The “Gift” of Being Persecuted June 18, 2024


Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
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Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” Matthew 5:43–45

Jesus continues to deepen and clarify His call to His new command to love of others. The love to which He calls us is radical, total, and can be very challenging at first. He calls us to move far beyond the Old Testament understanding of justice by commanding that we love everyone, including those who persecute us. This call to love is not an option but a command. It’s a requirement for every Christian.

In implementing this command, Jesus gives us not only the command itself but also offers some very practical advice on how we can achieve this depth of love. He says that we should not only love our enemies but that we should pray for them when they persecute us. First of all, an “enemy” is one who tries to inflict some form of harm on us and, generally speaking, sins against us. The common response to these experiences is to defend ourselves and fight back. So the first step is to reject any such temptation. As Jesus said in the Gospel passage prior to this one, “offer no resistance to one who is evil.”

Today’s Gospel passage takes us even further. The practical advice our Lord gives is to “pray for those who persecute you.” This command not only requires that you reject the temptation to “get back” at a person or even to simply “resist” what they do to us. You must now pray for them. Praying for someone who sins against you is an act of the greatest charity and generosity. And it’s a very practical way to imitate the abundant mercy of God. For that reason, praying for your persecutors radically transforms you interiorly and makes you holy. In a sense, the evil another does to you has the potential to be transformed into a gift given to you, because it gives you an opportunity to return prayer for an injury inflicted. And that is a very real and practical gift we must embrace by this new command of our Lord.

Reflect, today, upon those for whom this new commandment calls you to pray. Whose sin has inflicted some hurt or injury upon you or your family? Who do you hold a grudge toward? Whoever comes to mind, commit yourself to deep and sustained prayer for that person. Pray often for them and continue that prayer for as long as the persecution continues. Doing so will transform any and every attempted malice issued toward you into grace for them and holiness for you.

My Lord of abundant mercy, Your command to pray for those who persecute me was first lived by You to perfection. You prayed for those who crucified You as You hung upon the Cross. Give me the grace I need to not only forgive but to also pray for those who have and continue to try to inflict harm upon me. Give me a heart so filled with mercy that every sin committed against me is transformed into love and my own holiness of life. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

 

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A New Depth of Mercy June 17, 2024


Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
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Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.” Matthew 5:41–42

As the faith of Israel developed over the centuries, prior to the coming of Christ, there were various stages of advancement in morality. Prior to the establishment of moral laws in the Old Testament, it was common for families to inflict severe vengeance upon other families when harm was done to them. This caused ongoing violence and feuds. But advancements were made when the law of retaliation was established which said, “When a man causes a disfigurement in his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has disfigured a man, he shall be disfigured” (Leviticus 24:19–20). This was a new form of justice that forbade the vengeance from being more severe than the crime that was retaliated against. At the time, this helped end ongoing family feuds that continually escalated.

It is this law of retaliation that Jesus addresses in our Gospel today. The new and much higher form of morality that Jesus taught called His disciples to “offer no resistance to one who is evil” and to turn the other cheek when evil was done to them. Though strict justice requires satisfaction for sin, Jesus’ new teaching was that mercy pays every debt. First, His mercy bestowed upon us, for the forgiveness of our sins, pays the debt of our sins when we truly repent and change. But if we desire our debts to God for our sins to be forgiven and repaid, then we must do the same to others, holding nothing against them.

But Jesus goes even further. In the passage quoted above, Jesus exhorts His disciples to a new and radical form of charity and generosity. This new moral code was how the children of the Kingdom of God were now called to act. It was not enough to only forgive and to forget the debt one owes you because of their sin. Mercy now requires us to “Give to the one who asks” and to walk “two miles” with one who only asks you to walk one mile with them. In other words, Christian charity far exceeds every concept of strict justice and even goes beyond basic forgiveness. This was certainly a new and radical teaching from our Lord.

Think about this new moral law in your own life. What level of “justice” do you most commonly live by? When someone wrongs you, do you live like those prior to the Old Testament laws by seeking to get back at them to an even greater degree than the harm done to you? Do you live by the law that seeks the equal justice of an eye for an eye? Do you seek to forgive and offer mercy as a payment for the debt another has incurred by the sin they have committed against you? Or, ideally, do you strive to go even beyond the act of forgiveness and bestow mercy in a new and generous, superabundant way? This last level of love is difficult to obtain and live, but it is the way our Lord treats us and it is the way that He calls us to treat others.

Reflect, today, upon any hurt you may currently be struggling with. And consider the way in which you have been dealing with that hurt. As you seek to understand this new law of love and mercy given by our Lord, pray to Him that He will give you the grace you need to give to others the same level of mercy that God gives to you.

My generous Lord, You offer Your mercy in superabundance. You not only forgive when we repent, You also restore us to far greater heights of holiness than we could ever deserve. Give me the grace I need, dear Lord, to offer this same level of mercy and love to those who have sinned against me. I forgive all who have hurt me. Please help me to also love them with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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The Mysteries of the Kingdom June 16, 2024


Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
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With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private. Mark 4:33–34

The deepest mysteries of our faith can only be understood by someone who has deep faith. Understanding requires much more than just a keen intellect; it also requires an interior attentiveness to and familiarity with the voice of God. For that reason, as Jesus spoke to the crowds, He used parables and figures of speech rather than speaking directly about the mysteries of Heaven.

By analogy, if you were to attend a very special feast and you had well-formed taste buds, you might enjoy being served the best cut of meat cooked to perfection with a fine glass of wine. But to a small child, such a meal might not be that appealing. The same is true with music. If you were a musician who studied and played music throughout life, then you might have a greater appreciation for certain types of music. Others might simply be drawn to a certain type of music by the beat or because it has catchy lyrics.

In a similar way, a person who has only a little faith might not be immediately drawn into the deepest mystical truths of God when they are explained directly and clearly. Instead, they might find that a simplified Gospel message that uses familiar imagery or stories is better able to catch their attention and communicate the message.

This is good for us to understand because it’s good for us to turn to the means of communication with God most suited for our depth of faith and understanding. For most people, it will be very useful to see themselves as one of those people in the crowds to whom Jesus spoke His parables. We should especially see ourselves as a part of the crowds as we begin our journey of faith. However, when a person has spent much time in prayer and meditation over the years and their faith begins to deepen, they may find that parables and stories are not as inspiring as they once were. They need more. They long for God to speak to them more clearly and deeply.

Practically speaking, as your faith grows, it is good to look for the deeper ways that God speaks to you. How does He come to you and explain His will and the truths of faith more directly as Jesus did to the Apostles? Perhaps reading the lives of the saints, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or some other spiritual book will engage you more deeply. Also, some Scripture passages may feed you more as you grow in faith, such as the passages where Jesus speaks more directly to His disciples.

Reflect, today, upon the way that you are most fully fed by God’s holy Word at this point in your life. The best way to identify this is to consider what it is that has given you the most consolation and inspiration as of late. How has God’s Word most powerfully resonated within you over this past year? Identifying the way that God has spoken to you recently is the best way to decide how to continue to receive from Him all that He wants to teach you and reveal to you at this point of your journey of faith. Continue to seek out God’s voice, and be open to letting Him draw you ever more deeply into the beautiful depths of the mysteries of His Kingdom.

Glorious Word of God, You choose to speak to Your people in varied ways. To some, You speak through parables and figures of speech. To others, You speak more directly and intimately, revealing the depths of Your Heart. Please speak to me in the ways that will deepen my faith so that I can continue my journey into the many mysteries You wish to reveal. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 


 

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Daily Sincerity and Honesty June 15, 2024


Saturday of the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time
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Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all…” Matthew 5:33–34

The purpose of an oath was to guarantee the truthfulness of the statement made. Sometimes this can be very good. For example, many of the Sacraments involve making a public vow before God and the Church. In these cases, the vow is a form of oath that is solemnized so as to invite the grace of God to enter and strengthen it. It becomes a way of making a public witness to one’s faith and an expression of one’s need for God’s grace to be faithful to the promise that is made.

Jesus is not speaking about these forms of public vows, oaths and promises in the Gospel today. Instead, He is addressing a practice that some engaged in, whereby they regularly swore on God’s name about the truthfulness of what they were saying. The problem with this is that it takes something solemn and sacred and carelessly turns it into something ordinary. There is no need to “swear to God” about everything one says.

First of all, if one feels a need to call on God’s name regularly so as to convince another of the truthfulness of their statements, then it is most likely the case that they do so because they are struggling with dishonesty. Oath-taking on a regular basis seems to presuppose a human tendency to lie. For that reason, it is not ideal to go about one’s daily interactions with this presupposition. Instead, as Christians we must strive for a fundamental disposition of truthfulness. Jesus concludes this Gospel teaching by saying, “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the Evil One.” In other words, work to become a person of true honesty and integrity. Be sincere in all of your dealings, and do not begin with a presupposition of dishonesty. Begin with the intention of complete honesty and sincerity, and that will suffice.

Furthermore, if one were to go about their day making one oath after another, swearing on God’s name to the truthfulness every time, this would have the effect of lessening the solemnity of those few times when this is a good and holy practice. Making public vows, such as marriage vows, or public promises, such as priests make, are unique and solemn. Publicly renewing our faith within the Church, taking an oath as one begins the responsibility of some public office, or any other more solemn opportunity for oath-taking should be seen as a special occasion. Therefore, our daily commitments must simply be the fruit of our honesty and integrity as persons.

Reflect, today, upon your own daily approach to honesty and sincerity. Do you go about your day with the goal of living in the truth, speaking the truth and seeking the truth? Are you honest with others, seeking good and clear communication with them? Ponder these questions and know that interior integrity requires these virtues of honesty and sincerity. Seek that integrity and others will benefit as they grow to trust you each and every day.

Lord, You are the source of all truth, and You are Truth Itself. Please help me to become a daily instrument of that Truth in all that I say and do. I choose You and Your holy will always, and I choose to be Your instrument for all to see. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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The Love of Friendship June 14, 2024


Friday of the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time
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If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna. Matthew 5:29–30

This imagery of tearing out your eye and cutting off your hand is clearly meant to get our attention. Though we can be certain that Jesus is not actually suggesting we mutilate our bodies, we should not hesitate to prayerfully ponder this imagery so as to understand the truths Jesus is speaking.

Saint Augustine, in reflecting upon this passage, states: “By the eye we must understand our most cherished friend…” Augustine further points out that Jesus specifically mentions the “right eye” as a way of denoting those friendships that have a “higher degree of affection” (Serm. in Mont. i. 13.). Thus, although friendship—especially very close friendship—is a gift, sometimes those close to us can become a source of sin or an occasion of sin. In that case, they are not truly friends, and it might be better to limit or even end that relationship rather than to allow it to lead us into sin.

Think about the people in your own life. Though we must love all people with the love of God, friendship is more than love. Friendship establishes a special bond with another and opens you up to their presence and influence in your life. When you establish a friendship, you allow another a certain influence in your life. When that influence is good, then the friendship produces much good fruit. But when that influence is evil, then that friendship becomes a danger to the good of your soul. In that case, it may need to be torn out or cut off so that you are not drawn into serious sin or even the occasion of sin.

When a friend in your life becomes an occasion of sin to you, your love for them must remain, but it must also change. Love, in this case, may take on the form of a loving rebuke, a withdrawal of your own heart, or a limiting of your interactions. But this is love. By analogy, when a person sins against God, their relationship with God also changes. God withdraws His friendship. He is less present to the person, and their internal communion diminishes or even ends when the sin is serious. This is not a lack of love on God’s part; it is simply the effect of sin. So also in our relations with another, when the grace of God is not mutually given and received between two people, then friendship in the truest sense is not possible. True friendship is always centered in God’s grace and dependent upon it. Therefore, when God is excluded from a relationship, that relationship must change from a true friendship to a relationship that imitates God’s love for a sinner. Mercy, compassion and forgiveness must continually be offered, but interior communion and unity will end. But this is love.

Reflect, today, upon those in your life whom God has given you to love. First, reflect upon those relationships that do have God at the center. These relationships will become true friendships and will produce an abundance of good fruit in your life. Rejoice in these friendships and give thanks to God for them. Second, reflect upon any relationship that does not bear good fruit. As you do, prayerfully consider how you approach that relationship. Do you attempt to maintain a “friendship” even though God is not able to be the center of that relationship? If so, ponder how God is calling you to change that relationship so that it more fully reflects the love God has for you and for that other person in your life.

My Lord and true Friend, I thank You for loving me with a perfect love. I pray that I will always be open to that love so that my unity with You will ever deepen. I also pray that I will be an instrument of Your love to others. Please give me the grace to love everyone in my life in the way that You love them, nothing less and nothing more. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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The Burden of Anger June 13, 2024

 

Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the Church

Readings for Today
Readings for Thursday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

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“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” Matthew 5:21–22

The passage quoted above gives us three deepening levels of sin that we commit against another. These sins were new teachings not contained in the Old Testament. By this teaching, Jesus’ call to radical holiness and love of neighbor is made very clear.

The first level of sin is simply to be “angry” interiorly. The sin of anger is an interior attitude of disgust toward another. Jesus says that the consequence of having anger toward another is that you will be “liable to judgment.” The second level of sin is when you say to another “Raqa.” This Aramaic word is difficult to translate but would include some form of expression of one’s anger toward another. It would be a derogatory way of saying to another that they are unintelligent or inferior. The third level of sin Jesus identifies is when you call another “fool.” This word is an even stronger expression of Raqa and would be a verbal criticism of them, indicating that the person is a lost soul in a moral sense. It’s a strong moral condemnation of another that is expressed.

So, do you struggle with anger? Jesus’ calling to freedom from all levels of this sin is a high one. There are many times in life when our passion of anger is stirred up for one reason or another, and that passion leads to one of these levels of sin. It’s a common temptation to want to condemn another with whom you are angry in the strongest way possible.

It’s important to understand that this new teaching of Jesus is truly not a burden when understood and embraced. At first, it can seem that these laws of our Lord against anger are negative. That’s because lashing out at another gives a false sense of satisfaction, and these commands of our Lord, in a sense, “rob” us of that satisfaction. It can be a depressing thought to think about the moral obligation to forgive to the point that disordered anger disappears. But is it depressing? Is this law of our Lord a burden?

The deep truth is that what Jesus teaches us in this passage is, in many ways, more for our own good than that of others. Our anger toward another, be it interior, verbally critical or all-out condemning, can be hurtful toward the person with whom we are angry, but the damage these forms of anger do is far worse for us than them. Being angry, even interiorly, even if we put on a happy face, does great damage to our soul and our ability to be united to God. For that reason, it is not this new law of our Lord regarding anger that is the burden, it is the anger itself that is a heavy burden and a burden from which Jesus wants you free.

Reflect, today, upon the sin of anger. As you do, try to see your disordered anger as the real enemy rather than the person with whom you are angry. Pray to our Lord to free you from this enemy of the soul and seek the freedom that He wants to bestow.

My merciful Lord, You call us to perfect freedom from all that burdens us. Anger burdens us. Help me to see the burden that my anger imposes upon me and help me to seek true freedom through the act of forgiveness and reconciliation. Please forgive me, dear Lord, as I forgive all who have hurt me. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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The New Law of Grace June 12, 2024

Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
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Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” Matthew 5:17–18

The law and the prophets, as found in the Old Testament, consists of three types. First, there are the moral laws, such as the Ten Commandments, that are primarily based on the natural law of God. By “natural law,” we mean that our human reason can understand their truthfulness, such as with “Thou shall not kill, steal, etc.” Second, there were many liturgical precepts that were laid down and practiced as a preparation for and prefiguration of their ultimate liturgical fulfillment. The fulfillment is now found in the sacramental life of the Church. Third, there were various legal precepts that gave specific directions on daily living. These laws include instructions on food, relations with others, how to treat foreigners, cleansings, purifications of utensils, tithing, and much more.

In our Gospel today, Jesus essentially says two things. First, regarding the legal and liturgical precepts, He says that He came to “fulfill” them. Thus, Christians are no longer bound by these Old Testament legal and liturgical laws, in that we are now called to a much higher fulfillment of them all. But as for the moral laws, especially those found in the Ten Commandments, not a single precept taught is abolished. Instead, these Commandments are deepened, and the call to moral perfection is now much clearer. It is for this reason that Jesus goes on to say, “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

It’s important to understand that those who lived before the time of Christ were not held to the same standard as we are today. That’s because they did not enjoy the gift of grace that was won by the Cross and is bestowed by the Holy Spirit. Today, we have so much more and, for that reason, are called to a much greater life of holiness. For example, we no longer celebrate the Passover as a mere remembrance of what God did by setting the Israelites free from slavery to the Egyptians. Today, we celebrate the New Passover through our participation in the Holy Eucharist, and our “remembrance” goes beyond the simple recalling of a memory of old. Our remembrance is one that enables us to actually participate in the saving sacrifice of Christ. We share in the actual event and are partakers of the grace won on the Cross each time we celebrate the Holy Mass. And as for the moral laws of the Old Testament, they become the bottom line of morality. The upper limit is now much higher. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We are to lay down our lives for others and take up our crosses daily to follow Jesus. We are called to the perfection of sacrificial love, and that is only possible by our sharing in the very life, death and resurrection of Christ our Lord.

Reflect, today, upon the very high calling you have been given by our Lord. It’s not enough to simply do the bare minimum in our worship and moral life. Doing so may permit you to be “least in the Kingdom of heaven,” but God wants you to share in His greatness. He calls you to be among the “greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” Do you understand your high calling? Do you have the perfection of holiness as your goal? Commit yourself to the full participation in the New Law of Christ and you will be eternally grateful that you did.

My most glorious Lord, You came to bring our lives to the fullness of grace and holiness. You call us to the heights of Heaven. Help me to see my high calling, dear Lord, and to work diligently to embrace all that You now command by Your New Law of grace and mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Saint Barnabas the Apostle. June 11, 2024

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June 11: Saint Barnabas the Apostle—Memorial

Early First Century–c. 61
Patron Saint of Cyprus, Antioch, and peacekeeping missions
Invoked against hailstorms
Pre-Congregation canonization
Liturgical Color: Red
Version: FullShort

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Quote:
The news about them reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch.When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the holy Spirit and faith. And a large number of people was added to the Lord. Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. ~Acts 11:22–26

Reflection: Saint Barnabas, originally named Joseph, was born on the isle of Cyprus and was a Jew of the tribe of Levi (see Acts 4:36). Nothing else is known about his early life. During Jesus’ public ministry, Joseph became His fervent follower and might have been one of the seventy-two disciples whom Jesus sent out on a mission (see Luke 10:1–24). After Pentecost, as the Church in Jerusalem began to grow, the Apostles changed Joseph’s name to Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” His name change might have occurred because Barnabas supported the Church when he “sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the apostles” (Acts 4:37). This is the first mention of Barnabas in the New Testament.

Three years later, after Saint Paul had undergone his conversion to the Christian faith and spent three years fasting and praying in Arabia, he traveled to Jerusalem to consult with the Apostles. The Apostles and the Christian community were at first hesitant to receive him, for they were aware of the persecutions he had issued against the Church. Barnabas, however, “brought him to the apostles, and he reported to them how on the way he had seen the Lord and that he had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27). After spending a short period of time in Jerusalem, Saint Paul returned to his hometown of Tarsus to avoid persecution. He remained in Tarsus for the next several years.

During that time, some of the Christians who left Jerusalem after the martyrdom of Saint Stephen traveled north to Antioch in Syria, where many Greek Gentiles lived. In Antioch, the Greek-speaking Christians began to preach the Word of God to the Gentiles. As a result, many of the Gentiles converted and accepted the faith. When the Apostles in Jerusalem heard about this, they sent Barnabas to minister to these new converts. Barnabas was so impressed that he went to find Saint Paul in Tarsus and brought him back to Antioch to help share the Good News. It was there, in Antioch, that the word “Christian” was first used, perhaps because the new converts were Gentiles who converted not to the Jewish faith, but directly to Christ.

After a year in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem on a relief mission to assist those suffering from a famine. They brought with them money that was raised among the Christians in Antioch. After returning to Antioch, the Holy Spirit revealed to the Christian community that Paul and Barnabas were to be “set apart” for a special mission. The two were then ordained as bishops and sent forth on a mission, bringing with them Barnabas’ relative, John Mark, the Gospel writer. Over the next year, they traveled to Seleucia, Cyprus, Salamis, Paphos, Perga of Pamphylia, Antioch of Pisidia, Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, and back to Antioch, Syria. During this journey, they won many converts; some Greeks even tried to worship the two as gods. They also encountered opposition, including an unsuccessful attempt to kill Paul by stoning. The two later returned to Jerusalem to help settle disputes about Gentile converts before being sent off on another mission. Before the second journey, Barnabas and Paul disagreed about John Mark’s involvement in the mission, since John Mark had previously abandoned them for an unknown reason while in Pamphylia. The disagreement was so severe that Paul and Barnabas parted ways. Barnabas took John Mark with him to Cyprus, and Paul took Silas with him to Syria and Cilicia.

Nothing else is known for certain about Barnabas’ missionary activity with John Mark in Cyprus. Based on Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and his letter to the Colossians, the disagreement the two had over John Mark did not have any lasting effect on their friendship. Even John Mark is later affectionately mentioned by Paul.

The only source we have that details Barnabas’ martyrdom comes from the fifth century, which makes its historicity uncertain. According to that tradition, Barnabas was preaching the Gospel around the year 61 and was arrested, dragged out of the city, and either burned to death or stoned. One tradition states that John Mark found his remains and buried them.

Another legend holds that in the year 478, Saint Barnabas appeared to the Archbishop of Cyprus and revealed the location of his burial to him. Archbishop Anthemios then found Saint Barnabas’ body incorrupt, holding the Gospel of Matthew. The Roman emperor then erected a church at the site and buried Saint Barnabas there. Though the church was later lost to history, excavations of the site have found a tomb believed to be that of Saint Barnabas. Saint Barnabas is the patron saint of Cyprus because he was the first missionary bishop on that island.

As we honor this great apostolic bishop, ponder the impact his ministry has had over time. Although the number of converts during his lifetime might have only been in the hundreds or thousands, the effect those converts had on subsequent generations multiplied over and over again. Saint Barnabas traveled, preached, baptized, celebrated the sacraments, and founded many Christian communities. He endured rejection, hardship, violence, and martyrdom, but he pressed on. His fervor stemmed from knowing his Lord, not only through his firsthand witness of Jesus’ ministry but also through his life of prayer and his reception of the Holy Spirit. Try to see his mission as one similar to yours. You, too, are called to zealously preach the Gospel to others. Do not hesitate to do so, no matter the cost. Pray that God uses you as He wills, and offer yourself to His service in imitation of this holy Apostle.

Prayer: Saint Barnabas, you listened to the Gospel from the mouth of Christ Himself, witnessed His miracles, and allowed His saving message to transform your life. As a result, you spent the rest of your life preaching the Good News and saving many souls. Please pray for me, that I will follow your example and dedicate my life to the mission to which I am called. Saint Barnabas, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Heights of Holiness June 10, 2024


Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

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When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:1–3

Today we are given the incredibly high calling of the Beatitudes to ponder. These lessons were taught by Jesus on a hill just north of the Sea of Galilee. Many were coming to Jesus to listen to Him preach and to witness His many miracles. They flocked to Him in this remote location, and Jesus had them recline as He preached what is now referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount.” This sermon is found in Chapter 5 through 7 of Matthew’s Gospel, and it takes place shortly after Jesus began His public ministry.

What a way to begin His public ministry! This teaching of Jesus was brand new and must have left many people mesmerized. Jesus no longer taught only the precepts of the Old Testament, such as the Ten Commandments; He now elevated the moral law to a level never conceived of before.

As the people listened to this new teacher speak with new authority and wisdom, they may have been excited and confused at the same time. To hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be merciful and clean of heart, and to be a peacemaker could have been accepted. But why was it that being poor, mournful, and meek were considered blessings? And even more challenging, why was it good to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness or insulted and falsely accused because of Jesus?

When Jesus’ new and radical teaching is clearly understood, it is not only His first disciples who may have been confused and excited at the same time. You, too, if you truly listen to His teachings and understand what He means, will find that you may be challenged to the core of your being. Jesus’ teaching must be embraced, fully, and without hesitation.

The Beatitudes are our call to perfection. They lay out for us the path by which we travel to the heights of holiness and obtain the glory of Heaven. They are our fine-tuned and detailed road map to the fullness of happiness and joy. But they also call us to a radical transformation of our minds and in our actions. They are not “easily” embraced, in the sense that they require that we turn from every selfish tendency we have and choose to live free of every earthly temptation, attachment and sin. Perfection awaits those who listen to, understand, and embrace the Beatitudes.

Reflect, today, upon the beginning of this challenging Sermon on the Mount. Try to find time to take each Beatitude to prayer. It is only through prayer and meditation that the full meaning of each of these invitations to holiness will be understood. Start with the call to interior poverty of spirit. This Beatitude calls us to complete detachment from all that is not part of God’s will. From there, consider the importance of mourning over your sin, of seeking purity of heart and humility in all things. Ponder each Beatitude and spend time with the one most challenging to you. Our Lord has much to say to you through this sermon. Don’t hesitate to allow Him to lead you to the heights of holiness through it.

Lord of all holiness, You are perfect in every way. You lived every virtue and Beatitude to perfection. Give me the grace to open myself to You so that I may hear You call me to perfection of life and so that I may respond generously with my whole life. Make me holy, dear Lord, so that I will find the happiness and fulfillment You wish to bestow. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Sincere Repentance Sunday, June 9, 2024


Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
Readings for Today

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“Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Mark 3:28–30

Jesus spoke these words to the crowds who had gathered around His home in Capernaum because two groups of people had just spoken very critically of Him in a public way. First, some of His extended family arrived and said to everyone, “He is out of his mind.” And then some of the scribes from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul.” Thus, Jesus states clearly that their blasphemy is a sin against the Holy Spirit and will have everlasting consequences.

Why is it that certain sins will never be forgiven? What exactly is a sin against the Holy Spirit? Traditionally, our Church has identified this sin in a couple of ways. First, it is a sin of final impenitence, that is, the sin of obstinately persisting in grave sin. Obstinacy, or the refusal to repent, is a sin that cannot be forgiven, simply because the person committing it never seeks forgiveness. They become so entrenched in their sin that they refuse to change. Thus, the mercy of God is incapable of entering into them. Second, it has also been identified as presumption, meaning a person sins while expecting God to forgive. Presumption is more subtle; however, it also has the effect of keeping a person from the sincere repentance that is needed for forgiveness. The presumptuous person never fully repents and amends their life as long as they remain in their sin.

Of all the many sins you struggle with or might struggle with in the future, pay special attention to the sins against the Holy Spirit. Though we should never think we have a right to God’s forgiveness, we must always believe that God’s mercy is so great that the moment we humbly acknowledge our sin and sincerely repent of it, God will forgive. But the key is “sincerity.” In order to be forgiven, the repentance within us must be sincere, authentic, real and complete. We cannot fool God. We can certainly fool ourselves, but not God.

One of the best ways to regularly be certain that you are not guilty of any sin against the Holy Spirit is by going to the Sacrament of Confession and confessing your sins with openness, thoroughness and humility. Own your sin. Acknowledge it. Experience sorrow for it. Resolve to change. Then confess it and trust in God’s mercy.

Reflect, today, upon any way that you lack sincerity and thoroughness in your repentance from sin. Are you honest with yourself about the sins you have committed? Have you taken ownership of those sins? If so, have you also confessed them to God and firmly resolved never to commit them again? Take repentance seriously so that you never even begin to fall down the slippery slope that leads to any sin against the Holy Spirit.

Most merciful Lord, You offer forgiveness to all who come to You with humility and sincere sorrow. Please fill me with these virtues and give me the resolve to change as I open myself to Your unfathomable mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Ephrem, Deacon and Doctor
Not celebrated as a liturgical memorial this year since it falls on Sunday

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Featured image above: Jesus Tempted by Carl Bloch, via picryl