “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.” Jesus lets us all know that it may not be so obvious all that it is hidden. Just take a few minutes to fathom how wonderful life is while He is in the world. Then, look at the stars and tell Him what you see.Leave a comment
At the core of our November retreat, being fed daily by the Word of God, we have once again been reminded of the terrible affliction that spanned both the Old and Testaments, that of leprosy. If we were to look upon this frightful and dehumanizing disease that attacks the skin and bones, it becomes an excellent metaphor for the lack of faith and vain trust in the self and its effects on the soul. One horrible aftermath of leprosy was the exclusion of the sufferer from the rest of the community. They became outcasts and wholly rejected. So, too, with the seeds of sin and death that undermine a true and loving attachment to the Lord, we become outsiders to life and seemingly never able to be part of the community again. This is where the touch of Christ means everything. He wants us close to Him; He desires our reunion with the Church and the community of believers. He truly wants us closer to Him than we are to ourselves. We must die for pride so we can live again.
“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Perhaps there is no other depiction from anywhere in the Bible that illustrates and highlights the depth of ingratitude. The sick, horribly-looking lepers came to Jesus with desperate longing and need; he cured them all, and nine never came back to give thanks. So often, once a person gets what he or she wants, they never come back. What a painful experience to be on the receiving end of such selfish, egotistical behavior. Have you ever wondered what causes that?
The current level of detachment in our society could be a clue. We seem to be facing reality through a screen of some sort: iPhones, lap tops, iPads, computers, television, etc., all train us to take an almost inhuman step away from reality so as not to become too immersed in any real internal and integrated approach to life, you know, the way Jesus approached everyone in the Scriptures and how he deals with you and me right here, right now.
We can take our cue from the one leper who did, in fact, come back to give thanks to Jesus. He knew what happened to him. He knew what his healing meant for the rest of his life. He truly knew Who healed him. Can you imagine what kind of life he lived after that? Jesus gave us the answer: “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
Let us consider some ways to learn how to be grateful:
“Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love.” Although it may be debatable, albeit clear enough, to say that each of us begins our day with both reasonable and unreasonable expectations. We can reasonably expect that the day will have the same amount of hours, there will most likely be enough ups and downs to keep it interesting, and one way or another, it will have an end. Unreasonable or unrealistic expectations, however, sometimes seem to find their way into the fabric of lives and usually involve the behavior of other people. We might, for example, expect another person to change their ways or at least to help us make our day better. This, as we know, is a recipe for deep disappointment.
“When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’” There can be no disappointment when we look at the expectations we can expect from our Lord. He has made us out of love with every ounce of good intention and deep hope that exists in the universe. Therefore, not only can we expect the goodness placed deep within our souls to surface with practice and determination, but we can also expect great help from God to be good and stay that way until He comes again. This means we trust Him with every fiber of our being.
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“Many people feel so pressured by the expectations of others that it causes them to be frustrated, miserable, and confused about what they should do. But there is a way to live a simple, joy-filled, peaceful life, and the key is learning how to be led by the Holy Spirit, not the traditions or expectations of man.” Joyce Meyer
Violets are a bizarre and eccentric kind of flower. If one could say that they have quirks, then one must point to the fleeting and puzzling aroma of these highly recognizable purple flowers. Without launching into a lesson in botany, it is sufficient to reveal that these flowers contain a ketone compound called ionone, which temporarily desensitizes the nose’s receptors, thus preventing any further scent from 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. 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.” Thus, forgiving our neighbor may be fleeting, hard to grasp or comprehend, but always pleasant and surprising as it returns to the one who forgives.
Today is the Feast of St. Frances Cabrini, who, as a little girl, used to load little paper boats with a single violet flower and drop them into a nearby canal, imagining them as individual missionaries spreading the Gospel message to India or China or who-knows-where. The curious intermittent fragrance image of the violet is perfect for Mother Cabrini, whose wondrous missionary works popped up in New York, then Chicago, then Seattle, New Orleans, and Denver. She was in one spot, founding hospitals and schools, then gone, only to reappear in another city, working just as tirelessly. She undoubtedly had to face many mean and prejudicial obstacles along the way, which meant that she was quite aware of the directives presented to us today in the Gospel: “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.”
Maybe we could say that the most effective missionary at our disposal is our desire and ability to forgive. Life has the potential to become much more pleasant and wonderful when we learn to accept the apology we may never receive.
This is a profound virtue. Try it.Leave a comment
“Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.”
Question: what is the difference between smart, clever, intelligent, and wise?
Answer: you’d better know if you truly want to be happy.
“O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.”
Being smart helps you answer difficult questions; clever people know how to think outside the box and develop interesting solutions to problems; intelligence adds figures and remembers dates and other important life skills. Wisdom, however, is what allows the human person to access everything they need to get to Heaven. Huge difference.
“We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.” There is a very interesting detail in the Gospel today about the lanterns/torches that the prescribed wise and foolish virgins are sporting. You see, they were supposed to greet the bridegroom when he emerged with his bridal group of friends and family: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise.”
Since this event normally took place on the bleakest of nights, there was a huge precaution: to ensure that there would be no looters or dangerous thieves to crash the procession, the bridesmaids had to be holding fire in the lamps to distinguish them from non-participants of the wedding banquet. The faces of the wise bridesmaids were recognizable. They were adequately prepared for the big moment and had plenty of oil. The wise among us are equally so. They are ready, waiting, and prepared for Jesus to come again. But what about the foolish ones? They were unprepared and ran out and had to leave the post to buy some more. What do they look like?
Five Types of Fools:
VETERANS DAY QUIZ
Question #1: What is the relationship between wisdom and gratitude?
From the World of Science: “Two important implications of these findings are that wisdom entails an appreciation of life and its experiences, especially the growth opportunities that may result from negative events and that there may be substantial differences between male and female pathways to wisdom.” Study by the National Institutes of Health in 2013.
From the World of Psychology: “Gratitude is something that can be nurtured and may go towards the development of greater wisdom.” Study by Glück and König of Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt in Austria in 2014.
From the Spiritual World: “Learn, too, to be grateful. May all the wealth of Christ’s inspiration have its shrine among you; now you will have instruction and advice for one another, full of wisdom, now there will be psalms, and hymns, and spiritual music, as you sing with gratitude in your hearts to God. Whatever you are about, in word and action alike, invoke always the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, offering your thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:16-17
Question #2: What is the relationship between the Veteran and The Lord Jesus?
Both rendered remarkable service to the cause closest to their hearts; both sacrificed what they had and who they were; both of their sacrifices had tremendous and remarkable effects on many. However, Jesus is the ONLY ONE in history whose sacrifice, death, and Resurrection would touch the entire course of human history and, by that virtue, every human being who would ever live. We say with distinction and deep gratitude about our Veterans that “All gave some, and some gave all.” Jesus gave all so all could have everything.
Question #3: What are you going to do today?
In the Gospel today, we hear the almost sad and disappointing words of Christ: “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.” Why did the Pharisees miss the lessons of the Gospel? They were arrogant as a result of a severe lack of gratitude for the blessings of God for all around them.
Today, we remember, celebrate, and pray for those who have served and died defending our country by which you and I are free to worship and live in a free republic. We fundamentally thank Jesus for His ultimate sacrifice on the Cross by which all have the opportunity to live in Heaven forever, including those who, like Him, emptied themselves on the cross of battlefields and combat grounds.Leave a comment
“I myself am convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another.”
From a most awesome sermon from our Saint of the Day, Pope Leo the Great:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, born true man without ever ceasing to be true God, began in his person a new creation and by the manner of his birth gave man a spiritual origin. What mind can grasp this mystery, what tongue can fittingly recount this gift of love? Guilt becomes innocence, old becomes new, strangers are adopted and outsiders are made heirs.
Rouse yourself, man, and recognize the dignity of your nature. Remember that you were made in God’s image; though corrupted in Adam, that image has been restored in Christ. Use creatures as they should be used: the earth, the sea, the sky, the air, the springs, and the rivers. Give praise and glory to their Creator for all that you find beautiful and wonderful in them. See with your bodily eyes the light that shines on earth, but embrace with your whole soul and all your affections the true light that enlightens every man who comes into this world. Speaking of this light the prophet said: Draw close to him and let his light shine upon you and your face will not blush with shame. If we are indeed the temple of God and if the Spirit of God lives in us, then what every believer has within himself is greater than what he admires in the skies. Our words and exhortations are not intended to make you disdain God’s works or think there is anything contrary to your faith in creation, for the good God has himself made all things good. What we do ask is that you use reasonably and with moderation all the marvelous creatures which adorn this world; as the Apostle says: The things that are seen are transient but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we are born in the present only to be reborn in the future. Our attachment, therefore, should not be to the transitory; instead, we must be intent upon the eternal.
Let us think of how divine grace has transformed our earthly natures so that we may contemplate more closely our heavenly hope. We hear the Apostle say: “You are dead and your life is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ your life appears, then you will also appear in glory with him, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever and ever.”
Amen.Leave a comment
Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
History and Background: Each diocese has a cathedral. The cathedral church in Rome is St. John Lateran. When Emperor Constantine officially recognized Christianity, he made generous gifts to the church, one of which was a palace and grounds formerly belonging to the Lateran family. In 324, he added a large church on the grounds. Later, a baptistery was added and dedicated to St. John the Baptist. In subsequent years, the entire edifice became known as St. John of the Lateran Basilica. It is our oldest church. Despite many fires, earthquakes, and wars, it has survived, thereby becoming a symbol of the endurability of Christianity. The observance of this feast connects our local church with the Church of Rome, which is the center of our unity. The dedication of any church recalls the heavenly Jerusalem that all church buildings symbolize.
The Apostles are the pillars of the Church, and Christ has given them the spiritual authority to teach and guide, which the Chair, cathedra, symbolizes in every cathedral. All this is seen within this magnificent structure.
The people are the Church, the living Body of Christ with many members: that much is clear, but that concept or expression of unlocking the mystery of the Church is not exclusive. We are also a “Sacramental” people who have enlisted art and architecture, literature, and music to embody and describe tangibly, that is, to the touch and all the senses, what great mystery we not only celebrate but also see. The church building is not just a tent or skin in which the People of God gather, but in and of itself is of great symbolic and sacramental importance. This is why we celebrate the Feast of the dedication of that first structure in Rome from which all the many millions of structures have been built and dedicated since then.
The Church building is meant to be the Temple. The First Reading from the Prophet Ezekiel describes that. The Psalms, too, were composed to be chanted and sung as people made their way to the Temple for worship. Today, just as in the Temple of the Old Testament, there are the areas that are set apart in Catholic Churches where we find the Tabernacle, where the Body and Blood of Jesus is conserved, as the “Holy of Holies,” the living presence of God. This is why we bow and genuflect upon entering this space. It also explains why many make the Sign of the Cross when passing by the Church from the outside. We also have altars predominantly and immediately seen in a foremost position. You see, the church building itself is not just a gathering place or hall. So why is there an altar? Because there is a sacrifice to be conducted. And those sacrifices are offered by priests. So you have the same Temple structure that clearly exhibits the elements that were first established in the First or Old Covenant. The Church, in addition to being a structure that helps gather people, also reflects the mystery of the People as well: Tabernacle, altar, priests, and sacrifice. So when the temple/church building is rightly ordered, then water will be “flowing out ” for the renewal of the world.
The Church building is to symbolize the New Jerusalem. In Revelation, the vision describes a magnificent new heavenly city coming down to earth to be complete and restore all humanity with God at the end of time. Thus, in addition to a gathering space, Church buildings should attempt to draw us into another world, a heavenly experience like the jeweled walls of the New Jerusalem, with sparkling and vivid colors that are filled with signs and symbols of heavenly realities. We see figures of Angels and Saints everywhere in the Church because they are citizens of Heaven, the New Jerusalem, and we join with them in singing praises to God:
This great company of witnesses spurs us on to victory,
to share their prize of everlasting glory,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
With angels and archangels
and the whole company of saints
we sing our unending hymn of praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord…
The Church building is meant to signal Noah’s Ark. Since the early installments of Church History, the ark was seen as a symbolic type of the Church. In the same way that Noah and his family were spared the destruction of both the spiritual and physical world around them, so too are we safe and saved in the Church, the boat, as it were, atop the waters of Baptism. This is an ongoing occurrence in every age throughout the centuries, and the Church is the ongoing, continual, and steady “rescue mission for humanity.” (Bishop Robert Barron) When we gather for Mass, we remain close together, huddled for the Eucharist and waiting for “flood waters” to recede and then go out to the world to begin again.
“The Church is like Noah’s ark that was full of both clean and unclean animals. It must have had an unholy smell, and yet it was carrying eight persons to salvation. Today’s world is tearing up the photographs of a good society, a good family, a happy, individual personal life. But the Church is keeping the negatives. And when the moment comes when the world wants a reprint, we will have them.” —Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
It is also very interesting to go back to the Scriptures and examine the orders that God gave Noah to build what is most likely the most popular boat in human history found in Genesis 6:19: “This is how you shall build it: the length of the ark will be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.” For St. Augustine and other early Church Fathers, these dimensions of the construction plan for the ark suggest a human body, specifically, the body of Christ: “For even its very dimensions, in length, breadth, and height, represent the human body in which He (Jesus) came, as it had been foretold. For the length of the human body, from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, is six times its breadth from side to side, and ten times its depth or thickness, measuring from back to front.” The City of God, Book 15
The Church building is meant to symbolize the Mystical Body of Christ. It’s amazing, when you stop and think about it, so much of both the human and spiritual dimensions of our lives actually happen inside the Church building itself. New life is always being announced with the smell and sound of babies at Baptism, children singing and serving Mass, teenagers are confirmed, marriages are celebrated, and yes, when the circle of life is completed, there we are again, at the Church where it all spiritually began, tearfully saying goodbye and “until we met again.” It is more than a theater stage or a meeting hall. It is Life.
From life’s start to finish and all the wonderful episodes in between, being in Church and the Church building comprises the place and time in which we hear and experience what some have speculated are three basic sentences that summarize all of Christianity: Please, Thank You, and I’m Sorry. And just like the Temple, in both the earthly and heavenly Jerusalem, where there is a convergence of costly, precious, and holy stones, so too, the Mystical Body is made up of living stones — the people who are transformed by Grace, the Word of God and the Food of the Eucharist day after day, age after age. We become that NEW TEMPLE.
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“The Church is the Body of Christ, and as such it is both heavenly and earthly. The Church is the communion of saints, and it includes as members both angels and shepherds – cherubim and seraphim, and you, and me.” —Scott Hahn
“Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) was the penultimate metaphor of people trying to reach heaven without the assistance of God. That is precisely why they were thrown into a huge and overwhelming state of confusion where no one could understand each other. That scene prepared us for Pentecost and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, which endow us with the potential to understand everyone in their spheres of life because of the presence of Love in their lives. Thus, the reference can be made to the twoer that someone starts to build but cannot finish.
“In the same way, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” 10K troops vs. 20K troops? Is this a battle hard to call? The answer is absolutely “no,” but this passage is not about military exercises. It is about the impending confrontation that each of us has with death. Will we be ready? It is time for “peace terms.” Thus, the Gospel of today gives us the specifics of those terms. Before the final call, you and I must be sufficiently detached from this world but at the same time attached to living in the world, walking in the light of truth. How is that done?
Love.Leave a comment
Today, we conclude the three-part, truth-laden, event-filled description of one powerful dinner attended by Jesus and many other characters that make up Chapter 14 of St. Luke’s Gospel. You may recall that recently, parts one and two were presented: the first involved the man inflicted and cured of dropsy, and the second was about people scrambling for the best seats at the table, partly because of honor and partially because they would be served first. Part three is about excuses and why we make them.
Time for Vocabulary: Concupiscence This term can refer to any intense form of human desire. It comes down to anything that compels us to act or make a choice that is against the use of our reason and rational abilities. Concupiscence was born from the Original Sin of disobedience and induces us to commit sins. St. John describes three kinds of this craving:
1 John 2:16: “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, (1) sensual lust, (2) enticement for the eyes, and (3) a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.” (numbering mine)
Now, let’s return to the dinner in the Gospel: “A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many…” Here is the image of the banquet again, clearly pointing to the great invitation to live in the Kingdom of God here on earth to live forever in the Kingdom of Heaven. That man who prepares the feast and invites many is Jesus, who came to save the lost in Israel and all of humanity. (“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” –John 20:21) Jesus sent His Apostles to call and invite, but many did not accept: “he dispatched his servant to say to those invited, ‘Come…’ but one by one, they all began to excuse themselves.”
Take a look at the excuses that are presented in light of the new word we learned today, Concupiscence: “I have purchased a field and must go to examine it.” (3) a pretentious life; “I have purchased five yoke of oxen and am on my way to evaluate them.” (2) enticement for the eyes; “I have just married a woman” (1) sensual lust.
Please keep in mind that all these things are good in and of themselves, but remember that these are the “excuses” that are given that are being held up as more important than accepting the invitation of Christ to each of us: “Blessed is the one who will dine in the Kingdom of God.” The sixth Commandment addresses our need for a pure heart “to see God,” while the ninth describes the struggle with carnal desires and the last Commandment about greed and the preoccupation over possessions.
Receiving a talent from God is tantamount to being invited to dine with Him in the Kingdom. The First Reading helps focus our attention on how to live day by day using all that He has given us not only to discover His will for us but how to love, and live and build up the Body of Christ: “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.”
LIFE BEGINS ONCE JESUS BECOMES THE REASON YOU LIVE IT.Leave a comment
“Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Today’s Gospel passage has an amazing amount of richness for each of us. Consider the following very poignant details nudged within a few short phrases:
When: This refers to the right time to be good. When opportunities and blessings are obvious
Hold a banquet: This is your life and how you conduct it.
Invite: These are those you love, care for, pray for, and help.
Inability to repay: This begs the question of our motivation for life. Is the reason why we do anything to get something back?
Resurrection: This is the promise to all the Faithful. There will be an entirely new chapter of our lives, and we are writing it right now.
Righteous: These are those who understood the power of love and forgiveness, the wealth of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and could not ever wait to share that. We could call this the “Great Company” in eternity.
So when do you want your reward? Now or later?Leave a comment
“Son of man, this is where my throne shall be, this is where I will set the soles of my feet; here I will dwell among the children of Israel forever.” Language has the potential to be both descriptive and revealing. For instance, even though the words “to,” “too,” and “two” all sound the same, they mean different things, especially in the context of a sentence. With just the difference of one “s,” your ice cream sundae, which you ordered for dessert, might become a very hot and unpleasant experience in the desert. Why are we “splitting hairs” about language today? Here is the pivotal question: what is the difference and significance between God and a god? One is the Lord, the Almighty, the Creator, the One True God, and the latter is an image, idol, or other object or possession that is adorned, worshiped, and given supreme importance in this life but not in the next.
“As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ.” Here is the issue before us today: everyone already knows or is familiar with God or a god. Everyone has already set a system and a list of priorities in their lives and whoever occupies the very top position is their God or a god. The key interest here is simple. If we make God our priority, then we can be assured of a deep level of peace and joy that radiates in and through and all around us. If we have something or someone else in that top position, then we can be relatively promised of a rough turn of events and a life that cannot and will not sustain everlasting happiness.
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“Worshipping is stripping ourselves of our idols, even the most hidden ones, and choosing the Lord as the center, as the highway of our lives.” Pope Francis
Again, we have one of the three installments from Luke’s 14th Chapter of that same evening when Jesus went to eat at the home of one of the leading Pharisees. The first involved the healing of the man with dropsy (yesterday); this is the second incident when Jesus notices that people are scrambling for the places of honor, and the third moment will conclude with His parable about the great feast thrown by a wealthy guest whose invitees all had excuses and declined the invitation. That must have been some dinner!
Now, there have been hundreds of opinions and commentaries written that attempt to unlock the mystery and meaning of these beautiful passages. Some try to make comments about social eating practices and pseudo-religious self-righteousness of the people of that time, others will comment on the aspects of humility and generosity, while still others make direct application to feeding the poor and hungry and doing things for people who could never repay you. Trust me, each of these angles certainly has great merit. A humble person does not have to wear a mask or put on a facade to look good to others who do not know who he is. A giving person is happier than a stingy one. Hypocrisy is a real disease. Excellent.
However, there is evidence of deeper meaning present, which is suggested by the context of the passages, namely, the banquet. In the Scriptures, there are many mentions of meals and celebrations that point to the Heavenly Banquet after we finish this life. Thus, spiritual disease down here translates to quarantine for the Eternal Celebration; neglecting the poor and starving now means we become spiritually impoverished and famished for Heaven later, and collecting rewards and accolades from the audiences of this world powerfully suggests there’ll be no applause, added benefit or honor in the next world that never ends.
This particular approach to Chapter 14 also sheds light on the Gospel of today, hidden, perhaps, in the two different directions that a person is directed after entering the banquet hall and before the meal is served: “My friend, move up to a higher position…..you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.” Higher or lower. Up or Down. Heaven or Hell. Therefore, when Jesus comments on all the folks who are scrambling to get to the really good seats, it is very likely that the inescapable lesson not to be missed is about presumption. Just because in our mind, based on all the limited information and knowledge at our earthly disposal, we assume that we are going to Heaven or that awful neighbor of ours is certainly not, that might not be the case.
Thank God for Mercy! The Psalm echoes our gratitude: The Lord will not abandon His people. Thank you, Jesus! He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy: “Brothers and sisters: I ask, then, has God rejected his people? Of course not!”Leave a comment
Let’s begin today with St. Luke’s description of a casual but remarkably significant dinner gathering on the Sabbath somewhere in Jerusalem. On that invitation list are Jesus, a leader of the Pharisees, presumably more members of that group, lots of onlookers and curiosity-seekers, and a man suffering and then healed from dropsy. It is the only recorded instance of the healing of this particular disease by the Lord in the New Testament. Dropsy (ύδρωψ), derived from “hudor,” the Greek word for water, is essentially an abnormal swelling of fluids in different parts of the body, mainly the abdomen, and known today as edema. As we look around the room, there is certainly a clear parallel being drawn between the Pharisees inflicted with a spiritual disease and the man suffering from dropsy, a physical disease.
Here is another interesting detail that supports the parallel in the text: “In front of him a man was suffering from dropsy.” Why doesn’t it say “in front of them?” The room was apparently crowded, so this detail is critical to unlocking the deeper meaning. It says only him because Jesus was alone in seeing right before him what the others in the same room could or would not see in themselves. Jesus could see the dropsy, the swelling of water and fluids in the body, the physical sickness of the suffering man. He was keenly aware of the spiritual dropsy of the Pharisees: “a drunkard’s thirst, a glutton’s hunger, water (like the swelling bodily fluid) that was on fire,” referring to their self-righteous hypocrisy that increases rather than quenches the spiritual thirst of the soul.* You see, the Pharisees added burdens for the people to follow because they used religion as a cover to do whatever they wanted. Rules, regulations, and commandments are all good guides and clear posts to follow the Lord. Still, if one’s heart is full of pride and sin without love, grace, mercy, and freedom, it is then full of disease, empty of virtue, overflowing with evil, and completely devoid of wisdom.
And here is the underlining application for our spiritual lives: we know the Pharisees are the real diseased folks in that room because they did not recognize Jesus, even as He was standing there right in front of them, ready to recline among all of them to eat. Imagine further the moment when the man with all the swelling was suddenly healed: it must have been an astounding sight. And all they had to say was that he shouldn’t have been healed on the Sabbath? I’m sure the man with dropsy was sure glad he was!
One thing is for certain in this Christian life we are trying to follow: we will face rejection, endure conflict, and either be harshly judged or even be the one who is judging. And through it all, we pray to have eyes that see the best in people, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad, and a soul that wants to recognize the face of Jesus as often as possible.Leave a comment
Today, as many of us already know, is also referred to as the Day of the Dead, and although that may seem remarkably somber and even morbid, it is the truth. Life is good, but it certainly has a beginning and an end with great filler in between, and today, we are called to reflect on the weighty and sobering aspects of its conclusion. The Scripture Readings for today may, in fact, sound familiar to some because they are the same, in part, of many of the Funeral selections, and they are meant to give witness to the mystery of life and death so we may go forward in faith and love. Let’s take a look at a few gems:
“The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.” We are made timely aware of the truth of things as we experience them; that is, even in death, we are with the Lord, who loves and comforts us, especially in our moments of sorrow. “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” No matter where our lives take us, the one constant is change, which includes the dark day of death, but the constant presence is Jesus, who never abandons those He loves. “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” What a remarkable statement that is being made here! Death is actually something we share with Jesus, and because of that, we also share in His victory over death and all the contraptions that accompany our experience of it, especially grief and dark isolation. “And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did. for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'”
Perhaps the most poignant and pertinent of all the passages comes to us from the Gospel today. We have been given the opportunity to reach out to Christ in each other every day we have been alive. It is as if we have been either depositing or withdrawing from a spiritual bank account filled with love, kindness, and generosity. When the bank closes for good, we spend eternity based on the final reckoning. Be hopeful and generous today and pray for those who have died with those you love, knowing full well that they will be praying for you.
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“Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –
Or rather – He passed Us –
The Dews drew quivering and Chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –
Since then – ’tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –
The set of Scriptures we have today is simply breathtaking and inspiring on the Feast of All Saints and critically necessary for us who are trying to “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) in the Lord Jesus without losing hope in the face of all the challenges we face.
Let’s start with the First Reading, which is taken from the last book of the Bible, Revelation. I can’t think of another sacred book more controversial than this one, also known as the “Apocalypse.” This fascinating and mysterious text, ever since it was written, has been the topic of countless theories, teachings, movements, books, commentaries, and, more recently, films and multimedia television series, episodes, and documentaries. Unfortunately, most of them have strayed from the Theological and Scriptural meaning of the intent of the Apostle John and have clearly done much more harm than good. Because of these wild theories, it seems as if every ten years or so, people have been trying to predict the end of the world every time a certain number lines up in a particular order or because of the discovery of some ingenious mathematical equation that spells horrible and imminent destruction. Remember the Year 2000 scare? Or do you recall the December 21, 2012, prediction based on data from an ancient calendar chiseled on some huge stone that would run out of days on that date? People, just get a new rock!
G. K. Chesterton was right when he wrote, “Though St. John saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as his own commentators.” St. John is clearly speaking to all Christians all over the world and all over time. “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” His great and marvelous vision for us, however, was also shaped by the immense suffering inflicted upon the early Church by the great persecutions of the Roman Empire. The Apostle himself was exiled to the island of Pathos, from where he actually wrote the book of Revelation. It was that same political and military power that was complicit in the death of Jesus, who many thought would be the kind of leader that would overthrow these invaders and give His people power beyond all imagining. But the real force and strength bestowed on all who would follow the Lord in every age is, “Beloved, we are God’s children now.” And even though “what we shall be has not yet been revealed,” it most certainly will be revealed in the glorious Resurrection of those who die believing in Christ. “They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.”
This is all beautifully brought together with the proclamation of St. Matthew’s Gospel. As God’s children now and joyfully anticipating our resurrection, we reasonably ask, “What do we do, and how do we act?” Just as Moses in the Old Testament came down the mountain with the Law in the form of the Ten Commandments, Jesus walked up the mountain and fulfilled what the great Law-giver started and mapped out the way to survive “the time of great distress” for each and every one of us. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, the meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted and insulted. The Beatitudes create the blueprint for living a beautiful, Christian life. These eight blessings are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching and respond to the natural desire that we all have for true and lasting happiness. This is how we become saints! “Be not afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ! Do not be afraid to become the saints of the new millennium! ~Saint John Paul the Great. The Beatitudes also proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured for those who love Jesus. Just imagine there’s a place in Heaven for you, and it has your name on it. So once again, happy Feast Day, everyone.
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“If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.” Saint Catherine of Siena
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” We experience the Kingdom of God throughout our bodies. It is how we understand much of the lessons and insights that Jesus is showing us on how to walk through life all the way to Heaven. Have you ever noticed how many references to food we have in the Holy Scriptures? They frequently mention eating and intaking nourishment in various contexts, all the while encouraging us to nourish our bodies and souls with the nutritional and spiritual fare. Today is no exception.
“It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden.” And today, once again, our favorite condiment (at least in the top 5) makes yet another splendid appearance. Apart from being uniquely tasty and earthy, the very fact that the mustard seed is so small yet produces so much is yet another insightful metaphor and comparison about the Kingdom of God in which we long so desperately to live. Great things come in small and unassuming packages.
“It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.” Anyone who has ever baked bread or loaves knows all too well what happens to the mixture once yeast is added. We can safely assume that a very little goes a very long way!
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“It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn’t want our success; He wants us. He doesn’t demand our achievements; He demands our obedience. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of paradox, where through the ugly defeat of a cross, a holy God is utterly glorified. Victory comes through defeat; healing through brokenness; finding self through losing self.” Charles Colson
Have you ever noticed how differently we address other people in our lives and how that sometimes differs dramatically from the way others call to them? Let me give you an example. Let’s say your little daughter calls you Mommy. That’s all she knows. But then, an old friend of yours comes to the house to see you and calls you “Linda,” well, because that is your name. Now, you wouldn’t expect your daughter to call you “Linda,” and you certainly wouldn’t want your friend to call you “Mommy,” either.
It all depends on the relationship.
That is why, in the Letter to the Romans, a very similar distinction is also made. If you are a slave, you call your god “Master.” But if you are adopted, you call your God “Abba.” That is a beautiful name because it doesn’t mean “Father,” but rather is so much more intimate and endearing. It’s really like calling our God “Daddy,” or “Pops,” or something close to that.
It all depends on the relationship.
In the Gospel today, a woman who had been seriously crippled for a very long time, hence the 18-year time frame, comes before Jesus. She desperately wanted healing, which would explain why she was in the synagogue, and everyone knew her poor, almost pathetic condition. Jesus sees her, calls out to her, and addresses her as “Woman.” Perhaps in some circles of society and among some cultural differences, this may seem odd. But remember this address is how God called out to Eve in the Old Testament and to Mary in the New Testament, obviously linking the two in Salvation History (Eve, Mother of all living, and Mary, Mother of the Church.) So this was a loving relationship that the Lord wanted to exhibit and, in turn, straightened her life out, literally. Can you imagine the reaction from the people when they saw her stand up and praise God? It must have been beautiful and awe-inspiring. Right?
Well, not for everyone.
Enter the leader of the synagogue, the “official” religious person. He seems pretty upset at the whole scene, even though this woman can actually walk upright and not hurt anymore. No, that was apparently not the most important item to notice today. This remarkable healing had taken place on the Sabbath when no work was to be done. Really? Do you call this work? It’s more like a miracle, a sign of God’s great love and mercy, especially for this bent-over woman, and by spiritual application, for each one of us.
So, how does it respond to our “official.” Well, to say the least, it wasn’t pretty. “Hypocrites!…when he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated.” That’s what happens when you don’t see how incredibly God is working in your life or in the lives of others. It is the expected consequence when we hide behind the Law and miss the Law-giver in our midst. The people who got it rejoiced; the one who didn’t was humiliated.
It all depends on the relationship.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What would you choose if you were told that you could pick any activity on this planet and were guaranteed that you would not fail? After scanning through a list that might include everything from building a huge skyscraper to owning the most prosperous business venture, many of us would want to say we want our relationships to succeed. They are those essentials that help us get through life and support us with joyous and unselfish love. We would want to love unreservedly if we could be guaranteed complete gain with no scent of failure. “I love you, Lord, my strength.”
Here are some positive ways we can move forward in life while accepting this invitation to love and show the love of Christ to all we encounter: One of the finest ways to grow in love is to practice patience, especially when it comes to those immediately around us, and yes, that does mean our families. It is very easy to become irritated over the tiniest of behaviors regarding our flesh, blood, and closest friends, but this is precisely where the “work” of love must be accomplished first. Not surprisingly, loving God and loving our neighbor have everything to do with security and a healthy self-image. It involves practicing compassion with one’s self before launching out into the world and encountering many who will certainly need it and can actually grow from it. The most loving people I have ever met have been the most forgiving. That about says it all. That is how we face and fulfill our desire for Heaven.
Show me how to love you more with all my heart, all my understanding, and all my strength. Show me how to love my neighbor more than I love myself. Teach me how to remain in Your love and love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me. Through your Word I love others deeply because love covers a multitude of sins. Thank you Lord for giving me a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. Love helps me to rejoice in truth and to always protect, trust, hope, and persevere! Root and establish me in Your love for I gain power to grasp the abundance of Agape love as I seek to discover how deep and how wide it is. Thank you that Your love is being perfected in me day-to-day. I will demonstrate the love of God to all that I encounter today and will receive the anointing to love those who appear to be unlovable. In Jesus’ precious name I pray. AMEN (composed by a young woman named Deborah)
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“Brothers and sisters: You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God.” This Feast of the Apostles, Sts. Simon and Jude is indeed a great day to reflect upon the intrinsic and deep relationship between what it means to have good, close, and encouraging friends, the freedom it takes to maintain those friendships, and the faith in Jesus that makes us friends with Him. Review once again what Jesus accomplished throughout the New Testament: The depth of love in his heart for friendship gushed over into the way he dealt with his enemies: with total and complete mercy. In many ways, you can tell how great a friend will be to the extent that he or she can forgive and show compassion. This is certainly true with everyone the Lord ever met, especially Judas, Peter, and Thomas.
This element is underscored in the Gospel of today: Jesus knew that one of the friends/apostles He would choose would eventually betray Him, and still, in perfect freedom, he asked Him to follow Him, that is, be His friend any way: “When the day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them, he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles…and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” The application for us today is simply stunning. In order for love to grow within any relationship, there must be faith in the One who is love and the only One who will sustain that love until eternity, and especially for the grace both to forgive and show mercy. What is also remarkable is that love, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion never leave us empty-handed or return with nothing. It is a classic “win-win” situation:
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“And friends are friends forever/If the Lord’s the Lord of them/And friends are friends forever/If the Lord’s the Lord of them/And a friend will not say never/’Cause the welcome will not end/Though it’s hard to let you go/In the Father’s hands we know/That a lifetime’s not too long/To live as friends.” Michael W. Smith
“The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” Throughout the long breadth of human experience, there has been this deep-seated tension in each of one us pulling at us between wanting to do the right thing and falling into temptation. It is as if there are two groups of people pulling on a rope with us in the middle, trying to get move in one direction or another. On “good” days, we would say, our better intentions and better selves win. But then, on those days when we were weak or angry or hurt, our petty emotions got in the way, then things went south. And this is how it goes, well, until the end of eternity.
“I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” But this is not pessimistic in the least. This inner spiritual struggle is what makes us who we are. We get up every single morning to face what it is out here with the ability that God has given us and to give it our very best shot. We already know what we have to do. Start the day by forgiving, loving, practicing patience. And in all those situations that need extra faith, extra care, extra patience, we remember the greatest tension on earth and remember that the reward is worth it all.
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“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.” David Allen
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” What is behind the use of setting the world aflame by Jesus in the Gospel today? Keep in mind that the Bible is to be seen as a complete unity, the Old preparing for the New, the New ratifying the Old. When the Lord uses the image of fire, then it is advantageous for us to go deeper into the meaning, purpose, and background of certain words and phrases to truly grasp all the spiritual wealth that is waiting for us, ripe for the picking. Here are but a few:
– Exodus 3, the Burning Bush: God is truly present, “you are standing on Holy Ground.”
– Ezekiel 1, a cloud of fire: God’s glory is magnificent.
– 2 Kings 1, fire from Heaven wiped out 50 soldiers: Power over life & death.
– Matthew 25, Eternal fire is the destination for devil and demons: Hell is real & horrible.
– Acts 2, tongues of fire descend on the 12: The Holy Spirit “enflames” the Church.
– Revelation 21, a lake of fire and sulfur awaits the faithless: a second death.
From this small sampling of fire images from the Scriptures, we can safely determine that Jesus clearly wants to purify and cleanse all of humanity, instill a reverent and holy fear in us (awesome approach to God), and establish His Kingdom where there will be both judgment and serious consequences to our responses, both here and now and much later.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Because of His Reign over us and remembering the dire consequences of the refusal to love, there will be division starting in one’s family, household, and beyond. When the word ‘family’ is used in the Bible, it usually means the clan or the extended family group. It could very easily include as many as two hundred people or as few as fifteen. Thus, Jesus is describing the essence of a true disciple as one who loves God above all else and is willing to forsake all for Him. He insists that His disciples give him loyalty, which is only due to God, a loyalty which is higher than spouse or relatives or circle of friends.
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“Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth thrown in. Aim at Earth and you get neither.” C.S. Lewis
What we have today could make the supreme difference in our day at this very moment. This is a small slice of the awesome power of the Word of God.
“But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted. Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.” What did slaves and thieves have in common in Roman Antiquity? They were both branded on the forehead with a mark called a stigma and thereby said to have been “engraved” like a coin or a medal. Both types of individuals were certainly known to the culture of the time when today’s Scriptures were written (Romans around 56-58 AD and Luke’s Gospel between 80-100 AD). They also shared common punishments: lashes and beatings, forced to carry a piece of wood around their necks, and, in some cases, crucifixion. Of course, these are the same afflictions endured by Jesus as an integral part of the Paschal Mystery by which we are justified, redeemed, and saved for a great future in Heaven.
“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” These specific references can help us realize several things about living the Christian Life, being a disciple and a follower of Jesus Christ: We have been marked in this life and claimed for someone or something. Our choice now is to determine for whom by how we live. As Christians today, we can expect to be punished, as was Our Savior, in the court of popularity, greed, hatred, and the godless. Remaining faithful to the end, which comes secretly or unexpectedly and without being seen, “like a thief in the night,” we are promised to take our place with the Lamb who has been slain and led to the “springs of life-giving water.” (Rev 7:17) Because the Victory is so great and the reward eternal, to those whom much is given, much is expected.
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“Every person is endowed with God-given abilities, and we must cultivate every ounce of talent we have in order to maintain our pinnacle position in the world.” Dr. Ben Carson
“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you may have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.” Over 30 years ago, there was a ship off the coast of Massachusetts that was reported lost at sea. There were a reported 45 men on board, most of whom were residents of a small fishing town near Plymouth. For the first week, wives, children, and family members set up make-shift camps along the seashore to wait and watch for any signs of recovery. After ten days, some of those grew tired and even discouraged and began to make their way back to their homes, still leaving a smaller remnant of those who would stay vigilant. Finally, on the 15th day of their disappearance, the vessel sailed back into the harbor, all aboard hungry and tired but certainly safe and alive. It was said that one of the men looked sad as he disembarked. He just shrugged and walked his way to his little cottage of a home, to the surprise of his wife and children. But he still looked upset. “What’s wrong, dear?” asked his wife. “Why weren’t you out there with the other families on the shore when we arrived?” he responded. “We were waiting for you, honey,” came his wife’s explanation.
“But you weren’t watching…”
“Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.” Do you think that’s splitting hairs? Maybe. However, the slight difference in the words can be of dramatic importance when we apply them to waiting for the Lord. Waiting seems to be passive, as if I can have many other priorities or concerns because, after all, “When He comes He comes, right?” Watching implies vigilance, continued hope, and deep resolve. Watching is active, ongoing, and, yes, life-changing. Let’s be sure. Whether you and I are waiting or watching, it will be the same, Lord. But how will we be different?
God is worth waiting for; His time is always best. Watching for Him makes our hearts ready and open and joyful to meet Him at any given moment, which makes a difference in how we live.
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“I believe that a trusting attitude and a patient attitude go hand in hand. You see, when you let go and learn to trust God, it releases joy in your life. And when you trust God, you’re able to be more patient. Patience is not just about waiting for something… it’s about how you wait, or your attitude while waiting.” Joyce Meyer
“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Several famous people have been quoted as saying that too many people today know the price of everything and the value of nothing. These people could be classified as cynics. The idea that anyone in the “real world” should even consider ethical, moral, philosophical, or cultural values to be on a par with financial or economic ‘value’ appears whimsical, sentimental, or even romantic. Hard-nosed, sensible, rational, practical people know otherwise. It’s all about money, “they” say…But is it really? The words of the Gospel make it very clear to us that God will have the first and last word. “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”
The spiritually dead are all around us. They may look alive and have plenty of possessions, even looks and money, but this does not ensure life, especially eternal life. It is precisely the “age of this world” that promotes that misguided philosophy that you are what you have. We do not belong to things. We do not essentially consist of material realities because, in the end, all we will have could never be measured, touched, or counted. Our soul is what is of supreme value.
Greed makes us servants of possessions. We could easily remember this by the quote, “we can’t be possessed by our possessions.” Yet it happens all around us precisely because people have already decided which God they will serve. Greed makes the false and empty promise that things and possessions can save and bring us eternal happiness and peace. The best way to avoid all this is to pray in thanksgiving to the One who gives us everything we have. If we keep remembering that all I have comes from God, then I cannot and will not forget how wonderfully generous my God is to me.
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“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” Socrates
“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 authority, power, and the greater good of 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 on following a straight and narrow path toward justice and peace: “I am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God besides me.”
As we continue on our spiritual journey, let us keep the Lord always in our sights. What we believe defines who we are. How we act, especially toward each other, announces to the world who we really are and what we truly believe. “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.”
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“Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.” Sonia Ricotti
“I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.” There is an interesting connection among three key elements that Jesus presents to us today:
1) Denial of God
2) Denial of the Holy Spirit
3) Defense of our Faith.
Let’s take them in that order: First, we are told that if we live as if Jesus never came and we never met Him, we should expect the same treatment; He will do the same.
Second, if we speak with words of hate and defiance against the Holy Spirit and surely against God in any way, shape, or form, we are to expect serious consequences.
And lastly, if we neither deny nor defy God, Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit, but rather live in Him and through Him, then we can and should expect that our very speech, our lives, our thoughts, and all that makes us who we are will be defined by the depth and breadth of our love of God in everyday life. In other words, we will certainly shine.
And here is the major connection: All three warnings and predictions have to do with the NEXT LIFE. Jesus promises if we recognize Him now on earth, He will recognize us later in Heaven. Suppose anyone repeatedly closes their eyes to God and shuts their ears to His voice now. In that case, they will most certainly come to a point where they can no longer recognize God. Thus, they see evil as good and good as evil even to that tragic point of that person’s last breath in which they could very well miss any chance of living forever with God in eternity, that is, later. Finally, if our deep trust is with the Lord, His Holy Spirit is promised to us as it was to Abraham and all his descendants as we read in the First reading so that we will never have to worry about what to say before this world’s authority, now, or to the Authority of Heaven, later.
Question for the Day: What are the two most important moments of our life?
Now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.
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Time for vocabulary: What is justification? (First Reading) Justification describes the transition from the original state in which we were born into this world (sinfulness) to the state of grace and adoption through Jesus Christ, our Savior (Holiness). It is a process. It is something that begins when we first become a Christian, which continues in our life, and which will be completed when we stand before God at the end of our life and on the last day.
And since it is a process, there are certain powerful consequences:
– First: No one that we meet today will be at the same point at the same time in this process.
– Second: It can be lost.
– Third: It can be found again when a believer returns to the faith
– Fourth: It’s probably not a good idea to criticize or judge others based on these previous three points.
You see, when it is all said and done, and we all stand before God for the Last Review, EVERYTHING will be out in the open: “Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops.”
And what is crystal clear is that God loves us more than anything He has created and can’t wait to get us all Home again. See you there!
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“Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.” There is a strange occurrence in this journey we call life that happens, not to all, but to some, and for those individuals, it is an experience that is hardly forgettable. It involves the selfish, tireless attempt on the part of the spiritually immature, especially those with little authority, to keep from others what they cannot or will not have. This is what explains, in part, those who seem to make it their life’s work to make other people miserable, especially if they have any perceived power over them. They reason, quite insanely and ineffectively, that if they can not be happy, then no one will be happy. Pathetic. This explains in part why the Pharisees were the virtual enemies of the Lord and, by the manner of extension, of the whole of Christianity and that is because when one finds the ultimate happiness in one’s relationship with the Lord, the only other response is to share and include as many people with that friendship as possible. The Pharisees and scribes were sort of gnostics who thought they alone had all the precious knowledge necessary for happiness. Wrong again.
“With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.” Unfortunately for us on this great road, the Pharisees still sashay among us with equally morally squalid and foul attitudes of arrogance and condescending acts. But even more fortunately for us, Jesus remains in the world for us to find our way to Heaven with a fullness of mercy and compassion, which, in turn, is ours to share with each other. Find Jesus and share Jesus. This is the core of evangelization and a very happy way of life.
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“No matter what has happened to you in the past or what is going on in your life right now, it has no power to keep you from having an amazingly good future if you will walk by faith in God. God loves you! He wants you to live with victory over sin so you can possess His promises for your life today!” Joyce Meyer
“I chose you from the world, to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.” Everyone has a mission in life. Everyone spends their life searching for that mission, and when one find it, they hang on for dear life. Others never discover it and live out their days in less than quiet desperation. This is what we can gather from the readings today. The Lord has fashioned us and sent us forward into this world for a definite purpose, and that purpose has everything to do with bearing fruit that will last. That means eternal fruit.
“But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.” This directive is never easy. There will always be those around us who will fight and attempt to destroy the harvest. The First Reading assures every one of us that He will be there to strengthen and guide, and yet, even to protect us from the plotting of those who would pull up the wheat instead of the weeds. “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.”
We are all called to respond to this great invitation. Every day presents itself with a new opportunity to spread the Gospel and the message of love and forgiveness that is contained right there all the time. This is just part of the great gift we can open today on the Feast of St. Luke, who spent his years on earth doubling as both a physician and theologian.
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“Don’t wait for a feeling or love in order to share Christ with a stranger. You already love your heavenly Father, and you know that this stranger is created by Him, but separated from Him, so take those first steps because you love God. It is not primarily out of compassion for humanity that we share our faith or pray for the lost; it is first of all, love for God.” John Piper
“The one who is righteous by faith will live.” There are many among us who swear by the deep, internal cleansing and detoxifying process whereby the poisons and noxious substances are purged from the bloodstream. And while this is neither the time nor place to have an intelligent conversation about these purported benefits, it is safe to say that there is a deep and beneficial connection to our spiritual lives. Using another medical analogy, sin, and selfishness can creep into our lives like plaque upon our gumlines. Following the Lord and being completely honest with ourselves is like floss, which seeks to go deep and eradicate the hidden filth that seems to accumulate without our realizing it. The Alleluia Verse today also opens the heart to listen carefully in prayer to the promptings and inspiration from the Holy Spirit: “The word of God is living and effective, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”
“Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil.” Another crucial part of a spiritual life filled with integrity is humility and honesty. Many have to come to understand that we are only as sick as our secrets, which basically means that a secret that is kept in the dark usually grows and festers and ultimately destroys a person. The good news is that once it is exposed to light and released, all its ugly power is gone. This is real, long-lasting, and sustainable freedom. Unfortunately, there are people who are proud and refuse to admit that there are issues and areas that need a spiritual detox to clear and eradicate this lack of self-knowledge. Tragically, this leads to growing negativity and self-loathing while keeping them sick and trapped in sinful behavior. The awesome truth about life is this: we are sick, and we need Jesus. Once we accept this fact, and invite Him into our lives -in every aspect- the battle is more than half-won as he revealed so beautifully: “Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?”
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“The spiritual freedom we seek cannot be found by grasping at, retreating to, or protecting our perceived safe spaces. Our freedom lies in remaining open continuously, not only to Life’s changes but also to the Divine Light within us and others. This is our choice. Although often perceived as a weakness, being open and surrendering to the experience of the present moment is our greatest strength. By authentically living Life in the Now, we submit to Divine guidance where we find the freedom to see everything equally and sacred in Truth.” Peter Santos
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” What a powerful image we have been given today as we begin a new week 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 with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.” Roy T. Bennett
“The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from every face.” There is such joy and hope in the readings for all of us today. They are words and sounds of hope and love waiting for us. God’s invitation is one of deep love, grace, and miraculous grace. It is not an invitation to do something, nor an invitation to a physical place. It is an invitation to live with a new heart and spirit. When we receive this call, our souls naturally want to rebel and become stubborn. In humility, however, we know our fallen nature, and we then call out for help with the deepest faith that He will answer since he invited us with the grace to help us fulfill the task. The will of God will never take us where the Grace of God will not protect and empower us. “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.”
“The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” What a marvelous image of Heaven! It reminds us that the invitation of God is to a feast as joyous as a wedding feast. If we refuse the invitation of Christ, someday, our greatest pain will be not in the things we suffer but in the realization of the precious things we have missed. It also reminds us that when we answer the invitation, we must come ready: “My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?”
Jesus, thank you for this awesome invitation! I’m getting ready. Keep the door open. I can’t wait to see You!
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“Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” The situation in our Gospel of today reminds us, among other things, that actions speak louder than words. Think of the people in your life that you can truly count on whenever necessary. We say that their words are “golden” because they are true. Many organizations have mission statements declaring that their top aims are customer service, product quality, civic integrity, putting their people first, and the like. Yet many such businesses have poor service, quality, integrity, and employee relations. Individuals may do the same thing, extolling their plans yet failing to implement them. Organizations and individuals falling into this trap may have good intentions, and they may not recognize they are failing to live up to their rhetoric. Workplaces and those individuals we choose to be part of our lives need both effective ways of clearly living their mission and goals and impartial and time-tested challenges and opportunities to give unvarnished feedback. Sounds like integrity to me.
“Then shall you know that I, the LORD, am your God, dwelling on Zion, my holy mountain.” This entire discussion brings us right back to the First Reading. Just as the Lord is present, tender, and merciful with us, we must be honest and forthright with each other because we are responsible to each other. Many times, our friends will interpret our silence as approval in a wide variety of situations. “I didn’t know you felt that way” is a phrase that comes to mind when we do not risk rejection in the service of truth.
Perhaps the basic message today is simple: We are what you do, not what we say we’ll do.
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“The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul,’ and ‘By the prince of demons he drives out demons.'” This encounter that was presented to us today in the Gospel truly relays to us the sense of viciousness and ferocity of the climate into which Jesus the Christ (and our King) began His ministry. What we have here is an excellent example of character assassination in the Bible. Jesus addressed the issue in a very beautiful and Messianic way. He confronted evil by the sheer power of his truth and love. He invited those present and us this very day to enter a deeper reflection on the mystery of His Kingdom and the invitation to live there for all eternity.
“Their like has not been from of old, nor will it be after them, even to the years of distant generations.” You see, when individuals are not aware of the evil within their very heart and personality, they project it onto others whom they believe to be the very existence of evil in their own twisted and malformed perspectives. Because the scribes were blind, they were trapped and looked completely foolish and pathetic. We often despise in others what we despise in our own lives. Make sure Jesus lives and moves and breathes in yours.
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“Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you. Amen.” St. Thomas Aquinas
“Then they who fear the LORD spoke with one another, and the LORD listened attentively.” One of the greatest truths and comforting aspects of our journey with the Lord Jesus is that we have been assured time and time again that God listens to all of our prayers all of the time with all the intensity of divine love and immense care for every one of us. This is why we must re-commit and renew our efforts to pray today. Prayer is the life of the new heart (CCC 2697). Christians throughout the centuries have maintained three main expressions of prayer: Vocal, Meditation, and Contemplation. Together, they make a phenomenal path to peace and holiness, not to mention sanity:
Vocal: We are body and spirit, so it is important to express our spiritual feelings outwardly [we speak]. Meditation: The mind searches to understand what God is saying [we think, imagine, desire, and feel] Contemplation: “We are alone with the One who loves us.” [God speaks, we listen and experience]
“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” The one who asks through vocal prayer receives; the one who seeks through meditation finds; and the one who knocks at the door of contemplation can change the world one soul at a time.
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“A beginner must look on himself as one setting out to make a garden for his Lord’s pleasure, on most unfruitful soil which abounds in weeds. His Majesty roots up the weeds and will put in good plants instead. Let us reckon that this is already done when the soul decides to practice prayer and has begun to do so.” Saint Teresa of Avila
“Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry that God did not carry out the evil he threatened against Nineveh.” Poor Jonah! He is angry again. God didn’t punish those people because, well, they repented and begged for mercy, and the Lord said, “Yes!” It is clear by now that the Book of Jonah is the story of a disobedient, narrow-minded prophet who is upset at the outcome of the only message he was supposed to deliver. So he sulks, mopes, broods, is sullen, has a long face, remains in a bad mood, is in a huff, and is seemingly incurably grumpy (sound like anyone you know?). And all this pathetic fit-throwing because God did not follow Jonah’s script, which he passionately wrote for God. It does sound horribly immature and selfish, at the very least, overwhelmingly short-sighted and oddly familiar.
So what, pray, is the remedy to Jonah’s dilemma and everyone else we know inflicted with this spiritual bias? It is quite simple and brilliant: “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” We have here the universally famous prayer of the “Our Father.” the only prayer that Jesus taught. The message of mercy is both simple and readily experienced in the life of anyone who wants to find deep joy and happiness even in the midst of pain and suffering. We turn to Him and cry out, “God, You are Holy, and I need You for everything, especially forgiveness!”
Before putting the finishing touches on this very long day, placing in proper perspective, especially the people and things that may have caused us to be angry, pray the “Our Father” and see if you can master this practice every night. It just could be the last prayer you ever offer on this planet. And what a strategically beautiful way to exit!
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“When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.” One thing is very clear and actually demanded from the one who hears the call of discipleship to follow Jesus and wishes to answer it: it will always involve a leap of faith, an extra helping of courage, and a sometimes small, sometimes monumental act of faith. Such was the case of Jonah, which we heard in our First Reading after he was first charged to warn and issue an apocalyptic message to the Ninevites: “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” This was no easy task, and neither was the awesome, even unexpected, outcome: They changed their ways, trusted God through the words of Jonah, and were saved.
In front of this all-encompassing mercy of God that marvels as well as redeems, we can understand and agree with the Psalmist who is so insistent with the only recourse we have when we have made that tumultuous leap of complete trust: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD, LORD, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication.”
The benefits of this leap of faith are then made crystal clear and even more desirable in the Gospel today. The scene there is similar to the many experiences that we have had when something happens to us, which we believe is simply not fair. This is certainly true today in the Gospel with the two famous sisters, Martha and Mary. Martha begins with Jesus suggesting that somehow all of the present tasks and responsibilities have fallen in her lap while Mary gets a pass. However, in what might be seen as a surprise response, Jesus invites her to be ready to make that leap of faith and trust with all her heart and mind as to the outcome. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.”
Perhaps we could agree with a statement that was posted in a church lobby some years ago:
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“When God pushes you to the edge of difficulty, trust Him fully because two things will happen. Either He will catch you when you fall or He will teach you how to fly.” – Unknown
“But the LORD sent a large fish, that swallowed Jonah; and Jonah remained in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Keep in mind that everything written in the Old Testament is preparing us for the New. Everything. The Bible is the complete, composite Word of God = Jesus! Therefore, what is the relationship between Jonah and the Good Samaritan? There are several clues. First is the mention of the “belly” of the whale, beten in Hebrew, which is also the word for womb. Israelite creation stories use three important metaphors to indicate the connection between birth and death:
The womb is the primary keyword because the grave and the dungeon are all considered wombs from which new life emerges. The fact that Jonah is in the “dungeon” of the whale for three days clearly prepares us for the three days that Jesus spent in the “belly” of the earth. We all know that a whale could never hold the body of a man, so the actual whale here is more like a dragon or monster (something evil) in Hebrew. “You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.”
“And who is my neighbor?” That is important when we ask the true identity of the Good Samaritan. To answer that, let’s look at the story: “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” In Hebrew, the word, a man is the same for humanity. That changes things, doesn’t it? So if the story is about humanity that has been jumped by the evil one, then it is Jesus who is the only One who can help, seeing how the Old Priesthood (the unhelpful cleric) and the Old Law (the Levite) cannot help by themselves. So He approaches the victim, coming down as He did from Heaven in Bethlehem (Christmas), pours wine and oil in the wound (Sacramental Life), lifts the wounded, lifts him upon His animal (becomes Human through the Incarnation), takes him to an inn (The Church), leaves two coins, (Scripture and Tradition) and then utters those immortal words by promising that He’ll take care of everything “on my way back” (The End of the World, or Apocalypse). So, in a phrase, what does this all mean? If you want out of the whale, be like Jesus, love like Jesus, remain with the Church, and wait with innocent love so He will recognize you “when He comes again.”
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“The thing is, God has already seen every twist and turn of your life. He already knows what’s in your heart. He already knows the decisions you’ve made. He’s just waiting for you to call on Him and be honest with him like Jonah was.” Victoria Osteen
We have noted many times in our Reflections that more than a few Old Testament accounts of people and events foreshadow what is yet to come. For example, Moses told the Jewish people of another Law-Giver, like him, who would come later and who would require the people’s total allegiance and obedience; the Psalms describe the experiences of David, yet they also speak of David’s Greater Son, the Messiah. In our First Reading of today, we heard about a vineyard: “The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!” The Scriptural lesson for us today is that for centuries, humanity had been waiting for the Messiah, the Landowner of Heaven and Earth, and still many rejected Him. That, unfortunately, goes on today in our time as was described dramatically in the timely threat that if we cannot produce good fruit with what we have been given, someone else will.
We clearly have been given a vineyard and a charge: You have a life now; use it wisely and carefully. This means, among many other things, that our very demeanor and actions, especially around our families, friends, and co-workers alike, must, in fact, radiate the fact that we do believe that Jesus is the Long-Awaited Messiah and that “I have in fact accepted Him here and now.”
Every day, you and I have wondrous and numerous opportunities to accomplish this. One of the best ways is through forgiveness whenever possible and necessary. Even for our friends. Especially for our friends. 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 will call or not. The wisdom here is found in 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?”
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“When we are faithful to simply show up with hands willing to work, we can watch in wonder as God brings forth fruit from our humble efforts.” Eryn Lynum
Every year, for about nine months or so, children of all ages return to their prospective schools’ classrooms. Every morning, the ritual of preparation and departure is being formed and lived out only to serve as a lifelong format for these soon-to-be adults trekking out into the real world of hard knocks and challenges. How did you prepare for school? How do you prepare for life? The Gospel has a very wonderful insight into this question for us. “I give you praise, 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.”
When you think about it, the way we start to spend our days is nothing more than dress rehearsals for the very life we offer God. How we prepare has everything to do with how we end. What were the instructions of Jesus? “Behold, I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.” Not the advice you were looking for, was it? However, pull back the covers and the levels of thought within this passage, and what do you find?
Basically, Jesus tells us all that no matter what you put in your suitcase for the journey or even what you forget; you must surely remember to trust Him with everything and for every circumstance and eventuality that you will face. In a word, make sure you take Jesus along for the trip. You will be very glad you did, especially as you enter the final stage of your journey.
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“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!” So how does Jesus respond to those living in these New Testament lake towns who should have known better and acted differently? Well, to say the least, it wasn’t pretty. Why the harshness of the reaction? That’s what happens when we won’t see how incredibly God is working in our life or in the lives of others. It is the expected consequence when we hide behind the Law and miss the Law-giver in our midst. The people who understand this always rejoice, but the ones who judge and criticize and try to “fix” everyone else except themselves are almost always humiliated. It all depends on the quality of our relationship with the Lord Jesus.
Today, let us first give thanks that Our Lord loves us so much that we are constantly being exposed to the truth in our lives, ugly at times but always liberating. Second, let us ask again for the courage to see Jesus in others as we look for Him in our souls. This is definitely the recipe for true happiness.
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“Sometimes, you will go through awful trials in your life and then a miracle happens–God heals you. Don’t be disheartened when the people you love don’t see things as you do. There will be Pharisees in your life that will laugh it off, deny that it happened, or will mock your experience based on righteousness they think you don’t possess. God won’t deny you a spiritual experience because you are not a spiritual leader. He loves everyone equally. The only people that really matter in life are the people that can “see” your heart and rejoice with you.” Shannon L. Alder
“Then all the people went to eat and drink, to distribute portions, and to celebrate with great joy, for they understood the words that had been expounded to them.” Everyone has a mission in life. Everyone spends their life searching for that mission, and when one find it, they hang on for dear life. Others never discover it and live out their days in less than quiet desperation. This is what we can gather from the readings today. The Lord has fashioned us and sent us forward into this world for a definite purpose, and that purpose has everything to do with bearing fruit that will last. That means eternal fruit.
This directive is never easy. There will always be those around us who will fight and attempt to destroy the harvest. The First Reading assures every one of us that He will be there to strengthen and guide, and yet, even to protect us from the plotting of those who would pull up the wheat instead of the weeds.
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.” We are all called then to respond to this great invitation. Every day presents itself with a new opportunity to spread the Gospel and the message of love and forgiveness that is contained right there all the time.
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“Don’t wait for a feeling or love in order to share Christ with a stranger. You already love your heavenly Father, and you know that this stranger is created by Him, but separated from Him, so take those first steps because you love God. It is not primarily out of compassion for humanity that we share our faith or pray for the lost; it is first of all, love for God.” J ohn Piper
Knowing how much God loves us, especially in sending us His Only Begotten Son, it must be quite clear that Jesus has that same desire: spiritual intimacy. “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Some of our readers may want to cry out, “Lord, I am here for you. Rest with me!” Perhaps the message here is that we avoid being distracted by anything else while we are on the course of loving, knowing, and serving God. It may sound rude for Jesus to tell us that we should not bury our dead or departed loved ones or we should not bid our family and friends goodbye when embarking on a journey. But the salient message here is do not give other people or things more preference over God.
Why do you think we stumble and fall at times? What nervous and erroneous mental distractions come between us and true happiness? What excuses do we offer? 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 we 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.
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“Intimacy with God is the way to true fulfillment. How do you keep the Enemy from sitting at your table? You keep your eyes on Christ.” Louie Giglio
“Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” Human nature is truly a mystery. It is clear that very often, good people who inspire others to find greatness in themselves often elicit pettiness and crass remarks from others who either do not dare to change or are just too lazy to lift a finger to help inspire anyone else, including family members. Clearly, the daily choice has to be made: #TeamGod or #TeamEvil?
“On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.” And as if we needed any more examples of this ongoing and unfolding drama in this life, the Gospel has presented us with an amazing case in point. Imagine you miss an opportunity to meet Jesus in person because you don’t like the people He also loves and needs to love. The result for these people was not good, and it is still not a great situation for those who still let their prejudices and hatred get in the way of their way to Heaven. Be sure you prepare a heartfelt welcome for Jesus today. Turning your back on Him is clearly disastrous.
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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” Do you want to be the greatest at anything? I can only imagine that in this highly competitive yet entitlement-minded society, people either try to get ahead or just exist and coast. Both are extreme ways of living. Some would call this “all-or-nothing” thinking, which has traditionally led many down a dark and lonely path. Jesus changes all that: “Do you want to be great?” He asks. Before answering, Our Lord places a child in front of all the readers of the Gospel throughout the centuries. An innocent, loving, trusting child cries when he or she is angry or has acted selfishly.
Trust the Lord; He loves you! And if you need a little more help, guess what? It will be there: “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.” Did you catch that? Every child has their own personal angel constantly in touch with the Father. You and I were all once children, so we still have them. That is what the Scripture says, and that is what the Church teaches today on the Feast of the Guardian Angels. Name you, angel. Take a deep breath and move forward. Trust Jesus. Now, that’s great.
Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here. Ever this night/day be at my side to light and guard, to rule and guide.Leave a comment
“Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?” The entire wealth of the Holy Scriptures is replete with commentaries on how human beings have sought earnestly to understand the Will of God. Sometimes, those searches yield great findings, but in others, as we read in the First Reading, they result in almost comical results. How can anyone say that God is unfair?
“Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.” Perhaps a great part of the lesson we are to learn today from the Scriptures is that we must truly empty ourselves of all that might and actually block our view of the world in light of God’s presence in it. If we assess all of reality through our own mortal and weak lenses, we will find ourselves lost and angry. “Rather, he emptied himself..”
“Which of the two did his father’s will?” Such was the episode when the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus, steps into the Gospel with riveting action. Our great teacher, Jesus, reminds us again that well done is always better than well said and that actions speak louder than words.
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“Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.” Robert Louis Stevenson
“Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.” This criminal once had been accused of a crime and sentenced. He was sent to the king for his punishment. The king told him he had a choice of two punishments. He could be hung by a rope or take what’s behind the big, dark, scary, iron door. The criminal quickly decided on the rope. As the noose was being slipped on him, he turned to the king and asked. “By the way, out of curiosity, what’s behind that door?” The king laughed and said: “You know, it’s funny. I offer everyone the same choice, and nearly everyone picks the rope.” “So,” said the criminal, “Tell me. What’s behind the door? I mean, obviously, I won’t tell anyone,” he said, pointing to the noose around his neck. The king paused, then answered, “Freedom, but it seems most people are so afraid of the unknown that they immediately take the rope.”
“Pay attention to what I am telling you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.” As we conclude yet another day, month, and year of our lives, our thoughts and attention will draw ever closer to the gifts awaiting us in the days we still have left here on earth. Today, without worry or anxiety, let us examine the place and power of fear in our lives and adopt the childlike trust and faith in our loving God:
I read once that people really do not fear the unknown; rather, they fear what they think they know about the unknown. That always made sense to me: Fear is truly useless. It has stalled great decisions and prevented great people from rising above the wickedness and pettiness around them. Do you remember how much damage was inflicted when people allowed fear to decide their future? Religious leaders plotted and conspired to murder; healed people turned on their Healer; strong Apostles (for the most part) fled, denied, and betrayed their Master. However, now, the scenes have changed: the miracle of the Resurrection of Jesus has allowed once fearful people to change their thinking and readjust their life paths. The words of the Alleluia Verse have become the lyrics of a new song in the hearts of those who believe: “Our Savior Christ Jesus destroyed death and brought life to light through the Gospel.”
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“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” Nhat Hanh
“War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon.” (First Reading) “In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.” (Responsorial Psalm). “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (Gospel)
In the great scheme of things in which God has created everything that is and ever will be, we have Angels. Their name comes from the word that means “messenger.” Since that is true, we can safely assume three very important elements about the Angels and Archangels:
1. There is a Sender of the message
2. There is a recipient of the message and, finally, and perhaps most importantly,
3. There is a message.
Today, as we commemorate the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, there may be many things around you that you simply do not or cannot understand. Perhaps you may feel that God has been quiet for an unbearable amount of time. Today’s Feast calls us not only to celebrate the great mystery that is ours and comprises a very personal and wondrous gift but also to call out to the realm of Angels clearly led by the great Saint Michael. Be open to receiving grace and help. If it’s at all possible, see if you can find some quiet time. Then Listen. You and I have got more than just mail: we have a powerful message!
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls.
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“And he kept trying to see him.” The ravaged conscience of Herod the Madman was apparently no match for the bright celestial light emanating from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You see, the insane and inane king thought he had calmed his evil heart by beheading John the Baptist, but that was not going to happen. “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” This is why it is of tantamount importance to remain in a state of grace and always in deep spiritual and prayerful communication with the Lord. We must be persistent in this way because, eventually, our own heart will not rest until it rests with Jesus.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways!” The First Reading substantiates this thought and direction by reminding us that all things will pass, and the vain and proud things we attempted to accomplish will amount to nothing in the greater scheme of things. What we need today and every day we are allowed to breathe is wisdom. Persistence and trust in God during the course of our spiritual lives will yield eternal benefits and help form us into true, loving people. We must never give up or surrender. The prize is too great and awesome: “The Lord takes delight in his people.”
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“The art of love is largely the art of persistence.” Albert Ellis
“Thus he has given us new life to raise again the house of our God and restore its ruins, and has granted us a fence in Judah and Jerusalem.” It is important to remember that the prophets Haggai and Zechariah played an important role in encouraging the Jewish people and their leaders to return to their homeland and rebuild the Jerusalem Temple following the Babylonian Exile. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah are also key literary sources on the Restoration of the Jewish religious community. What our First Reading underscores is both quite simple and beautiful: The ultimate depth of any of our prayers must slowly and surely reach the ultimate surrender of everything to the One who made us out of pure love. This sentiment is captured throughout the Psalm of today and is echoed brilliantly and with great comfort throughout the Gospels. The rain must fall, but with dawn comes rejoicing because of the very One who died for us.
“Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.” And how do we know all this is true? Jesus lived it and won for us the crown of victory, which is custom-shaped to each one of us depending on our own situations and life settings. We also have countless examples of Saints like St. Vincent de Paul, who lifted up the poor and hungry and sought to educate the clergy. Suffering will always be with us, which means that we must always seek to understand the deep misery of despair, unite those sufferings to Jesus, and thus reach to the other side of glory. Consider this from St. Teresa of Calcutta on the occasion of her first visit to the United States:
I suppose that some of you are feeling that you would have to buy a plane ticket and travel to India if you were to give effective help to the poor. There is no need. The poor are right here in your own country… In developed nations like yours, there is an abundance of food. But there is often a famine of the heart due to a lack of love. The victims of this famine of love are the new poor. And who are these poor people? They are the people sitting next to you.
Look around you today. There are others who are hurting. Together, we are going to win this. Jesus promised.Leave a comment
Are You My Mother? is a story about a hatchling bird. His mother, thinking her egg will stay in her nest where she left it, leaves her egg alone and flies off to find food. The baby bird then hatches and does not understand where his mother is, so he goes to look for her. As he lacks the ability to fly, he walks, and in his search, he asks a kitten, a hen, a dog, and a cow if they are his mother, but none of them are. This quaint and well-known children’s story helps us remember the nearly same kind of question hurled at Jesus in the Gospel today. People thought that since the Virgin Mary and other close family members were asking for Him, Jesus would respond immediately; however, His response was nearly puzzling on first impressions: “He said to them in reply, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.'” We could repeat with the cute story the same question in an entirely different and mesmerizing context, “God, are you my mother, my brothers, sisters, family?” The answer, however, is as mystifying as it is clarifying: “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” You see, it is not the family tree replete with flesh and blood nuances and connections that brings us closer to God, but our fidelity to what He says and following what He does.
“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” We all want family and seek security in one way or another. We need intimacy to discover our place in the world and make a healthy connection with others, especially with God. What is the foundation of such levels of relationship? Fidelity and obedience. We feel and exist closer to the Lord the more we follow Him and live in the light of His love, starting with our desire and success to forgive even the deepest of pains in this life, especially betrayal.
Interestingly enough, the way the little short story ends and the way our own lives will find their conclusion is very similar. In the children’s book, the little bird dramatically returns to its nest just as his mother returns. The two are reunited, much to their delight, and the baby bird recounts to his mother the adventures he had looking for her. Imagine your homecoming to Jesus in Heaven and all the stories you’ll share as you spend a lifetime looking for Him, too.
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“Of course, God does not consider you hopeless. If He did, He would not be moving you to seek Him (and He obviously is). What is going on in you at present is simply the beginning of the treatment. Continue seeking with cheerful seriousness. Unless He wanted you, you would not be wanting Him.” C. S. Lewis
“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.” With age, I hope I can see the world much more clearly. There are a good number of people that I love and cherish dearly. While there are a good many others who have seemingly dropped out of my life, there is a definite pattern that has emerged that deepens respect and admiration for all the people who have populated my life. I have loved them because they have shown me Jesus. Their ways of handling death, disappointment, fun, friends, and family have all slowly formed a clear picture of character that is unmistakably the mark of one who truly loves God. Imagine how the crowd in today’s Gospel must have felt when they heard that they must live their lives in the light of truth before the world! What goes through your mind?
“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Today, no matter what you have to face or confront or carry, keep those words of Christ alive in your heart. Perhaps you could ask yourself, “Who do people see in me?” If we can honestly say that others have seen or heard the Lord in something we said or did, then we can sleep calmly and without fear.
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“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.
St.” Francis of Assisi
It has been posited that there is no real justice on this side of Heaven. We can look at our human history to see a glimpse of that when we remember that slavery, Apartheid, and the horrible Holocaust were legal. Abortion is today a legal matter. With that in mind, we could conclude that legality is a matter of power rather than justice. This is why we begin our Reflection today by remembering and echoing the great cry for justice that is open to all of us: “Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near.” But how would we accomplish such a thing? The clue follows shortly today as well: “Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
To bring this discussion to more concrete terms, the Gospel of the day gives us such rich morsels to ponder, wonder, and then act: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.” The vineyard is clearly a metaphor for life in the Kingdom and where we should plant ourselves squarely in it. But there is some element of injustice there, isn’t there? The people who started out early in the morning received the same wage as those who worked just an hour. Does that seem fair? Of course not, IF this was a lesson in macroeconomics (which it is not). Remember, it is about the mysterious life in the Kingdom where not everyone has the same amount of talents, gifts, or even opportunities, yet everyone is accountable for what they do with what they have. Thus, jealousy and envy are vicious poisons that can kill the life of the Spirit in the one trying to follow Jesus. The wages at stake (even at the moment of Jesus’ first telling of the parable) are not actual daily wages for vineyard laborers but forgiveness, life, and salvation for believers. Seen like this, it really does not matter when a person receives them, whether early or late in life, as long as they do find them before the end of the day, the final call, death, that is. The key here is to get working in the Kingdom as soon as possible, no matter who is first, second, third, fourth, etc…
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“Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:
- I shall not fear anyone on Earth.
- I shall fear only God.
- I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.
- I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
- I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.”
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise; Give thanks to him; bless his name.” What does it signify or suggest when we take a walk? First, we can safely assume that we need to get outside of our routine and even ourselves to achieve a fresh perspective on our lives and even cleanse the soul of any negative or destructive attitudes or thoughts. Secondly, we walked where it was safe and perhaps even invited someone we trusted and love to accompany us on the stroll. And finally, and by no means the end of possible answers, we knew that something good would come of this walk if only to find peace and comfort, even exercise. All this applies beautifully to the image of entering the gates of the Lord and ensuring that our deeds are worthy of light. This is what it means to live a healthy and holy life.
“When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable. ‘A sower went out to sow his seed.'” In the Gospel today, many people were “out for a walk,” and this time, they met Jesus. He told them a great, meaningful story about yet another person who went out on a walk, this time to sow seeds. Depending on where the seed landed determined the outcome. Here, again, is yet another wonderful image of life itself. We are all walking through many different situations and circumstances. What we do during these “life walks” and what we plant will determine not only how the day will end but also how each life will finish and be judged: “But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.”
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“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn, and you will.” Vernon Howard
“Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.” This Gospel passage is interesting because it is another mention in the Gospel of Luke where we hear about demonic possession. The ancient world believed that the air was thickly populated with evil spirits which sought entry into everyone. Often, they did enter through food or drink. All illness was caused by them. The Egyptians believed there were thirty-six different parts of the human body, and any of them could be entered and controlled by one of these evil spirits. There were spirits of deafness, of dumbness, of fever; spirits that took a man’s sanity and wits away; spirits of lying and of deceit and of uncleanness. It was such demons that Jesus exorcised here.
“Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.” However dramatic or dark, this topic of confronting evil and evil spirits is good for every one of us because every day is a challenge and struggle to live this life and walk this walk. We live in a world where darkness and terror can overcome us unless we hold the Light of Christ within us; we will indeed be swallowed up in despair. Thus, the battle of light and darkness is not just outside of us; it is also within us. And we have Jesus, especially in the Eucharist, to help us move forward in faith. Evil is not sustainable because it has already been defeated. It is now up to us to join the winning, victorious team.
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“Be careful when fighting against evil that you don’t become evil yourself.” Marty Rubin
“I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.” How can we say that someone who is a prisoner is actually in a good place? This would have to be determined by a number of factors, such as the prison itself, the prisoner, and, of course, the jailer. On this beautiful Tuesday, we have encountered such a mission of understanding and belief that will hopefully expand our notions of faith and to the awesome extent that Jesus loves us. “…with all humility and gentleness, with patience.” The word, “prison” has been defined in some circles as a state of confinement while awaiting trial. In many ways, we could stretch that meaning just a bit and see how life itself can be a sort of prison because we are confined in space and time, awaiting the final judgment of all that we have said and done while here on this earth. Thus, while we are “confined,” we have been given instructions while we are here. We are to be humble and gentle, and as much can be grasped, patient with as many as possible. “…bearing with one another through love.” If we see everyone in our lives as fellow prisoners, then we could find the strength and the power to love because we are all awaiting the same trial. That in and of itself will bring us to unity and peace: “…striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
“Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” On this great Feast of St. Matthew, this particular phrase from the Gospel describes and determines the attitude of the “jailer” in our little analogy of this Reflection. God has placed us here on earth “in confinement,” and Jesus will come one day to lead us out of this existence to another, which is complete and eternal freedom. In the meantime, then, we are to concentrate on living, acting with, and living in mercy. Showing mercy to each other is indeed a pledge and promise that mercy will be shown to us.
Teach me to feel another’s woe, To hide the fault I see;
That mercy I to others show, That mercy show to me.
Alexander Pope (from The Universal Prayer)
“We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.” Unfortunately, many around us hear the refrains of hope and salvation that you and I hear but continue to go forward blindly. We must pray for each other constantly until that day that we all see clearly what Christianity and following Jesus really means and what greatness in Heaven and eternal life is just waiting for us. Today, you and I must be that voice, that speaker, to announce the Good News: Jesus Christ is Lord!
“Undeniably great is the mystery of devotion.” Life has a lot to do with listening. Think of all the different sounds we hear every single day. We listen for important announcements and information that we deem pertinent to us. We also listen to the voices of those whom we love. So does God: What we hear during this great adventure following the Lord is the call to get real with our lives and with each other. There are many other voices shouting out at us all year long. Only one voice matters.
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“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia
“Do not weep.” Today, the Scriptures give us what may appear to be two very different topics and issues to examine and apply to our spiritual lives. However, after some considerable time resting with each of them, one from the Letter of Timothy and the Gospel from St. Luke, there is, in fact, a very deep and moving connection. Let’s begin:
The first selection is really all about the qualifications for service. What it takes to be a good bishop and a good deacon are at the center of the instruction, and in this piece of advice, we can spot at least one important similarity. To be effective and integral in ministry, the very hand of Christ to all, there must be two areas of life that are solid and sincere for the would-be bishop or deacon and (by means of deduction) all who would rise to authority in the Church. Their own family life and their worldview, that is, the understanding of human nature and how Jesus seeks even today to redeem it. Why the need for this? Consider these three possible inerrant and unhealthy desires for service:
1. There is the desire for prestige. When anyone works for God, prestige will be the last thing that should enter the equation. A servant in the Church does not want the approval of everyone, just God.
2. There is the desire for position: There are those who serve within the Church who really do not think of those they serve, but only themselves. This is selfish.
3. There is a desire for importance: Anyone entering ministerial service and expecting constant thanks and recognition has clearly lost the mark. If anyone gives only to gain something out of the giving for themselves, it has unfortunately undone anything good that was attempted, especially comforting the afflicted.
This is fundamentally crucial because the world that desperately seeks the face of Jesus must address and manage the relationship between love and fear. Perhaps our point of departure could be the investigation of their opposites. Many believe that the opposite of love is hate. Still, I think there would be an overwhelming gush of contrary opinions about that analysis, especially from those who have lived more than a handful of years. The opposite of love is really apathy. Apathy has been described in several places as a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern. What about the opposite of fear? Again, in some places, that answer has been revealed as assurance or confidence.
What about the opposite of fear? An unafraid person has the assurance that there is no real basis for fear. We could call that confidence or true acceptance of how things are. That does not mean that we do not experience the emotion of fear, but rather, we confront it with assurance no matter how we feel. The great General Patton said: “All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty.”
Let’s hold on to those thoughts as we move to reflect on the meaning of the Gospel today: “Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” Anyone who wishes to follow the Lord, serve His Church, and comfort the mourning and suffering, must have their heart in the right place. Otherwise, the world will keep on suffering and, even worse, fall pathetic prey to the wolves of the world.
You and I face storms every single day. Sometimes they take the form of horrible traffic jams, excruciating headaches, disappointments at work and in our relationships, even “life or death, “do or die” situations. It’s dark and terrifying. So are we afraid and why? If the opposite of fear has to do with having God “in us,” then perhaps the remedy for you and me not only has to do with seeing and experiencing Jesus walking on the stormy water towards us but also getting up, shaking off the emotional baggage and walking toward Him as well. This is why Jesus came and called and keeps calling gallant and selfless people to serve the Gospel and wipe the tears from our own faces and lives.
Perhaps He is calling you.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.” Today, 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. If we can be opened to what God can do for us through the countless miracles that occur every day, we will never want to be away “from His roof.”
“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 so 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. Be strong, then trust Jesus with everything. And then just wait…
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“God will always give us more than we deserve.” St. Padre Pio
Violets are a bizarre and eccentric kind of flower. If one could say that they have quirks, one must point to the fleeting and puzzling aroma of these highly recognizable purple flowers. Without launching into a lesson in botany, it is sufficient to reveal that these flowers contain a ketone compound called ionone, which temporarily desensitizes the nose’s receptors, thus preventing any further scent from being detected from the flower until the nerves recover. Admirers will only sense the smell of violets for a few moments before the ionone “blinds” the senses. 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.” Thus, forgiving our neighbor may be fleeting, hard to grasp or comprehend, but always pleasant and surprising as it returns to the one who forgives.
“‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.'” Maybe we could say that the most effective Gospel-inspired at our disposal is our desire and ability to forgive. Life has the potential to become much more pleasant and wonderful when we learn to accept the apology we may never receive. It is a profound virtue.Leave a comment
“This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” 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: “I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation 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. Ultimately, everything will depend on where we placed our belief and trust and where we built the foundation upon which we will die. 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 sand is to hear and ignore.” Kevin DeYoung
“Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary; without dying you won the Martyr’s crown beneath the Cross of the Lord.” Today, the Church remembers and honors the intense suffering and grief of the Mother of Jesus during His Passion and Death. There were actually seven individual sorrows that Mary endured as was foretold to her by Simeon, the priest of the Temple, on the occasion of the Lord’s Presentation. Here is a partial text of a very popular hymn somberly expressing these heartfelt sentiments: At the cross her station keeping, Stood the mournful Mother weeping, Close to Jesus to the last. Through her heart, his sorrow sharing, All his bitter anguish bearing, Now at length, the sword had passed. Our present hope for our Christian journey toward Heaven is easily seen in the Opening Prayer at Mass today: “Father, as your Son was raised on the cross, His Mother Mary stood by Him, sharing His sufferings. May your Church be united with Christ in His suffering and death and so come to share in His rising to New life. Looking to the example of Mary, may we too unite our sufferings to our Lord, facing them with courage, love and trust.”
“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.'”
Let us reflect on the mystery and fruits of suffering as presented by St. John Paul II in a remarkable teaching borne out of his own incredible personal sufferings.
First, he says that suffering empowers humility: To suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God, offered to humanity in Christ. In him, God has confirmed his desire to act, especially through suffering, which is man’s weakness and emptying of self, and he wishes to make his power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self.
Secondly, he teaches that suffering is transformative: Down through the centuries and generations, it has been seen that in suffering, there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace. To this grace, many saints, such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and others, owe their profound conversion. A result of such a conversion is not only that the individual discovers the salvific meaning of suffering but, above all, that he becomes a completely new person. He discovers a new dimension, as it were, of his entire life and vocation.
Finally, he writes that suffering enlivens and grows charity and love for and of others: We could say that suffering . . . is present in order to unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one’s “I” on behalf of other people, especially those who suffer. The world of human suffering unceasingly calls for, so to speak, another world: the world of human love, and in a certain sense, man owes to suffering that unselfish love that stirs in his heart and actions.
Thus, suffering in its purest sense is actually the road to holiness and a closer walk and friendship with the Lord Jesus. His mother shed human tears for the Divine Son she helped bring into this world, our world. We cry human tears, but not always for what is right and just. Today, we seek to move toward complete integrity on this walk of ours toward Heaven, knowing and embracing humility, deep-seated change, and charity, which are all great gifts when we suffer with each other with Jesus always in our hearts and minds.
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“Let me mingle tears with you, mourning him who mourned for me, All the days that I may live. Christ, when You shall call me hence, be Your Mother my defense, be Your Cross my victory.” Stabat Mater
What is the mystery of suffering? Maybe we should begin with the penalty for complaining. It did not go well for the people in the First Reading: “We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you.” The problem was simple: they forgot how good God had been to them and just focused on the things in the present moment without giving thanks to the One who always took care of them. Thus, the Psalmist made it clear to them and us what we must all do: “Do not forget the works of the Lord!”
None of us like to suffer. We avoid pain and discomfort. Our whole society and culture are built around the basic premise that we must avoid all pain. The problem, however, is simple and tragic. No one can avoid suffering. No one can escape death. The simple message of today is this: Life is not a question about whether or not you will suffer; it is a question of HOW. We who believe in Jesus know the answer to that question. We suffer WITH Him so we can RISE with Him. “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
Which path will I take today? Whose promise will I place my entire trust in?
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“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
“Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.” Right. The selfish parts of our existence are what make us increasingly unhappy and yearning for solutions that never work, never last, and leave us worse than ever before. That’s the way it used to be. That may be the way some were raised or learned how to act after so many disappointments and stabs in the back. It sure does take a lot of energy, though, and living by God’s love and not by “whatever makes me happy.” “Because of these the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.” Seriously? How is this done, especially in a world where immorality, impurity, and greed are the rules of the game of life for so many? What Jesus is asking us to do is not something impossible or unnatural. It is the only thing that makes sense and will bring peace to me and those whom I love. Today and every day, we are challenged to live a life in a loving way, refusing to be controlled by negative attitudes and imitating Christ Jesus in every way possible and any given situation.
Our call today is simple: “Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.” This will not be easy, but it is not impossible either. The rewards are amazing. It is a phenomenal way to live precisely because it is a call and a challenge to do everything in our power to imitate God in extending our love, respect, and forgiveness impartially and unconditionally to everyone, especially to the ones who render injustice and sorrow upon us. “Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.”
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“Stand up for Truth, even if you stand alone.” Suzy Kassem
This indeed is a great day to reflect upon the intrinsic and deep relationship between what it means to have good, close, and encouraging friends, the freedom it takes to maintain those friendships, and the faith in Jesus that makes us friends with Him. “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
This element is underscored in the Gospel of today: Jesus knew that one of the friends/apostles He would choose would eventually betray Him, and still, in perfect freedom, he asked Him to follow Him, that is, be His friend any way: “He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him…and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.” The application for us today is simply stunning. In order for love to grow within any relationship, there must be faith in the One who is love and the only One who will sustain that love until eternity, and especially for the grace both to forgive and show mercy. What is also remarkable is that love, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion never leave us empty-handed or return with nothing. It is a classic “win-win” situation: “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The LORD is good to all and compassionate toward all his works.”
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“Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.” Elie Wiesel
“On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.” In the Gospel today, we witness yet another pathetic example of hypocrisy taken to its unusual conclusion. These people possessed souls as dark as night. The scribes and Pharisees would rather a man suffer with a horribly deformed hand than be cured on the Sabbath. This is because they prefer to maintain a deformed view of reality and others suffer who do not fit into their constructs and mindsets. You see, the Sabbath is much more than law, but truly a gift of God’s care for all of us. He rested on the seventh day not out of fatigue but to show how a fruitful life should be lived, with enough time for re-creation and renewal. Our redemption from sin and death is truly the work of God and not us. He has literally “done all the work.” Now, for this glorious break, He wants us to enjoy it!
On Sundays, try to remember this Reflection. Consider taking a different approach to the Sabbath and let God be at peace with you and for you. Cut out any unnecessary activity and focus on your hope of Heaven. Then perhaps we may truly appreciate the blessing cited from the First Reading: “…to have all the richness of assured understanding, for the knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
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“Sabbath isn’t about resting perfectly; it’s about resting in the One who is perfect.” Shelly Miller
“..and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.” When we think of the experience of finally getting into Heaven, one of the more exciting images that we have been given is that of seeing God face-to-face. Amazingly, this is the unique blessing many in the Scriptures and Church History have experienced. But before getting that far, we must remember our awesome, heavy responsibility for each other. If we do not speak up against sin and injustice, we will be held responsible for the same evil we witness and often complain about in this life.
“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.” And yet, although not as dramatic or special-effects oriented it may not be, our prayer life gives us the next best option to becoming face-to-face with God and preparing our way to that magnificent relationship with Him in Heaven. Jesus Himself guaranteed that our prayer is powerful, effective, and real: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
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“The soul can split the sky in two and let the face of God shine through.” Edna St. Vincent Millay
“While Jesus was going through a field of grain on a sabbath, his disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them.” In the Gospel today, we witness yet another pathetic example of hypocrisy taken to its unusual conclusion. Clearly, these people were as closed up as a dead oyster. This is because they prefer to maintain a deformed view of reality and shove others who do not fit into their constructs and mindsets. You see, the Sabbath is much more than law, but truly a gift of God’s care for all of us. He rested on the seventh day not out of fatigue but to show how a fruitful life should be lived, with enough time for re-creation and renewal. Our redemption from sin and death is truly the work of God and not us. He has literally “done all the work.” Now, for this glorious break, He wants us to enjoy it!
You and I, unfortunately, tend to rush through our busy week, maybe offering God a fleeting wave or a passing prayer. Sunday, the Sabbath, however, calls us to true and thought-out decisions with real intention. We are simply to stop all the other things we had to do or must do or have to do, and spend quality time with Him and focus attention on Him. When we decide to obey, that is, listen to the Fourth Commandment, we become aware of the astounding and comforting truth that we really belong to God. It is not the Sabbath that we worship but the One who has initiated the Sabbath as we swim in a sort of memorial in time, a useful tool to help us focus our attention on our awesome destiny. It has the great chance of avoiding spiritual withering within us and awakens the great promise of our Faith: “God has now reconciled you in the fleshly Body of Christ through his death, to present you holy, without blemish.”
On all Sundays of our lives, try to remember this Reflection. Consider taking a different approach to the Sabbath and let God be at peace with you and for you. Cut out any unnecessary unnecessary activity and focus on your hope of Heaven. Then perhaps we may truly appreciate the blessing of St. John for us as cited from his Gospel in the Alleluia Verse of today: “My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow me.”
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“A life built upon Sabbath is contented because in rhythms of rest, we discover our time is full of the holiness of God.” Shelly Miller
Today, we celebrate the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and there are so many presents to open! Let us begin our festive spiritual birthday celebration. First, from the Catechism (487), What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines, in turn, its faith in Christ. (490) To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” The angel Gabriel, at the moment of the annunciation, salutes her as “full of grace.” (Luke 1:28). In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace. (491) Through the centuries, the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. (492) The “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son.” The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love.” (Ephesians 1:3-4) (493) The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.” By God’s grace, Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life.
Secondly, the only starting point in every and any discussion about the Blessed Virgin Mary is Jesus Christ, her Son. This must always be the focus of our conversation and understanding of who she is and why she is pivotal and critical to our understanding of Jesus and what He accomplished for all of humanity. It starts with the Garden of Eden described in the first chapters of Genesis when Satan, the leader of all the fallen angels, tempts Eve to first doubt her trust in the Lord and then disobey Him. She and Adam were permitted to eat from all the trees in Paradise except ONE. The devil, however, was not to have its’ intended and avaricious victory as the Lord made it clear that this was not the end of the battle for the soul of humanity: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers,” speaking of the ultimate combat between the forces of evil and the offspring of the descendant of Eve, who is Mary, the Mother of Jesus Our Redeemer. Thus, the “Tree of Good and Evil” is transformed into the “Tree of Life,” the wood of the Cross upon which Jesus died to “free us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray.” (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen) So if Jesus is the New Adam (Romans 5:14), then clearly Mary is the New Eve. Eve = Mother of all the Living & Mary = Mother of the Church (The Body of Christ to whom she gave birth.)
Thirdly, A Tale of Two Angels, We know who the serpent in the Garden of Eden was. We all read about it in the Book of Revelation: “Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail, and there was no longer any place for them in Heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.” (Chapter 12:7-9) Let’s take a good look at these two angels: The serpent in the Garden of Eden and the Angel Gabriel. One approached Eve, the other, The Virgin Mary with two very different outcomes! Satan tricked Eve by re-phrasing what God had forbidden Adam and her to approach; Gabriel’s announcement (Annunciation) was met with serious questions from Mary: “But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” (Luke 1:29) Eve’s response to the fallen angel/demon: Distrust and Disobedience. Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel: Trust and Obedience: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1) The aftermath of Eve’s choice: Death entered the world; the aftermath of Mary’s choice: Life entered the world.
Finally, the significance of our Faith: The Church has long believed and taught that the Virgin Mary had to have been preserved from any stain of sin, just as Eve was. It is also crystal-clear that God had a tremendous plan involving this woman from Nazareth who would have had to have been free from any pretext or pride when being asked to be the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God. And her own body was to be free from any of sin’s dark shadows because it would be in the very recess of her human body that Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, would dwell for nine months. How could it be different?
So consider this in your prayers today in commemorating the wonderful birthday of the Mother of Jesus:
Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us! Happy Birthday!Leave a comment
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” (Gospel) In both the Old and New Testaments, the references to fish and fishing are many and significant. The very fact that the majority of Apostles whom Jesus called to found and build the Church were fishermen is not a casual reference. There are profound reasons that make this quite significant for our understanding of the Bible and of the Church itself. This also has implications concerning our call to be good and faithful followers of Christ in this world. Let’s explore a few of them:
You see, when you take the first letter of each of the Greek words for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior,” they spell “ichthus.” Although we cannot be sure when this identification first began or where it was first introduced, the fish has certainly become a standard Christian symbol. Perfect. We fish for Jesus, we fish with Him, and we bring Jesus to a hungering and starving people; all the while, we become closer and closer. “‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’ When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.”
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“Jesus, like any good fisherman, first catches the fish and then cleans them.” Mark Potter
Each one of us woke up this morning and began this day with literally a million different possibilities as to how our lives would unravel as each minute ticked away. For some, it was a bright and glorious beginning, while for others, problems made their way onto our patch almost immediately. One thing is for certain, however, and that is we all have the same Shepherd: Jesus. We are, in fact, His own loved ones: “Of this you have already heard through the word of truth, the Gospel, that has come to you.” Every single moment of every single day, we belong to Him, and He is always watching over us. That’s the kind of love He has for us, which is why we can echo the words of the Psalmist today in the very depths of our hearts: “I trust in the mercy of God for ever.”
In the Gospel today, Jesus’ healing of the fever ravishing Simon’s mother-in-law and his confrontation with the demons tells us all right here and right now that He has the power and the love to do the same for each one of us wherever we are, in whatever station of life. These particular Scriptures call out to do a number of things today:
Perhaps we could say today that we have good news and bad news. The bad news is that we must confront sickness and evil on a daily basis with numbing regularity. The good news is that we are not alone in these confrontations. We carry with us the One who has defeated both now and forever.
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“Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. The message isn’t new, but we haven’t learned to live it yet.” Peace Pilgrim
“Jesus rebuked him and said, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ Then the demon threw the man down in front of them and came out of him without doing him any harm.” When we look at and study all the moments of the life of Jesus, we realize that The Lord does not introduce anything new in terms of human experiences but rather elevates and imbues tremendous meaning and purpose into them. When evil and the demons of our lives approach, we realize first-hand that we truly need faith in the One who can handle and defeat them. These present themselves as conflicts which call us to make choices:
“But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief.” Every last one of us must face conflicts practically every day of our lives, even if they surface from within us. Therefore, it is not an indication or measurement of how much we are loved when we have issues or problems, but rather what we are going to do with them.
When Jesus calls a person to follow Him, it necessarily involves the fundamental option whether to accept him or to reject him; and the world is always divided into those who have accepted Christ and those who have not. Everyone makes choices every day. This choice, however, affects eternity, and forever is a very, very long time.
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“Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” Ronald Reagan
There is a remarkable juxtaposition, a type of literary set of bookends in our Readings of today. In the First Reading, we find tremendous confident faith in knowing that if we die with the Lord, He will never forget us: “Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words.” However, quite sadly, the same is NOT true later in the life of Jesus: “When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.” Jesus’ people would not, or could not accept Him as the Messiah because they allowed doubt and tragic unbelief to stifle and cloud any hope of a miracle in their midst. How can anyone be so blind with Jesus right in front of them?
The current level of detachment in our society could be a clue. We seem to be facing reality through a screen of some sort: iPhones, laptops, iPads, computers, television, etc., all train us to take an almost inhuman step away from reality so as not to become too immersed in any real internal and integrated approach to life, you know, the way Jesus approached everyone in the Scriptures and how he deals with you and me right here, right now. Let us consider some ways to learn how we can start seeing the Lord truly present in our lives:
“But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.” 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 in complete control of our lives and 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 this: 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 we could review a few possible approaches to our walk with the Lord in hopes of making our Christian journey the best it can be:
Calm Down: The appearance of powerlessness almost always creates a ripe breeding ground for anger. We can’t do anything about a certain situation, so we turn to the only things we 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 Real Motivations: Why do we want justice? Is it really revenge? Justice is a virtue; 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 emotional spasms?
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.”
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“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
“A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five  talents; to another, two; to a third, one–to each according to his ability. Then he went away.” In the Gospel that we are given today, we hear of the many talents that God administers to the world. It seems from the very notable parable that the most he gave was five, as in the five senses. Let’s take a new and interesting look from this perspective:
Talent One: EYES gift of sight: Think of the ability to see and comprehend
the world around us and God’s presence in it.
Talent Two: EARS gift of listening: Think of the ability to remain quiet in
front of a sunrise or sunset, a friend who is telling us about their day and life,
and before God in prayer.
Talent Three: NOSE the gift of smell: Think of the ability to appreciate the
fragrance of this created world and be soothed by the texture of nature’s aromas.
Talent Four: MOUTH gift of speech: Think of the ability to communicate and
heal with words that are formed in your mind and expressed with your heart.
Talent Five: TOUCH our effect on others. Think of how wonderful it is to be held,
to accept the congratulatory handshake or the firm and reassuring pat on the back.
Good touches warm the heart.
We cannot bury these talents any more than we can hide from the expectations that are thrust upon us. The lessons are irrefutable. First, this parable teaches us that success is a product of our work. God always gives us everything we need to do what he has called us to do. In the mystery of this awesome human life, we are not all created equally with the same gifts and talents. None of us can render judgment on any other. We work for the Master, not our selfish purposes, and for that very important and critical reason, we will all be held accountable.
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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
Question: What is the difference between smart, clever, intelligent, and wise?
Answer: You’d better know if you truly want to be happy.
Being smart helps you answer difficult questions; clever people know how to think outside the box and come up with interesting solutions to problems; intelligence basically adds figures and remembers dates and other important life skills. Wisdom, however, is what allows the human person to access everything they need to get to Heaven. Huge difference. “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.”
There is a very interesting detail in the Gospel today about the lanterns/torches that the prescribed wise and foolish virgins are sporting. You see, they were supposed to greet the bridegroom when he emerged with his bridal group of friends and family: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise.”
Since this event normally took place on the bleakest of nights, there was a huge precaution: to ensure that there would be no looters or dangerous thieves to crash the procession, the bridesmaids had to be holding fire in the lamps to distinguish them from non-participants of the wedding banquet. The faces of the wise bridesmaids were recognizable. They were adequately prepared for the big moment and had plenty of oil. The wise among us are equally so. They are ready, waiting, and prepared for Jesus to come again. But what about the foolish ones? They were clearly unprepared and ran out and had to leave the post to buy some more. What do they look like?
Five Types of Fools:
1. The juvenile fool opens the mind to any passing thought and lacks discernment
2. The senseless often says ridiculous things, gets caught, is challenged then is angry
3. The lustful fool makes choices based mostly on pleasure while becoming unreasonable
4. The angry fool creates his/her own truth and hates anyone who challenges it.
5. The incurable fool thinks they are fooling everyone else and wants to drag as many fools down with him/her.
What’s in your lantern?Leave a comment
“Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” Why is this urgent call from the Lord so important? There are at least three definite reasons: Living life in such a way that we are not vigilant and watchful will, by its very nature, invite trouble. It is much like a senseless lamb wandering out in the field all by itself, which will automatically and assuredly get the attention of the proverbial hungry wolf nearby. What usually lurks behind the lack of being aware and awake is the mistaken idea that we all have plenty of time. We don’t. The punishment inflicted on lazy people who say they are following Christ has everything to do with a dereliction of duty. We leave our post, and there is nothing good in store.
Imagine the nervousness and anxiety if we are not ready for the Lord! Then, imagine the joy and immense happiness when He does come, and we are ready.
Over thirty years ago, there was a ship off the coast of Massachusetts that was reported lost at sea. There were a reported 45 men on board, most of whom were residents of a small fishing town near Plymouth. For the first week, wives, children, and family members set up make-shift camps along the seashore to wait and watch for any signs of recovery. After ten days, some of those grew tired and even discouraged and began to make their way back to their homes, still leaving a smaller remnant of those who would stay vigilant. Finally, on the 15th day of their disappearance, the vessel sailed back into the harbor, all aboard hungry and tired but certainly safe and alive. It was said that one of the men looked sad as he disembarked. He just shrugged and walked his way to his little cottage of a home, to the surprise of his wife and children. But he still looked upset. “What’s wrong, dear?” asked his wife. “Why weren’t you out there with the other families on the shore when we arrived?” he responded. “We were waiting for you, honey,” came his wife’s explanation.
“But you weren’t watching…”
Do you think that’s splitting hairs? Maybe. However, the slight difference in the words can be of dramatic importance when we apply them to waiting for the Lord. Waiting seems to be passive, as if I can have many other priorities or concerns because, after all, “When He comes He comes, right?” Watching implies vigilance, continued hope, and deep resolve. “I know my Redeemer lives.” (Job 14:25). Watching is active, ongoing, and, yes, life-changing. Let’s be sure. Whether you and I are waiting or watching, it will be the same, Lord. But how will we be different?
“For we now live, if you stand firm in the Lord.” God is worth waiting for; His time is always best. Watching for Him makes our hearts ready and open and joyful to meet Him at any given moment, which makes a difference in how we live.Leave a comment
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.” So how does Jesus respond to our “old friends” today? Well, to say the least, it wasn’t pretty. Why the harshness of the reaction? That’s what happens when we won’t see how incredibly God is working in our life or in the life of others. It is the expected consequence when we hide behind perceptions, correctness, and the Law while missing the Law-giver in our midst.
“And for this reason, we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.” The people who understand this can always rejoice because they know themselves, they love the person God sees, and they seek to be as patient with others as possible. But the people who judge and criticize and try to “fix” everyone else except themselves are almost always humiliated. It all depends on the relationship. Today, let us first give thanks that Our Lord loves us so much that we are constantly being exposed to the truth in our lives, ugly at times but always liberating. Second, let us ask again for the courage to see Jesus in others as we look for Him in our souls. This is definitely the recipe for true happiness and remarkable clarity.
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“You can speak with spiritual eloquence, pray in public, and maintain a holy appearance, but it is your behavior that will reveal your true character.” Steve Maraboli
“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” This is truly an amazing Gospel that we have today. It describes the death and martyrdom 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 day 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 should decrease while Jesus must increase. Once we come to realize and accept our purpose here on earth, our lives are much simpler and have the potential for even greater holiness.
“Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip.” 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 that focus stray. 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. 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. The death of John the Baptist reminds us that following the Lord also has a deep price that sometimes people are unwilling to consider or offer. But in the final analysis, we want to be counted among those who are faithful and loving, and true to our calling. Nothing else will do: “Rather, after we had suffered and been insolently treated, as you know, in Philippi, we drew courage through our God to speak to you the Gospel of God with much struggle.”
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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