Persecution May 21, 2022


Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Saint Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr and Companions, Martyrs—Optional Memorial

Video

“Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”  John 15:20

Do you want to be like Jesus?  If so, beware of what that means.  It’s easy to think that the closer we grow to Christ the more we will be loved and understood by the world.  We can think that everyone will see our holiness and admire it and all will be good and easy in life.

But all we have to do is look at the life of Christ to know this is not the case.  He was obviously perfect in every way.  As a result, He was treated with great malice and persecution.  It’s hard to fathom the dark truth that they actually killed Him.  In the dark of the night, He was arrested, given a mock trial, found guilty and sentenced to death.  His punishment was then carried out immediately.

Why did they do this to the Son of God?  Why would someone so perfect and merciful in every way be so cruelly treated?

If we were there, as His first followers, we would have most likely been shocked, frightened, scandalized and confused.  We may have thought that Jesus messed up and lost hope in Him.  But His plan was perfect in every way and His plan did centrally involve Him enduring false accusations and malicious persecution.  And by freely accepting this abuse, He redeemed the world.

So back to the original question, “Do you want to be like Jesus?”  This is a tough question when we look at it in the light of what happened to Him.  “No slave is greater than his master.”  “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”  These are tough sayings to accept and agree to.

Persecution is something from which we should not run.  We should not despair if it happens and we should not hold our head low.  Why?  Because persecution is a clear sign that we are following in the footsteps of our Master.  We are more deeply united to Christ as a result of persecution than we could ever realize.

The key is to know that God intends to use all maltreatment for good if we let Him.  And we let Him use it for good when we surrender it to Him and receive it freely, not begrudgingly.  Our response must be to “rejoice and be glad” that we have been found worthy to follow in the steps of our Divine Lord.

Ponder today any form of persecution or injustice you suffer for the sake of your faith and embrace of the Gospel.  The Lord wants to use that if you let Him.

My persecuted Lord, I do surrender to You all that weighs me down.  I give any suffering I receive for being Your follower.  May I not only imitate You in Your suffering, but also in Your willing embrace of it.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Easter Prayers

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saint Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr and Companions, Martyrs

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: The Flagellation of Christ by Nicola Grassi, via Wikimedia Commons

You Are Chosen May 20, 2022


Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Saint Bernardine of Siena, Priest—Optional Memorial

Video

“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.”  John 15:16

Children love to play games.  When a game is organized between two teams, kids will often line up and wait to be chosen.  Each child hopes to be chosen first.  It is affirming to be wanted for the team.  When a child is chosen last this can be difficult and hurtful.

This reveals the desire within each of us to belong and to be wanted.  The good news is that God does choose each one of us.  He wants us as a member of His family and He wants us to belong to Him.  This is essential to understand and, when it is understood, it is very affirming.

It is a good spiritual practice to regularly reflect upon the fact that God chose us even before we were born.  He knew us from all eternity and set His eyes upon us, longing to bring us into His fold.  We need to understand this, accept it and believe it.  We do belong.

God not only chooses us to belong to Him, He also chooses us for His mission.  He wants to use us to go and bear fruit for His Kingdom.  He wants to use us for a sacred purpose and a divine calling.  Being a member of His “team” means that our lives have purpose and meaning.  No matter how “unqualified” we may feel at times to make a difference, we must remember that God does not see us that way.  Rather, He sees the infinite potential within each of us and chooses to use that potential for the building up of His Kingdom.

Reflect, this day, on two short phrases:  “I have chosen you” and “Go and bear fruit.”  Accepting your call from God will change your life and will also change the lives of those whom you are called to serve.

My welcoming Lord, I know You have chosen me.  I accept Your call in my life.  I accept the fact that You have appointed me to fulfill Your mission in a unique and glorious way.  Help me to continually say “Yes” to Your call.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Easter Prayers

 

 

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saint Bernardine of Siena, Priest

Mass Reading Options

Unlimited and Unconditional Love May 19, 2022


Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Video

“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.”  John 15:9

There are three beautiful insights we should take from this passage.

First, the love of the Father for the Son is perfect in every way.  It is unconditional and all-consuming.  It’s total and selfless.  In receiving the Father’s love, Jesus receives all He needs.

Second, the love Jesus receives from the Father cannot be contained.  It cannot be kept to Himself.  The love of the Father is such that it overflows from Jesus’ heart.  It is this overflowing love that pours forth from Jesus to us.

Third, a key thing to ponder in this is that this overflowing love, now given to us, cannot be contained within us either.  It must overflow from our hearts to others.  Therefore, if we are to be true recipients of the love of the Father and the Son, we must in turn let that love pour forth onto others in an “unlimited” and “unconditional” way.

Think about it.  “Unlimited.”  “Unconditional.”  Is this truly possible?  Is it possible to be so radical and total in our love of others?  Yes, it’s possible only if the love we speak of originates in the heart of the Father, given to the Son, and then poured out upon us to distribute freely.

Reflect, today, upon the fact that the love you are called to share with others originates in the Heart of the Father in Heaven.  The first and most important step in learning to love with the Father’s Heart is to let God love you.  This can be very hard to do.  It can be hard to let God love you, to receive that love, and to let it affect you deeply.  But if you can continually let God love you with His perfect love, you will start to see that this love automatically flows forth from you as if it were an overflowing river of grace and mercy.

Loving Father and Son, I do love You and know that I am loved by You.  Help me to be open to Your love. Help me to let that love sink in so that it may also overflow from my heart to others.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Easter Prayers

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Saints/Feasts for Today

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Sacred Heart of Jesus By Pompeo Batoni, via Wikimedia Commons

Being Pruned May 18, 2022


Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Saint John I, Pope and Martyr—Optional Memorial

Video

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”  John 15:1–2

Are you willing to let yourself be pruned?  Pruning is necessary if a plant is to produce an abundance of good fruit or beautiful flowers.  If, for example, a grapevine is left to grow without pruning, it will produce many small grapes that are good for nothing.  But if care is taken to prune the vine, the maximum number of good grapes will be produced.

Jesus uses this image of pruning to teach us a similar lesson in bearing good fruit for His Kingdom.  He wants our lives to be fruitful and He wants to use us as powerful instruments of His grace in the world.  But unless we are willing to go through the purification of spiritual pruning from time to time, we will not be the instruments that God can use.

Spiritual pruning takes the form of letting God eliminate the vices in our lives so that the virtues can be properly nourished.  This is especially done by letting Him humble us and strip away our pride.  This can hurt, but the pain associated with being humbled by God is a key to spiritual growth.  By growing in humility, we grow ever more reliant upon the source of our nourishment rather than relying upon ourselves, our own ideas and our own plans.  God is infinitely wiser than us and if we can continually turn to Him as our source, we will be far stronger and better prepared to let Him do great things through us.  But, again, this requires that we let Him prune us.

Being spiritually pruned means we actively let go of our own will and our own ideas.  It means we give up control over our lives and let the master grower take over.  It means we trust Him far more than we trust ourselves.  This requires a true death to ourselves and a true humility by which we acknowledge we are completely reliant upon God in the same way a branch is reliant upon the vine.  Without the vine, we shrivel and die.  Being firmly attached to the vine is the only way to life.

Pray this day that you will let the Lord prune away all that is not of Him in your life.  Trust in Him and His divine plan and know that this is the only path to bearing the good fruit God wants to bear through you.

Lord, I pray that You prune away all my pride and selfishness.  Purify me of my many sins so that I can turn to You in all things.  And as I learn to rely upon You, may You begin to bear an abundance of good fruit in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Easter Prayers

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

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

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Christ True Vine, via Wikipedia

A Troubled Heart May 17, 2022


Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Video

“Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”  John 14:27

What a wonderful reminder that we all need to hear on a regular basis.  “Do not let your heart be troubled.”  And “Do not let your heart be afraid.”  How often do you follow that advice?

Interestingly, it’s actually more than advice.  It’s a command of love from our Lord.  He wants to be clear and wants us to know that a fearful and troubled heart is not of Him.  To be troubled and fearful is a great burden and weighs us down.  Jesus desperately wants us to be free of these burdens.  He wants us to be free so that we can experience the joy of life.

So what is it that burdens you in life the most?  Is there something in your life that you obsess about, are angry about, can’t let go of or that tends to dominate your life?  Or perhaps your burden is more subtle.  Perhaps there is nothing that overwhelms you but, instead, is a constant burden in a small way, always there in the background.  These burdens can be quite difficult when they last from year to year.

The first step to freedom is to see the burden for what it is.  Identify it and seek to identify the underlying cause.  If the cause of your burden is your own sin, repent of it and seek Confession.  This is the best way to experience immediate freedom.

If, however, your burden is the result of another’s actions or some situation in life that is out of your control, then you are in a unique position to surrender to our Lord, giving Him complete control of this situation.  Freedom is found in total surrender, trust and abandonment to His will.

Spend some time today reflecting upon that which burdens you the most in life.  What is it that weighs heavily upon you?  It is this, more than anything else, that Jesus wants to enter into and lift for you.  He wants you free so that you can experience the joy that He has to offer you in life.

Lord of true joy, I want to be free.  I want to experience the joy You have in store for me.  When the burdens of life weigh me down, help me to turn to You in my need.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Easter Prayers

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Saints/Feasts for Today

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Christ And The Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann, via Wikipedia

Glorification Through Suffering May 15, 2022


Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year C)
Readings for Today

Video

When Judas had left them, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.”  John 13:31

It is essential to know the end of the story.  Jesus knew the end when He spoke these words to the Apostles at the Last Supper right after Judas left to go and betray Him.  It’s important to put this situation within the context that Jesus understood it.  From a purely human point of view, one of Jesus’ closest friends was about to betray Him for money.  For most of us this would have been devastating and the cause for anger and hurt.  But because Jesus knew the end of the story, He was able to see Judas’ betrayal as the means to His glorification, not His defeat.  He turned His eyes toward Heaven and all that He would accomplish through His suffering rather than look at the immediate pain He would soon endure.  

This is a powerful lesson for us all.  First, it’s essential that we look at Jesus’ glorification through His betrayal, suffering and death.  But we must also strive to see the potential that our own sufferings have when united to the Savior of the World.

How do you react when another sins against you?  How would you have reacted to Judas betraying your love?  This is a very difficult question to face in honesty and it is even harder to live the response that Jesus lived.  The truth is that every time we are mistreated by another, we are given an opportunity to glorify God and further the Kingdom of Heaven by forgiving, uniting our suffering with Christ’s, and offering mercy.  This is much easier to speak about than to live.

Reflect, today, upon this scene of the Gospel.  Gaze upon Judas leaving the Last Supper and going out into the night to betray our Lord.  But look at it in the way Jesus saw it.  Look at it with the understanding that this was the means chosen by the Father to bring salvation to the world.  Reflect, also, upon every opportunity that you are given to do as Jesus did.  Try to be concrete and specific and see any and every suffering you endure as a glorious opportunity to dispense the mercy of God.  Though this may be difficult at first, it is this act of love that will give great glory to the Father in Heaven!

My dear Lord, You were betrayed by the kiss of one of Your closest friends.  But in Your perfect wisdom, You saw this betrayal as the perfect opportunity to glorify the Father through Your mercy and forgiveness.  Lord, I also have betrayed You countless times.  For that reason I am sorry.  But I thank You for loving me and forgiving me with Your Heart of perfect mercy.  Help me to receive that mercy and to offer it to others who have sinned against me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

More Sunday Gospel Video Reflections

Easter Prayers

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Saints/Feasts for Today

Mass Reading Options

Featured Image: The Last Supper By Carl Bloch, via Wikimedia Commons

The Apostolic Ministry Saturday, May 14, 2022

 

Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle

Readings for Today

Video

Peter said… “Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.”  So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.  Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.”  Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles.  Acts 1:21–26

And with that we have the first new bishop!

The Feast of St. Matthias is a celebration of the continuation of the apostolic ministry.  By honoring St. Matthias we honor the fact that Jesus enabled His first Apostles to pass on the sacred power of their ordination to others as their successors.  St. Matthias took the place of Judas.  And as the Church continued to grow, there were others picked and given the grace of ordination as bishops.  Today, every one of our bishops has a direct line of succession to one or more of the Apostles.  This unbroken succession is our direct connection to the priestly ministry of Jesus as it is passed on to the Church.

What a gift this is!  It’s true that not every bishop or priest is a saint.  We are all quite aware of that.  But it is also true that every bishop and priest shares in the wonderful gift of Christ’s priestly ministry.  And this ministry is not for them, it’s for you.

Jesus desired that He continue His ministry in a concrete, personal and human way.  He desired that He would be present at every Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion.  He desired to personally be there administering these graces to His people.  And He is there, through the ministry of the bishop or priest.

The key is to see Christ in that ministry.  Every priest or bishop is a unique representation of Christ in his own way.  They each reflect Christ in their human personality and holiness.  But, more importantly, they represent Christ by acting in His very person.  Jesus speaks His words of absolution and consecration through them.  So we need to see beyond the surface and see Christ Jesus.  This is entirely possible if we approach God’s ministers in faith.

Reflect, today, upon the way you approach God’s priests and bishops.  How do you speak about them?  Do you seek Christ in them?  Are you open to Christ ministering through them?  The apostolic ministry in which they share is a true gift from Christ and must be loved and accepted as if we were accepting Christ Himself…because that’s exactly what we are doing.

Lord, thank You for the gift of your ordained ministers.  Thank you for the bishop and for all the priests who have ministered Your Word and Sacraments to me.  I pray for them today that they may continue to be holy instruments of Your love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Easter Prayers

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saint Matthias the Apostle

Mass Reading Options

Featured Image: St. Matthias by Pierre Paul Rubens, via Wikimedia Commons

Our Father’s House May 13, 2022


Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Our Lady of Fatima—Optional Memorial

Video

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”  John 14:2–3

From time to time it’s important that we focus in on the glorious reality of Heaven!  Heaven is real and, God willing, one day we will all be united there with our Triune God.  If we properly understood Heaven, we’d long for it with a deep and burning love and we’d look forward to it with a powerful desire, being filled with peace and joy every time we think of it.

Unfortunately, however, the thought of leaving this Earth and meeting our Maker is a frightening thought for some.  Perhaps it’s the fear of the unknown, the realization that we will leave our loved ones behind, or possibly even a fear that Heaven will not be our final resting place.

As Christians, it’s essential that we work at fostering a great love of Heaven by gaining a proper understanding of not only Heaven itself, but also the purpose of our lives on Earth.  Heaven helps order our lives and helps us stay on the path that leads to this eternal beatitude.

In the passage above, we are given a very consoling image of Heaven.  It’s the image of the “Father’s house.”  This image is a good one to reflect upon because it reveals that Heaven is our home.  Home is a safe place.  It’s a place where we can be ourselves, relax, be with loved ones, and feel as if we belong.  We are God’s sons and daughters and He has decided that we belong there with Him.

Reflecting on this image of Heaven should also console those who have lost a loved one.  The experience of saying goodbye, for now, is very difficult.  And it should be difficult.  The difficulty of losing a loved one reveals that there is true love in that relationship.  And that is good.  But God does want the feelings of loss to also be mingled with joy as we ponder the reality of our loved one being with the Father in His home for eternity.  They are happier there than we will ever be able to imagine, and we will one day be called to share in that joy.

Reflect, today, upon this image of Heaven: our Father’s House.  Sit with that image and let God speak to you.  As you do, let your heart be drawn to Heaven so that this desire will help to direct your actions here and now.

Lord of Heaven and Earth, I do long to be with You eternally in Heaven.  I long to be comforted, consoled and filled with joy in Your home.  Help me to always keep this as my goal in life and to grow, daily in a desire for this final resting place.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Easter Prayers

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Our Lady of Fatima

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Holy Trinity by Hendrik van Baelen, via Wikimedia Commons

Slaves of Christ May 12, 2022


Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Saints Nereus and Achilleus, Martyrs—Optional Memorial

Saint Pancras, Martyr—Optional Memorial

Video

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.”  John 13:16

If we read between the lines we can hear Jesus telling us two things.  First, that it’s good to see ourselves as slaves and messengers of God, and second, that we are to always give the glory to God.  These are important points to live in the spiritual life.  Let’s look at both.

Normally, the idea of being a “slave” is not all that desirable.  We are not as familiar with slavery in our day and age, but it is real and has caused extreme damage throughout the history of our world in many cultures and at many times.  The worst part about slavery is the cruelty with which the slaves are treated.  They are treated as objects and property which is completely contrary to their human dignity.

But imagine the scenario where a person is a slave to one who loves him perfectly and has as his primary mission to help that “slave” realize his true potential and fulfillment in life.  In this case, the master would “command” the slave to embrace love and happiness and would never violate his human dignity.

This is the way it is with God.  We should never fear the idea of being a slave of God.  Though this language may carry baggage from abuses of human dignity of the past, slavery to God should be our goal.  Why?  Because God is the one we should want as our master.  In fact, we should desire God as our master even more than we desire to be our own master.  God will treat us better than we treat ourselves!  He will dictate to us a perfect life of holiness and happiness and we will be humbly submissive to His divine will.  And what’s more, He will give us the necessary means to achieve all that He dictates to us if we let Him.  Being a “slave of God” is a good thing and should be our goal in life.

As we grow in our ability to let God take control of our life, we must also regularly enter into an attitude of thanks and praise of God for all that He does in us.  We must point all the glory to Him for letting us share in His mission and for being sent by Him to fulfill His will.  He is greater in every way, but He also wants us to share in that greatness and glory.  So, the good news is that when we glorify and thank God for all He does in us and for all the dictates of His law and His commands, we will be elevated by God to participate in and share in His glory!  This is one fruit of the Christian life that blesses us beyond what we could ever come up with ourselves.

Reflect, today, upon letting yourself become a complete slave of God and His will today.  That commitment will start you down a path of tremendous delight.

My Lord and Master, I submit myself to Your every command.  May Your will be done in me and only Your will.  I choose You as my Master in all things and trust in Your perfect love for me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Easter Prayers

 

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Saints of the Day –

Saints Nereus and Achilleus, Martyrs

Saint Pancras, Martyr

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Christ Washing the Feet of the Disciples By Paolo Veronese, via Wikimedia Commons

Evangelizing Through Unity May 11, 2022


Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Readings for Today

Video

Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.”  John 12:44–45

Now on a literal level, this is hard to comprehend.  How is it that those who looked at Jesus were looking also at the Father?  How is it that seeing Jesus was seeing the Father in Heaven?

The answer is quite simple.  The unity that the Father and the Son share is a perfect unity.  They remain distinct Persons but they are also united as one.  They are united in their perfect love and in the perfect communion of their wills.

For that reason, knowing Jesus is also knowing the Father.  But the truth is that the Father’s presence is veiled just as the divinity of the Son is veiled.  Though we do not have the experience of seeing Jesus walk the Earth as the first disciples did, we find the same reality every time we come before the Holy Eucharist.  When we enter a church and genuflect before the tabernacle, it’s important to always be exceptionally cognizant of the fact that we are in the full divine presence of God the Son.  And for that reason, we are also in the full and divine presence of the Father!  Their presence is real and absolute.  It’s just that they are hidden from our five senses.

But one key thing to ponder here is the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Prayerfully reflecting upon their unity is a very healthy meditation for our prayer life.  Why?  Because we are called to share in Their unity, and we are called to share in unity with one another.

Unity is hard.  It takes a tremendous amount of love.  It means being fully present to the other, seeking to fully understand, accept and know them.  And the Trinity is our model for this.  Be it parents and children, spouses, friends or others, we are called to a deep and abiding unity.

Think about someone you know well.  And think about someone that person knows well and loves.  To a certain degree, you may feel you know that other person just by knowing the one who knows them.  For example, say you have a very close friend who has a child and your friend shares much with you about their child.  What you’re experiencing is the unity of that parent and child in your relationship with your friend.

So it is with God.  As we come to know God the Son, we automatically come to know God the Father.  And the good news is that if we know God, and then let another get to know us, the effect is that we will be letting them come to know God through us.  This is one of the wonderful ways to evangelize and bring God to those whom we know and love.

Reflect, today, upon your relationship with God and how that relationship shines through in all other relationships you have.  Commit yourself more fully to knowing and loving God so that others around you may also benefit from your love of Him.

Lord of perfect unity, help me to come to know and love You and, in that relationship, to come to know and love the Father and the Holy Spirit.  And as I grow in love for You Most Holy Trinity, help me to bring that love into every relationship I have so that I may be an instrument of Your love to others.  Most Holy Trinity, I trust in You.

Easter Prayers

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Saints/Feasts for Today

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Holy Trinity, via flickr