Peace on Earth? October 22, 2020


Thursday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint John Paul II, Pope—Optional Memorial

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”  Luke 12:51-53

Yes, this is a shocking Scripture at first.  Why would Jesus say that He came to establish not peace but division?  This does not at all sound like something He would say.  And then to go on saying that family members will be divided against each other is even more confusing.  So what is this about?

This passage reveals one of the unintended but permitted effects of the Gospel.  Sometimes the Gospel brings about a certain disunity.  Throughout history, for example, Christians have been severely persecuted for their faith.  The example of many martyrs reveals that those who live the faith and preach it may become the target of another.

In our world today, there are Christians who are persecuted simply for being Christian.  And in some cultures, Christians are severely mistreated for speaking out regarding certain moral truths of the faith.  As a result, the proclamation of the Gospel can at times bring about a certain disunity.

But the real cause of any disunity is the refusal on the part of some to accept the truth.  Do not be afraid of holding fast to the truths of our faith regardless of the reactions of others.  If you are hated or mistreated as a result, do not let yourself give in to compromise for the sake of “peace at all costs.”  That form of peace is not from God and will never bring about true unity in Christ.

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you struggle with compromising your faith when it is challenged by others.  Know that God wants you to choose Him and His holy will above every other relationship in life.

Lord, give me grace to keep my eyes on You and Your will and to choose You above everything else in life.  When my faith is challenged give me courage and strength to stay strong in Your love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Prayers & Resources for the U.S. Elections

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint John Paul II, Pope

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A Habit of Prayer October 21, 2020


Wednesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  Luke 12:39-40

This Scripture offers us an invitation.  It can be said that Jesus comes to us at an unexpected hour in two ways.

First, we know that He will return one day in glory to judge the living and the dead.  His Second Coming is real and we should be aware of the fact that it could happen at any time.  Sure, it may not happen for many years, or even for many hundreds of years, but it will happen.  There will be one moment when the world as it is will end and the new order will be established.  Ideally, we live each and every day in anticipation of that day and that moment.  We must live in such a way that we are always ready for that end.

Second, we must realize that Jesus does come to us, continually, by grace.  Traditionally, we speak of His two comings: 1) His Incarnation, and 2) His return in glory.  But there is a third coming we can speak of which is His coming by grace into our lives.  And this coming is quite real and should be something to which we are continually attentive.  His coming by grace requires that we be continually “prepared” to meet Him.  If we are not prepared, we can be certain we will miss Him.  How do we prepare for this coming by grace?  We prepare first and foremost by fostering a daily habit of interior prayer.  An interior habit of prayer means we are, in a sense, always praying.  It means that no matter what we do each and every day, our minds and hearts are always turned toward God.  It’s like breathing.  We always do it and do it without even thinking about it.  Prayer must become just as much of a habit as breathing.  It must be central to who we are and how we live.

Reflect, today, upon your life of prayer.  Know that the moments you dedicate exclusively to prayer each day are essential to your holiness and relationship with God.  And know that those moments must help to build a habit of always being attentive to God.  Being prepared this way will allow you to meet Christ at every moment that He comes to you by grace.

Lord, help me to foster in my heart a life of prayer.  Help me to seek You always and to always be prepared for You when You come.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

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Open Immediately October 20, 2020


Tuesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Paul of the Cross, Priest—USA: Optional Memorial

Jesus said to his disciples: “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.”  Luke 12:35-36

The key here is that we are to “open immediately” when Jesus comes and knocks on the door of our heart.  This passage reveals the disposition that we are to have in our hearts regarding the way Christ comes to us, by grace, and “knocks.”

Jesus is knocking on your heart.  He is continually coming to you seeking to come in and recline with you so as to converse, strengthen, heal and help.  The question to honestly ponder is whether or not you are ready to let Him in immediately.  Too often we hesitate in our encounter with Christ.  Too often we want to know the full plan for our lives before we are willing to submit and surrender.

What we must come to know is that Jesus is trustworthy in every way.  He has the perfect answer to every question we have and He has the perfect plan for every aspect of our lives.  Do you believe this?  Do you accept this as true?  Once we accept this truth we will be better prepared to open the door of our heart at the first prompting of grace.  We will be prepared to be immediately attentive to all that Jesus wants to say to us and to the grace He wants to give us.

Reflect, today, upon how ready you are to open immediately every part of your life to the grace and will of God.  Let Him in with great joy and enthusiasm and let His plan continue to unfold in your life.

Lord, I do wish to let You into my life more deeply each and every day.  I desire to hear Your voice and respond generously.  Give me the grace to respond to You as I ought.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Paul of the Cross, Priest—USA

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Image: Saint Mary of the Presentation Catholic Church (Geneva, Indiana)

True Riches October 19, 2020


Monday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saints Jean de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues, Priests and Martyrs; and their Companions, Martyrs—USA: Memorial

“‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”  Luke 12:20-21

This passage is the response from God to one who decides to make worldly wealth his goal.  In this parable, the rich man had such a bountiful harvest that he decided to tear down his old barns and build bigger ones so as to store the harvest.  Little did this man realize that his life would soon come to an end and that all he stored up would never be used by him.

The contrast in this parable is between an abundance of earthly wealth and wealth in what matters to God.  Sure, it may be possible to be rich in both, but accomplishing this would be quite difficult.

One straightforward challenge of this Gospel is to eliminate the desire for material wealth.  This is hard to do.  It’s not that material wealth is evil, it’s just that it is a serious temptation.  The temptation is to trust in material things for satisfaction rather than trusting only in God.  Material wealth should be understood to be a true temptation that must be kept in check.

Reflect, today, upon your desire for wealth.  Let this Gospel offer you a straightforward challenge regarding your desire for riches.  Be honest and look into your heart.  Do you spend much time thinking about money and material possessions?  Seek God above all things and let Him alone be your satisfaction.

Lord, I desire to be truly rich in grace and mercy rather than in material things.  Help me to always keep the proper priorities in life and to be purified in all of my desires.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

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Saint of the Day – Saints Jean de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues, Priests and Martyrs; and their Companions, Martyrs

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Image: The Parable of the Rich Fool by Rembrandt

Overcoming the Trickery of Evil October 18, 2020


Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings for Today

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech.  They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status.  Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?”  Matthew 22:15-18

The Pharisees were “hypocrites” filled with “malice.”  They were also cowards in that they would not even act on their own malicious plot.  Instead, they sent some of their own disciples to try to trap Jesus.  From the point of view of worldly wisdom, they set a very good trap.  Most likely, the Pharisees sat and discussed this plot in great detail, instructing these messengers on exactly what to say.

They began by complimenting Jesus telling Him they know He is a “truthful man.”  They then go on to say that they know Jesus is “not concerned with anyone’s opinion.”  These two accurate qualities of Jesus are spoken because the Pharisees believe they can use them as the foundation of their trap.  If Jesus is truthful and not concerned about other’s opinions then surely they expect Him to declare that there is no need to pay the temple tax.  The result of such a statement by Jesus would be that He would be arrested by the Romans.

The sad truth is that the Pharisees spend a tremendous amount of energy plotting and planning this malicious trap.  What a waste of time!  And the glorious truth is that Jesus spends hardly any energy dismantling their plot and revealing them for the malicious hypocrites they are.  He states, “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 22:21).

In our own lives, there are times when we may find ourselves face to face with the malicious intent and plotting of another.  Though this may be rare for some, it does happen.  Often times, the effect of such a plot is that we become deeply disturbed and lose our peace.  But Jesus endured such malice so as to show us the way to handle the attacks and traps we may encounter in life.  The answer is to stay grounded in the Truth and to respond with the wisdom of God.  God’s wisdom penetrates and foils every human act of malice and trickery.  God’s wisdom is able to overcome everything.

Reflect, today, upon how deeply you trust the wisdom of God to guide you through life.  You cannot make it on your own.  There are traps and snares that will inevitably come your way.  Trust in His wisdom and abandon yourself to His perfect will and you will find that He will guide you every step of the way.

Lord, I entrust my life to Your perfect wisdom and care.  Protect me from all trickery and guard me from the plots of the evil one.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Luke the Evangelist
Not celebrated as a liturgical memorial this year since it falls on Sunday

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Image:  The Tribute Money by Pierre Paul Rubens

Inspiration is Not Enough October 17, 2020


Saturday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr—Memorial

Jesus said to his disciples: “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.”  Luke 12:8-9

One of the greatest examples of those who acknowledge Jesus before others is that of the martyrs.  One martyr after another throughout history gave witness to their love of God by holding firm to their faith despite persecution and death.  One such martyr was St. Ignatius of Antioch.  Below is an excerpt from a famous letter St. Ignatius wrote to his followers once he was arrested and headed for martyrdom by being fed to the lions.  He wrote:

I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God.

No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.

This statement is inspiring and powerful, but here is an important insight that could easily be missed in reading it.  The insight is that it’s easy for us to read it, be in awe of his courage, talk about him to others, believe in his witness, etc…but not take one step closer to making this same faith and courage our own.  It’s easy to talk about the great saints and to be inspired by them.  But it’s very difficult to actually imitate them.

Think about your own life in the light of the Gospel passage from today.  Do you freely, openly and fully acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and God before others?  You do not have to go around being an “in-your-face” sort of Christian.  But you do have to easily, freely, transparently and completely allow your faith and love of God shine forth, especially when it’s uncomfortable and difficult.  Do you hesitate in doing this?  Most likely you do.  Most likely all Christians do.  For that reason, St. Ignatius and the other martyrs are great examples for us.  But if they only remain examples, then their example is not enough.  We must live their witness and become the next St. Ignatius in the witness God calls us to live.

Reflect, today, upon whether you are only inspired by the martyrs or if you actually imitate them.  If it’s the former, pray that their inspiring witness effects a powerful change in your life.

Lord, thank You for the witness of the great saints, especially the martyrs.  May their witness enable me to live a life of holy faith in imitation of each one of them.  I choose You, dear Lord, and acknowledge You, this day, before the world and above all else.  Give me the grace to live this witness with courage.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

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God’s Attentiveness October 16, 2020


Friday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Hedwig, Religious—Optional Memorial

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin—Optional Memorial

“Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.”  Luke 12:6-7

“Do not be afraid.”  These words are often repeated in the holy Scriptures.  In this passage, Jesus says we should not be afraid because of the fact that the Father in Heaven is attentive to every last detail of our lives.  Nothing has escaped the notice of God.  If God is attentive to the sparrows, He is even more attentive to us.  That should give us a certain sense of peace and confidence.

Of course, one reason that this can still be difficult to believe is that there are many times when it feels like God is quite distant and inattentive to our lives.  It’s important to remember that whenever we have this feeling, it’s only a feeling and not reality.  Reality is that God is infinitely more attentive to the details of our lives than we could ever realize.  In fact, He’s far more attentive to us than we are attentive to ourselves!  And not only is He attentive to every detail, He is deeply concerned about every detail.

So why might it feel like God is distant at times?  There could be many reasons for this but we should be certain that there is always a reason.  Perhaps we are not listening to Him and not praying as we should and thus we are missing His attentiveness and guidance.  Perhaps He has chosen to remain silent in a matter as a way of drawing us closer to Himself.  Perhaps His silence is actually a very clear sign of His presence and His will.

Reflect, today, upon the fact that regardless of how we may feel at times we must be certain of the truth of this passage above.  “You are worth more than many sparrows.”  God has even counted the hairs on your head.  And every part of your life is fully present to Him.  Allow these truths to give you consolation and hope knowing that this attentive God is also a God of perfect love and mercy and will provide for you all that you need in life.

Lord, I know You love me and are aware of every feeling, thought and experience I have in life.  You are aware of every problem and concern I have.  Help me to continually turn to You in all things knowing of Your perfect love and guidance.  Jesus, I trust in You.

NEW! October is the ideal time of year to being Probing the Depths, a year-long approach to The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius!

Probing the Depths

 

 

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Hedwig, Religious Also Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin

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Image: Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church by Alfred Handel

The Key to Knowledge October 15, 2020


Thursday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor—Memorial

“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.”  Luke 11:52

In today’s Gospel, Jesus continues to chastise the Pharisees and the scholars of the law.  In this passage above, He chastises them because they “have taken away the key of knowledge” and have actively tried to keep others from the knowledge God wants them to have.  This is a strong accusation and reveals that the Pharisees and scholars of the law were actively hurting the faith of God’s people.

As we’ve seen over the past few days in the Scriptures, Jesus rebuked the scholars of the law and the Pharisees severely for this.  And His rebuke was not only for their sake, it is also for our sake so that we know not to follow false prophets such as these and all who are interested only in themselves and their reputation rather than the truth.

This Gospel passage is not only a condemnation of this sin, more importantly it raises a deep and beautiful concept.  It’s the concept of “the key of knowledge.”  What is the key of knowledge?  The key of knowledge is faith, and faith can come only by listening to the voice of God.  The key to knowledge is to let God speak to you and to reveal to you His deepest and most beautiful truths.  These truths can only be received and believed through prayer and through direct communication with God.

The saints are the best examples of those who have penetrated the deep mysteries of God’s life.  Through their life of prayer and faith they came to know God on a profound level.  Many of these great saints have left us beautiful writings and a powerful witness of the hidden but revealed mysteries of the inner life of God.

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you have taken the “key of knowledge” and opened the mysteries of God through your life of faith and prayer.  Recommit yourself to seeking God in your daily personal prayer and to seek all that He desires to reveal to you.

Lord, help me to seek You through a life of daily prayer.  In that life of prayer, draw me into a deep relationship with You, revealing to me all that You are and all that life is about.  Jesus, I trust in You.

NEW! October is the ideal time of year to being Probing the Depths, a year-long approach to The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius!

Probing the Depths

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor

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Woe to You! October 14, 2020


Wednesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Callistus I, Pope and Martyr—Optional Memorial

“Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.” Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”  Luke 11:44-46

What an interesting and somewhat surprising exchange between Jesus and this scholar of the law.  Here, Jesus is severely chastising the Pharisees and one of the scholars of the law tries to correct Jesus for being offensive.  And what does Jesus do?  He doesn’t back down or apologize for offending him; rather, He turns His severe rebuke to the scholar of the law.  That must have surprised him!

What’s interesting is that the scholar of the law points out that Jesus is “insulting” them.  And he points it out as if Jesus were committing a sin and in need of a rebuke.  So was Jesus insulting the Pharisees and scholar of the law?  Yes, He probably was.  Was that a sin on Jesus’ part?  Obviously not.  Jesus does not sin.

The mystery we face here is that sometimes the truth is “insulting,” so to speak.  It’s insulting to a person’s pride.  What’s most interesting is that when someone is insulted, they need to first realize that they are insulted because of their pride, not because of what the other person said or did.  Even if someone was overly harsh, feeling insulted is a result of pride.  If one were truly humble, then a rebuke would actually be welcomed as a helpful form of correction.  Sadly, the scholar of the law appears to lack the necessary humility to let Jesus’ rebuke sink in and free him from his sin.

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you are humble enough to receive correction from another.  If someone points out your sin do you get offended?  Or do you take it as a useful correction and allow it to help you grow in holiness?

Lord, please give me true humility.  Help me to never be offended when corrected by others.  May I receive others’ corrections as graces to help me on my way to holiness.  Jesus, I trust in You.

NEW! October is the ideal time of year to being Probing the Depths, a year-long approach to The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius!

Probing the Depths

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Callistus I, Pope and Martyr

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Image: Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees by James Tissot

Cleansing Your Heart October 13, 2020


Tuesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools!”  Luke 11:39-40a

Jesus was continually critical of the Pharisees for being caught up with their external appearance and ignoring the sacredness of their souls.  It appears that Pharisee after Pharisee fell into this same trap.  Their pride led them to become obsessed with their external appearance of righteousness.  Sadly, their external appearance was only a mask over the “plunder and evil” that consumed them from within.  For that reason Jesus calls them “fools.”

This head on challenge from our Lord was clearly an act of love in that He deeply desired that they looked at that which was within so as to cleanse their hearts and souls of all evil.  It appears that, in the case of the Pharisees, they needed to be called out directly for their evil.  This was the only way they would have a chance of repenting.

The same can be true for all of us at times.  Each one of us can struggle with being far more concerned about our public image than about the sanctity of our souls.  But what is more important?  What’s important is that which God sees within.  God sees our intentions and all that is deep within our consciences.  He sees our motivations, our virtues, our sins, our attachments, and everything hidden from the eyes of others.  We, too, are invited to see that which Jesus sees.  We are invited to look at our souls in the light of truth.

Do you see your soul?  Do you examine your conscience each and every day?  You should examine your conscience by looking within and seeing what God sees through times of prayer and honest introspection.  Perhaps the Pharisees regularly fooled themselves into thinking all was well in their souls.  If you do the same at times, you also may need to learn from the strong words of Jesus.

Reflect, today, upon your soul.  Do not be afraid to look at it in the light of truth and to see your life as God sees it.  This is the first and most important step in becoming truly holy.  And it’s not only the way to cleanse our souls, it’s also the necessary step in allowing our external life to shine brightly with the light of God’s grace.

Lord, I want to become holy.  I want to be cleansed through and through.  Help me to see my soul as You see it and to allow Your grace and mercy to cleanse me in the ways that I need to be cleansed.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Prayers to our Blessed Mother

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Image: The Chief Priests Ask Jesus by What Right Does He Act in This Way by James Tissot