Transformation August 2, 2020


Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings for Today

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.  They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full.  Matthew 14:19b-20

Do you ever feel as though you have little to offer?  Or that you cannot make an impact in this world?  At times, we may all dream of being someone “important” with great influence so as to do “great things.”  But the fact of the matter is that you can do great things with the “little” you have to offer.

Today’s Gospel passage reveals that God was able to take something very small, five loaves of bread and two fish, and transform them into enough food to feed tens of thousands of people (“Five thousand men, not counting women and children.” Matthew 14:21)

This story is not only a miracle for the purpose of providing the necessary food for the crowd who came to listen to Jesus in a deserted place, it’s also a sign to us of the power of God to transform our daily offerings into exponential blessings for the world.

Our goal must not be to determine what we want God to do with our offering; rather, our goal must be to make the offering of all we are and all we have and leave the transformation to God.  Sometimes our offering may seem small.  It may seem like what we offer will have no benefit.  For example, making an offering to God of our mundane daily chores or the like may seem unfruitful.  What can God do with this?  The same question could have been asked by those with the loaves and fishes.  But look what Jesus did with them!

We must daily trust that everything we offer to God, whether it appears to be great or small, will be used by God in an exponential way.  Though we may not see the good fruits like those in this story did, we can be certain that the good fruit will be abundant.

Reflect, today, upon every small offering you can make.  Small sacrifices, small acts of love, acts of forgiveness, small acts of service, etc., have immeasurable value.  Make the offering today and leave the rest to God.

Lord, I give to You my day and every small action of this day.  I give You my love, my service, my work, my thoughts, my frustrations and everything else I encounter.  Please take these small offerings and transform them into grace for Your glory.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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All Saints/Feasts

Saints of the Day –

Saint Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop also Saint Peter Julian Eymard, Priest
Not celebrated as a liturgical memorial this year since it falls on Sunday

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Image: Miracle of the Bread and Fish by Giovanni Lanfranco

The Sad Fruit of Hate August 1, 2020


Saturday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church—Memorial

“Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”  Matthew 14:8

Ugh, what a bad day to say the least.  St. John the Baptist was beheaded at the request of Salome, the daughter of Herodias.  John was in prison for speaking the truth to Herod regarding his marriage, and Herodias was filled with hate toward John.  So Herodias had her daughter dance in the presence of Herod and his guests.  Herod was so impressed, he promised Salome up to half of his kingdom.  Instead, her request was for the head of John the Baptist.

Even on the surface this is a bizarre request.  Salome is promised up to half of the kingdom and, instead, she asks for the death of a good and holy man.  In fact, Jesus said of John that no one born of woman was greater than he was.  So why all the hate by Herodias and her daughter?

This sad incident illustrates the power of anger in its most extreme form.  When anger brews and grows it causes deep passion, so much so that it clouds a person’s thinking and reason.  Hate and revenge can consume a person and lead to complete foolishness.

Herod is also a witness of extreme irrationality here.  He is pressured to do what he does not want to do because he is afraid of doing the right thing.  He is overwhelmed by the hate in the heart of Herodias and, as a result, gives in to the execution of John whom he actually appeared to like and enjoyed listening to.

Normally we seek to be inspired by the good example of others.  But, in this case, we find we can be “inspired” in a different way.  We should use the witness of John’s execution as an opportunity to look at any struggles we have with anger, resentment and especially hate.  Hate is an ugly passion that can sneak in and cause much destruction in our lives and the lives of others.  Even the beginnings of this disordered passion should be confessed and overcome.

Reflect, today, upon whether you see any hate in your heart.  Have you held on to some grudge or bitterness that is not going away?  Is that passion growing and causing damage to your life and the lives of others?  If so, resolve to let go of it and forgive.  It’s the right thing to do.

Lord, give me the grace I need to look into my heart and see any tendencies of anger, resentment and hatred.  Please purify me of these and set me free.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day –  Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

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Image: Beheading of Saint John the Baptist by Caravaggio

God’s Mightiest Deed July 31, 2020


Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today – (reading options)

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest—Memorial

And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.  Matthew 13:58

What are “mighty deeds?”  What was Jesus limited in doing in His hometown because of a lack of faith?  The first thing that obviously comes to mind are miracles.  He most likely did not do many healings, or raise anyone from the dead, or multiply food so as to feed the multitude.  But are these the mighty deeds described?

The right answer would be both “Yes” and “No.”  Yes, Jesus was limited in doing miracles and it appears He did very few in His hometown.  But there were deeds that Jesus regularly did that were far more “mighty” than physical miracles.  What are those?  They were the deeds of transforming souls.

What does it matter, in the end, if Jesus does many miracles but souls are not converted?  What is more “mighty” as far as lasting and meaningful action?  Certainly the transformation of souls is of the highest of importance!

But sadly, the mighty deeds of the transformation of souls could not take place either, due to their lack of faith.  The people were clearly obstinate and not open to letting the words and presence of Jesus penetrate their minds and hearts.  For that reason, Jesus could not do the mightiest of deeds in His hometown.

Reflect, today, on whether or not Jesus is doing mighty deeds in your life.  Are you letting Him transform you daily into a new creation?  Are you letting Him do great things in your life?  If you hesitate in answering this question, it is a clear sign that God wants to do much more in your life.

Lord, I pray that my soul be fertile ground for Your most magnificent work.  I pray that my soul be transformed by You, Your words and Your presence in my life.  Come into my heart and transform me into Your masterpiece of grace.  Jesus, I trust in You.

More Gospel Reflections

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All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

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Image: Jesus Wept by James Tissot

The Justice of God July 30, 2020


Thursday of the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today(reading options)

Saint Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor—Optional Memorial

“Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”  Matthew 13:49-50

Not all that inspiring of a statement at first read, is it?  But it should be inspiring in the way that it was intended.  It was intended to put a certain “holy fear” in us as well as reassure us of God’s justice.  This is inspiring, just not in the usual way we think of being inspired.

But sometimes we need a little holy fear of God and His justice in our lives.  In our day and age sin is becoming continually more accepted and “normal.”  Our worldwide culture seems to be growing steadily more secular.  Immoral living of many types appears to be on the rise.  As a result, it is easy for us to start seeing sin as normal and even acceptable.  In fact, when we name sin as sin, our world often calls us judgmental and hateful.

If you find yourself at times feeling pressured to give in to the immorality all around you and just “accept it,” then perhaps the passage above will inspire you to do just the opposite.  The absolute truth is that Jesus has named some things as sin and committing those sins brings grave consequences.

It could be the very subtle cultural practice of turning the Lord’s Day (Sunday) into anything but a day of rest.  Or it could be grave violations to the sanctity of married and family life through the redefinition of marriage.  Each of us will certainly notice various ways in which we feel our faith is challenged and even attacked.  If that’s you, then this Scripture is for you.  Jesus is serious about sin and the consequences of sin.  That should inspire us to not only live holy lives, but also to do all we can to assist those caught up in the disordered cultural tendencies to change their lives.

Reflect, today, on how strongly you are opposed to sin.  Sin is evil and destructive.  You must always love the person who commits sin, but you ought never offer support or approval for their actions that are contrary to the law of God.  Standing strong in the face of cultural opposition is a great act of love and may free some, one day, from the “wailing and grinding of teeth” of which Jesus spoke.

Lord, where sin abounds grace abounds all the more.  Your grace is so needed today in our world and in my life.  Help me to stay strong in my opposition to evil and sin so as to be among those who are gathered into Your Kingdom.  Give me courage to do all I can to help those on the path of destruction.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saint Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor

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Image: The Last Judgment by Giotto di Bondone

At the Feet of Jesus Wednesday, July 29, 2020

 

Saint Martha – Memorial

Readings for Today

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”  Luke 10:41-42

As we honor St. Martha, today, we should acknowledge the fact that most of us are probably much more like her than Mary.  Mary chose the better part.  We, too often, choose the anxious and worrisome part.

Martha was deeply loved by Jesus.  This is evident even in the small detail of Jesus saying her name twice.  “Martha, Martha…”  This is a sign of affection.  But His love for her was such that He wanted to point her to the better part, too.  He wanted her, like Mary, to rest from her anxiety and worry and rest with Him.

Sure, there was much to be done.  There was a dinner to prepare and guests to feed; Jesus being the most important guest.  But Jesus cuts through all the normal parts of hospitality and focuses in on the most important part.  He focuses in on love.  He honors Mary for kneeling before Him and encourages Martha to do the same.

Perhaps there are many times during our busy days that this invitation from Jesus should be listened to.  There are many times when we simply need to stop and listen, be present and adore.  Entering into quiet and stillness with Jesus is most often far more “productive” than doing, doing, doing.  We often can strive to find our worth in all that we do when Jesus is saying that our worth is actually found in who we are.  And who are we?  We are people called to be in the constant presence of our Lord, loving Him and being fed by Him.

Reflect, today, upon your daily prayer life.  Do you pray?  Perhaps you say a few prayers here and there.  But do you pray?  Do you take time to stop everything else, fall on your knees and be still in the presence of our divine Lord?  Doing this will do more for your life and the lives of others than if you worked non-stop 24/7.

Lord, help me to seek Your still silent presence.  Help me to surrender over my anxiety and worry.  Jesus, bathe me in Your grace and help me refocus each and every day on You.  Jesus, I love You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Saint of the Day –  Saint Martha

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Image: Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Jan Bruegel

Final Victory! July 28, 2020


Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

“Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  Matthew 13:40-43

Imagine that day!  Imagine if that day were tomorrow.  If Jesus were returning tomorrow and executing all justice upon the world, would you worry about any injustice today?  Probably not.  Instead, there would be an ability to sit back and be at peace knowing that justice was coming.

Well, that day is coming soon.  That’s what Jesus said.  Granted, that was said almost 2,000 years ago, but for Him it is still soon.  Time, for God, takes on an eternal perspective.  Therefore, the end of the world is as real for God today as it is when it actually happens.

This is a good thing to keep in mind when we see evil thrive and injustice grow.  It’s so very easy to get angry and upset about the daily victories of the evil one.  But fear not and worry not.  God truly is in control.  He knows what He is doing and He will have the final glorious victory over all things.

So think about that.  When Jesus does return in all His glory and sets all things right, will the evil we now endure even matter?  In fact, from the eternal perspective, the evil we endure should only serve to give us holy endurance.  It has all potential to be used by God to manifest His grace and strength in our lives.

Reflect, today, upon the eternal perspective.  If you persevere through all things now, and you strive to do so with patience and grace, you can be certain that all the struggle and all you have to endure will be worth it in the end.  In the new glorious Kingdom of God you will be at peace, and joy will fill your life forever.  Every wrong will be made right and God will be victorious.  Make sure you have “ears to hear” this truth and hold on to it through all things.

Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You and Your final victory.  Help me to patiently await Your final victory and to endure the evil of this world with the grace and strength You give me.  May I never forget the final promise that You have spoken to me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Image: The Last Judgment by Pieter Paul Rubens

Can You Make a Difference? July 27, 2020


Monday of the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”  Matthew 13:31b-32

Too often we tend to feel as though our lives are not nearly as important as others.  We can often look to others who are far more “powerful” and “influential.”  We can tend to dream about being like them.  What if I had their money?  Or if I had their social status?  Or if I had their job?  Or was as popular as they are?  Too often, we fall into the trap of the “what ifs.”

This passage above reveals the absolute fact that God wants to use your life for great things!  The smallest seed becomes the largest bush.  This begs the question, “Do you feel like the smallest seed at times?”

It’s normal to feel insignificant at times and to wish we were “more.”  But this is nothing more than a worldly and erroneous daydream.  The truth is that each one of us is capable of making a HUGE difference in our world.  No, we may not make the nightly news or receive national awards of greatness, but in God’s eyes we have potential beyond what we could ever daydream about.

Put this in perspective.  What is greatness?  What does it mean to be transformed by God into the “largest of plants” as the mustard seed is?  It means we are given the incredible privilege to fulfill the exact, perfect and glorious plan God has for our lives.  It is this plan that will produce the best and most abundant eternal fruit.  Sure, we may not get the name recognition here on Earth.  But so what?!  Does that really matter?  When you are in Heaven will you be depressed that the world did not recognize you and your role?  Most certainly not.  In Heaven all that will matter is how holy you became and how completely you fulfilled the divine plan for your life.

Saint Mother Teresa often said, “We are called to be faithful, not successful.”  It is this fidelity to the will of God that matters.

Reflect, today, upon two things.  First, reflect upon your “littleness” before the mystery of God.  By yourself you are nothing.  But in that humility, reflect also upon the fact that when you live in Christ and in His divine will you are great beyond measure.  Strive for that greatness and you will be eternally blessed!

Lord, I know that without You I am nothing.  Without You my life has no meaning.  Help me to embrace Your perfect and glorious plan for my life and, in that plan, to achieve the greatness to which You call me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Image: “The Parable of the Sower” by Harold Copping

The Discovery of God July 26, 2020


Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings for Today

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”  Matthew 13:44

Here are three things to reflect upon in regard to this passage: 1) The Kingdom of God is like a “treasure;” 2) It’s hidden, waiting to be found; 3) When discovered, it’s worth giving up everything we have to obtain it.

First, it’s helpful to reflect upon the image of the Kingdom of God being like a treasure.  The image of a treasure brings with it various lessons.  A treasure is often considered enough to make one rich if found.  If it were not of such great value it would not be considered a treasure.  Thus, the first lesson we should take is that the value of the Kingdom of God is great.  In fact, it’s infinite in value.  Yet so many people see it as something undesirable and choose many other “treasures” in its place.

Second, it’s hidden.  It’s hidden not in the sense that God does not want us to discover it; rather, it’s hidden in the sense that God does want us to discover it.  It’s waiting for us, waiting to be discovered and rejoiced in when found.  This also reveals the great excitement one has in making this authentic discovery of the Kingdom of God in our midst.

Third, when someone discovers the riches of the Kingdom of God and the riches of the life of grace, the experience should be so awe-inspiring that there is little hesitancy in making the choice to give everything up so as to obtain that which was found.  What joy there is in coming to an awareness of the life of grace and mercy!  It’s a discovery that will change one’s life and lead one to abandon all else in pursuit of the new treasure that has been discovered.

Reflect, today, upon your own experience of discovering the Kingdom of God.  Have you allowed yourself to be drawn into amazement at the value of this treasure?  If so, have you also allowed the discovery of this life of grace to so deeply attract you that you are ready and willing to give up everything to acquire it?  Put your eyes upon this gift of infinite value and allow the Lord to direct you in its pursuit.

Lord, I love You and I thank You for the treasure of the Kingdom that You have prepared for me.  Help me to make this hidden discovery each and every day in a more complete and awe-inspiring way.  As I discover this treasure, give me the courage I need to abandon every other selfish endeavor in life so that I may seek this one and only gift.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saints Joachim and Anne
Not celebrated as a liturgical memorial this year since it falls on Sunday

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Image: Parable of the hidden treasure

Christ’s Chalice Saturday, July 25, 2020

 

Feast of Saint James, Apostle

Readings for Today

“Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”  Matthew 20:22b-23

This was a very gentle rebuke by Jesus.  The mother of James and John asked Jesus for a favor.  She wanted her sons to sit at His right and left in His Kingdom.  Jesus gently said, “You do not know what you are asking” and then went on to speak the passage above.

“You do not know what you are asking.”  Why did Jesus say this?  In part, it’s because the path to glory, that is, the path to sitting at His right and left in the Kingdom, is the path of the Cross.  It’s the path of freely embracing the sufferings of the Cross with Jesus.  It’s not possible to enter into His glory without first walking with Him through His death.

So He asks these Apostles, “Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”  In other words, can you embrace my Cross?  Can you embrace my suffering?  Can you walk with me through my ultimate sacrifice and participate in that sacrifice by also offering your lives?

The Apostles affirm that they can and, indeed, they eventually do follow Jesus in His sacrifice by giving themselves completely to others.

Can you drink that chalice?  Can you willingly accept the Cross in your life?  Can you endure hardship, sacrifice and, perhaps, even persecution for being a follower of Jesus?  Can you walk with Him through His suffering?  If the answer is “Yes,” then you will share in His glory.  Perhaps that glory will not be to sit at His right and left, but it will be a glory beyond your wildest imagination.  It’s worth it and it’s an invitation that you will never regret accepting.

Lord, I do desire to drink the chalice You drank.  I desire to receive Your Precious Body and Blood and in that reception to receive the strength and grace I need to follow You in Your sufferings.  As I follow You in Your sufferings, help me also to share in Your glory.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint James, Apostle—Feast

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Image: The martyrdom of Santiago by Juan Fernández de Navarrete 
Image: St James the Apostle

Are You a “Pop-Christian?” July 24, 2020


Friday of the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Sharbel Makhlūf, Priest, Hermit—Optional Memorial

“The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.”  Matthew 13:20-21

Are you a “pop-Christian?”  That may be a new word.  But it gets at the heart of this particular Christian described above.  This passage is one of four types of Christians identified in the Parable of the Sower.  There are some who are like seed sown on a path, some like seed sown on rocky ground, some who are like seed sown in thorns, and some like seed sown in rich soil.  Each one of these descriptions provide much to think about.

Let’s look at the Christian who is like seed sown on rocky ground, the one who has no roots.  Practically speaking, this is the person who could be described as a “pop-Christian.”  It’s the person who professes faith in Christ when it’s popular and well accepted by others.  When it’s easy and convenient, this person is all in.  But as soon as there is some challenge given to the Gospel, to the Word of God, and suddenly following Christ is not popular within the culture, this person is quick to choose the culture over the Truth.

This is a very real phenomenon in our day and age.  The culture and the world as a whole are becoming more and more hostile toward the truth of our Christian faith.  The world is becoming stronger, more influential, more of a bully, and appears to be winning the battle.  This is a problem.  And the real problem stems from too many Christians who lack deep roots in their life of faith.

The ideal is to have the Word of God sown deep into our hearts where there is rich soil.  When this happens, the Word grows and becomes strong and stable.  And in the midst of a cultural or social “storm,” the Christian with deep roots and deep faith will not waver.

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you are absolutely willing to stand with Christ and for the Truth no matter how hard or unpopular it may be.  Are you willing to endure the ridicule and misrepresentation the world gives to the Truth?  Are you willing to stay strong in your faith in the midst of an increasingly secular society?  If you struggle with being a “pop-Christian,” pray that God will sink His roots down deep into your heart so that you will be unwavering no matter the cost.

Lord, I desire that Your Word sink deep into my heart.  I desire to stay strong in my faith no matter the cost.  Help me to be radical in my faith and in my love in all things.  Jesus, I trust in You.

More Gospel Reflections

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All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saint Sharbel Makhlūf, Priest, Hermit

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Image: Appearance on the Mountain in Galilee by Duccio di Buoninsegna