Dining with Sinners July 5, 2024


Friday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Anthony Zaccaria, Priest—Optional Memorial

Saint Elizabeth of Portugal—Optional Memorial
(Celebrated July 4 outside the USA)

Video

“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.  Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.  I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”  Matthew 9:12–13

Would you describe yourself as one who is “well” or one who is “sick?” Are you among the “righteous” or the “sinners?” Be careful how you answer this question. Of course, the pride that comes with our fallen human nature often tempts us to claim that we are “well” and “righteous.” But humility will reveal the truth that we are among the “sick” and “sinners.”

This statement of Jesus is a response to the Pharisees who noticed that Jesus was dining at the house of Matthew, the tax collector, whom He had just called to follow Him. Matthew did indeed leave everything behind and followed Jesus, and then he hosted dinner for Jesus at his house. At that dinner, there were “many tax collectors and sinners” who came and sat with Jesus and His disciples, which led the Pharisees to ridicule them all.

Jesus’ response is very important for us to hear. By stating that He came not for those who were well and righteous but for those who were sick and sinners, it tells us two important things. First, it tells us that we are all spiritually sick and sinful. Second, it tells us that if we cannot humbly admit to that, and in our pride claim that we are well and are righteous, then we essentially reject Jesus, the Divine Physician, from our lives. We essentially say, “Lord, I do not need You.”

It’s also helpful to notice that Jesus was not embarrassed to be seen with sinners. He did not hesitate at all and, in fact, clearly stated that they were those whom He came for. For that reason, we should not be afraid or embarrassed to admit we are sinners who are spiritually ill and in need of our Lord. To deny that fact is to deny reality and to deny the very source of the ongoing healing we most certainly need in life. It’s a denial of our need for Christ Jesus Himself.

Do you need our Lord? Do you need interior cleansing, healing, and forgiveness every day? If it’s difficult for you to wholeheartedly say “Yes” to that question, then perhaps you struggle with the pride of the Pharisees more than you know. No matter how holy you become, no matter how deeply you pray and no matter how charitable you are, you will always need the healing and forgiveness of the Divine Physician each and every day.

Reflect, today, upon the need you have in your life today for forgiveness. What sin do you struggle with the most? Interestingly, the holier one becomes, the more clearly they see their daily sins and their need for forgiveness and healing. If you struggle with this at all, spend time examining your conscience. Look for ways to do it more thoroughly and honestly. If you do, you can be certain that our Lord, the Divine Physician, will deeply desire to dine with you today and always.

My forgiving Lord, You are the Divine Physician Who has come to forgive and heal all of our ills. Remove my pride and self-righteousness so that I can be filled with humility and see clearly the sin in my life. As I see my sin, help me to turn to You and to trust in Your abundant mercy. You came for sinners, dear Lord, and I am one of those sinners in need. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Scripture Meditations for Ordinary Time

All Saints/Feasts

Saints of the Day –

Saint Anthony Zaccaria, Priest—Optional Memorial

Saint Elizabeth of Portugal—Optional Memorial
(Celebrated July 4 outside the USA)

Mass Reading Options

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

Priorities in Prayer July 4, 2024


Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Independence Day—USA Optional Memorial

Saint Elizabeth of Portugal—Optional Memorial
(Celebrated July 5 in the USA)

Video

After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9:1–2

Just prior to this passage, Jesus cast out demons from two men from the town of the Gadarenes. Afterwards, the townspeople told Him to leave their town, so Jesus departed by boat and arrived in Capernaum, which was where He had been living after leaving Nazareth. This encounter with a paralytic on a stretcher is what awaited Him when He disembarked from the boat.

Recall that when Jesus had returned to Nazareth, where He grew up, He was not able to perform any miracles there because of their lack of faith. Their familiarity with Him tempted them to disbelieve that He was someone special. But now, in His new town where He had recently moved to, Jesus was able to perform mighty miracles because the people had manifest faith.

In the passage above, try to enter the scene. Jesus was just rejected by the Gadarenes, He came by boat to Capernaum, He disembarked and was immediately met with a group of people who had clearly been waiting for Him. Try to imagine their conversations while Jesus was away at the other side of the lake. They knew He would return to His new home, they prepared a stretcher for the paralytic, and then they waited, hoped and prayed that Jesus would come and heal the man. It is also clear that Jesus could immediately sense their faith and was deeply touched by it. One of the most important parts of this passage is that Jesus did not simply say “Yes” to the physical healing and leave it at that. Instead, His response to the paralytic was to first forgive his sins. There is an important lesson for us to learn from this which will help us know how best to pray.

Oftentimes when we pray, we pray for this or that favor from our Lord. We pray for what we want Jesus to grant us. But this story shows us that what Jesus wants for us is different. First, He wants to grant us forgiveness for our sins. This is His priority, and it should also be ours. Once the forgiveness of sins takes place with this paralytic, Jesus also heals, as proof of His power to forgive sins. This story should help us to order our priorities in prayer according to Jesus’ priorities. If we make sorrow for sin our first priority, we can be certain that Jesus will answer us. From there, Jesus knows all of our needs. We can present them to Him but only when we are reconciled within our own heart with Him.

Reflect, today, upon the way you pray each day. Try to understand the importance of making a daily examination of your sins. This must become the first and most important part of your daily prayer. Though many people do not like to look at sin, it is much easier to do when the focus is not so much the sin as it is a focus upon the mercy of forgiveness and spiritual healing you need. The more aware you become of your daily sin, the more mercy you will receive. And the more mercy for the forgiveness of your sins you receive, the more our Lord will be able to bless you abundantly in other ways. Always start with the mercy of our Lord and your own need for that mercy every day, and all else will be taken care of by our Lord.

My merciful Lord, You desire reconciliation with me, in the innermost depths of my heart, to be my daily priority in prayer. You desire to forgive and to heal me so that I will grow closer to You. Please do forgive me for my sins, dear Lord, and help me to become more attentive to the ways that I sin against You and others every day. Thank You in advance for this saving grace and mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Scripture Meditations for Ordinary Time

All Saints/Feasts

Further Reading –

Independence Day—USA Optional Memorial

Saint Elizabeth of Portugal
(Celebrated July 5 in the USA)

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Christ Healing the Lame Man By Jacopo Bassano, Via Wikimedia Commons

Rejoicing in the Blessings Given to Others Wednesday, July 3, 2024

 

Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle

Readings for Today

Video

“Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:27–29

Thomas the Apostle, in many ways, represents each and every one of us in this exchange with Jesus. We’d like to believe that we always believe and are not unbelieving. But it’s important to admit the humble truth that we may not believe as deeply as we should. And it’s important to reflect upon our own reaction to the blessings that others receive that we do not.

Recall that Thomas was not among the other Apostles when Jesus first appeared to them. Therefore, when Thomas returned and heard that Jesus had appeared and that he missed His appearance, he clearly felt bad. Unfortunately, the sorrow Thomas felt at not being present when the Lord appeared to the others left him with a certain bitterness rather than joy. This is the sin of envy. Envy is a certain sorrow over the blessings others receive that we do not. Ideally, Thomas would have rejoiced at the blessing that the other Apostles received by encountering the risen Lord. But, instead, his sorrow at missing this even left him sad. He said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Why was Thomas absent from this encounter with our Lord? Perhaps it was by divine providence, in that God wanted Thomas to set an example for us. If so, then one example Thomas set was that we must humbly rejoice in the blessings others receive when we are not also the recipient. Of course, if Thomas were there, then it would have been easier for him to share in the joy. But, in many ways, Thomas’ absence provided him an even greater opportunity. An opportunity that he failed to embrace.

When you see others receive blessings from God, how do you respond? Many people respond by immediately looking at themselves, wishing they were blessed in the same way. They struggle with envy. They think, “I wish I had received that blessing.” This form of envy is not always easy to see. For that reason, Thomas is given to us as a witness of what not to do in this situation.

Of course, Thomas is not a horrible person, which is why Jesus does later appear to him. That time, Thomas spoke words that are traditionally spoken as a devotion by the faithful at Mass when the Consecration occurs. He said, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus then gently rebukes Thomas by saying, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” But this gentle rebuke was an act of love, in that Jesus wanted Thomas to ponder the reason for his unbelief. Jesus clearly wanted Thomas to examine the unbelief caused by envy, which appears to have led to an intentional lack of faith.

Reflect, today, upon this holy Apostle. Today, Saint Thomas the Apostle is among the great saints in the Kingdom of Heaven. God used him to teach us these important lessons about envy, humility and faith. Let his weakness, from which he fully recovered, help you examine your own struggle with envy over the blessings that others receive that you do not. Learn to rejoice always in the ways that God is at work in our world and learn to grow in humility, so that when others are blessed in ways that you are not, you react as Saint Thomas ultimately did: “My Lord and my God!”

My most generous Lord, You pour forth Your blessings upon others, day and night. As I see those blessings, help me to overcome all temptations toward envy so that I may rejoice in Your grace given to all. You are my Lord and my God, and I thank You for every way that You bless my life and the lives of those around me. Fill me with a deeper gratitude, dear Lord, for every grace and blessing I see every day, especially those graces not given directly to me. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Scripture Meditations for Ordinary Time

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saint Thomas the Apostle

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas By Caravaggio, via Wikimedia Commons

Save Us Lord! July 2, 2024


Tuesday of the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Video

As Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep. Matthew 8:23–24

This experience had quite an impression upon the disciples, which is evidenced by the fact that it is recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels. We also see this in the concluding words of the story after Jesus calmed the storm: “The men were amazed and said, ‘What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?’”

Traditionally, this story has been interpreted as both an image of the Church as a whole, as well as the individual soul. The boat is an image of the Church through which we Christians navigate the perils of this life. We must remain in the Church to survive. Each person within the boat represents each one of us who is a member of the Church. The violent storm is an image of the many personal struggles we endure in  life, as well as the persecutions that the Church has endured and will continue to endure until the end of time.

As the storm took hold of the boat, Jesus was asleep. But He was asleep for a reason. As we look at human history, especially the history of the Church, we find many times when God has seemed absent or “asleep” when turmoil, persecution, and hardship have arisen. Many people, if not all, have had the same experience at one time or another in life. As the disciples experience this storm, they offer us an ideal way to pray when we are tempted to despair in life. They wake Jesus and say, “Lord, save us!  We are perishing!” And though Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith and their fear, He also responds to their pleas and calms the storm.

What should the disciples have done in this case? Should they have trusted and allowed Jesus to remain asleep? Though our Lord did rebuke them for lacking faith, this story is primarily a revelation about God’s mercy when we are tempted to fear. God knows that at times we will all feel overwhelmed and find ourselves tempted in this way. He knows our faith is not perfect, and so He allowed His disciples to set this example for us. Thus, whenever we do find ourselves overwhelmed and fearful in life, we should cry out to Him to save us. He wants us to turn to Him.

Reflect, today, upon this prayer of the disciples. If you find that you are facing some personal crisis, or a larger family difficulty that remains unresolved, or are increasingly aware of other struggles afflicting the Church or society as a whole, then try to imitate this prayer of the disciples: “Lord, save us!  We are perishing!” Though these words, at first, may seem to be words of despair, they are actually words of hope and trust. They point us to Him Who is the only source of the peace we seek in our souls, families, the Church and our world. Look for the many ways that you and others experience the feeling of “perishing,” and cry out with all your heart to our Lord to save you and all who are in need.

Most powerful Lord, I am amazed at Your divine power and ability to perfectly calm the storms that afflict Your people. Please fill me with hope and humility so that I will never hesitate to turn to You in my need and to also cry out to You for Your continuous intervention in the lives of others. Awake, oh Lord, and save Your people, for we will truly perish without You! Jesus, I trust in You.

 

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Scripture Meditations for Ordinary Time

Saints/Feasts for Today

Mass Reading Options

Image: Jesus Calms the Storm – Fresco by Silvestro Pistolesi in the clerestory of the Church of the Transfiguration at the Community of Jesus, via Wikimedia Commons

Wherever God Leads You July 1, 2024


Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Junipero Serra, Priest—USA Optional Memorial

Video

”Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Matthew 8:19–20

It is unclear from this passage alone why Jesus answered this scribe the way He did. At first, the statement of the scribe seems very devout: “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” But many of the Church Fathers, in their reflections of this conversation between Jesus and the scribe, offer helpful insights.

First of all, note that Jesus neither accepts the proposal of the scribe to be His follower nor rejects it. Rather, Jesus simply makes a statement which clarifies just what is involved in being His follower. Some Church Fathers suggest that this scribe was desirous of following Jesus because he thought there would be great rewards given to him by doing so. After all, Jesus was a miracle worker, was becoming quite popular, and showed potential to be a great leader. Therefore, the interior motivation of this scribe to follow Jesus wherever Jesus went was a questionable motivation. Did he want to follow Jesus because he thought it would benefit him in some worldly way?

Jesus’ response to this scribe does two things. First, it removes all misconceptions of what it means to follow Jesus. If the scribe wanted to follow Jesus, then he had to be prepared to follow Him into poverty and homelessness rather than riches and possessions. Jesus wanted it to be clear to the scribe just what he was choosing. Secondly, Jesus’ response was certainly an invitation to the scribe to follow Him, but only in the light of this new knowledge. In other words, Jesus was saying, “Yes, come follow me. But be aware of what that means. Following me will not result in your earthly riches but in your earthly poverty.”

Why do you follow Jesus? It’s important to consider your motivations at times. Some choose to follow Jesus because this was simply the way they were raised. Others do so because it makes them feel better to do so. And still others do so because they think it will make their lives better in various ways. But what is the ideal motivation for following our Lord? The ideal motivation for following Jesus in a total and unwavering way is very simple: we follow Him because He is the Son of God and the Savior of the World. Jesus came to call us to Himself and has invited us to live in union with Him through faith. So ideally, we will follow Jesus simply because it is the right thing to do. We will not do so because of the so-called benefits. Love, in its purest form, does not love the other because of what we get out of it. Pure love is a gift given to another because they are worthy of our love. And with Jesus, He is worthy of our love and worship simply because of Who He is.

Reflect, today, upon Jesus inviting you to follow Him into poverty, detachment from all, simplicity of life and ultimately the sacrifice of your entire life. Do you understand what it means to be a follower of Christ Jesus? Do you understand that following Jesus cannot be done for selfish reasons? Do you realize that saying “Yes” to our Lord is saying “Yes” to His Cross? Ponder Jesus’ life and reflect upon whether or not you are willing to follow Him to the poverty of the Cross. If you can make the choice to follow our Lord, knowing full well what you are saying “Yes” to, then the end result will also be a glorious sharing in His resurrected life.

My glorious Lord, You walked through this world in poverty, rejection and suffering. You had no earthly home of Your own but now live in the riches of Heaven. Help me to follow You, dear Lord, wherever You lead me in this life. If You lead me to worldly poverty and suffering, I thank You. I thank You and choose to follow You no matter what. Give me the grace I need to follow You purely out of love for You, for You are God and are worthy of all my praise and worship. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Scripture Meditations for Ordinary Time

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saint Junipero Serra, Priest

Mass Reading Options

Featured images above: The Scribe Stood to Tempt Jesus By James Tissot, via Wikimedia Commons

The Faith of Jairus June 30, 2024


Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
Readings for Today

Video

He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat. Mark 5:41–43

Jairus was the leader of the synagogue in Capernaum. In that position, he would have been pressured to be in opposition to Jesus. But his daughter was ill, and his daughter was more important to him than the opinions of the other religious leaders of the time. So he humbly came to Jesus by himself, fell at Jesus’ feet and pleaded with Him to heal his daughter.

Jairus makes two acts of faith in Jesus. The first was his request that Jesus heal his infirmed daughter. But the second took even more faith. On the journey with Jesus to see his daughter, he received the sorrowful news that his daughter had died. Jesus’ response to this was to turn to Jairus and say, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Clearly, Jairus responded to this command of love with faith and trusted that Jesus could even raise his daughter from the dead.

As you ponder the faith of Jairus, consider this interior tension he must have been experiencing. He was tempted by the political and peer pressure of the scribes and Pharisees who opposed Jesus. He was tempted to despair while his daughter’s illness became increasingly worse. And when he heard she had died, he would have been tempted even more to despair when faced with the apparent fact that Jesus was too late. But he didn’t give in to these temptations. He remained in hope and trust.

When Jesus arrived at Jairus’ home, He saw many people who were “weeping and wailing loudly.” When Jesus questioned their acts of despair, He said to them, “The child is not dead but asleep.” But upon hearing this, they ridiculed Him. Clearly, the other people present did not have the hope and the faith that Jairus had. Therefore, it is also helpful to prayerfully meditate upon the contrast of Jairus and the others present.

The story concludes with Jesus raising the girl from the dead. He then told those present to keep this miracle quiet. Jesus did not heal her to gain fame. He did not heal her to prove to the people who were despairing and without faith that they were wrong. Instead, He primarily healed her on account of the faith manifested by the girl’s father.

Finally, Jesus’ divine love shining through His humanity is clearly seen when He says that “she should be given something to eat.” Jesus did not stand there expecting praise from those present. Rather, His loving compassion shone through as He expressed His concern that this little girl must have been hungry. His love led Him to address this minor detail.

Reflect, today, upon how you would have acted were you Jairus. What would you have done in the face of spiritual and moral opposition? Would you have turned to our Lord in trust and confidence? And when all human hope seemed lost, would you have maintained your trust in our Lord? Pray that the faith and hope of Jairus will inspire you, and commit yourself to follow his holy example.

My compassionate Lord, You responded to the faith of this loving father, Jairus, with mercy and compassion. You encouraged Him to trust and were attentive to every detail. Please give me a similar faith so that I will never despair in life but always keep my hope in You. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Scripture Meditations for Ordinary Time

All Saints/Feasts

Mass Reading Options

Featured images above: The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter By Gabriel von Max, via Wikimedia Commons

Pillars of the Church Saturday, June 29, 2024

 

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

Readings for Today

Video

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:17–19

Saints Peter and Paul are often referred to as two of the great “Pillars of the Church.” They each played an incredibly essential role in the establishment of the early Church. And though each of their roles was essential and foundational, their roles were as different as they were different as persons.

Peter was a family man, a local fisherman, uneducated and quite ordinary. From what we know about him prior to being called by Jesus, there was nothing that made him uniquely qualified to become one of the pillars of the new Church to be established by the Son of God. Jesus simply called him, and he responded. Jesus got into Peter’s boat, ordered him to lower the nets, and produced a huge catch of fish. When Peter saw this miracle, he fell down at Jesus’ feet and acknowledged that he was “a sinful man” who was unworthy of being in Jesus’ presence (See Luke 5:8). But Jesus informed Peter that he would from now on be catching men. Peter immediately left everything behind and followed Jesus.

Paul describes himself as “a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cili′cia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gama′li-el, educated according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as you all are this day” (Acts 22:3). Paul was well educated in the strictest interpretation of the Jewish law, understood philosophy and was quite zealous as a young man. Recall, also, that prior to becoming a convert to Christianity, he “persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13). In many ways, Paul would have been seen as the most unlikely person to be chosen to be a pillar of the Church, because he so vigorously opposed it at first. He even supported the killing of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

Though each of these men would have been considered by many as very unlikely founders of the Christian Church, this is exactly what they became. Paul, after his conversion, traveled far and wide to preach the Gospel, founding several new Churches throughout Asia Minor and Europe. Eventually he was arrested in Jerusalem, brought to Rome for trial and was beheaded. Over half of the New Testament books are attributed to Paul and half of the Acts of the Apostles detail Paul’s missionary journeys. Paul is especially known for his missionary activity to the Gentiles, those who were not Jews.

Peter’s role was truly a unique one. His name was changed from “Simon” to “Peter” by Jesus. Recall Jesus saying, “And I tell you, you are Peter (Petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church…(Matthew 16:18). “Peter” in Greek is Petros, meaning a single stone that is movable. However, the Greek word petra means a rock as a solid formation that is fixed, immovable, and enduring. Therefore, Jesus chose to make Peter, this single stone, into a solid foundation of immovable rock on which the Church was to be built.

You, too, have been called by our Lord to a unique mission within the Church that has not been entrusted to another. In your own way, God wants to use you to reach certain people with the Gospel as He did with Saint Paul. And like Saint Peter, God wants to continue to establish His Church upon you and your faith.

Reflect, today, upon these two holy and unique pillars of our Church. As you do, ponder how God may want to use you to continue their mission in this world. Though Saints Peter and Paul are among the greatest and most consequential Christians within our world, their mission must continue, and you are among the instruments that God wants to use. Commit yourself to this mission so that the preaching of the Gospel and the rock foundation of our Church will remain strong within our day and age just as it was of old.

Saint Peter, you were uniquely chosen to be a rock foundation of faith upon which the Church was established. Saint Paul, you went forth to preach this faith far and wide, establishing many new communities of faith. Please use me, dear Lord, to continue the mission of Your Church so that the faith may be firmly planted in the minds and hearts of all Your people throughout the world. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saints Peter and Paul

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Saint Peter and Saint Paul  By Jusepe de Ribera, via Wikimedia Commons

Homage, Reverence and Respect Friday, June 28, 2024

 

Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, bishop and martyr

Readings for Today
Readings for Friday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

Video

When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Matthew 8:1–4

To do homage to another is to publicly express reverence and respect. This is what this leper did to Jesus. He “did him homage.” But the leper went even further. He also expressed his certain faith that Jesus could cure him if He wished to do so. And Jesus did desire this. Jesus stretched out His hand to touch the leper and pronounced the words, “I will do it. Be made clean.” And with that, the leper was cleansed.

The first thing to note in this passage is that Jesus “touched” the leper. This was a forbidden practice, since lepers were unclean, and touching them could spread their disease. But Jesus broke the norm and touched the man, revealing to him his innate dignity.

It’s interesting to consider the question: Who paid whom a greater act of homage? Was the act of homage shown by the leper greater? Or the act of touching and cleansing the leper greater? Though we need not compare these two acts, it is helpful to reflect upon the profound fact that Jesus did show a form of homage to this unclean leper.

As was said above, to do homage to another is to publicly express reverence and respect to them. Without a doubt, Jesus did just this. He not only honored the leper by His touch and healing, but He publicly expressed His love and respect for this man through this act.

Of course, the homage we owe to God is unique. It is the homage of worship. We must bow down before Him, surrendering our lives in total abandonment and trust. We must honor Him as God and express our love accordingly. But, in addition to Jesus showing His almighty power by this miracle, He also sets for us an example of how we must treat others. Every person, because they are made in the image and likeness of God, deserves our utmost respect, and they deserve to receive that respect in a public way. We must continually seek to honor and respect others and express that honor and respect for others to see. This is especially difficult when the person we are called to show respect for is considered by others as “unclean.” The leper is only a symbol of the many types of people whom the world considers unclean and unworthy. Criminals, the poor, the confused, the sinner, the homeless, the political opponent and every other person in our world deserves our utmost respect and reverence. Doing so does not justify their sin; rather, it cuts through the surface and looks at their innate dignity.

Reflect, today, upon the act of homage done by this leper to Jesus. And then reflect upon the act of homage Jesus offers this leper by publicly confirming his innate dignity. Who in your life is represented by this leper? Who is “unclean” because of the condition of their life, the sin they commit, or the public stigma they have? Whom is God calling you to reach out and touch with love and respect, for others to see? Seek out the leper in your life and do not be afraid to imitate this holy act of homage exemplified by our Lord.

My holy Lord, You are worthy of all adoration, glory and homage. You and You alone deserve our worship. Help me to continually discover Your hidden presence in the lives of those around me. Help me, especially, to see You in the leper of our day. May my love and respect for them flow from my love for You and become an imitation of Your act of love for all. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Scripture Meditations for Ordinary Time

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day –Saint Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Christ Healing the Leper, from The Story of Christ By Georg Pencz, via Wikimedia Commons

An Authoritative New Law June 27, 2024


Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor—Optional Memorial

Video

When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:28–29

These lines conclude the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew’s Gospel chapters 5–7. In that lengthy sermon, Jesus touches on many topics and presents us with a summary of all we need to know in our lives of faith. In these concluding lines of His sermon, the words “astonished” and “authority” should stand out. Why were the crowds astonished at Jesus’ teaching? Because His teaching was new and relied upon a new authority that the people hadn’t experienced before.

The authority with which the scribes taught was based upon their knowledge of the traditions handed down to them from earlier teachers. The scribes studied long and hard and then presented what they had learned. This was the form of religious teaching that the people were used to receiving.

Jesus, however, arrived on the scene and astonished the crowds, because He spoke with a new authority that they had not seen before. Jesus’ authority came forth from His very Person. It was not based upon what He had studied and learned from those who preceded Him. Instead, when He spoke, it was He Himself Who was not only the mouthpiece of the New Law of grace, He was also the Author of the Law and its source.

Try to ponder the idea of authority. For example, a child knows that a parent has authority over them. They may not like it at times, but they understand that they do not set the rules of the house but must abide by the rules set by their parents. Or consider the authority of civil leaders. Law enforcement officers, for example, have an authority entrusted to them by their office. They are not only well versed in the rule of law, they can also enforce it and everyone knows it.

Similarly, Jesus did not just know about the new and glorious truths He taught. He did not simply learn them from the Father in Heaven and then pass them on verbally. Instead, when He taught, He did so as the One Who knew the New Law of grace, the One from Whom it originated, and the one and only Person sent to enact and enforce this New Law.

Reflect, today, upon the New Law of grace and mercy taught by our Lord, especially as it is contained in the lengthy Sermon on the Mount. Reading those words is much more than something we study and learn. The words themselves are alive; they are the Word of God. Reading them makes present to us the same authority that the crowds experienced in Jesus’ time. Everything Jesus taught was and is new, deep, profound, transforming and alive. And when He teaches it, He also establishes His divine authority to enforce it upon the world. This is good news, because His New Law is not an imposition; it is the one and only source of freedom and new life. Reflect upon this New Law of our Lord and pray that you will more fully come under its authority.

My glorious Lawgiver, You taught as One with authority. Today, as Your holy Word is read and proclaimed, You continue to exercise Your new and glorious authority of love and mercy. Please help me to listen to You and to always submit myself to Your authority so that I am governed by Your New Law of grace. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Scripture Meditations for Ordinary Time

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor

Mass Reading Options

Featured image above: Jesus teaches, via Adobe

Good Fruit—Bad Fruit June 26, 2024


Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Josemaría Escrivá, Priest–Optional Memorial
(in various ecclesiastical provinces)

Video

“Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.” Matthew 7:16–17

“So by their fruits you will know them.” This is how our Gospel passage for today concludes. It offers us an exceptionally practical way by which you can discern the working of God in your own life and in the life of others.

When you look at your own life, what good fruit, born for the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God, do you see? Some people may find little to no fruit born, either for good or bad. Such complacency is, in and of itself, bad fruit. Other people may see an abundance of fruit, thus producing many consequences in this world. They influence the lives of many, and their public actions make a true difference. Sometimes for good…and other times for evil.

When discerning the actions of God in our world, we must first be very objective. The evil one is always very deceptive and regularly presents his bad fruit as good. For example, the legalization of abortion is often presented by many within our world as a “right to choose” or a “health service.” But the intentional death of any unborn child is clearly “bad fruit” from a “rotten tree.” There are even many so-called “humanitarian groups” or very wealthy “philanthropists” who present their work as “good fruit,” when it is anything but good. And on the contrary, there are many who work hard to bring forth a greater respect for life from the moment of conception to natural death, or strive to uphold the sacredness of marriage as God designed it, or work to promote the freedom to worship in accord with the will of God, but are labeled by the secular world as prejudiced, bigoted, fearmongers and even hateful. But their work, done very sacrificially, truly does bear good fruit for the Kingdom of God.

How about your own life? When you examine your actions and the fruit born of those actions, from where does that fruit originate? Does it come from a false sense of compassion, a misguided “charity,” and a fear of being criticized for standing for the truth? Or does it come from a deep love of God, an awareness of the truth God has revealed to us, and through a courageous proclamation of the pure Gospel?

Good fruit, born from the heart of the Father in Heaven, will always mirror the truths of our faith. A false sense of compassion, false accusations, persecutions and the like will flow from the rotten trees in our world. We must work diligently to be those good trees that bear the good fruit coming from God. This requires a radical commitment to do what is right in the face of the evil all around us.

Reflect, today, upon these images Jesus presents. Do you see clearly both the good and bad fruit around you? Is your life helping to foster the lies of the evil one or the truth and love of God? Look at the fruit your life bears, as well as the fruit within our world, in an objective way, comparing it to the clear and unambiguous teachings of Jesus. Seek out that good fruit with all your heart and do all you can to bring it forth, no matter the cost, and you will not only save your soul, you will also help feed others with the good fruit of Heaven.

My Lord of all truthfulness, You and You alone define the good and evil in our world. Your truth reveals the good fruit that is born to nourish the growth of Your glorious Kingdom. Give me courage and clarity of mind and heart so that I may continually do all that You call me to do so as to bring the good fruit of the Kingdom to all in need. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Scripture Meditations for Ordinary Time

All Saints/Feasts

Saint of the Day – Saint Josemaría Escrivá, Priest

Mass Reading Options

Featured images above: Jesus tells the Parable of the Barren Tree, via flickr