“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Matthew 9:12-13
Jesus did not come for the “righteous” but came for “sinners.” This may be surprising at first because it seems that Jesus should have said that He came for all people, the righteous and the sinner. But what we must understand is that no one is truly righteous. In other words, everyone is a sinner in need of the Savior.
By speaking this way, Jesus is addressing the self-righteous attitude of the Pharisees who seemed to think that Jesus should only associate with those who were without sin. The Pharisees acted as if they were “righteous” and that Jesus should only associate with them and any others who were not publicly known to be sinners.
Sadly, the sin of the Pharisees was of a far graver nature than the sins of the tax collectors and the other sinners who came to Jesus. The Pharisees were guilty of the sin of spiritual pride and were sinning by presuming that they were righteous. When one fails to see their sin, God cannot forgive them since they do not repent.
Though this is a powerful condemnation of the Pharisees and others who are guilty of being self-righteous, it is also an invitation from Jesus to all who readily admit their sin. When we can humble ourselves before the perfection of God and see our sins in the light of His glory, we will be tempted to despair and feel shame for our sins. But shame will turn into joy and freedom when we allow our Lord to act as the Divine Physician in our lives. The purpose of His earthly life was to bring healing to our wounds of sin. When we realize how His perfect mercy perfectly heals us, we will readily run to Him.
Reflect, today, upon how ready and willing you are to confess your sins to Jesus. Do not hesitate to trust in His perfect love for you and to open yourself up fully to His divine mercy.
Lord of perfect mercy, I turn to You in my need and admit my sin and guilt. I am sorry for having offended You and I know that You are the one and only answer for my sin. Please have mercy on me, dear Lord, and forgive me for all my sin. Jesus, I trust in You.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9:2b
This story concludes with Jesus healing the paralytic and telling him to “rise, pick up your stretcher and go home.” The man does just that and the crowds are amazed.
There are two miracles that happen here. One is physical and one is spiritual. The spiritual one is that this man’s sins are forgiven. The physical one is the healing of his paralysis.
Which of these miracles are more important? Which one do you think the man desired the most?
It’s hard to answer the second question since we do not know the man’s thoughts, but the first question is easy. The spiritual healing, the forgiveness of his sins, is by far the most important of these two miracles. It’s the most significant because it has eternal consequences for his soul.
For most of us, it’s easy to pray to God for things like a physical healing or the like. We may find it quite easy to ask for favors and blessings from God. But how easy is it for us to ask for forgiveness? This may be harder to do for many because it requires an initial act of humility on our part. It requires that we first acknowledge we are sinners in need of forgiveness.
Acknowledging our need for forgiveness takes courage, but this courage is a great virtue and reveals a great strength of character on our part. Coming to Jesus to seek His mercy and forgiveness in our lives is the most important prayer we can pray and the foundation of all the rest of our prayers.
Reflect, today, upon how courageous you are in asking God for forgiveness and how humbly you are willing to acknowledge your sin. Making an act of humility like this is one of the most important things you can do.
My forgiving Lord, give me courage. Give me courage, especially, to humble myself before You and to acknowledge all my sin. In this humble acknowledgment, help me to also seek Your daily forgiveness in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
The Church, throughout the ages, has been hated, misunderstood, slandered, ridiculed, and even attacked. Though sometimes ridicule and rebuke come as a result of the personal faults of Her members, most often the Church has been and continues to be persecuted because we have been given the mission of clearly, compassionately, firmly, and authoritatively proclaiming, with the voice of Christ Himself, the truth which liberates and sets all people free to live in unity as children of God.
Ironically, and sadly, there are many in this world who refuse to accept the Truth. There are many who instead grow in anger and bitterness as the Church lives out Her divine mission.
What is this divine mission of the Church? Her mission is to teach with clarity and authority, to pour forth God’s grace and mercy in the Sacraments, and to shepherd God’s people so as to lead them to Heaven. It is God who gave the Church this mission and God who enables the Church and Her ministers to carry it out with courage, boldness and fidelity.
Today’s Solemnity is a very appropriate occasion to reflect on this sacred mission. Saints Peter and Paul are not only two of the greatest examples of the Church’s mission, but they are also the actual foundation upon which Christ established this mission.
First, Jesus Himself in today’s Gospel said to Peter, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.”
In this Gospel passage, “the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” are given to the first pope of the Church. St. Peter, the one entrusted with the divine headship of the Church on Earth, is given the authority to teach us all we need to know in order to attain Heaven. It’s clear from the earliest days of the Church, that Peter passed these “Keys to the Kingdom,” this “ability to authoritatively bind and loose,” this divine gift that today is called infallibility, on to his successor, and he on to his successor and so forth until today.
There are many who get angry at the Church for clearly, confidently and authoritatively proclaiming the liberating truth of the Gospel. This is especially true in the area of morality. Often, when these truths are proclaimed, the Church is attacked and called every sort of slanderous name in the book.
The primary reason that this is so sad is not so much that the Church is attacked, Christ will always give us the grace we need to endure persecution. The primary reason this is so sad is that most often those who are the angriest are, in fact, those who need to know the liberating truth the most. Everyone needs the freedom that comes only in Christ Jesus and the full and unaltered Gospel truth that He has already entrusted to us in Scripture and that He continues to make clear to us through Peter in the person of the Pope. Furthermore, the Gospel does not ever change, the only thing that changes is our ever deeper and clearer understanding of this Gospel. Thanks be to God for Peter and for all of his successors who serve the Church in this essential role.
St. Paul, the other Apostle we honor today, was not himself entrusted with the keys of Peter, but was called by Christ and strengthened by his ordination to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. St. Paul, with much courage, traveled throughout the Mediterranean to bring the message to all he met. In today’s Second Reading, St. Paul said of his journeys, “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear” the Gospel. And though he suffered, was beaten, imprisoned, ridiculed, misunderstood and hated by many, he was also an instrument of true freedom to many. Many people responded to his words and example, radically giving their lives over to Christ. We owe the establishment of many new Christian communities to St. Paul’s tireless efforts. When facing the opposition of the world, Paul said in today’s epistle, “I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.”
Both St. Paul and St. Peter paid for their faithfulness to their missions with their lives. The First Reading spoke of Peter’s imprisonment; the epistles reveal Paul’s hardships. In the end, both became martyrs. Martyrdom is not a bad thing if it is the Gospel for which you are martyred.
Jesus says in the Gospel, “Fear not the one who can bind your hand and foot, rather fear him who can throw you into Gehenna.” And the only one who can throw you into Gehenna is yourself because of the free choices you make. All we ultimately need to fear is wavering from the truth of the Gospel in our words and deeds.
The truth must be proclaimed in love and compassion; but love is not loving nor is compassion compassionate if the truth of the life of faith and morals is not present.
On this feast of Saints Peter and Paul, may Christ give all of us, and the entire Church, the courage, charity, and wisdom we need to continue to be the instruments that set the world free.
Lord, I thank You for the gift of Your Church and the liberating Gospel it preaches. Help me to always be faithful to the truths You proclaim through Your Church. And help me to be an instrument of that truth to all in need of it. Jesus, I trust in You.
They came and woke Jesus, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. Matthew 8:25-26
Imagine you were out on the sea with the Apostles. You were a fisherman and spent countless hours on the sea throughout your life. Some days the sea was exceptionally calm and other days there were big waves. But this day was unique. These waves were huge and crashing and you feared that things would not end well. So, with the others on the boat, you woke Jesus in a panic hoping that He would save you.
What would have been the best thing for the Apostles to do in this situation? Most likely, it would have been for them to allow Jesus to remain asleep. Ideally, they would have faced the fierce storm with confidence and hope. “Storms” that seem overwhelming may be rare, but we can be certain they will come. They will come and we will feel overwhelmed.
If the Apostles would not have panicked and would have allowed Jesus to sleep, they may have had to endure the storm a bit longer. But eventually it would have died down and all would have been calm.
Jesus, in His great compassion, is OK with us crying out to Him in our need as the Apostles did on the boat. He is OK with us turning to Him in our fear and seeking His help. When we do, He will be there as a parent is there for a child who wakes during the night in fear. But ideally we will face the storm with confidence and hope. We will ideally know that this too will pass and that we should simply trust and stay strong. This seems to be the most ideal lesson we can learn from this story.
Reflect, today, on how you react to hardship and problems in your life. Be they big or small, do you face them with the confidence, calm and hope that Jesus wants you to have? Life is too short to be filled with terror. Have confidence in the Lord no matter what you face each day. If He seems to be asleep, allow Him to remain asleep. He knows what He is doing and you can be certain that He will never allow you to endure more than you can handle.
My sleeping Lord, whatever may come my way I trust You. I know You are always there and will never give me more than I can handle. Jesus, I do trust in You.
A scribe approached and said to Jesus, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Matthew 8:19
This scribe said the right thing to Jesus. This is the attitude we should all have toward our Lord. We must be ready and willing to follow Him no matter what. However, Jesus’ response to this scribe is interesting. He said, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head” (Matthew 8:20).
What do we take from this response? It appears to be a way for Jesus to say to the scribe, “Are you truly ready and willing to follow me no matter what?” In other words, Jesus wants to illustrate to the scribe that the choice to follow Him is a commitment to travel down a road that is risky only in the sense that following Jesus requires complete trust in Him. We will not be told, ahead of time, where our Lord will lead and what He will ask of us. Rather, when we unreservedly choose to follow Jesus, we are putting our trust in Him as a person and are telling Him that we embrace His will no matter what it is. This level of trust is the key to what Jesus wants.
Reflect, today, upon two things. First, reflect upon these words of the scribe and ask yourself whether or not you can confidently say them in your own life. Say them over and over and try to let them move from your head to your heart as a willing embrace of the Lord’s plan for your life. Second, reflect upon the effects of such a response in your own life. Are you willing to not only say these words but to also embrace all that follows from such a commitment? Are you willing to trust the Lord with your whole life? Strive to make this firm resolution and this resolution will lead you down the path of much joy.
My trustworthy Lord, I do commit myself to following You wherever You go. I choose Your most holy will above all things. Help me to live faithfully in accord with Your divine will and to say “Yes” to You every day. Jesus, I trust in You.
When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. Luke 9:51-52a
Jesus was “resolutely determined” in His mission to travel toward Jerusalem. The significance of this line can easily be lost.
There are two things to point out about this passage. First, Jerusalem was the destination where He would ultimately die for the sins of the world. It was His place of glorification through the Sacrifice of the Cross. Thus, the disciples did not want Jesus to go to Jerusalem since they knew it was a risk. But Jesus saw through the suffering He would soon endure to the future glory of the Sacrifice He would offer.
Second, the fact that Jesus was “resolute” in His determination to go to Jerusalem and sacrifice His life reveals His courage and perfect love. He did not fear what would happen to Him because He had the bigger picture in mind. He saw the good fruit of the salvation of many souls and this overshadowed any temptation to be deterred from His divine mission.
We can learn much from Jesus’ determination to sacrifice His life in Jerusalem for the salvation of the world. Certainly we should see the fruit of this sacrifice and be eternally grateful for it. But we should also see it as an invitation to imitate Jesus’ actions. In our own lives there are many opportunities we are given to choose a life of selfless sacrifice for the good of others. These opportunities come in many forms, but in the end they are always opportunities of love and self-giving. Though sacrifice will tempt us to flee in a different direction, if we keep our eyes upon the good fruit of all selfless sacrifice, we will be encouraged to be resolute in our determination of love.
Reflect, today, upon whatever your “Jerusalem” is. What is it that you are invited to sacrifice your life for out of love. When you discover what it is, look also at your willingness to embrace this sacrifice for the good of others and strive to imitate the firm determination of our Lord.
My determined Lord, I offer my life to You and accept Your invitation to offer my life for the good of others. Give me the courage and determination I need to see the value of selfless living and fill me with unwavering love of Your holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.
…his mother kept all these things in her heart. Luke 2:51b
Today we honor our Blessed Mother. In particular, we honor her Immaculate Heart just as we honored Jesus’ Sacred Heart yesterday. The two go hand in hand.
The Heart of our Blessed Mother is a sign of her perfect love for us. It is “Immaculate” in that it is spotless and perfect in love.
When reflecting upon the perfection of love, we also acknowledge that her love is the perfection of a mother’s love. This is a unique love of the highest order. A mother’s love is not just love of neighbor or a friendship. Rather, a mother’s love is such that it is completely invested, nurturing, sacrificial and total. This is the love our Blessed Mother has for us.
Today is a good day to reflect upon whether or not you have allowed her to love you with this perfect motherly love. Have you consecrated yourself to her, choosing her as your queen and mother?
The Immaculate Heart, and therefore, the Immaculate love of our Blessed Mother is a glorious gift from God. She is the instrument through which Salvation Himself came into our world. She is also, therefore, the continuing instrument through which all the grace given by Christ comes into the world. She is the Mediatrix of Grace. Why does she have this role? Because God destined it to be so. God could have saved us any way He chose, but we must humbly and honestly acknowledge that the way He chose to save us is through the mediation of the Blessed Mother.
God does not change His mind today. He chose her as the instrument of salvation over 2,000 years ago and He continues to choose her today. He continues to pour forth His grace on the world through her and she continues to distribute His love and mercy through her Immaculate and motherly Heart.
Reflect, today, upon the beauty and perfection of the love radiating from her life for you. Run to her and make an act of faith in her motherly care. Consecrate yourself to her and let her be the instrument God wants her to be.
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. Matthew 11:29
Happy Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!
To some, this can seem like an old and outdated celebration in the Church. It can be seen as one of those ancient feasts that have little meaning in our lives today. Nothing could be further from the truth!
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is exactly what we need to know, experience and receive in our lives today. His heart, that heart which was pierced by the lance and from which flowed blood and water, is the sign, symbol and source of the burning love of His very soul. The blood is an image of the Most Holy Eucharist and the water is an image of the cleansing waters of Baptism.
This celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a celebration of Jesus pouring out on us His whole life and all of His love. He held nothing back which is symbolized by the pouring forth of the last drop of this blood and water from His Heart as He lay there dead on the Cross. Though it’s a very graphic image, it’s graphic to make a point. The point, again, is that He held nothing back. We need to realize that Jesus continues to give us everything if we are willing to receive it.
If you are finding that you need to know His love more deeply in your life this day, try spending time reflecting on this Scripture: “…but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out” (John 19:33-34). Spend time reflecting upon that last self gift, the gift of that water and blood flowing from His wounded Heart. It is a sign of His infinite love for you. Reflect upon it being poured out especially for you. See it, be immersed in it, and be open to it. Let His love transform and fill you.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. I thank You, dear Lord, for giving all to me. You held nothing back from me and You continue to pour out Your life for my good and for the good of the whole world. May I receive all You give to me and hold nothing back from You. Jesus, I trust in You.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Luke 1:63-64
Zechariah provides a great witness to all of us of one who sinned by lacking faith in God, but after suffering the humiliation of his sin, he became truly faithful and ended up “blessing God.”
We are familiar with his story. His wife became pregnant with John the Baptist by a miracle in her old age. When it was revealed to Zechariah by an angel that this would take place, he failed to have faith in this promise and doubted. The result was that he was struck mute until the moment that John was born. It was at that moment when Zechariah acted in fidelity to the revelation of God by naming his baby “John” as the angel had requested. This act of fidelity on Zechariah’s part loosened his tongue and he began to speak the praises of God.
This witness of Zechariah should be an inspiration to all who seek to follow the will of God in their lives but have failed. There are many times when God speaks to us, we hear Him, but we fail to believe in what He says. We fail in fidelity to His promises. The result is that we suffer the effects of that sin.
At first, the effects of sin in our lives can seem like a punishment. Indeed, in many ways they are. It’s not a punishment from God; rather, it’s a punishment of sin. Sin has devastating consequences in our lives. But the good news is that those consequences of sin are permitted by God as a way of drawing us back to fidelity to Him. And if we allow them to humble us and change us like Zechariah did, we will be able to turn from a life of infidelity to the will of God to a life of fidelity. And a life of fidelity will enable us to ultimately sing the praises of our God.
Reflect, today, upon the ways that you have not been faithful to God in your life. But think of it in the context of hope. Hope that God will receive you back and transform your life if you return to Him. God is waiting and His mercy is abundant. Allow His mercy to fill you with a heart that blesses the goodness of God.
Lord, help me to see my past sins not so much in despair, but as reasons to return to You in greater fidelity. No matter how many times I have fallen, help me to get back up and to faithfully sing Your praises. Jesus, I trust in You.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:15-16
The obvious answer to this question of Jesus is “No, people do not pick grapes from thornbushes.” In other words, an evil person cannot bear good fruit.
This statement from our Lord can give us much guidance in the area of discernment. First of all, it’s important to be aware of the very simple fact that “false prophets” do exist. This can be understood as anyone who actively misleads another under the guise of doing good. Some may do this unknowingly, but normally the one who acts as a wolf in sheep’s clothing does so out of the intention of some form of selfish gain. The selfish gain by which they are motivated could be many things, but the basic principle of selfishness usually applies.
By way of a secular example, take a used car salesman who deceptively tells a potential car buyer that a particular car is wonderful, when the salesman actually knows the car has serious mechanical problems. His goal is the sale of the car for a selfish profit with little care about the harm done to the unexpectant buyer.
Similarly, many of us may be tempted to “sweet talk” people or say what we think others want to hear in order to get them to do what we want. This is deceptive and misleading.
When it comes to discernment, the key Jesus gives us is to look at the fruit of what someone says or does. Inevitably, when something comes from the Heart of our Lord and is in accord with His will, the fruit will be good. But when it is deceptive or misleading, cloaked in superficial “goodness,” the end result, the fruit that is born, is at most only sour grapes.
Reflect, today, upon anything in your life you are striving to decide or discern. If you truly want to know the Lord’s will in your daily decisions, try to look beyond the immediate choice to the effects that this choice will have down the road. If you sincerely see goodness as a result of certain choices, know that this is a good sign that it is good and from the Lord. If you see negative effects of certain decisions, producing bad fruit, then it is a good sign that the decision you are contemplating is not from God. Choose the good fruit and you will be choosing the will of God.
Lord of true fruitfulness, give me the grace of discerning Your holy will in my life. Help me, especially, to see the good fruit that comes as a result of following You always. As You bear good fruit in my life, dear Lord, help me to continue down that holy path toward an abundance of every good gift. Jesus, I trust in You.