Faith During the Storms of Life January 28, 2023


Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor—Memorial

Video

Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. Mark 4:36–38

Throughout our lives, we can be assured that at some point we will encounter a storm. Not just a physical storm but a spiritual one. It may come in the form of a tragic event, a deep wound inflicted by another, the effects of our own sin or some other painful experience. And for many people, this will happen more than once.

When such a “storm” is encountered in life, it may seem as if Jesus is “asleep” and not readily available to help us through. When this happens, the message of the Gospel above is very helpful to prayerfully ponder.

As this Gospel passage continues, we read that the disciples, in a panic, woke up Jesus and said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus got up, addressed the storm and said, “Quiet! Be still!” and all was calm. He then said to the disciples, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” The disciples were left in amazement and wonder.

The key is faith. When we face a storm in life, we must have faith. But what does that mean? It means that we must know, with a deep certitude, that Jesus is in fact always with us. We must know, with a deep certitude, that if we place all our trust and hope in Him, He will never abandon us. We must know, with a deep certitude, that every storm will ultimately pass and that peace and calm will ensue.

Facing the storms in life with faith is transforming. And often Jesus appears to be asleep for a reason. The reason is that He wants us to trust. Too often we turn our eyes to the storm itself and allow fear and anxiety to dominate our lives. But every storm we encounter is an opportunity to trust Him on a new and deeper level. If life were always easy and consoling then we would have little reason to trust deeply. Therefore, every storm must be seen as an opportunity for tremendous grace as we place all our trust in Jesus, despite how things immediately appear.

Reflect, today, upon how deep and sustaining your own faith in Christ truly is. Do you trust Him no matter what? Are you able to trust Him when all seems lost, when life is difficult and when confusion tempts you? Prepare, now, for the next such storm you may face and resolve to use that opportunity as a moment in which your faith is made manifest and becomes the stabilizing force of your life.

My sleeping Lord, help me to always place all my trust in You, no matter what the circumstances are in my life at every moment. Strengthen my faith, especially during those times when I face challenges and temptations. May I never doubt that You are there with me, leading me and keeping me close to Your merciful Heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Christ Asleep during the Tempest By Eugène Delacroix, via Wikimedia Commons

Transformation in God’s Grace January 27, 2023


Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Angela Merici, Virgin—Optional Memorial

Video

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.  Mark 4:26–27

It’s beautiful to reflect upon how the Word of God changes people’s lives. This short passage above analogizes the sharing of the Word of God with the planting of seed. The sower goes forth and scatters seed into the ground and then observes how that seed grows into a fruitful plant. The mysterious line states “he knows not how.”

So it is with the Word of God. When that Word is received by another, we are blessed to be able to stand back and watch as that Word takes root and transforms their lives. Of course, at times we may sow the Word and it doesn’t take root. This is on account of either the hardness of another’s heart or on account of the way in which we sow. But when the seed of God’s Word does take root, we should be in awe of how God works in that soul.

Think about this reality in your own life. How did you first receive the good seed of God’s word? Perhaps it was through a sermon, a retreat, the reading of Scripture, a book or the witness of another. Think about how you first received God’s Word into your life and what effect it had upon you.

Once God’s Word has taken root in a soul, it is a holy practice to “rise night and day” so as to observe this seed as it grows. Specifically, we must allow ourselves to be amazed at the mysterious way that a life is changed, be it your own life or the life of another. It’s inspiring to observe the soul of a person as it begins to root out sin, to seek virtue, to establish a life of prayer and to grow in the love of God.

If this is something to which you find it hard to relate, then perhaps it’s time to either allow that seed of God’s Word to fall gently and deeply into the fertile ground of your own soul or to prayerfully look for ways in which God wants to use you to sow that seed into the heart of another. Doing the latter takes much openness to the working of the Holy Spirit. It requires that we allow God to inspire us so as to know how we can cooperate with His hand in evangelization.

Reflect, today, upon the “mystery” of a soul who goes through this process of change and spiritual growth. If you find it difficult to find such an example to ponder, then turn to the lives of the saints. The saints are among the greatest witnesses of those who allowed God’s Word to sink deeply into their lives so that they became new creations, transformed by God’s grace. Ponder this transforming witness and allow yourself to be drawn into gratitude and amazement as you do.

My transforming Lord, I thank You for the way that You have sown the seed of Your holy Word into my own life. I thank You for the way in which You have changed me, freed me from sin and set me on the path to holiness. Use me, dear Lord, to sow that seed in the lives of others and fill me with wonder and awe as I witness Your merciful hand at work. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Manifestation of Your Soul to All January 26, 2023


Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops—Memorial

Video

“For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light.” Mark 4:22

What a fascinating little line in the Gospel for today! What does this line mean? Though many have offered various commentaries upon the meaning of this line, let’s turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for some insight:

In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare. The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life… (CCC #1039).

This passage comes from the section on “The Last Judgment” rather than “The Particular Judgment.” The Particular Judgment will come for all of us at the moment of our passing from this world. It will be an accounting of our sins and virtues before God in a personal and private way. But the Last Judgment will come at the end of time and should be seen as a universal judgment upon all in a very definitive and public way. Thus, this line from the Catechism seems to suggest that both our good actions and evil ones will be revealed for all to see.

If the Scripture passage above, as well as the passage from the Catechism, are properly interpreted to mean that during the Last Judgment even our deepest sins, including those that have been forgiven through the Sacrament of Confession, will be made manifest for all to see, this idea can, at first, be a bit frightening. But it shouldn’t be. It should be liberating.

If every action of our lives, both good and bad, will be made manifest for all to see at The Last Judgment, then this will result in one thing and one thing alone for those who are in Heaven: the glory of God and much rejoicing! In other words, if God reveals every sin we have committed, then He will also reveal our repentance from those sins, the purification we endured, and the forgiveness we received. Therefore, those who make up the Communion of Saints will not look upon us with judgment; rather, they will glorify God in the same way we glorify God and thank Him for His abundant mercy and forgiveness. We must always remember His forgiveness and continually rejoice in that fact. Therefore, if all truly is made manifest, then it will be so that we can all rejoice together in the incredible mercy of God and can look at each other with gratitude for all that God had done for the other.

Reflect, today, upon the possibility of that glorious moment. Imagine the freedom you will experience by allowing God to share the deepest sins and the deepest virtues of your life with all who share Heaven with you. Shame will be gone. Judgment will be gone. Rejoicing and gratitude alone will remain. What a glorious moment that will be!

My glorious Judge, I thank You for Your mercy and forgiveness in my life. I thank You for freeing me from all sin. Please continue to purify my soul and free me from even the attachment to all sin. May I never forget all that You have done for me, and may Your mercy become the cause of my eternal rejoicing and Your eternal glory. Jesus, I trust in You.

Becoming an Evangelist Wednesday, January 25, 2023

 

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

Readings for Today

Video

“Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:17

Saint Paul (who in Hebrew was known as Saul of Tarsus) was a devout Jewish Pharisee who vigorously defended the law. After Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven, the newfound Christian faith began to grow rapidly. As a result, Saul of Tarsus vigorously tried to end this new religion which he perceived as erroneous. He traveled about looking for followers of Jesus to arrest and imprison. Saul even gave his consent to the stoning of the deacon, Saint Stephen, the first martyr. However, on one of his journeys, Saul had a vision of the risen Christ Who spoke to him gently, saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). It was in that encounter that Saul was left blinded for three days.

The line quoted above are the words of Ananias, a devout disciple of Jesus. Ananias had also received a vision from Jesus Who told him to go to Saul of Tarsus and to lay his hands on him so that he would be healed. Ananias was also told that Saul was “a chosen instrument” through which the Gospel would be preached to the “Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel.”

Though there are many fascinating aspects to the story of Saint Paul and his conversion, it is also inspiring to reflect upon the way in which God first converted him. Jesus was not harsh with Saul. He was not condemning. Instead, he saw the goodness and vigor of Saul and knew that he would respond if he were given the opportunity. Though Jesus used the powerful action of striking him blind, He did so because He saw so much potential for good within Saul.

This same truth applies to our lives. Each one of us has incredible potential for good, and God does see this. God is aware of all that He can do with us and is seeking to draw us into His mission of sharing the Gospel with those in need. The question to ponder is whether or not you have responded to the ways that God has spoken to you and invited you to serve Him with your life. Saul’s encounter with Jesus was powerful and transforming not only because he was blinded by this vision—it was powerful and transforming, first and foremost, because Saul wanted to serve God but was trying to do so in an erroneous way. And once that error was corrected, Saul responded in an immediate and complete way. As a result, Saul became one of the greatest evangelists in the history of the Church.

Reflect, today, upon the desire in the heart of Jesus to invite you into His mission. Though you may be unaware of the many ways God can use you, Jesus is fully aware. He sees all of your gifts and knows who He wants to draw to Himself through you. Say “Yes” to Him this day and do so with every fiber of your soul. Doing so will allow God to do great things through you.

Lord, I do love You and desire to be used by You in the way that You choose. Help me to convert my heart more fully to You so that I can be led by Your gentle and powerful hand. I accept whatever mission You give to me and pray that my life will give You true glory and further Your glorious Kingdom on earth. Jesus, I trust in You.

Doing the Will of God January 24, 2023


Tuesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor—Memorial

Video

“Here are my mother and my brothers.  For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”  Mark 3:34–35

Jesus said many things that caused people to pause and think. Today’s Gospel passage is one of those times. Just prior to the passage quoted above, Jesus was told that His mother and brothers were outside looking for Him. After hearing this, instead of going to greet them, He asked those around Him, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Then He looked around and answered His own question with the above quoted Scripture.

What may have caused some people to pause and think at that time, and even now when this passage is read, is that Jesus’ comments can easily be misunderstood. Some will conclude that He was distancing Himself from His own family and that He was even disowning them to a certain extent. But nothing could be further from the truth.

First of all, we know that Jesus had a perfect love for His dear mother Mary and that she loved Jesus with a perfect reciprocal love. As for His “brothers,” it was common to refer to one’s extended family (such as cousins) as brothers and sisters. Therefore, these brothers who were coming to see Jesus were relatives to one degree or another. And though our Blessed Mother, the mother of Jesus, was perfect in every way, Jesus’ extended family was not. Recall that some of them thought Jesus was out of his mind and tried to prevent His public ministry.

But back to our question: Was Jesus disowning His family members in some way? Certainly not. Instead, He was establishing a deeper context for His new family in grace. Though biological bonds are a gift and must be respected and cherished, the spiritual bonds established by our joint conformity to the will of God is of much greater importance. Jesus simply pointed to this fact, elevating the spiritual family bond over the purely natural. Of course, it’s also important to point out that Jesus’ mother was first and foremost His mother, not only because she gave physical birth to Jesus, but primarily because she was in perfect conformity to the will of God with Him and, thus, the most intimate member of His family by grace. And the same can be true for all of us. When we conform our wills to the will of God, we become Jesus’ “mother” in the sense that He enters our world through us. And we become His “brothers and sisters” in that we become intimate members of His eternal family and enjoy a profound and spiritual union with Him.

Reflect, today, upon the fact that you are called to be so much more than just a physical brother or sister of Christ Jesus. You are called to the most intimate and transforming familial union imaginable. And this union is more fully accomplished when you seek to fulfill the will of God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength.

My dear Lord, I desire deeply to become more fully a member of Your most intimate family in grace. Help me to always dedicate myself to the complete fulfillment of the will of our Father in Heaven. And as I conform my will more fully with that of the Father’s, draw me deeper and deeper into union with You. Jesus, I trust in You.

9 Days for Life Novena
January 19–27
Day six: January 24

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Christ taking Leave of his Mother By Albrecht Altdorfer, via Wikipedia

Daily Humble Repentance January 23, 2023


Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

 Saint Vincent, Deacon and Martyr—Optional Memorial
(Celebrated January 23 in the USA)

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children—USA Memorial
(Moved to January 23 when January 22 is a Sunday)

Saint Marianne Cope, Virgin—USA Optional Memorial

Video

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” Mark 3:22

By this time, Jesus was fully engaged in His public ministry. He had healed the sick and lame, cast out many demons, called the Twelve Apostles and given them authority over evil spirits, and preached the Good News to many. Just prior to this Gospel passage, some of Jesus’ own extended family had criticized Him, claiming that Jesus was out of His mind. Then the scribes began their public condemnation of our Lord.

The scribes were faced with a dilemma. They saw Jesus cast out demons from those who were possessed, so they needed to come up with an explanation. They concluded that Jesus was able to cast out demons by the power of the prince of demons. Jesus goes on to address the scribes’ criticism by identifying their condemnation as a sin against the Holy Spirit. Jesus explains that every sin can be forgiven except the sin against the Holy Spirit. He says that “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” Why is that?

In this case, the sin against the Holy Spirit is not only the false condemnation spoken by the scribes against Jesus. First and foremost, their sin is one of obstinacy. They spoke falsely about our Lord, which is a grave sin, but what’s worse is that they did so in such a way that they remained firmly grounded in their error. They refused to humble themselves and reconsider their error. And it is this stubbornness that leaves them with an “everlasting sin.”

Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from this passage is that we must avoid remaining stuck in our pride in an obstinate way. We must always be humble and be ready and willing to reexamine our actions. Humility will help us to perpetually remember that we can easily become misled in life. And though this will happen from time to time in various ways, if we remain humble and open to change, then we can always receive the mercy of God and find forgiveness. But if we are prideful and continually refuse to admit our errors, then we are also potentially guilty of a sin against the Holy Spirit.

Reflect, today, upon any tendency you have in your life to be stubborn. Stubbornness can be a virtue when the stubbornness is an unwavering commitment to the Gospel and to the will of God. However, you must always intentionally reexamine the path you are on so that you can change when that path begins to deviate from the Truth of God. Humble yourself this day and allow God’s voice to lead you back from any errors with which you now struggle.

My merciful Jesus, I sin every day and will continue to fail to follow You with perfection. For this reason, I thank You for Your abundant mercy. Please help me to always be open to that mercy by regularly re-examining my decisions in life. Give me humility, dear Lord, to always repent and to turn back to You when I stray. Jesus, I trust in You.

9 Days for Life Novena
January 19–27

Day five: January 23

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Further Reading –

 Saint Vincent, Deacon and Martyr
(Celebrated January 23 in the USA)

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
(Moved to January 23 when January 22 is a Sunday)

Saint Marianne Cope, Virgin

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: he Pharisees and the Sadducees Come to Tempt Jesus, by James Tissot, via Wikimedia Commons

A New Era of Hope January 22, 2023


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

Video

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

In Matthew’s Gospel, from which we read today, we hear the first words spoken by our Lord as He begins His public ministry: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Up until this point, Matthew’s Gospel presented us with Jesus’ genealogy, His birth, the story of the Magi, the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, Jesus’ baptism, the preaching of Saint John the Baptist and Jesus’ forty days in the desert. Now, after these introductory stories to Jesus’ life, we enter into His public ministry.

Recall that John had just been imprisoned, thus concluding his public ministry. Therefore, the time for the preaching and ministry of the Son of God had arrived. And though Jesus continues the theme of repentance started by John, Jesus takes John’s words further. Jesus adds something that John could not: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Since we are still at the beginning of the season of Ordinary Time, it’s important to understand this transition from the Old Testament prophets, of which John was the last, to the New Testament preaching of our Lord. The difference is that all that had been prophesied and pointed to in the Old Testament had now arrived. Saint Jerome, in commenting upon this passage, says that as the Old Testament Law ceased, the Gospel commenced. And, of course, the fulfillment of this new era of the Gospel was only a few short years away when our Lord would offer up His life for the salvation of many.

As Jesus begins His preaching, His words are challenging but also very hopeful. By saying that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Jesus stirs interest and holy curiosity among His first listeners. His call to repentance was softened by His new proclamation about the Kingdom.

One helpful insight we can take from these first words of Jesus’ public ministry is that this is the best way to share the Gospel with those who do not yet follow Christ. Oftentimes, when we see someone living in serious sin, we want to judge and condemn. But usually what they need the most is hope—hope that there is something much greater that comes from repentance. Certainly we need to speak against sin. But one of the most effective ways to do so is by initially offering the listener hope of something much better than the sin with which they struggle—specifically, the hope of the Kingdom of God.

Reflect, today, upon the newness of the ministry of Jesus, the newness of the first proclamation of the Gospel. As you do, try to imagine the holy curiosity that many would have had as they first listened to Jesus preach. Soon He would follow up His preaching with many signs and wonders that would confirm His message. But at first, Jesus simply instilled a hope in His hearers. As you ponder this, think about those in your life who also need this initial sense of hope and holy curiosity about the Gospel and pray that God will inspire you and use you to be an instrument of this merciful message.

Lord, as You began Your public ministry of proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven, You instilled hope and a holy curiosity in the minds and hearts of Your first hearers. Please continue this good work and use me as You will to be an instrument of this hope in those I encounter every day. Jesus, I trust in You.

9 Days for Life Novena
January 19–27

Day four: January 22

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saint Vincent, Deacon and Martyr—Optional Memorial
Not celebrated as a liturgical memorial this year since it falls on Sunday

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Let Your Light Shine, via flickr

Being Misunderstood January 21, 2023


Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr—Memorial

Video

Jesus came with his disciples into the house.  Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat.  When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:20–21

When you consider the sufferings of Jesus, most likely your thoughts first turn to the crucifixion. From there, you may think about His scourging at the pillar, the carrying of the Cross and the other events that took place from the time of His arrest until His death. However, there were many other human sufferings that our Lord endured for our good and the good of all. The Gospel passage above presents us with one such experience.

Though physical pain is quite undesirable, there are other sufferings that can be just as difficult to endure, if not more difficult. One such suffering is being misunderstood and treated by your own family as if you were out of your mind. In Jesus’ case, it appears as if many of His extended family, not including His own mother of course, were quite vocally critical of Jesus. Perhaps they were jealous of Him and had some form of envy, or perhaps they were embarrassed by all the attention He was getting. Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that Jesus’ own relatives tried to prevent Him from ministering to the people who deeply longed to be with Him. Some of His extended family members made up the story that Jesus was “out of his mind” and sought to put an end to His popularity.

Family life should be a community of love, but for some it becomes a source of sorrow and hurt. Why did Jesus allow Himself to endure this form of suffering? In part, to be able to relate with any and every suffering you endure as a result of your own family. Additionally, His endurance of it also redeemed this form of suffering, making it possible for your family hurt to share in that redemption and grace. Thus, when you turn to God in prayer with your family struggles, you will be consoled to know that the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, Jesus, the Eternal Son of God, understands your suffering from His own human experience. He knows the pain so many family members feel from first-hand experience. And He is able to look at every family suffering with the utmost compassion so as to give each person who asks the grace they need to not only endure that suffering but also to use it for good and for God’s glory.

Reflect, today, upon any way that you need to surrender some hurt within your own family over to God. Turn to our Lord Who fully understands your struggles and invite His powerful and compassionate presence into your life so that He can transform all that you endure into His grace and mercy.

My compassionate Lord, You endured much in this world, including the rejection and ridicule of those in Your own family. I offer to You my own family and especially the hurt that has been present. Please come and redeem all family struggles and bring healing and hope to me and to all those who need it the most. Jesus, I trust in You.

9 Days for Life Novena
January 19–27
Day three: January 21

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Saints of the Day – Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: In the Villages the Sick Were Presented to Him By James Tissot, via Wikimedia Commons

Confronting Evil with the Gospel January 20, 2023


Friday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Fabian, Pope and Martyr—Optional Memorial

 Saint Sebastian, Martyr—Optional Memorial

Video

He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. Mark 3:14–15

The Twelve Apostles were first called by Jesus and then sent to preach with authority. The authority they were given was for the purpose of driving out demons. But how did they do that? It’s interesting to note that the authority they were given over demons was, in part, associated with their commission to preach. And though there are some recorded instances in the Scriptures of the Apostles driving out demons directly by command, it should also be understood that the preaching of the Gospel with the authority of Christ has a direct effect of driving out demons.

Demons are fallen angels. But even in their fallen state, they retain the natural powers they have, such as the power of influence and suggestion. They seek to communicate with us to deceive us and draw us away from Christ. The good angels, of course, also exercise this same natural power for our good. Our guardian angels, for example, constantly seek to communicate to us the truths of God and His grace. The angelic battle for good and evil is real, and as Christians we must be aware of this reality.

One of the greatest ways to confront satan and his demons is to listen to the Truth and to proclaim it with the authority of Christ. Though the Apostles were given a special authority for their preaching, every Christian, by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, is entrusted with the message of the Gospel to proclaim in various ways. And with that authority, we must constantly strive to bring forth the Kingdom of God. Doing so will have a direct impact on the diminishment of the kingdom of satan.

Reflect, today, upon your duty to share the Gospel with others. Sometimes this is done by an explicit sharing of the message of Jesus Christ, and at other times the message is shared more by our actions and virtue. But every Christian is entrusted with this mission and must learn to fulfill that mission with true authority, knowing that as that authority from Christ is exercised, the Kingdom of God increases and the activity of the evil one is overcome.

My all-powerful Lord, I thank You for the grace You have given me to proclaim the truth of Your saving message to those whom I encounter every day. Help me to fulfill my mission to preach in both word and deed and to do so with the gentle yet powerful authority given me by You. I offer myself to Your service, dear Lord. Do with me as You will. Jesus, I trust in You.

9 Days for Life Novena
January 19–27
Day two: January 20

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Saints of the Day –

Saint Fabian, Pope and Martyr

 Saint Sebastian, Martyr

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Calling of the First Apostles By Domenico Ghirlandaio, via Wikimedia Commons

Grieved at the Hardness of Heart January 18, 2023


Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Video

Then he said to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored. Mark 3:4–5

Sin damages our relationship with God. But hardness of heart is even more damaging because it perpetuates the damage done by sin. And the harder one’s heart, the more permanent the damage.

In the passage above, Jesus was angry with the Pharisees. Oftentimes the passion of anger is sinful, resulting from impatience and a lack of charity. But at other times, the passion of anger can be good when it is motivated by love of others and hatred for their sin. In this case, Jesus was grieved by the hardness of heart of the Pharisees, and that grief motivated His holy anger. His “holy” anger did not cause irrational criticism; rather, it drove Jesus to cure this man in the presence of the Pharisees so that they would soften their hearts and believe in Jesus. Sadly, it didn’t work. The very next line of the Gospel says, “The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death” (Mark 3:6).

Hardness of heart should be greatly avoided. The problem is that those who are hard of heart are usually not open to the fact that they are hard of heart. They are obstinate and stubborn, and oftentimes self-righteous. Therefore, when people suffer from this spiritual ailment, it is difficult for them to change, especially when confronted.

This Gospel passage offers you an important opportunity to look into your own heart with honesty. Only you and God need to be part of that interior introspection and conversation. Begin by reflecting upon the Pharisees and the poor example they set. From there, try to look at yourself with great honesty. Are you obstinate? Are you hardened in your convictions to the point that you are unwilling to even consider that you may be wrong at times? Are there people in your life with whom you have entered into a conflict that still remains? If any of this rings true, then you may indeed suffer from the spiritual ill of a hardened heart.

Reflect, today, upon your own soul and your relationships with others with as much honesty as possible. Do not hesitate to let your guard down and be open to what God may want to say to you. And if you detect even the slightest tendency toward a hardened and stubborn heart, beg our Lord to enter in to soften it. Change like this is difficult, but the rewards of such a change are incalculable. Do not hesitate and do not wait. Change is worth it in the end.

My loving Lord, this day I open myself to an examination of my own heart and pray that You will help me to always be open to change when necessary. Help me, especially, to see any hardness I may have within my heart. Help me to overcome any obstinacy, stubbornness and self-righteousness. Give me the gift of humility, dear Lord, so that my heart can become more like Yours. Jesus, I trust in You.