Supporting One Another September 28, 2020


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

 Saint Wenceslaus, Martyr—Optional Memorial

Saints Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs—Optional Memorial

Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”  Luke 9:49-50

Why would the Apostles try to prevent someone from casting a demon out in Jesus’ name?  Jesus was not concerned about it and, in fact, tells them not to prevent him.  So why were the Apostles concerned?  Most likely because of jealousy.

The jealousy we see in this case among the Apostles is one that can creep into the Church at times.  It has to do with a desire for power and control.  The Apostles were upset because the person casting out demons did not follow in their company.  In other words, the Apostles were not able to be in charge of this person.

Though this may be hard to understand it may be helpful to see it in a modern context.  Say someone is in charge of a ministry at church and another person or persons start up a new ministry.  The new ministry is quite successful and, as a result, those who have been working in the older more established ministries may get upset and a bit jealous.

This is silly but it’s also reality.  It happens all the time, not only within a church setting but also in our daily lives.  When we see someone else doing something that is successful or bearing good fruit, we may get envious or jealous.

In this case, with the Apostles, Jesus is quite understanding and compassionate about the whole thing.  But He is also quite clear.  “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”  Do you see things in life this way?  When someone does well do you rejoice or are you negative?  When another does good things in Jesus’ name, does that fill your heart with gratitude that God is using that person for good or do you get envious?

Reflect, today, upon the many good things going on all around you.  Reflect, especially, upon those who are furthering the Kingdom of God.  And reflect upon how you feel about them.  Pray that you will see them as your coworker in the vineyard of Christ rather than as your competitor.

Lord, I thank You for the many good things taking place within Your Church and within society.  Help me to rejoice in all that You do through others.  Help me to let go of any struggle I have with envy.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Day Seven: Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux – The Little Flower

 

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Saints of the Day –

Saint Wenceslaus, Martyr
 Also
Saints Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs

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Image: Jesus Discourses with His Disciples by James Tissot

Overcoming Obstinacy  September 27, 2020


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

“Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.  When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”  Matthew 21:31c-32

These words of Jesus are spoken to the chief priests and elders of the people.  They are very direct and condemning words.  They are also words spoken so as to awaken the consciences of these religious leaders.

These religious leaders were full of pride and self-righteousness.  They held to their own opinions and their opinions were wrong.  Their pride kept them from discovering the simple truths that tax collectors and prostitutes were discovering.  For that reason, Jesus makes it clear that tax collectors and prostitutes were on the path to holiness whereas these religious leaders were not.  This would have been hard for them to accept.

In which category do you find yourself?  Sometimes, those who are considered “religious” or “pious” struggle with a similar pride and judgmentalness as the chief priests and elders of Jesus’ time.  This is a dangerous sin because it leads a person into much obstinacy.  It is for this reason that Jesus was so direct and so harsh.  He was attempting to break them free from their obstinacy and prideful ways.

The most important lesson we can take from this passage is to seek the humility, openness and genuineness of the tax collectors and prostitutes.  They were praised by our Lord because they could see and accept the honest truth.  Sure, they were sinners, but God can forgive sin when we are aware of our sin.  If we are not willing to see our sin, then it’s impossible for God’s grace to enter in and heal.

Reflect, today, upon how open you are to seeing the truth of God and, especially, to seeing your own fallen and sinful state.  Do not be afraid to humble yourself before God, admitting your faults and failures.  Embracing this level of humility will open the doors of God’s mercy toward you.

Lord, help me to always humble myself before You.  When pride and self-righteousness enter in, help me to hear Your strong words and to repent of my obstinate ways.  I am a sinner, dear Lord.  I beg for Your perfect mercy.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Day Six: Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux – The Little Flower

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Vincent de Paul, Priest
Not celebrated as a liturgical memorial this year since it falls on Sunday

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Image: The Woman Taken in Adultery by Lorenzo Lotto

Responding to the Call Monday, September 21, 2020

 

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Readings for Today

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.  Matthew 9:9

St. Matthew was a wealthy and “important” man in his day and age.  As a tax collector, he was also disliked by many of the Jews.  But he showed himself to be a good man by His immediate response to Jesus’ call.

We do not have many details to this story, but we have the details that matter.  We see that Matthew is at work collecting taxes.  We see that Jesus simply walks by him and calls him.  And we see that Matthew immediately gets up, abandons everything, and follows Jesus.  This is quite a conversion.

For most people, this sort of immediate response would not happen.  Most people would have to first get to know Jesus, be convinced by Him, talk to their family and friends, think, ponder and then decide if following Jesus was a good idea.  Most people go through a long rationalizing of God’s will before responding to it.  Is that you?

Every day God is calling us.  Every day He calls us to serve Him radically and completely in one way or another.  And every day we have an opportunity to respond just as Matthew did.  The key is to have two essential qualities.  First, we must recognize the voice of Jesus clearly and unmistakably.  We must, in faith, know what He says to us when He says it.  Secondly, we must be certain that whatever Jesus calls or inspires us to do is worth it.  If we can perfect these two qualities we will be in a position to imitate the quick and total response of St. Matthew.

Reflect, today, upon your willingness to imitate this Apostle.  What do you say and do when God calls each day?  Where you see a lacking, recommit yourself to a more radical following of Christ.  You will not regret it.

Lord, may I hear You speak and respond to You wholeheartedly every time.  May I follow You wherever You lead.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tomorrow begins the Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux – The Little Flower

 

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Matthew the Evangelist, Apostle, Evangelist

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Image: The Calling of St. Matthew by Hendrick ter Brugghen

It’s Never Too Late September 20, 2020


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

“Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’”  Matthew 20:6-7

This passage reveals the fifth time in one day that the owner of the vineyard went out and hired more workers.  Each time he found people idle and hired them on the spot, sending them to the vineyard.  We know the end of the story.  Those who were hired late in the day, at five o’clock, were paid the same wage as those who worked all day long.

One lesson we can take from this parable is that God is exceptionally generous and it is never too late to turn to Him in our need.  Too often, when it comes to our life of faith, we sit around “idle all day.”  In other words, we can easily go through the motions of having a faith life but fail to actually embrace the daily work of building up our relationship with our Lord.  It’s much easier to have an idle faith life than one which is active and transforming.

We should hear, in this passage, an invitation from Jesus to get to work, so to speak.  One challenge that many face is that they have spent years living an idle faith and do not know how to change that.  If that is you, this passage is for you.  It reveals that God is merciful to the end.  He never shies away from bestowing His riches on us no matter how long we have been away from Him and no matter how far we have fallen.

Reflect, today, upon the level of commitment with which you are living your faith.  Be honest and reflect upon whether you are more idle or hard at work.  If you are hard at work, be grateful and remain committed without hesitation.  If you are idle, today is the day our Lord invites you to make a change.  Make that change, get to work, and know that our Lord’s generosity is great.

Lord, help me to increase my commitment to living my life of faith.  Allow me to hear Your gentle invitation to enter into Your Vineyard of grace.  I thank You for Your generosity and seek to receive this freely given gift of Your mercy.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

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Saint of the Day – Sts. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs
Not celebrated as a liturgical memorial this year since it falls on Sunday

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Image: Parable of the workers in the vineyard. by Christian Dietrich

Following Jesus September 18, 2020


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

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities… Luke 8:1-2

Jesus was on a mission.  His mission was to preach to town after town tirelessly.  But He did not do this alone.  This passage points out that He was accompanied by the Apostles and several women who had been healed and forgiven by Him.

There is much this passage tells us.  One thing it tells us is that when we allow Jesus to touch our lives, heal us, forgive us and transform us, we want to follow Him wherever He goes.

The desire to follow Jesus was not only an emotional one.  Certainly there were emotions involved.  There was incredible gratitude and, as a result, a deep emotional bond.  But the bond went so much deeper.  It was a bond created by the gift of grace and salvation.  These followers of Jesus experienced a greater level of freedom from sin than they had ever experienced before.  Grace changed their lives and, as a result, they were ready and willing to make Jesus the center of their lives following Him wherever He went.

Reflect, today, upon two things.  First, have you allowed Jesus to pour forth an abundance of grace into your life?  Have you allowed Him to touch you, change you, forgive you and heal you?  If so, have you then repaid this grace by making the absolute choice to follow Him?  Following Jesus, wherever He goes, is not just something these Apostles and holy women did long ago.  It’s something that we are all called to do daily.  Reflect upon these two questions and recommit yourself where you see a lacking.

Lord, please do come and forgive me, heal me and transform me.  Help me to know Your saving power in my life.  When I receive this grace, help me to return to You in gratitude everything that I am and to follow You wherever You lead.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Featured image above: Jesus Traveling by James Tissot

Begging for Mercy September 17, 2020


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

Saint Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor—Optional Memorial

A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.  Luke 7:36-38

In part, this Gospel is about the Pharisee.  If we read on in this passage we see the Pharisee becoming quite judgmental and condemning of this woman and Jesus.  Jesus rebuked Him just as He has done so many times before with the Pharisees.  But this passage is much more than a rebuke of the Pharisees.  At its heart, it’s a story of love.

The love is that love in the heart of this sinful woman.  It’s a love manifested in sorrow for sin and deep humility.  Her sin was great and, as a result, so was her humility and love.  Let’s look at that humility first.  It is seen in her actions as she came to Jesus.

First, “she stood behind Him…”
Second, she fell down “at His feet…”
Third, she was “weeping…”
Fourth, she washed His feet “with her tears…”
Fifth, she dried His feet “with her hair…”
Sixth, she “kissed” His feet.
Seventh, she “anointed” His feet with her costly perfume.

Stop for a moment and try to imagine this scene.  Try to see this sinful woman humbling herself in love before Jesus.  If this full action is not an act of deep sorrow, repentance and humility then it’s hard to know what else it is.  It’s an action that is not planned out, not calculated, not manipulative.  Rather, it’s deeply humble, sincere and total.  In this act, she cries out for mercy and compassion from Jesus and she doesn’t even have to say a word.

Reflect, today, upon your own sin.  Unless you know your sin, you cannot manifest this type of humble sorrow.  Do you know your sin?  From there, consider getting down on the ground, on your knees, bowing your head to the ground before Jesus and sincerely begging for His compassion and mercy.  Try literally doing that.  Make it real and total.  The result is that Jesus will treat you in the same merciful way He did this sinful woman.

Lord, I beg for Your mercy.  I am a sinner and I deserve damnation.  I acknowledge my sin.  I beg, in Your mercy, to forgive my sin and pour forth Your infinite compassion upon me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor

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Featured image above: Dinner at the House of the Pharisee by Maria Felice Tibaldi

The Music for Life September 16, 2020


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

Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs—Memorial

Jesus said to the crowds: “To what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’”  Luke 7:31-32

So what does this story tell us?  First of all, the story means that children are ignoring the “songs” of each other.  Some children sing a song of sorrow and that song is rejected by others.  Some sang joyful songs for dancing, and others did not enter into the dance.  In other words, the appropriate response was not given to the offer of their music.

This is a clear reference to the fact that so many of the prophets who came before Jesus “sang songs” (meaning preached) inviting people to have sorrow for sin as well as to rejoice in the truth.  But despite the fact that the prophets poured out their hearts, so many people ignored them.

Jesus gives a strong condemnation of the people of that time for their refusal to listen to the words of the prophets.  He goes on to point out that many called John the Baptist one who was “possessed” and they called Jesus a “glutton and drunkard.”  The condemnation of the people by Jesus especially focuses upon one particular sin: Obstinacy.  This stubborn refusal to listen to the voice of God and change is a grave sin.  In fact, it is traditionally referred to as one of the sins against the Holy Spirit.  Do not let yourself become guilty of this sin.  Do not be obstinate and refuse to listen to the voice of God.

The positive message of this Gospel is that when God speaks to us we must listen!  Do you?  Do you listen attentively and respond wholeheartedly?  You should read it as an invitation to turn your full attention to God and listen to the beautiful “music” He sends forth.

Reflect, today, upon your willingness to listen.  Jesus strongly condemned those who did not listen and refused to hear Him.  Do not be counted among their number.

Lord, may I listen, hear, understand and respond to Your sacred voice.  May it be the refreshment and nourishment of my soul.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

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Saint of the Day – Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs

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Featured image above: Jesus a friend of the little ones by Vlaho Bukovac

The Sorrowful Heart of Our Blessed Mother Tuesday, September 15, 2020

 

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Readings for Today

“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  Luke 2:34-35

What a profound, meaningful and very real feast we celebrate today.  Today we try to enter into the profound sorrow of the heart of our Blessed Mother as she endured the sufferings of her Son.

Mother Mary loved her Son Jesus with the perfect love of a mother.  Interestingly, it was that perfect love she had in her heart for Jesus that was the source of her deep spiritual suffering.  Her love drew her to be present to Jesus in His own Cross and sufferings.  And for that reason, as Jesus suffered, so did His mother.

But her suffering was not one of despair, it was a suffering of love.  Therefore, her sorrow was not a sadness; rather, it was a profound sharing in all that Jesus endured.  Her heart was perfectly united with her Son’s and, therefore, she endured all that He endured.  This is true love on the deepest and most beautiful level.

Today, on this memorial of her Sorrowful Heart, we are called to live in union with the Blessed Mother’s sorrow.  As we love her, we find ourselves feeling the same pain and suffering her heart still experiences as a result of the sins of the world.  Those sins, including our own sins, are what nailed her Son to the Cross.

When we love our Blessed Mother and her Son Jesus, we will also grieve over sin; first our own and then the sins of others.  But it’s important to know that the sorrow we experience over sin is also a sorrow of love.  It’s a holy sorrow that ultimately motivates us to a deeper compassion and deeper unity with those around us, especially those who are wounded and those caught in sin.  It also motivates us to turn from sin in our own lives.

Reflect, today, upon the perfect love of the heart of our Blessed Mother.  That love is capable of rising above all suffering and pain and is the same love God wants to place in your heart.

Lord, help me to love with the love of Your dear Mother.  Help me to feel the same holy sorrow she felt and to allow that holy sorrow to deepen my concern and compassion for all those who suffer.  Jesus, I trust in You.  Mother Mary, pray for us.

 

 

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Saint of the Day – Our Lady of Sorrows

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Featured image above:  Pieta by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Glorious Cross of Our Lord! September 14, 2020

 

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Readings for Today

“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”  John 3:14-15

What a glorious feast we celebrate today!  It’s the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross!

Does the Cross truly make sense?  If we could separate ourselves from all we have learned about the Cross of Christ and just look at it from a secular and historical perspective, the Cross is a sign of great tragedy.  It’s connected to the story of a man who became quite popular with many, yet was vehemently hated by others.  In the end, those who hated this man arranged for His brutal crucifixion.  So, from a purely secular point of view, the Cross is an awful thing.

But Christians do not see the Cross from a secular point of view.  We see it from the divine perspective.  We see Jesus lifted up on the Cross for all to see.  We see Him using horrible suffering to eliminate suffering forever.  We see Him using death to destroy death itself.  Ultimately, we see Jesus become victorious on that Cross and, therefore, forever we see the Cross as an exalted and glorious throne!

Moses’ actions in the desert prefigured the Cross.  Many people were dying from snake bites. Therefore, God told Moses to lift up the image of a snake on a pole so that all who looked upon it would be healed.  And that’s exactly what happened.  Ironically, the snake brought life instead of death!

Suffering occurs throughout our lives in various ways.  Perhaps for some it’s daily aches and pains from ill health, and for others it may be on a much deeper level, such as an emotional, personal, relational or spiritual one.  Sin, in fact, is the cause of the greatest suffering, so those who struggle deeply with sin in their lives suffer deeply from that sin.

So what is Jesus’ answer?  His answer is to turn our gaze to His Cross.  We are to look at Him in His misery and suffering and, in that gaze, we are called to see victory with faith.  We are called to know that God brings good out of all things, even our suffering.  The Father transformed the world eternally through the suffering and death of His only Son.  He also wants to transform us in our crosses.

Reflect, today, upon the Cross of Christ.  Spend some time gazing upon the crucifix.  See in that crucifix the answer to your own daily struggles.  Jesus is close to those who suffer, and His strength is available to all those who believe in Him.

Lord, help me to gaze upon the Cross.  Help me to experience in Your own sufferings a taste of Your final victory.  May I be strengthened and healed as I look upon You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

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Today’s Feast – Exaltation of the Holy Cross

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Image:  Raising of the cross by Peter Paul Rubens

Forgiveness September 13, 2020


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

“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”  Matthew 18:21-22

This question, posed by Peter to Jesus, was asked in such a way that Peter thought he was being quite generous in his forgiveness.  But to his surprise, Jesus adds to Peter’s generosity in forgiveness in an exponential way.

For many of us, this sounds good in theory.  It is inspiring and encouraging to ponder the depths of forgiveness that we are called to offer another.  But when it comes to daily practice, this may be much harder to embrace.

By calling us to forgive not only seven times but seventy-seven times, Jesus is telling us that there is no limit to the depth and breadth of mercy and forgiveness that we must offer another.  No limit!

This spiritual truth must become far more than a theory or ideal we strive for.  It must become a practical reality which we embrace with all our might.  We must daily seek to rid ourselves of any tendency we have, no matter how small, to hold a grudge and remain in anger.  We must seek to free ourselves from every form of bitterness and allow mercy to heal every hurt.

Reflect, today, upon that person or persons you need to forgive the most.  Forgiveness may not make perfect sense to you right away and you may find that your feelings do not fall in line with the choice you are trying to make.  Do not give up!  Continue to make the choice to forgive, regardless of how you feel or how hard it is.  In the end, mercy and forgiveness will always triumph, heal and give you the peace of Christ.

Lord, give me a heart of true mercy and forgiveness.  Help me to let go of all bitterness and pain I feel.  In place of these, give me true love and help me to offer that love to others without reserve.  I love You, dear Lord.  Help me to love all people as You love them.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

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

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Image: The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew by Caravaggio