It’s Time to Repent! July 14, 2020


Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Camillus de Lellis, Priest—Optional Memorial
(In the United States this memorial is transferred to July 18)
Or:
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin—USA Memorial

Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!”  Matthew 11:20-21a

What an act of mercy and love on the part of Jesus!  He rebukes those in the towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida because He loves them and He sees that they continue to hold on to their sinful lives even though He has brought them the Gospel and performed many mighty deeds.  They remain obstinate, trapped, confused, unwilling to repent, and unwilling to change their ways.  In this context, Jesus offers a wonderful form of mercy.  He chastises them!  After the passage above He goes on to say, “I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.”

There is a wonderful distinction here that should help us hear what God may be saying to us at times, as well as help us know how to deal with those around us who habitually sin and cause hurt in our lives or the lives of others.  The distinction has to do with Jesus’ motivation for chastising the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida.  Why did He do that?  And what was the motivation behind His actions?

Jesus chastises them out of love and out of a desire that they change.  They did not immediately repent of their sin when He offered an invitation and powerful witness of His miracles, so He needed to take things to a new level.  And this new level was a strong and clear rebuke out of love.

This action of Jesus could at first be perceived as an emotional outburst of anger.  But that’s the key distinction.  Jesus did not rebuke them strongly because He was mad and lost control.  Rather, He rebuked them because they needed that rebuke to change.

The same truth can be applied to our lives.  At times we change our lives and overcome sin as a result of the gentle invitation of Jesus to grace.  But, at other times, when sin is deep, we need a holy rebuke.  In this case we should hear these words of Jesus as if they were directed at us.  This may be the specific act of mercy we need in our lives.

It also gives us great insight as to how we deal with others.  Parents, for example, can learn much from this.  Children will regularly go astray in various ways and will need correction.  It certainly is proper to start with gentle invitations and conversations aimed at helping them make the right choices.  However, at times this will not work and more drastic measures need to take place.  What are those “more drastic measures?”  Out-of-control anger and vengeful yelling is not the answer.  Rather, a holy wrath that comes from mercy and love may be the key.  This may come in the form of a strong chastisement or punishment.  Or, it may come in the form of laying down the truth and clearly presenting the consequences of certain actions.  Just remember that even this is love and is an imitation of Jesus’ actions.  This is what we commonly refer to as “tough love.”

Reflect, today, on whether or not you need a rebuke from Jesus.  If you do, let this Gospel of love sink in.  Reflect also upon your responsibility in correcting the faults of others.  Don’t be afraid to exercise an act of divine love that comes in the form of a clear chastisement.  It may just be the key to helping those you love to love God all the more.

Lord, help me to repent daily of my sin.  Help me to be an instrument of the repentance of others.  May I always receive Your words in love and offer them in the form of love that is most effective.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Saints of the Day –

Saint Camillus de Lellis, Priest—Optional Memorial
(In the United States this memorial is transferred to July 18)
Or:
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin—USA Memorial

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

Peace or the Sword? July 13, 2020


Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Henry—Optional Memorial

Jesus said to his Apostles: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.”  Matthew 10:34-36

Hmmm…was this a typo?  Did Jesus really say this?  This is one of those passages that can leave us a bit baffled and confused.  But Jesus does this all the time so we shouldn’t be surprised.  So what does Jesus mean?  Does He really want to bring the “sword” and division rather than peace?

It’s important when reading this passage that we read it in light of everything else Jesus has ever written.  We must read it in light of all His teachings on love and mercy, forgiveness and unity, etc.  But with that said, what was Jesus talking about in this passage?

In large part, He was speaking about one of the effects of the Truth.  The Truth of the Gospel has the power to deeply unite us to God when we fully accept it as the Word of Truth.  But another effect is that it divides us from those who refuse to be united to God in the Truth.  We are not intending this and we ought not do so by our own will or intention, but it must be understood that by immersing ourselves in the Truth, we are also putting ourselves at odds with everyone who may be at odds with God and His Truth.

Our culture today wants to preach what we call “relativism.”  This is an idea that what is good and true for me may not be good and true for you but that, in spite of all having different “truths,” we can still all be one happy family.  But that’s not the Truth!

The Truth (with a capital “T”) is that God has established what is right and what is wrong.  He has set His moral law over all of humanity and this cannot be undone.  He has also set forth the truths of our faith and those cannot be undone.  And that law is as true for me as it is for you or anyone else.

This passage above offers us the sobering reality that by rejecting all forms of relativism and by holding onto Truth, we also run the risk of division, even with those in our families.  This is sad and this hurts.  Jesus offers this passage especially to strengthen us when this happens.  If division happens as a result of our sin, shame on us.  If it happens as a result of the Truth (as offered in mercy), then we should accept it as a result of the Gospel.  Jesus was rejected and we should not be surprised if that happens to us, too.

Reflect, today, upon how fully you are ready and willing to accept the full Truth of the Gospel no matter the consequences.  The full Truth will set you free and will also, at times, reveal the division present between you and those who have rejected God.  You must pray for unity in Christ, but not be willing to compromise so as to bring about a false unity.

Lord, give me the wisdom and courage I need to accept all You have revealed.  Help me to love You above all things and to accept whatever the consequences are of me following You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Henry

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Image:  Jesus and his Disciples on the Sea of Galilee by Carl Oesterley

The Divine Attraction July 12, 2020


Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings for Today

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.  Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.  Matthew 13:1-2

This is not a common experience.  It is clear that people were in such awe of our Lord that they were drawn to Him with a holy and divine attraction.  The crowds were mesmerized by Jesus and they hung on His every word.  They were so drawn to Him that they crowded along the shore to listen as Jesus spoke from the boat.

This Gospel story should pose a question to you on a personal level.  Are you drawn to Jesus in a similar way?  There are many things we find ourselves drawn to.  It may be some hobby, or a personal interest, perhaps it’s your job or some other aspect of your life.  But what about our Lord and His holy Word?  How drawn to Him are you?

Ideally, we should discover within our hearts a burning desire to be with Jesus, to know Him, love Him and encounter His mercy more fully in our lives.  There should be a tug on our hearts that is placed there by Jesus Himself.  This tug becomes a divine attraction that becomes the central motivation for our lives.  From this attraction we respond to Him, listen to Him and give our lives more fully to Him.  This is a grace given to those who are open and are ready and willing to hear and respond.

Reflect, today, upon the merciful Heart of our Lord calling you to turn to Him with all the powers of your soul.  Allow Him to draw you in and respond by giving your time and attention to Him.  From there, He will lead you where He desires you to go.

Lord, my life is Yours.  Please draw me into Your most merciful Heart.  Help me to be mesmerized by Your splendor and goodness.  I give to You all the powers of my soul, dear Lord.  Please take me and lead me according to Your most holy will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Image: Jesus Preaches in a Ship by James Tissot

Our Hidden Life July 11, 2020


Saturday of the Fourteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Benedict, Abbot—Memorial

“Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.”  Matthew 10:26b

This is either a very consoling thought, or very frightening depending upon what you may have “concealed” or what you hold “secret” within your heart.  What is there, in the depth of your conscience?  What is hiding that only God sees for now?  There are two extremes into which people can fall in this regard, and many places between the extremes.

The first extreme is that person who lives a phony public persona but secretly lives a very different life.  These are those who fall into the sin of hypocrisy, or are what we may call “two-faced.”  This is a frightening situation to be in.  It’s frightening because those living this sort of life are never truly at peace.  They are completely caught up in what others think and what their public image looks like.  Interiorly, they are filled with much sorrow, anxiety and fear.  This person struggles greatly with any and every form of true humility, honesty and integrity.

But with that said, there is also another form of person who lives a hidden life.  This is the hidden life of the saint! Take, for example, the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She was seen as a fornicator early in her life and this “public image” of her was never corrected in this world.  How else would she have gotten pregnant with Jesus? many thought.  But the truth was that her soul was the most beautiful, pure and holy creation God ever made.  And now, the beauty of her interior life is manifest before the angels and saints and will be made manifest for all eternity!

The promise of the Scripture above is that everything within our heart and conscience will be made manifest for all eternity.  Therefore, those living truly holy, humble and sincere lives of virtue now will be seen in this light for eternity.  Those living hidden dark lives will have those lives visible for eternity in some way in accord with God’s mercy and justice.

Again, this will most likely be either consoling or frightening, depending upon our hearts.  But what we should take from this, more than anything, is the importance of striving for a truly holy and pure heart here and now.  It doesn’t matter if no one sees your holiness, only God needs to see it.  The goal is to allow God to form a beautiful interior life for you and to allow Him to make your soul beautiful to Him.

Reflect, today, on how well you do this.  How well do you daily allow God to treat your heart and conscience as His possession, making it a place of true beauty that gives His heart, and yours, much delight.

Lord, please come and make my heart Your dwelling place.  Make my soul pleasing to You in every way.  May Your glory be made manifest there and may You allow this glory to be made manifest for all eternity.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Saint of the Day –  Saint Benedict, Abbot—Memorial

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Image – Transfiguration by Titian

Prepare for Persecution July 10, 2020


Friday of the Fourteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Jesus said to his Apostles: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans.”  Matthew 10:16-18

Imagine yourself being a follower of Jesus at the time He was preaching.  Imagine that there is much excitement about Him and great hopes that He will be the new King and is the Messiah.  There would be much hope and excitement about what is to come.

But then, out of the blue, Jesus gives this sermon.  He says that His followers will be persecuted and scourged and that this persecution will continue over and over.  This must have made His followers stop and seriously question Jesus and wonder if it was worth following Him.

The persecution of Christians has been alive and well throughout the ages.  It has happened in every time and in every culture.  It continues to be alive today.  So what do we do with that?  How do we respond?

Many Christians can fall into the trap of thinking that Christianity is all about simply “getting along.”  It’s easy to believe that if we are loving and kind then everyone will also love us.  But that’s not what Jesus said.

Jesus made it clear that persecution is going to be a part of the Church and that we should not be surprised when this happens to us.  We should not be surprised when those within our culture step on us and act maliciously.  When this happens it is easy for us to lose faith and to lose heart.  We can get discouraged and feel like turning our faith into a hidden life we live.  It’s hard to live our faith openly knowing that the culture and world does not like that and won’t accept it.

The examples are all around us.  All we have to do is read the secular news to be made aware of a growing hostility toward the Christian faith.  For that reason, we need to heed Jesus’ words today more than ever.  We need to be aware of His warning and have hope in His promise that He will be with us and will give us the words to say when we need it.  More than anything, this passage calls us to hope and confidence in our loving God.

Reflect, today, on how ready and willing you are to face the hostility of the world.  You should not react with similar hostility, rather, you must strive to have courage and strength to endure any and every persecution with the help, strength and wisdom of Christ.

Lord, give me strength, courage and wisdom as I live my faith in a world hostile to You.  May I respond with love and mercy in the face of harshness and misunderstanding.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Image: Sermon on the Mount by Henrik Olrik

The Cost of the Gospel July 9, 2020


Thursday of the Fourteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions, Martyrs—Optional Memorial

Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.  Matthew 10:8b

What is the cost of the Gospel?  Can we put a price on it?  Interestingly, we should put two prices on it.  The first price is how much it should cost us to receive it.  The second price is how much we “charge,” so to speak, to give the Gospel.

So how much should the Gospel cost us?  The answer is that it’s of infinite value.  We could never afford it monetarily speaking.  The Gospel is priceless.

As far as how much we should “charge” to give the Gospel to others, the answer is that it’s free.  We have no right to charge or expect anything so as to give away something that we do not own.  The saving message of the Gospel belongs to Christ and He offers it freely.

Let’s start with the second half of the Scripture above.  “Without cost you are to give.”  This tells us that we are to offer the Gospel to others free of charge.  But this action of freely giving the Gospel brings with it a sort of hidden requirement.  The giving of the Gospel requires that we give of ourselves.  And that means we must give of ourselves freely.  What’s the justification for giving everything of ourselves freely?  The justification is that we have received everything “without cost.”

The simple fact is that the Gospel is all about a total free gift to us which requires a total free gift of ourselves to others.  The Gospel is a person, Jesus Christ.  And when He comes and lives in us freely, we must then become a total and free gift to others.

Reflect, today, on both your complete receptivity of the Gospel as well as your complete willingness to give.  May your understanding and reception of this glorious gift of God transform you into a gift for others.

Lord, may my heart be open to You in a total way so that I may receive You as the Living Gospel.  As I receive You, may I in turn give You to others in my very person.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions, Martyrs

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Image: Christ surrending the keys to St. Peter by Peter Paul Rubens

Miracles and Faith July 8, 2020


Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.  Matthew 10:1

Jesus gives His Apostles a sacred authority.  They were able to drive out demons and heal the sick.  They also won many converts to Christ by their preaching.

It’s interesting to look at this extraordinary charism the Apostles had to act miraculously.  It’s interesting because we do not see this happen that often today.  However, at the beginnings of the Church it seems that miracles were quite common.  One reason for this is that Jesus made quite a statement in the beginning to set things in motion.  The miracles He did and those of His Apostles were powerful signs of the power and presence of God.  These miracles helped the preaching of the Apostles to be more believable and bring forth many converts.  It seems that, as the Church grew, miracles in such great numbers were not as necessary for the authentication of the Word of God.  The personal lives and witness of believers eventually were sufficient to spread the Gospel without the help of numerous miracles.  Martyrdom and acts of great faith became the true signs of God’s presence.

This is helpful to understand because we see something similar in our own lives of faith and conversion.  Often times, in the beginning of our faith journey, we have many powerful experiences of God’s presence.  There may be deep consoling spiritual feelings and a clear sense that God is with us.  But over time, these feelings can start to disappear and we can wonder where they went or wonder if we have done something wrong.  There is an important spiritual lesson here.

As our faith deepens, the spiritual consolations we may receive at the beginning can often fade away because God wants us to love and serve Him out of a more purified faith and love.  We should believe and follow Him not because He makes us feel good, but because it is good and right to love and serve Him.  This can be a difficult lesson to learn but an essential one.

Reflect, today, upon how deep and sustaining your faith is.  Do you know and love God even when things are hard and when He seems far away?  Those moments, more than any, are the moments when your personal faith and conversion can grow the strongest.

Lord, help my faith in You and my love of You to be deep, stable and strong.  Help me to rely upon that faith more than upon any external “miracles” or feelings.  Help me to love You first and foremost out of a pure love for You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Image: Christ with his disciples by Mironov

Irrationality vs. Normalcy July 7, 2020


Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus, and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke. The crowds were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.”  Matthew 9:32-34

What a stark contrast we see in the reaction of the crowds compared to the reaction of the Pharisees. It’s actually quite a sad contrast.

The reaction of the crowds, meaning normal everyday people, was one of amazement. Their reaction reveals a simple and pure faith that accepts what it sees. What a blessing it is to have this form of faith.

The reaction of the Pharisees was one of judgment, irrationality, jealousy and harshness. Most especially, it is irrational. What would lead the Pharisees to conclude that Jesus “drives out demons by the prince of demons?” Certainly it was nothing that Jesus did that would lead them to this conclusion. Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that the Pharisees were filled with a certain jealousy and envy. And these sins led them to this ridiculous and irrational conclusion.

The lesson we should learn from this is that we must approach other people with humility and honesty rather than jealousy. By seeing those around us with humility and love, we will naturally arrive at genuine and honest conclusions about them. Humility and honest love will enable us to see the goodness of others and rejoice in that goodness. Sure, we will also be aware of sin, but humility will help us to avoid making rash and irrational judgments about others as a result of jealousy and envy.

Reflect, today, on the way you normally think and speak about others.  Do you tend to be more like the crowds who saw, believed and were amazed at the good things Jesus did?  Or are you more like the Pharisees who tend to fabricate and exaggerate in their conclusions.  Commit yourself to the normalcy of the crowds so that you, too, can find joy and amazement in Christ.

Lord, I desire to have a simple, humble and pure faith.  Help me to also see You in others in a humble way.  Help me to see You and to be amazed at Your presence in the lives of those whom I encounter every day.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Image: The Blind and Mute Man Possessed by Devils by James Tissot

Trusting the Almighty July 6, 2020


Monday of the Fourteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

 Saint Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr—Optional Memorial

When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, “Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.”  And they ridiculed him.  When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose.  And news of this spread throughout all that land.  Matthew 9:23-26

Jesus performed many miracles.  He overwhelmed the laws of nature time and time again.  In this Gospel passage He overcomes death by bringing this little girl back to life.  And He does it in such a way that it appears to be quite normal and easy for Him.

It’s insightful to reflect upon Jesus’ approach to the miracles He performed.  Many were amazed and in shock of His miraculous power.  But Jesus appears to do it as a normal part of His day.  He doesn’t make a big deal about it and, in fact, He often tells people to keep His miracles quiet.

One obvious thing this reveals to us is that Jesus does have complete power over the physical world and all the laws of nature.  We are reminded in this story that He is the Creator of the Universe and the source of all that is.  If He can create all things by simply willing it, He can easily recreate and transform the laws of nature by His will.

Understanding the full truth of His complete authority over nature should also give us confidence in His complete authority over the spiritual world and everything that makes up our lives.  He can do all things and can do all things easily.

If we can arrive at a deep faith in His almighty power, and also arrive at a clear understanding of His perfect love and perfect knowledge of us, we will be in a position to trust Him on a level we never knew possible.  Why wouldn’t we completely trust Him who can do all things and loves us perfectly?  Why wouldn’t we trust Him who knows everything about us and desires only our good?  We should trust Him! He is worthy of that trust, and our trust will unleash His almighty power in our lives.

Reflect, today, upon two things.  First, do you understand the depth of His power?  Second, do you know that His love compels Him to use that power for your good?  Knowing and believing these truths will change your life and allow Him to perform miracles of grace.

Lord, I do believe in Your absolute authority over all things and Your complete authority over my life.  Help me to trust in You and to trust in Your love for me.  Jesus, I do trust in You.

 

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Saint of the Day –  Saint Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr

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Image: Raising of the Daughter of Jairus by Paolo Veronese 

Childlike Faith July 5, 2020


Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings for Today

 Saint Elizabeth of Portugal—Optional Memorial
(Celebrated July 4 outside the USA)

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.”  Matthew 11:25

What a profound truth to understand!  For many, if given the choice to be either a “little one” or “wise and learned” it can appear that being wise and learned is more attractive.  The problem is that, according to Jesus, those who are little children are in fact far more wise and learned than those who simply act this way.

Those who are childlike are the ones who have the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven revealed to them.  They are given a special grace to penetrate the truths of God’s inner life.  This reveals, in part, the simplicity of God’s inner life.  God and His will are never confusing and complex.  We may make Him seem confusing and, as a result, experience God’s wisdom as overly complex.  But in reality, the truth and beauty of God is only discernable by the simple mind who lives in a humble way.

One tendency we can all have is to spend excessive time and energy trying to “figure out God’s will.”  We can think and think and think, talk and talk and talk, and in the end remain in confusion about this or that.  If you find yourself in this situation, of thinking too much and ending in confusion, then this is a sign that you may not be properly discerning the will of God and may not be allowing yourself to properly hear Him speak.

God speaks to us simply, clearly and only what we need to know, when we need to know.  Therefore, it’s important to always approach our Lord in a humble and simple way, waiting for Him to speak the simple and profound truth we need to hear in His time.  Ultimately, it comes down to patience with our Lord.

Reflect, today, upon whether you find yourself spending excessive time thinking about the mysteries of life only to be left confused.  If so, seek to grow in humility so as to allow the Lord to reveal the simple yet profound truths He desires to reveal.  Strive to be childlike in God’s eyes and you will become wiser and more learned than you could ever become on your own.

Dear Lord, help me to have a simple and childlike faith in You and, through this simple faith, come to know the beautiful mysteries You desire to reveal to me.  Give me wisdom and knowledge, dear Lord, beyond what I could ever obtain by myself.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Saint of the Day –  Saint Elizabeth of Portugal
(Celebrated July 4 outside the USA)

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Image: Christ Blessing the Little Children by Benjamin Haydon