The Mysteries of Heaven July 23, 2020


Thursday of the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Bridget of Sweden, Religious—Optional Memorial

The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?” He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”  Matthew 13:10-12

Does that seem fair?  At first read, it may not.  Why would Jesus promise more to those who have more, and less to those who have not?  This goes to the heart of the mystery of grace, and the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven!

First of all, we see that Jesus spoke in parables to the crowds but spoke clearly and directly to His disciples.  Jesus explains that this is “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.”  So, for that reason, Jesus speaks in veiled speech when speaking to the vast crowds.

To speak plainly here, what Jesus is saying is that some people are simply more open to the truth than others.  When someone is not open, Jesus is limited and, thus, He must speak in parables.  One goal of a parable is to get someone thinking.  It’s a way of drawing them in so that they can engage their minds with the Word that was spoken.

When someone is open to the Truth, such as the disciples, Jesus is able to lift the veil and speak clearly, deeply and beautifully about the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.  This must be our goal.  We must seek to be those who “get it.”  We must seek to understand all Jesus speaks and believe it wholeheartedly.  In fact, once we do begin to believe and, subsequently, live what we come to believe, we will begin a wonderful journey of faith and understanding that we never knew existed before.

This is what Jesus means when He says, “to anyone who has, more will be given.”  The life of grace is such that, once we begin to accept all that is true and then allow it to transform our lives, we will be given exponentially more than we ever imagined.  And, on the flip side, when we refuse to listen and understand, even the little faith and understanding we have will slowly slip away into confusion.

Reflect, today, on how open you are to the Word of God and all that God wants to say to you.  Seek to listen and understand.  If you do this, you will discover that there is a glorious life of grace just waiting to be lavished upon you in full force.

Lord, I do want to know You.  I do want to seek You and to discover all that You have to say.  Help me to turn to You in all things and to grow continually deeper in the life of faith.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Bridget of Sweden, Religious

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Image: Jesus Discourses with His Disciples by James Tissot

Clinging to Jesus Wednesday, July 22, 2020

 

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene

Readings for Today

“Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.”  John 20:15b-17b

What a privilege!  Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the risen Lord, and there is no doubt that many would have concluded that she was the most unworthy person to receive such a blessing.

Scripture states that Mary Magdalene was the woman from whom Jesus cast out seven demons.  Clearly, one who was possessed by seven demons had lived a sinful life.  In the late 6th century, Pope Saint Gregory the Great also identified her as the sinful woman who was almost stoned.  Jesus did not condemn this woman and told those who wanted to stone her that the one without sin should cast the first stone.  One by one they left, and Jesus forgave her and reconciled her to the Father.

After encountering our Lord, Mary became His faithful follower, being one of the holy women to daily serve and care for His needs.  For that reason, we now call her “saint.”  But this passage above tells us even more about Jesus and His mercy.

This passage is taken from the account of Jesus’ Resurrection.  Mary had gone to the tomb only to find it empty.  She sat there weeping thinking that someone took Jesus’ body away.  But suddenly, before her eyes, Jesus was there and alive.  His words were piercing and profound.  He said, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.”  There are two things to say about this passage.

First, it was indeed a wonderful blessing that Jesus appeared to her first.  This sinful woman was now the first witness and first messenger to the Resurrection.  This tells us that Jesus does not discriminate against us because of our past sins.  He does not have a long memory holding us forever accountable for what we’ve done in the past.  His forgiveness is absolute when given and it completely restores us to grace if we are open.  This is what happened with Mary.  Jesus chose her, this formerly sinful woman, to be His first witness of His Resurrection.

Secondly, this passage reveals that Jesus does want us to cling to Him, just not in a purely human way.  Mary had come to know Jesus on Earth and now Jesus wanted to deepen His bond with her once He ascended into Heaven.  At that time, He wanted to be more than just physically present, He wanted to dwell within her soul and unite Himself to her, and to us, in the most intimate and profound way.

Reflect, today, upon the desire in the Heart of our Lord that we cling to Him in Heaven.  Hear Him say to you, “I have now ascended to my Father and I invite you to cling to me with your whole heart.  Let me in and allow me to dwell within you in all intimacy.  I love you and want to be one with you.  Will you let me into your heart?”

Lord, I do want to cling to You.  I do choose to be one with You in every way.  Come live in my heart and make me one with You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day –  Saint Mary Magdalene

Helpful article about the identity of Mary Magdalene – New Advent

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Image: Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection by Alexander Ivanov

July 21, 2020 Our Blessed Mother


Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor—Optional Memorial

“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”  Matthew 12:48-50

This passage offers a wonderful opportunity to speak about the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Some who read this passage fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus was in some way distancing Himself from His mother.  It’s as if they conclude that His statement ignores her special role in His life.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is that His statement affirms her motherhood more than anything.  Why?  Because He is speaking about how one becomes a true member of His family.  And that happens when one “does the will of my heavenly Father.”

Think about that line.  Who better fulfilled the will of the Heavenly Father?  Who was more obedient in all things than the Blessed Virgin?  No one was.  She acted in perfect obedience throughout her life and, therefore, she perfectly fulfills the requirement of being Jesus’ family.

One thing we should take from this passage is that our Blessed Mother’s relationship with Jesus was lived on two levels.  First, there was the physical motherhood she was blessed with.  This was an incredible grace and one for which she deserves great honor.  But her physical motherhood was not the primary reason for her blessedness.  The primary reason was a result of her spiritual motherhood.  And this spiritual motherhood is seen in this passage above.  It is the result of her perfect “Yes” to God in all things.  This is the primary reason she is to be honored and called “blessed” for all ages.

Reflect, today, upon the role that our Blessed Mother holds in your life.  God wants you to honor her, to imitate her and to make her part of your family.  He wants you to receive her as your spiritual mother insofar as you are a member of Jesus’ family.  If you strive for obedience to the will of the Father in your life you will also share in the blessings of His life.  One of those great blessings is to share His mother.

Lord, I do desire to be obedient to You and Your will in all things.  I desire to embrace the Father’s perfect plan for my life.  In that will, help me to share in Your divine life and become a full member of Your family.  In that family, help me to take Your mother as my own.  Dear Mother, pray for me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor

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Seeking a Sign July 20, 2020


Monday of the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr—Optional Memorial

“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.”  Matthew 12:38-39

Jonah was the sign.  He spent three days and nights in the belly of a whale.  He certainly was presumed dead by those who threw him over the side of the boat.  But the whale acted as an instrument of God’s will in that it brought Jonah to Nineveh to preach repentance.  And they did repent and change their lives!  The darkness of the belly of the whale, in the end, became a blessing and a sign for ages to come.

Fast forward from the story of Jonah to the story above when the followers of Jesus seek a sign from Him.  They want some sort of “proof” of who He is.  Or perhaps they are just curious and want to be “entertained” by a miracle.  Whatever the case may be, Jesus makes it clear that the sign He will give is the sign of Jonah.

Clearly, the story of Jonah is a prefiguration of the death of Jesus; His three days in the tomb and His Resurrection.  This is the sign that Jesus will offer and the sign that He continues to offer.  It’s a sign of great hope when we perceive it properly.

However, very often we can fall into the same temptation as the followers of Jesus in the story above.  Very often we also want a sign other than the signs Jesus gave us.  We want some other proof from God of His will.  We want Him to speak loudly and clearly.  But that doesn’t always happen.  More often what we experience is what appears to be silence from God.  We may wonder, “Lord, where are You?  Why don’t You speak to me?”  But Jesus will speak to us in the same way.  He will gently remind us of His life, death and Resurrection.  He will remind us that we must believe in all that He has spoken, and even if we feel like we are in the belly of a whale or dead in a tomb, hope is not lost.  God is present in all things and He is active and present to us even when He seems to be silent.

Reflect, today, upon how strong your faith is even though you may not get the sign from Heaven that you may want.  You must be reminded that the Father spoke to you clearly through the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus and this is the way He continues to speak to you today.  Listen to that lesson and embrace the truths it proclaims.  Even if you feel like you are in a tomb or God is silent, know He is not.  He is speaking to you all the time.  You just need to discern His voice.

Lord, help me to believe in You even though I do not see miracles or signs from Heaven.  Help me to believe in You despite any doubts or weaknesses I have in life.  Give me a firm faith to answer Your call in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr

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Image: Menologion of Basil

The Defeat of Evil July 19, 2020


Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings for Today

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.  When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.”  Matthew 13:24-26

The introduction to this parable should wake us up to the reality of the evil one in our midst.  The specific action of the “enemy” in this parable is disturbing.  Imagine if this story were true and you were the farmer who worked very hard at sowing the seed throughout your field.  Then, if you awoke to hear the news that weeds had been sown also, you would be quite saddened, angered and disappointed.

But this parable is especially about the Son of God.  Jesus is the one who has sown the good seed of His Word and watered that seed with His Precious Blood.  But the evil one, the devil, has also been at work trying to undermine the work of our Lord.

Again, if this were a true story about you as a farmer, it would be hard to refrain from much anger and a desire for revenge.  But the truth is that Jesus, as the Divine Sower, does not allow the evil one to steal His peace.  Instead, He has allowed this action of the evil one to remain for now. But in the end, the works of evil will be destroyed and burned in the unquenchable fire.

What’s also interesting to note is that Jesus does not root out all evil in our world here and now.  According to the parable, He refrains so that the good fruit of the Kingdom will not be negatively affected.  In other words, this parable reveals to us the interesting truth that the “weeds” all around us, that is, the evil alive within our world, cannot affect our growth in virtue and entrance into the Kingdom of God.  We may have to endure evil on a daily basis and find ourselves surrounded by it at times, but our Lord’s willingness to allow evil for now is a clear sign that He knows it cannot affect our growth in virtue if we do not let it.

Reflect, today, upon the reality of evil in your world.  It’s essential that you name evil activity for what it is.  But evil cannot ultimately affect you.  And the evil one, despite his malicious attacks, will ultimately be defeated.  Reflect upon the hope that this truth brings and renew your trust in the power of God this day.

Lord, I pray that You do deliver us all from the evil one.  May we be freed from his lies and snares and always keep our eyes upon You, our Divine Shepherd.  I turn to You in all things, dear Lord.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Image: Parable of the sower by Marten van Valckenborch

Dealing with the Malice of Others July 18, 2020


Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Camillus de Lellis, Priest—USA Optional Memorial
(Celebrated July 14 outside the United States)

The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.  Matthew 12:14

If you really sit and think about this, it’s shocking, sad and even scandalous.  Here, the religious leaders of the time were actively, intentionally and calculatedly plotting to kill the Savior of the world.  The very One whom they were supposed to be preparing for and hoping for became their object of malice, hatred and ultimate persecution.

It is shocking and, therefore, we should have a deep sorrow at their actions.  But sorrow at their actions does not mean we need to fall into an irrational anger, despair or a mindset of revenge.  Sorrow at the malicious actions of the Pharisees is actually a form of love toward them in that a deep sorrow at their actions is a way of calling them to repent.

Sure, this happened many years ago and the actual Pharisees who acted in this calculated and malicious way are no longer with us.  Nonetheless, Jesus continues to be persecuted in numerous ways, and sometimes this persecution is even found among those who claim the name Christian and even those who act in leadership within our Church and world.

Practically speaking, we all may be able to identify in some way with the plotting and planning of Jesus’ persecution.  It would be highly unlikely that we experience this malice to the extent that Jesus did, but all of us have most likely experienced it to one extent or another.

Sadly, when we radically commit ourselves to Christ and His mission, we often become a target of the evil one.  And very often, we experience the arrows of the evil one from those who should be our greatest supporters.  Therefore, if this is your experience in some way, do not be scandalized or overly shaken.  It’s appropriate to be saddened by it, but don’t give in to irrationality as a result.  Persecution is a part of following Christ.  It happened to Jesus and we should, therefore, expect it to happen to us.

Reflect, today, upon how you deal with the hurt and malice of others.  You are not the one who is given the right to judge or condemn them.  But you are called to experience the same sorrow that Jesus did.  This sorrow is a holy sorrow which is spoken of in the Beatitudes.  It’s a sorrow which will enable you to reject the errors you encounter and grow in patience and endurance.

Lord, when I feel ridiculed or persecuted by others, help me to stand strong in my faith and, especially, in my charity.  Help me to allow a holy sorrow to strengthen me to have hope and to move forward in the mission You have given me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Camillus de Lellis, Priest—USA Optional Memorial
(Celebrated July 14 outside the United States)

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I Desire Mercy July 17, 2020


Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

“If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men.”  Matthew 12:7

The Apostles of Jesus were hungry and they picked heads of grain as they walk along to satisfy their hunger.  As a result, the Pharisees condemned the Apostles for doing what they claimed was “unlawful” on the Sabbath.  They claimed that picking heads of grain as they walked along was considered “work” and, thus, they violated the law requiring rest on the Sabbath.

Really?  Did the Pharisees seriously think that the Apostles sinned by picking grain as they walked along to satisfy their hunger?  Hopefully it’s not hard for us to see the absurdity and irrationality of this condemnation. The Apostles did nothing wrong but were condemned nonetheless.  They were “innocent men” as Jesus points out.

Jesus responds to the irrationality of the Pharisees by reminding them of the Scripture, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  And He points out that the Apostles were wrongly condemned because the Pharisees do not understand this passage and this command from God for mercy.

The Sabbath commandment to rest was from God.  But the commandment to rest was not a requirement for its own sake.  This was not some legal requirement that somehow honored God just by strictly keeping it.  The Sabbath rest was primarily a gift from God to humanity in that God knew we needed rest and rejuvenation.  He knew we needed time each week to slow down, offer special worship to God and enjoy the company of others.  But the Pharisees turned the Sabbath rest into a burden.  They made it out to be a strict legalistic observance that did nothing to glorify God or refresh the human spirit.

One key truth we can learn from this passage is that God calls us to interpret His law through the eyes of mercy.  Mercy always refreshes us, lifts us up and fills us with new energy.  It motivates us to worship and fills us with hope.  Mercy does not impose a heavy legalistic burden upon us; rather, God’s mercy and law together rejuvenates us and refreshes us.

Reflect, today, upon how you look at God’s commands and His law.  Do you see it as a legalistic and burdensome requirement?  Or do you see it as a blessing of God’s mercy meant to lighten your load?

Lord, help me to love Your law.  Help me to truly see it in the light of Your mercy and grace.  May I be refreshed by all You command and be lifted up by Your will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Image: The Disciples Eat Wheat on the Sabbath by James Tissot

Laying Down Your Burdens July 16, 2020


Thursday of the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Our Lady of Mount Carmel—Optional Memorial

Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

This invitation from Jesus is one that we may need to hear far more often than we realize.  It’s a gentle invitation to let our Lord lighten our daily burden, relieve our worries, our stress, our concerns and all that weighs us down.  It’s an invitation of love and mercy and is one we should always accept.

What is it that burdens you?  What is it that weighs you down and tempts you to fall into depression, sorrow or even despair?  Is there something that you tend to think about obsessively?  Is there some concern that you can’t seem to shake?  Whatever it is that troubles your heart, Jesus wants to lift it.

Sometimes we can go through life with heavy burdens that we are afraid to let go of.  We can be fearful of coming to Jesus and fearful of letting Him in.  Coming to Jesus means we must face whatever it is that burdens us with honesty and openness and we must face these burdens in the presence of Jesus.

But the key thing we need to know is that Jesus is gentle, merciful and generous in forgiveness and grace.  He longs to lift our burdens far more than we long to have them lifted.  He sees the oppression many face and so deeply desires to have that oppression eliminated.

Reflect, today, upon that gentle invitation from Jesus: “Come to me.”  Come to Him without fear and without hesitation.  Turn everything over to Him and let Him sort things out.  He loves you more than you know and will set your feet on the right path.

Lord, I do come to You and I do lay down my life and every burden before You.  I give You my life, my hopes, my fears, my past, my future and everything that worries me.  Jesus, I give You everything.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Our Lady of Mount Carmel

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Image: Christ Consolator by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Being Childlike July 15, 2020


Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor—Memorial

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”  Matthew 11:25

Life is complicated.  Or is it?  That’s a good question.  At times things can seem very complicated.  Situations we find ourselves in, relationships with family and friends, our future, our past, etc., can all seem burdensome and complicated at times.  But the truth is that it doesn’t have to be.  The truth is that God’s answers to the most “complex” questions in life are often simple enough for a child to understand.

In the passage above, Jesus affirms that the Father reveals His answers and wisdom to those who are childlike.  Interestingly, He also states that the Father has “hidden these things from the wise and learned.”  So this begs the question…is it better to be “wise and learned” or “childlike?”  Obviously the answer is that it’s better to be childlike.

This may seem confusing at first.  It can seem strange to say that it’s not good to be “wise and learned.”  But what that means is that it’s not good to be a person who thinks they have it all figured out.  It’s not good to be arrogant and a know-it-all.  It’s not good to be so filled with pride that we think we have all the answers.

The ideal is to have certain characteristics of a child.  In particular, it’s good to be one who is open, curious, and willing to learn.  It’s good to look at life in the simplest of ways and to stick to the basics.  Sure, it’s good to grow in wisdom and knowledge of the things of God.  But true wisdom and knowledge always maintain a certain innocence and simplicity.  They maintain a basic goodness and acceptance of right and wrong.  Life does not have to be complicated, it needs to become exceptionally simple.

Reflect, today, upon how ready and willing you are to turn to God for the simple and clear answers to life’s most difficult questions.  Reflect upon how willing you are to turn to God in trust and hope knowing that God has all the answers to your life.

Lord, once again I turn to You in trust.  Help me to realize that all wisdom comes from You rather than myself.  Help me to always turn to You as a child would and help my life to remain simple as You desire.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor—Memorial

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Image: Christ Blessing Little Children by Charles Lock Eastlake

It’s Time to Repent! July 14, 2020


Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Camillus de Lellis, Priest—Optional Memorial
(In the United States this memorial is transferred to July 18)
Or:
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin—USA Memorial

Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!”  Matthew 11:20-21a

What an act of mercy and love on the part of Jesus!  He rebukes those in the towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida because He loves them and He sees that they continue to hold on to their sinful lives even though He has brought them the Gospel and performed many mighty deeds.  They remain obstinate, trapped, confused, unwilling to repent, and unwilling to change their ways.  In this context, Jesus offers a wonderful form of mercy.  He chastises them!  After the passage above He goes on to say, “I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.”

There is a wonderful distinction here that should help us hear what God may be saying to us at times, as well as help us know how to deal with those around us who habitually sin and cause hurt in our lives or the lives of others.  The distinction has to do with Jesus’ motivation for chastising the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida.  Why did He do that?  And what was the motivation behind His actions?

Jesus chastises them out of love and out of a desire that they change.  They did not immediately repent of their sin when He offered an invitation and powerful witness of His miracles, so He needed to take things to a new level.  And this new level was a strong and clear rebuke out of love.

This action of Jesus could at first be perceived as an emotional outburst of anger.  But that’s the key distinction.  Jesus did not rebuke them strongly because He was mad and lost control.  Rather, He rebuked them because they needed that rebuke to change.

The same truth can be applied to our lives.  At times we change our lives and overcome sin as a result of the gentle invitation of Jesus to grace.  But, at other times, when sin is deep, we need a holy rebuke.  In this case we should hear these words of Jesus as if they were directed at us.  This may be the specific act of mercy we need in our lives.

It also gives us great insight as to how we deal with others.  Parents, for example, can learn much from this.  Children will regularly go astray in various ways and will need correction.  It certainly is proper to start with gentle invitations and conversations aimed at helping them make the right choices.  However, at times this will not work and more drastic measures need to take place.  What are those “more drastic measures?”  Out-of-control anger and vengeful yelling is not the answer.  Rather, a holy wrath that comes from mercy and love may be the key.  This may come in the form of a strong chastisement or punishment.  Or, it may come in the form of laying down the truth and clearly presenting the consequences of certain actions.  Just remember that even this is love and is an imitation of Jesus’ actions.  This is what we commonly refer to as “tough love.”

Reflect, today, on whether or not you need a rebuke from Jesus.  If you do, let this Gospel of love sink in.  Reflect also upon your responsibility in correcting the faults of others.  Don’t be afraid to exercise an act of divine love that comes in the form of a clear chastisement.  It may just be the key to helping those you love to love God all the more.

Lord, help me to repent daily of my sin.  Help me to be an instrument of the repentance of others.  May I always receive Your words in love and offer them in the form of love that is most effective.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Saints of the Day –

Saint Camillus de Lellis, Priest—Optional Memorial
(In the United States this memorial is transferred to July 18)
Or:
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin—USA Memorial

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Image – Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees by James Tissot