“Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” Matthew 10:8b
What is it that we have received “without cost?” Well, we have received every good thing for free. It’s true! All that is good is a gift from God. And it’s a free gift from Him. There is nothing we can do to earn His blessings in our lives. Do you believe that?
The above Scripture quote is part of Jesus’ exhortation to His Twelve Apostles as He sends them out to preach, heal and cast out demons in His name. He reminds them that all they have received from Him is a free gift and that they must, in turn, give the Gospel free of charge to everyone.
Advent is a time when we should especially focus upon the coming celebration of the Gift of Christmas. Christmas is a time when we give and receive gifts, but it’s important to understand the difference between a “gift” and a “present.” A present is something that is expected. For example, your spouse or child expects a present on their birthday or on Christmas. But a gift is something that is much more. A gift is something that is freely given, unearned and undeserved. It’s given out of love with no strings attached. This is what the Incarnation is all about.
Advent must be a time when we ponder the truth that God came to Earth to give us Himself in an unmerited and free way. His life is a totally free Gift to us and is the greatest Gift we have ever received. In turn, Advent must be a time when we also reflect upon our calling to bring the Gift of Christ Jesus to others.
Reflect, today, upon the giving and receiving of Jesus in your life. Let your heart be filled with gratitude this Advent so that you, in turn, can give the Gift of Jesus to others.
Lord, thank You for the Gift of Your life. Thank You for coming to Earth to enter into my life. Thank You for the joy of knowing You and loving You. May I allow this joy to so transform my life that I may continually seek to give You to others. Jesus, I trust in You.
“Let it be done for you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread word of him through all that land. Matthew 9:29b–31
This statement from Jesus is directed to two blind men who come to Him, beg for mercy and healing, believe in faith that Jesus will heal, and then are healed. But what’s quite fascinating is that Jesus tells them not to speak about their healing to others. Why would He say this?
First of all, the request of Jesus would have been impossible to follow. Everyone who knew these blind men would have known they were blind. And then, out of the blue, they could see. How could such a thing be contained?
Jesus most certainly knew that they could not contain such a miracle but, nonetheless, spoke these words to these men. To understand why Jesus said this we must understand the motive He had for healing them.
Jesus’ healing of these men was done purely out of love for them. They cried out for mercy and Jesus wanted to offer mercy. He did not do it as a way of gaining public praise or notoriety. He did it out of love for these blind men.
He also did this miracle to teach that He can heal the blindness of our hearts. He wanted these men to come to faith in Him and “see” Him for who He was. Therefore, this miracle was something deeply personal and was done out of concern for these two men to strengthen their faith.
What’s interesting to note, however, is that these men could not contain the joy they had at receiving this gift from our Lord. They had to cry out in gratitude and share their story. We can be certain that Jesus was not offended at this but saw it as a necessary result of their faith.
How about you? Do you see God at work in your life and then seek to spread the joy of His work in your life? Do you regularly witness to His action and healing? Do you seek to allow others to see all that God has done for you?
Reflect, today, upon the joy in the hearts of these blind men at their healing. And ponder your own joy at God’s activity in your life. If your joy is not overflowing, perhaps it’s a good day to ask the Lord, with a deep faith, to help you see!
Lord, do help me to see and help me to share the joy of seeing You with others. May that joy flow from my life for all to see. Jesus, I trust in You.
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.” Matthew 7:24–25
Perhaps one of the hardest things to do in life is to listen. Are you a good listener? Do you know how to listen? Most likely this is a struggle for you since it is a struggle for most people.
Listening is more than hearing. Listening implies that one hears AND comprehends. Furthermore, in this Scripture passage, Jesus makes it clear that “listening” is not enough. Once we’ve listened (heard and understood), we must act. Acting on the Word of God involves a total embrace and surrender to His Word and will. It means you allow the Word of God to dictate your actions and to set your feet “solidly on rock.”
The imagery Jesus uses is quite descriptive. A house built on sand is very different than a house built on solid rock. One can only imagine the problems that await a house built on sand. Every storm that comes will cause great anxiety and worry. Fear will always be present as the sandy foundation slowly erodes away. But if the house is on solid rock, there is great confidence in the midst of a storm.
Reflect, today, upon the foundation of your life. Advent is a time when we examine whether or not the foundation of our life is Jesus. He entered our world and took on flesh so that He could be that rock foundation. And the path to that rock foundation is to listen, comprehend and act. Set your “house” on Him in this way and no storm will erode the foundation of your life.
Lord, may your human life become the foundation of my life. May my life be built upon You who are the Rock Foundation. Jesus, I trust in You.
Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.” Matthew 15:32
The first thing this passage reveals could easily be missed. It reveals Jesus’ deep concern for the crowds of people. He not only cared for their souls, He also cared for their bodies in that He did not want them to go away hungry. This reveals Jesus’ total care for His followers.
We know the rest of the story. Jesus multiplies the loaves and fish and feeds the multitude. And though this is an incredible miracle on a physical level, it is just as miraculous on a personal and spiritual level.
Personally speaking, the miracle is that God, the Almighty, the Omnipotent One is deeply concerned about the small detail of feeding the crowd their next meal. This reveals that God is not only concerned for our eternal salvation, He is also concerned about our daily needs.
Note that the passage quotes Jesus as saying, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd…” And “I do not want to send them away hungry…” This very personal and human concern of Jesus should offer us great comfort in knowing that His care is deep and exhaustive.
The concern Jesus has for the physical need of food for His followers also points to His spiritual concern for His followers’ souls. If He cares this much about the body, He cares all the more for the soul and deeply desires to nourish their souls with the food of eternal life.
Reflect, today, upon Jesus’ deep and all-consuming care for you. Know that there is no detail of your life that escapes His notice. Though that may be hard to believe at times, know that it is absolutely true! Surrender all to Him in trust and know that He is there to reach out to you in your every need.
Lord, thank You for Your unfailing and perfect concern for every detail of my life. Thank You for Your perfect attentiveness to my needs. May I always trust in Your perfect care for me and surrender to Your loving providence. Jesus, I trust in You.
As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ”Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:18–20
What a wonderful feast we celebrate today as we begin our Advent season. Today we honor St. Andrew the Apostle who gives us a perfect example of how to begin our Advent celebration.
This passage above reveals a lot for us to ponder. Andrew, along with his brother Peter, was a fisherman. Both of these fishermen were hard at work when suddenly this stranger, Jesus, walked by them and called to them. They immediately left their livelihood and followed after Jesus.
Don’t miss what happened here. Specifically, there are two things that happened: 1) Jesus walked by these two fishermen and said, “Come after me.” 2) In response, these two men immediately “left their nets and followed Him.”
This story of the call of St. Andrew is quite appropriate for the beginning of Advent, because Advent must be a time when we hear Jesus call us anew. It must be a new beginning and a new conversion for us. As Advent begins, we should hear Jesus call to us, “Come after Me!” We should hear Him invite us with an invitation to give ourselves completely to His divine plan and purpose. Listen to Him. Do you hear Him calling?
Our response, at the beginning of Advent, must be the same as St. Andrew. We must, without hesitation, leave everything to follow Him. What exactly does that mean? It means that we must let go of anything and everything that keeps us from responding to Christ. It means we must be ready and willing to do whatever Jesus asks of us. And we must be ready to do it the moment He asks.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that Advent is a time to start anew. It’s a time to let yourself be called to Christ. Listen to Him calling you and respond to Him with your whole heart.
Lord, I love You above all things. Help me to hear Your gentle yet firm voice calling me to follow You. Give me the courage I need to respond to Your gentle invitation with complete abandonment. May this Advent be a time of new beginnings and deeper resolve to follow You. Jesus, I trust in You.
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” Mt. 8:8
This familiar line is taken from the faith of a Roman centurion. He asked Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus agrees to come cure him, and the centurion exclaims this profound faith in Jesus stating two things: 1) He’s not worthy of Jesus’ presence in his home and, 2) His confidence that Jesus can heal his servant simply by saying the word.
Jesus, of course, is quite impressed with this man’s faith and obliges him with the physical healing of his servant from a distance. But Jesus does much more than a healing. He also holds this man up as a model of faith for all.
This beautiful statement of faith from the centurion is used within the Mass to speak of two matters of faith in regard to the Eucharist: 1) We are not worthy to receive Holy Communion and, 2) We invite Jesus anyway to come and heal our souls.
Advent is a time when we especially ponder the great mystery of the Incarnation. It’s a time when we especially ponder the mystery of God coming and dwelling with us in physical form. Though this happened over two thousand years ago, it continues to take place at each and every Mass. And at each and every Mass we are called to express the same faith as this Roman centurion.
Reflect, today, upon your faith in the coming of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist. Each Mass is a manifestation of the God-Man who came to live among us and live within us. If we but have the faith of this centurion, we, too, will be blessed by our God beyond measure.
Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief. Help me to see my unworthiness each time I prepare for Holy Communion. And in that humble admission, may I also invite Your healing presence in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Advent begins with a call to vigilance as reflected in the passage above. There are numerous Scripture passages that call us to this vigilance and anticipation of the Lord’s coming. Being vigilant means, also, that we are prepared. We are not caught off guard. Imagine if Christmas morning came and you woke up suddenly realizing that you forgot to prepare! Imagine if you had no gifts, no food purchased and no plans were made. Of course you wouldn’t allow that to happen, but we do sometimes allow it to happen spiritually speaking. We often are not prepared to celebrate the birth of Christ within our hearts.
The first week of Advent also offers the focus of the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus will return again, in all splendor and glory, to judge the living and the dead. We profess that fact every Sunday in our Creed. So, even though Advent is a time for the preparation of the celebration of the first coming of Jesus in the flesh, it is also a time to acknowledge that His first coming is ultimately fulfilled in His final glorious coming.
As Advent begins, reflect upon how ready you are for Jesus’ coming. Are you preparing for it with the same fervor that you prepare for Christmas through shopping, cooking, decorating, etc.? Are you looking forward to that day when He will return? Are you preparing for the spiritual celebration of His birth? Are you awake and attentive to the numerous ways that God speaks to you on a daily basis?
If you find that you are not as prepared for His return in glory as you’d like to be, make this Advent a time when you get your heart ready. Commit to prayer, spiritual exercises, reflection and attentiveness to His gentle and glorious voice.
Lord, as Advent begins, help me to put my eyes on You. Help me to open my ears to Your voice. And help me to open my heart to Your glorious presence. May I be attentive to You in every way You desire to come to me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.” Luke 21:36
This is the final day of the liturgical year. Tomorrow begins Advent and the beginning of a new Church year. On this day, we are once again presented with a Gospel passage that points to the final coming of Christ. In preparation for that day, the day in which we meet our Lord for judgment, Jesus points to two grave dangers that will cause our hearts to become “drowsy” and leave us unprepared. First, He says that “carousing and drunkenness” will make us unprepared. Second, He says that “the anxieties of daily life” will also leave us unprepared.
On a literal level, carousing and drunkenness means a person relies upon alcohol for satisfaction in life, and they do so by using it to live a lively and somewhat carefree life. They live for the moment and look for satisfaction in self-indulgence. And though drunkenness is specifically mentioned here, there are numerous ways that people attempt to live this way.
Everyone wants to be happy in life. We cannot not work to achieve this innate desire. No one intentionally chooses to be unhappy. However, many people regularly choose things in life that do lead to unhappiness and discontentment. But they do so with the false conviction that this or that action will satisfy. And though there are many things that provide temporary or superficial “happiness,” the truth is that there is only one thing and one thing alone that provides the happiness and fulfillment we desire. That one thing is the presence of God alive within our souls.
The “anxieties of daily life” are also a great burden to so many. No one intentionally chooses to be anxious. No one wants to experience this form of interior disturbance. And though anxiety can come from many sources, physical, psychological and spiritual, one primary source of anxiety is stress that is not dealt with in a proper way. Stress can come from tensions at work, at home or within one’s own soul. Stress usually occurs when some difficulty is faced and reacted to with fear, confusion, anger, despair and the like. According to Jesus, giving in to these anxieties can leave a person unprepared for the day of their judgment at the end of their life or the end of the world. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Stress and tension, and the anxiety that results from them, is most decisively cured by turning from the difficulty one experiences and turning to a deep and total trust in the providence of God. At Mass, the priest prays after the “Our Father” that God “free us from all distress” and that we will instead “await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.” Faith and hope in God and in His final coming at the end of time is the spiritual cure for the anxiety and distress we often experience in life. Trusting in our Lord, with the utmost confidence, will enable us to achieve this peaceful disposition and with joyful hope and confidence.
Reflect, today, upon those things that hinder you the most from being ready to meet our Lord. Perhaps you struggle with ongoing choices that reflect a life of “carousing and drunkenness.” Or perhaps you struggle deeply with worry, distress and anxiety. If this is you, know that freedom awaits. It awaits you if you can only embrace and live the final prayer of this reflection: “Jesus, I trust in You.” Trust Him. Entrust your poor decisions in life to Him. Entrust your sin to Him. And entrust all of your worries and tensions that lead to an unsettled heart. As you do so, try to rest in the consoling arms of our Lord so that you will be fully prepared for that glorious day of our Lord’s judgment that awaits.
My hopeful Lord, You and You alone are the answer to every struggle in life. You and You alone can relieve me of my burdens and the poor choices I make. Help me to trust in You always and in every circumstance in life. I do entrust myself to You and choose to make You the single focus of my life. Jesus, I do trust in You!
“Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Luke 21:32–33
As we approach the final days of this liturgical year, we continue to read about the end of the world. Today we read that both Heaven and earth, as they currently are, will pass away. This is worth pondering.
We know that life is full of change. It has been said that the one thing that never changes is change itself. Everything else changes. But when it comes to earth, it is hard to believe that it will one day “pass away.” Some scientists believe that the earth has existed for over four and a half billion years. That’s a long time! Now consider the fact that Jesus prophesied the end of this earth as we know it today. When will it happen? Only God knows.
Heaven, as it exists today, is also prophesied by our Lord to pass away. Heaven, as it is right now, is a pure spiritual reality in which the only corporeal bodies present are those of Jesus and our Blessed Mother. The rest of Heaven consists of the Divine Essence, the souls of those who have been redeemed and the angels of God. But if Heaven even passes away, what awaits?
First of all, the only reason that these two realities, Heaven and earth, will pass away in their current form is because, at the Final Judgment, there will be a “New Heavens and a New Earth,” as spoken of in the Book of Revelation. At that time, Heaven and earth will be united as one, and this new creation will exist for eternity.
But is there anything that is currently eternal? Anything that will never experience change? We humans will be changed at the resurrection of the dead, the angels will encounter a new home, so to speak, and God will establish a new and permanent Kingship. But, according to Jesus’ teaching today, the one thing that will remain are His words: “…my words will not pass away.” Again, this is worth pondering.
In a world filled with change and uncertainty, we need some form of stability. And that stability is the Truth found in the Word of God. The Word of God, as revealed to us through the Scriptures, must become our rock foundation upon which our whole lives are built and exist. Pondering, praying with, meditating on, and believing the Word of God enables us to stand on firm and unchanging spiritual ground as we go through the change of this life and even the changes that will come at the end of time. Though this may seem somewhat mysterious in nature, it is a helpful truth to understand and believe. Everything will pass away except Jesus’ words. Thus, the most secure thing we can do in life is to cling to His words and never let go.
Reflect, today, upon the importance of truly immersing yourself in the Word of God. How much time do you spend each week reading it, praying with it and allowing it to become your daily food? The Word of God is not simply a book of teachings meant to inspire you or guide you. The Word of God is a Living Word. It is God in His unchangeable form. God, in His essence, will never change, and engaging Him through the revelation of His written Word is one essential way by which you will be able to experience true stability in life and prepare for each and every change to come until the final order of life is permanently established.
My Eternal Word, You are unchanging and eternal. You are the rock foundation upon which I must always rely. As I continue to experience the many changes encountered in this life, please enter my soul through Your written Word, so that I will find the stability I need. As I stand firm in You, I look forward with joy to the New Heavens and New Earth that await. Jesus, I trust in You.
“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” Luke 17:17–19
He was saved by faith through the expression of gratitude! What a wonderful story to ponder today as we celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving!
Though Thanksgiving Day is not specifically a Church holy day, gratitude is certainly central to our Christian faith, as is illustrated by today’s Gospel in which ten lepers were healed by Jesus. And their communal reaction is something of which to take note. Nine of them were healed and went about their business, not returning to the source of their healing to thank Him. But one did. This one leper, who was suddenly no longer a leper, returned to Jesus, glorified Him, fell at His feet and thanked Him. This one leper was a foreigner, a Samaritan, but he manifested a faith that we must all strive to imitate. The faith of this Samaritan was evident by the fact that he knew he needed to not only be grateful for the grace of healing but that he also needed to express it.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we are reminded that of all the things for which we must be grateful, nothing is more important than our gratitude to God for the immeasurable graces He has given us. But as the story goes, it is clearly very easy to overlook the importance of our response to God’s blessings. Only ten percent of the lepers responded with such an expression. Therefore, it is helpful today to examine the many reasons we should be thankful and should work to express that gratitude to God.
First, God created us out of love. This is no small gift. It is the first gift He has given us and one we often take for granted. God did not need to create us. He did not need to create you. But He did. And the gift of life, the gift of an immortal soul, is something that we must never overlook and always rejoice in.
Second, God entered our fallen state through the Incarnation within the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Doing so elevated our fallen human nature to a height never known before. Humanity and divinity were united in the Person of the Incarnate Son of God and Son of Man, and we must be grateful for this unmerited and awe-inspiring gift.
Third, we know the rest of the story. God, in the Person of the Incarnate Son, suffered, died and rose again. In so doing, He made it possible for every sin of ours to be wiped away. As we die with Him, we are invited to rise with Him. And as we rise with Him, we are invited to share in His glory in Heaven.
Lastly, in each and every life, there are countless graces given to us every day. But as spoiled children, we often overlook these blessings and take them for granted. Examples here do not suffice. It is essential that if you want to have a grateful heart that you learn to see these blessings in your own life. Too often we focus on our struggles and pain. But the blessings are abundant, and the more we turn to our Lord in total surrender, the more the blessings flow.
Reflect, today, upon the attitude that you have toward the many blessings God has bestowed upon you. Begin by considering the central blessings of God’s creation and His saving acts of love. From there, try to ponder the many small ways that God has been with you, guided you, strengthened you, and blessed you abundantly. If you do not see these clearly, then use this day to consciously listen so that God can reveal them to you. As you see your blessings, respond as this one leper. Turn to Jesus, glorify Him, fall at His feet in prayer and thank Him. Doing so will fill you with the same saving faith granted to this one leper.
My most generous Lord, You have bestowed upon me blessings beyond my imagination. I realize that I will never fully understand how good You have been to me and will never be able to express my gratitude adequately enough. Please do fill me with a grateful heart. Help me to see Your action in my life and to respond to You as this one leper. Jesus, I trust in You.