That Which is Within February 8, 2023


Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Jerome Emiliani, Founder—Optional Memorial

Saint Josephine Bakhita, Virgin—Optional Memorial

Video

Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” Mark 7:14–15

What is within you? What is in your heart? Today’s Gospel concludes with a list of vices that sadly come from within: “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.” Of course, none of these vices are desirable when looked at objectively. They are all quite repulsive. And yet too often they are sins that people deal with on a regular basis to one extent or another.

Take greed, for example. When understood clearly, no one wants to be known as one who is greedy. It’s a shameful attribute to have. But when greed is not looked at as greed, it’s easy to fall into the trap of living it. One who is greedy desires an excessive amount of this or that. More money, a better house, a nicer car, more luxurious vacations, etc. Thus, when a person is acting in a greedy way, greed does not seem undesirable. It’s only when greed is looked at in an objective way that it is understood for what it is.

In this Gospel, by naming this long list of vices, Jesus does us an incredible act of mercy. He rattles us and calls us to step back and look at sin for what it is. Jesus also makes it clear that when you live one or more of these vices, you become defiled. You become greedy, a liar, cruel, a gossip, hateful, arrogant, etc. Objectively speaking, no one wants this.

What is it in that list of vices that you struggle with the most? What do you see within your own heart? Be honest with yourself before God. Jesus desires that your heart be pure and holy, freed from these and every filth. But unless you are able to look at your own heart with honesty, it will be difficult to reject the sin with which you struggle.

Reflect, today, upon this list of sins identified by our Lord. Consider each one and allow yourself to see each sin for what it truly is. Allow yourself to despise these sins with a holy wrath and then turn your eyes to that sin with which you struggle the most. Know that as you consciously see that sin and reject it, our Lord will begin to strengthen you and purify your heart so that you become freed from that defilement and become, instead, the beautiful child of God you were made to be.

My merciful Lord, help me to see sin for what it is. Help me, especially, to see my own sin—that sin within my own heart that defiles me as Your dear child. As I see my sin, give me the grace I need to reject it and to turn to You with all my heart so that I can become a new creation in Your grace and mercy. Jesus, I trust in You!

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Saints of the Day –

Saint Jerome Emiliani, Priest

Saint Josephine Bakhita, Virgin

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Christ Preaching By Rembrandt, via Wikimedia Commons

Worship From the Heart February 7, 2023


Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Video

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. Mark 7:6–8

It seems quite clear that Jesus’ instant fame led these religious leaders to jealousy and envy, and they wanted to find fault with Him. As a result, they carefully observed Jesus and His disciples, and they noticed that Jesus’ disciples were not following the traditions of the elders. So the leaders began questioning Jesus about this fact. Jesus’ response was one of severe criticism of them. He quoted Isaiah the prophet who said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”

Jesus strongly criticized them because their hearts were lacking true worship. The various traditions of the elders were not necessarily bad, such as the careful ceremonial washing of one’s hands before eating. But these traditions were empty if they were not motivated by a deep faith and love of God. The external following of human traditions was not truly an act of divine worship, and that’s what Jesus wanted for them. He wanted their hearts to be set ablaze with a love of God and with true divine worship.

What our Lord wants of each one of us is worship. Pure, heartfelt, sincere worship. He wants us to love God with a deep interior devotion. He wants us to pray, to listen to Him, and to serve His holy will with all the powers of our soul. And this is only possible when we engage in authentic worship.

As Catholics, our life of prayer and worship is grounded in the holy Liturgy. The Liturgy incorporates many traditions and practices that reflect our faith and become a vehicle of the grace of God. And though the Liturgy itself is far different from the mere “tradition of the elders” that Jesus was criticizing, it’s useful to remind ourselves that the many Liturgies of our Church must move from the external actions to interior worship. Going through the motions alone is pointless. We must allow God to act on us and within us as we engage in the external celebration of the Sacraments.

Reflect, today, upon the burning desire in the heart of our Lord to draw you into worship. Reflect upon how well you allow yourself to be drawn into this worship every time you attend the holy Mass. Seek to make your participation not only an exterior one but, first and foremost, an interior one. Doing so will help ensure that the rebuke of our Lord upon the scribes and Pharisees does not also fall upon you.

My divine Lord, You and You alone are worthy of all worship, adoration and praise. You and You alone deserve the worship I offer You from the depths of my heart. Help me and Your entire Church to always interiorize our exterior acts of worship so as to give You the glory that is due Your holy name. Jesus, I trust in You.

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Saints/Feasts for Today

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Featured image above: The Meal in the House of the Pharisee By James Tissot, via Wikimedia Commons

Seeking Healing February 6, 2023


Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saints Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs—Memorial

Video

Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed. Mark 6:56

It would have been truly awe-inspiring to witness Jesus healing the sick. The people who witnessed this clearly had never seen anything like it before. For those who were sick, or whose loved ones were sick, each healing would have had a powerful effect upon them and upon their whole family.

Today, modern medicine, with its ability to treat so many illnesses, has lessened the fear and anxiety over getting sick. But in Jesus’ time, serious illness was of far greater concern. For that reason, the desire of so many people to bring their sick to Jesus so that they could be healed was very strong. This desire drove them to Jesus so that “they might touch only the tassel on his cloak” and be healed. And Jesus didn’t disappoint.

Though Jesus’ physical healings were unquestionably an act of charity given to those who were sick and to their families, they obviously weren’t the most important thing Jesus did. And it’s important for us to remind ourselves of that fact. Jesus’ healings were primarily for the purpose of preparing the people to listen to His Word and to ultimately receive the spiritual healing of the forgiveness of their sins.

In your own life, if you were seriously ill and were given the option to receive either a physical healing or to receive the spiritual healing of the forgiveness of your sins, which would you choose? Clearly, the spiritual healing of the forgiveness of your sins is of infinitely greater value. It will affect your soul for all eternity. The truth is that this far greater healing is available to us all, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In that Sacrament, we are invited to “touch the tassel on his cloak,” so to speak, and be spiritually healed. For that reason, we should have a much deeper desire to seek out Jesus in the confessional than the people of Jesus’ day had for physical healing. And yet, too often we ignore the priceless gift of God’s mercy and healing offered so freely to us.

Reflect, today, upon the desire in the hearts of the people in this Gospel story. Think, especially, about those who were seriously ill and about their burning desire to come to Jesus for healing. Compare that desire in their hearts to the desire, or lack of desire, in your heart to run to our Lord for the spiritual healings your soul so desperately needs. Seek to foster a greater desire for this healing, especially as it comes to you through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

My healing Lord, I thank You for the spiritual healing You continually offer me, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I thank You for the forgiveness of my sins on account of You suffering on the Cross. Fill my heart with a greater desire to come to You so as to receive the greatest gift I could ever receive: the forgiveness of my sins. Jesus, I trust in You.

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saints Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Crowds gather as Christ heals the sick. Engraving by T. Phil, via Wikimedia Commons

The Light of the World February 5, 2023


Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Readings for Today

Video

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:14–16 

We’ve all experienced a time when the lights went out and we were in darkness. In this case, if you were to light a candle and place it in the center of the room, its light would make quite a difference. One candle in a darkened room transforms that room, making it a more comfortable dwelling place.

Using that image, consider the first line in Jesus’ metaphor above. “You are the light of the world.” Try to see yourself as that single candle in the darkness. That is your mission. Just as a single candle can give light to an entire room, so you are capable of being a source of light for many others.

One of the primary missions we have all received in life is to allow the light of God’s grace to “shine before others.” The result of fulfilling this mission is that others will see our good deeds that were inspired by God, and they will, in turn, glorify the Father in Heaven. Thus, your mission of radiating the light of Christ for others results in God being praised and glorified.

This full statement of Jesus is especially helpful to consider when we struggle with pride. Pride is a way of pointing to ourselves. It’s an act of selfishness by which we place ourselves in the spotlight as a way of trying to become the object of others’ praise. But what Jesus tells us is that when we properly fulfill our role of being the light of the world, when we radiate the Light of Christ, others will be inspired not to praise us but rather to glorify God as He acts through us. This is quite a difference.

With that being said, the beautiful thing about God being glorified is that God often wants us to share in that glory. That means that if you were to do an act of charity for another, and they were deeply grateful to you and thanked you, their “thank you” is an act of glorifying God when it is understood that you acted out of a love of God. God is praised when we, His children, give and receive love and honor between each other on account of our faith.

Reflect, today, upon two things. First, think about those upon whom God has called you to shine His light. Who is it in your life who needs an act of love, charity, mercy, forgiveness or compassion? Commit yourself to becoming God’s light for them in their darkness. Second, think about those who have shone the Light of Christ upon you. When this has happened, how did you respond? Hopefully your response was one of a gratitude that not only returns love to the other but also glorifies God through your gratitude. Be the light of the world to a world in need and seek out that light as it shines brightly through others. This is the only way to step out of the darkness that constantly tries to pervade us.

Lord, You are the true Light Who dispels every darkness in life. You are the Light of my life and shine brightly for all to see. Help me to see Your light as it shines on others and to glorify You for that gift. And help me to be an instrument of Your light to those who need it the most. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr
Not celebrated as a liturgical memorial this year since it falls on Sunday

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Featured image above: via pixabay

Unexpected Ministry February 4, 2023

Saturday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Video

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  Mark 6:34

The Twelve had just returned from going about the countryside preaching the Gospel. They were tired. Jesus, in His compassion, invites them to come away with Him to rest for a while. So they get in a boat to cross over to a deserted place. But when the people hear about this, they hurry on foot to the place that their boat was heading. So, when the boat arrives, there is a crowd awaiting them.

Of course, Jesus does not get upset. He does not get discouraged by the burning desire of the people to be with Him and the Twelve. Instead, the Gospel relates that when Jesus saw them, “his heart was moved with pity,” and He began to teach them many things.

In our own lives, after serving others well, it’s understandable to desire rest. Even Jesus desired this for Himself and His Apostles. But the one thing that Jesus permitted to “interrupt” His rest was the clear desire of the people to be with Him and to be fed by His preaching. There is much to learn from this example of our Lord.

For example, there are many times when a parent may only want to be alone for a while, and yet family concerns arise that need their attention. Priests and religious may also have unexpected duties that arise from their ministry that can, at first, appear to interrupt their plans. The same can be said for any vocation or situation in life. We may think we need one thing, but then duty calls and we find we are needed in a different way.

One key to sharing in the apostolic mission of Christ, be it to our families, Church, communities or friends, is to be ready and willing to be generous with our time and energy. It’s true that prudence will dictate the need for rest at times, but at other times the call to charity will supersede what we perceive as a legitimate need for our own rest and relaxation. And when true charity is demanded of us, we will always find that our Lord gives us the needed grace to be generous with our time. It is often in those moments when our Lord chooses to use us in ways that are truly transforming for others.

Reflect, today, upon the true needs of those around you. Are there people who would greatly benefit from your time and attention today? Are there needs that others have that will require you to change your plans and to give of yourself in a way that is difficult? Do not hesitate to give generously of yourself to others. In fact, this form of charity is not only transforming for those whom we serve, it is often one of the most restful and rejuvenating activities we can also do for ourselves.

My generous Lord, You gave of Yourself without reserve. People came to You in their need, and You did not hesitate to serve them out of love. Give me a heart that imitates Your generosity and help me to always say “Yes” to the charitable work to which I am called. May I learn to find great joy in serving others, especially in those unplanned and unexpected circumstances of life. Jesus, I trust in You.

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day –  Saints Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Christ and His Disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane By Rembrandt, via Wikimedia Commons

“Perplexed” by the Truth February 3, 2023


Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Blase, Bishop and Martyr—Optional Memorial

Saint Ansgar, Bishop—Optional Memorial

Video

Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. Mark 6:20

Ideally, when the Gospel is preached and received by another, the effect is that the receiver is filled with joy, consolation and a desire to change. The Gospel is transforming for those who truly listen and respond with generosity. But what about those who do not respond with generosity? What effect does the Gospel have upon them? Our Gospel today gives us that answer.

The line above comes from the story of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist. The bad actors in this story are Herod, Herod’s illegitimate wife Herodias, and Herodias’ daughter (traditionally named Salome). John had been imprisoned by Herod because John told Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” But what’s most interesting about this story is that, even in prison, Herod would listen to John preach. But instead of leading Herod to conversion, he was left “perplexed” by what John preached.

Being “perplexed” was not the only reaction to John’s preaching. Herodias’ reaction was one of hatred. She appeared to be stung to the heart by John’s condemnation of her “marriage” to Herod, and it was she who then orchestrated John’s beheading.

This Gospel, then, teaches us of two other common reactions to the Truth of the holy Gospel when it is preached. One is hatred and another is confusion (being perplexed). Obviously, hatred is far worse than simply being perplexed. But neither is the right reaction to the words of Truth.

What is your reaction to the full Gospel when it is preached? Are there aspects of the Gospel that leave you uneasy? Are there teachings of our Lord that confuse you or lead you to anger? First look within your own heart to determine if you struggle with having a similar reaction as did Herod and Herodias. And then consider how the world reacts to the Truth of the Gospel. We should not be surprised at all that we find many Herods and Herodiases alive today.

Reflect, today, upon any ways that you see the Gospel being rejected on one level or another. If you sense this within your own heart, then repent with all your might. If you see it elsewhere, do not allow the hostility to shake you or concern you. Keep your mind and heart upon the Truth and remain steadfast no matter the reaction you encounter.

My Lord of all Truth, Your Word and Your Word alone brings grace and salvation. Please give me the grace I need to always listen to Your Word and to respond generously with all my heart. May I repent when I am convicted by Your Word and may I wholeheartedly return to You. Give me courage when others reject Your Truth and wisdom to know how to share that Word with love. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Culmination of a Life of Faith Thursday, February 2, 2023

 

Presentation of the Lord—Feast

Readings for Today

Video

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”  Luke 2:29–32

At the time of Jesus’ birth, there was a man named Simeon who had spent his whole life preparing for one significant moment. Like all faithful Jews at the time, Simeon was waiting for the coming Messiah. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would indeed see the Messiah before his death—and so this happened when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the Temple to offer Him to the Lord as an infant.

Try to imagine the scene. Simeon had lived a holy and devout life. And deep within his conscience, he knew that his life on earth would not come to an end until he was privileged to see the Savior of the World with his own eyes. He knew this by a special gift of faith, an interior revelation of the Holy Spirit, and he believed.

It’s helpful to think about this unique gift of knowledge that Simeon had throughout his life. Normally we gain knowledge through our five senses. We see something, hear something, taste, smell, or feel something, and as a result come to know it to be true. Physical knowledge is very reliable and is the normal way we come to know things. But this gift of knowledge Simeon had was different. It was deeper and was spiritual in nature. He knew he would see the Messiah before he died, not because of some external sensory perception he had received but because of an interior revelation from the Holy Spirit.

This truth begs the question, which type of knowledge is more certain? Something you see with your eyes, touch, smell, hear or taste? Or something that God speaks to you in the depths of your soul by a revelation of grace? Though these types of knowledge are different, it’s important to understand that the spiritual knowledge that is given by the Holy Spirit is far more certain than anything perceived through the five senses alone. This spiritual knowledge has the power to change your life and direct all your actions toward that revelation.

For Simeon, this interior knowledge of a spiritual nature suddenly united with his five senses when Jesus was brought into the Temple. Simeon suddenly saw, heard and felt this Child Whom he knew he would one day see with his own eyes and touch with his own hands. For Simeon, that moment was the culminating moment of his life.

Reflect, today, upon anything that our Lord has spoken to you in the depths of your soul. Too often we ignore His gentle voice as it speaks, preferring instead to live only in the sensory world. But the spiritual reality within us must become the center and foundation of our lives. It is there where God speaks, and it is there where we, too, will discover the central purpose and meaning of our lives.

My spiritual Lord, I thank You for the countless ways in which You speak to me day and night in the depths of my own soul. Help me to be always attentive to You and to Your gentle voice as You speak to me. May Your voice and Your voice alone become the guiding direction of my life. May I trust in Your Word and never waver from the mission You have given to me. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Further Reading – Presentation of the Lord

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Presentation of Jesus at the Temple By Giotto di Bondone, via Wikimedia Commons

Christ All Around Us February 1, 2023


Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Video

“Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Mark 6:3

After traveling throughout the countryside performing miracles, teaching the crowds and gaining many followers, Jesus returned to Nazareth where He grew up. Perhaps His disciples were excited to return with Jesus to His native place, thinking that His own townspeople would be overjoyed to see Jesus again because of the many stories of His miracles and authoritative teaching. But the disciples were soon to have quite a surprise.

After arriving in Nazareth, Jesus entered the Synagogue to teach, and He taught with an authority and wisdom that confounded the locals. They said among themselves, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him?” They were confused because they knew Jesus. He was the local carpenter who worked for years with His father who was a carpenter. He was Mary’s son, and they knew His other relatives by name.

The primary difficulty Jesus’ townspeople had was their familiarity with Jesus. They knew Him. They knew where He lived. They knew Him as He grew up. They knew His family. They knew all about Him. Therefore, they wondered how Jesus could be anything special. How could He now teach with authority? How could He now do miracles? Thus, the townspeople were astonished, and they allowed that astonishment to turn into doubt, judgment and criticism.

The same temptation is something we all deal with more than we may realize. It is often easier to admire a stranger from afar than one whom we know well. When we hear of someone for the first time who is doing something admirable, it’s easy to join in that admiration. But when we hear good news about someone we know well, we can easily be tempted to jealousy or envy and to be skeptical and even critical. But the truth is that every saint has a family. And every family potentially has brothers and sisters, cousins and other relatives through whom God will do great things. This should not surprise us—it should inspire us! And we should rejoice when those close to us and with whom we are familiar are used powerfully by our good God.

Reflect, today, upon those whom you are familiar with in life, especially your own family. Examine whether or not you struggle with an ability to see beyond the surface and accept that God dwells within everyone. We must constantly seek to discover the presence of God all around us, especially in the lives of those whom we know very well.

My ever-present Lord, thank You for the countless ways in which You are present in the lives of those all around me. Give me the grace to see You and to love You in the lives of those closest to me. As I discover Your glorious presence in their lives, fill me with deep gratitude and help me to acknowledge Your love that comes forth from their lives. Jesus, I trust in You.

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Saints/Feasts for Today

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Featured image above: Jesus Unrolls the Book in the Synagogue By James Tissot, via Wikimedia Commons

Fear Transformed by Faith January 31, 2023


Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint John Bosco, Priest—Memorial

Video

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Mark 5:35–36

This short line is one worth pondering every day. “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” This statement can apply to many situations we experience throughout our lives. It is a command of love from our Lord and is a command that we all need to hear, especially when hardships come our way.

First, it should be noted that this was a grave situation in which extreme emotion and temptations to fear would be understandable. The father in this story had a young daughter at the point of death, and he came to beg Jesus to heal her. Jesus agreed. But while they were on their way, Jesus and the father received the heartbreaking news that the daughter had just died. As any parent would know, this news must have been incredibly difficult to hear. So begin by trying to understand the grief that this father was experiencing. Try to especially understand his grief at that moment as he heard this devastating news.

As you ponder his grief, try to also ponder the heart, thinking, emotions and words of Jesus. Jesus had no fear. He knew that this would end very well. But because He also had deep empathy and love for this grieving father, Jesus turned to him to give him hope. Hope in the midst of a very difficult and painful experience in life is hard to come by. When faced with grief, it is very tempting to give in to despair. Despair is a complete loss of hope. Despair keeps us from God and strips us of faith. But despair is always avoidable if we follow Jesus’ command of love. “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

What is it that tempts you to fear in life? What is it that tempts you to lose your hope? Perhaps you struggle with the death of a loved one, and you find it very difficult. Perhaps your grief comes from small sources and is only minor right now. The truth is that all of us will experience small temptations to lose hope every day. And most will also experience grave temptations at one time or another. For these reasons, we must all constantly listen to Jesus’ words and work to dispel every fear in life as we invite God to bestow upon us the gift of hope that comes from unwavering faith in His plan for our lives.

Reflect, today, upon any struggles you have with despair, fear or anxiety in life. As you do, know that all things are possible when you turn to God with faith. Faith does not necessarily remove the hardships of life; it does something even better. It transforms hardships so that you can endure them with grace, joy and supernatural hope. When this happens, everything in life has the potential to be used by God for our good. All we need to do is continually reject fear and “just have faith.”

My compassionate Lord, You consoled this grieving father and instilled within him the gifts of faith and hope. Please also speak your command of love to me, calling me to trust in You no matter what I struggle with in life. May I always have faith in You and never fall into despair or fear. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Journey to Perfection January 29, 2023


Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Readings for Today

Video

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

The Sermon on the Mount begins with today’s reading in Chapter Five of Matthew’s Gospel and continues through Chapter Seven. This beautiful sermon presents us with many familiar teachings of Jesus, such as the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer and the Golden Rule. Jesus begins His sermon by going up a mountain and sitting down. The mountain is believed to be just north of the Sea of Galilee, just a few miles from Capernaum where Jesus often stayed during His public ministry. Today’s Gospel presents us with the glorious and very high calling of the Beatitudes. This teaching on the Beatitudes sets the stage for the many other lessons Jesus taught.

The Beatitudes are certainly a teaching about morality, but the lessons are not the same as many of the moral teachings that the people were familiar with. Up until that time, morality was primarily seen as a list of forbidden practices. “Thou shall not…” was the general tone. However, the Beatitudes take morality to a much higher level. In this new teaching, Jesus did not start with that which was forbidden or that which was a violation of God’s Law. Instead, He explained that reaching for these ideals brought forth the greatest fulfillment in life. Morality was not only a list of regulations one needed to avoid. At the heart, morality was now presented by our Lord as a glorious journey to perfection. The result of this journey was the attainment of the Kingdom of Heaven.

When you consider the moral life, how do you look at it? Do you see it more as a list of things you can’t do? Or do you see it as a journey up the mountain of true holiness and fulfillment? The Christian life certainly forbids us to engage in many forms of sin and violations of God’s Law. But unless we understand that the highest form of morality is given to fulfill us on the deepest level, then it will be easy to become discouraged by our calling.

Reflect, today, upon Jesus calling you to follow Him up the mountain of the Beatitudes. As you do, begin by considering this journey first from a physical point of view. It would have been much easier for His first hearers of this sermon to simply stay in Capernaum and recline at table, listening to Jesus speak. But the physical journey up the mountain gives insight into the high calling of the moral life. It requires effort and determination. From there, try to imagine yourself listening to Jesus preach. Remind yourself that the Christian life is one of perfection in every way. This is our calling. But the fruit of perfection is the fulfillment in which God wants us to share. The easy life of sin leaves us dry and interiorly dead, but the hard journey to perfection leads us to the deepest fulfillment we could ever attain. Commit yourself to the journey and do not hesitate on the way, and you, too, will be rewarded with the Kingdom of Heaven.

Lord of perfection, You call me to journey with You up the high mountain of holiness. May I always see this journey as one that is glorious and fulfilling. I choose the life of perfection to which I am called and pray that I will always be open to the deepest moral truths You wish me to live. Jesus, I trust in You!

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