Mercy for the Sinner Friday, July 5, 2019

Friday of the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

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

Saint Anthony Zaccaria, Priest – Optional Memorial

“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

Jesus did not come for the “righteous” but came for “sinners.”  This may be surprising at first because it seems that Jesus should have said that He came for allpeople, the righteous and the sinner.  But what we must understand is that no one is truly righteous.  In other words, everyone is a sinner in need of the Savior.

By speaking this way, Jesus is addressing the self-righteous attitude of the Pharisees who seemed to think that Jesus should only associate with those who were without sin.  The Pharisees acted as if they were “righteous” and that Jesus should only associate with them and any others who were not publicly known to be sinners.

Sadly, the sin of the Pharisees was of a far graver nature than the sins of the tax collectors and the other sinners who came to Jesus.  The Pharisees were guilty of the sin of spiritual pride and were sinning by presuming that they were righteous.  When one fails to see their sin, God cannot forgive them since they do not repent.

Though this is a powerful condemnation of the Pharisees and others who are guilty of being self-righteous, it is also an invitation from Jesus to all who readily admit their sin.  When we can humble ourselves before the perfection of God and see our sins in the light of His glory, we will be tempted to despair and feel shame for our sin.  But shame will turn into joy and freedom when we allow our Lord to act as the Divine Physician in our lives.  The purpose of His earthly life was to bring healing to our wounds of sin.  When we realize how His perfect mercy perfectly heals us, we will readily run to Him.

Reflect, today, upon how ready and willing you are to confess your sin to Jesus.  Do not hesitate to trust in His perfect love for you and to open yourself up fully to His divine mercy.

Lord, I turn to You in my need and admit my sin and guilt.  I am sorry for having offended You and I know that You are the one and only answer for my sin.  Please have mercy on me, dear Lord, and forgive me for all my sin.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saints of the Day – Saint Elizabeth of Portugal – Saint Anthony Zaccaria

Courage to Seek Forgiveness Thursday, July 4, 2019

Thursday of the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

Independence Day – USA Optional Memorial

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

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”  Matthew 9:2b

This story concludes with Jesus healing the paralytic and telling him to “rise, pick up your stretcher and go home.”  The man does just that and the crowds are amazed.

There are two miracles that happen here.  One is physical and one is spiritual.  The spiritual one is that this man’s sins are forgiven.  The physical one is the healing of his paralysis.

Which of these miracles are more important?  Which one do you think the man desired the most?

It’s hard to answer the second question since we do not know the man’s thoughts, but the first question is easy.  The spiritual healing, the forgiveness of his sins, is by far the most important of these two miracles.  It’s the most significant because it has eternal consequences for his soul.

For most of us, it’s easy to pray to God for things like a physical healing or the like.  We may find it quite easy to ask for favors and blessings from God.  But how easy is it for us to ask for forgiveness?  This may be harder to do for many because it requires an initial act of humility on our part.  It requires that we first acknowledge we are sinners in need of forgiveness.

Acknowledging our need for forgiveness takes courage, but this courage is a great virtue and reveals a great strength of character on our part.  Coming to Jesus to seek His mercy and forgiveness in our lives is the most important prayer we can pray and the foundation of all the rest of our prayers.

Reflect, today, upon how courageous you are in asking God for forgiveness and how humbly you are willing to acknowledge your sin.  Making an act of humility like this is one of the most important things you can do.

Lord, give me courage.  Give me courage, especially, to humble myself before You and to acknowledge all my sin.  In this humble acknowledgment, help me to also seek Your daily forgiveness in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Further Reading – Independence Day – USA – Saint Elizabeth of Portugal

My Lord and My God!” Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle

Readings for Today

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” John 20:24-25

It’s easy to be critical of St. Thomas for his lack of belief reflected in his statement above.  But before you allow yourself to think poorly of him, think about how you would have responded. This is a difficult exercise to do since we know clearly the end of the story.  We know Jesus did rise from the dead and that Thomas ultimately came to believe, crying out “My Lord and my God!” But try to put yourself in his situation.

First, Thomas probably doubted, in part, out of extreme sadness and despair.  He had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah, he had dedicated the last three years of his life to following Him, and now Jesus was dead…so he thought.  This is an important point because very often in life when we encounter some difficulty, disappointment or painful situation, our faith is tested. We are tempted to allow despair to draw us into doubt and when this happens we make decisions based more upon our hurt than upon our faith.

Second, Thomas was also called to deny the physical reality that he witnessed with his own eyes and believe something that was completely “impossible” from an earthly perspective.  People simply do not rise from the dead! This simply doesn’t happen, at least from an earthly perspective alone. And even though Thomas had seen Jesus perform such miracles before, it took much faith to believe without seeing with his own eyes.  So despair and an apparent impossibility went to the heart of Thomas’ faith and extinguished it.

Reflect, today, upon two lessons we can take from this passage: 1) Do not ever allow despair, disappointment or hurt to be the guide of your decisions or beliefs in life.  They are never a good guide. 2) Do not doubt the power of God to be able to do anything and everything He chooses. In this case, God chose to rise from the dead and so He did.  In our own lives, God can do anything He wills. We must believe that and know that what He reveals to us in faith will come to be if we but trust in His provident care.

Lord, I do believe.  Help my unbelief. When I am tempted to give in to despair or to doubt Your almighty power over all things in life, help me to turn to You and to trust in You with all my heart.  May I cry out, with St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God,” and may I do so even when I see only with the faith You put into my soul. Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Thomas the Apostle

Calming the Storm Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Tuesday of the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

All Saints for Today

They came and woke [Jesus], saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.  Matthew 8:25-26

Imagine you were out on the sea with the Apostles.  You were a fisherman and spent countless hours on the sea throughout your life.  Some days the sea was exceptionally calm and other days there were big waves.  But this day was unique.  These waves were huge and crashing and you feared that things would not end well.  So, with the others on the boat, you woke Jesus in a panic hoping that He would save you.

What would have been the best thing for the Apostles to do in this situation?  Most likely, it would have been for them to allow Jesus to remain asleep.  Ideally, they would have faced the fierce storm with confidence and hope.  “Storms” that seem overwhelming may be rare, but we can be certain they will come.  They will come and we will feel overwhelmed.

If the Apostles would not have panicked and would have allowed Jesus to sleep, they may have had to endure the storm a bit longer.  But eventually it would have died down and all would have been calm.

Jesus, in His great compassion, is OK with us crying out to Him in our need as the Apostles did on the boat.  He is OK with us turning to Him in our fear and seeking His help.  When we do, He will be there as a parent is there for a child who wakes during the night in fear.  But ideally we will face the storm with confidence and hope.  We will ideally know that this too will pass and that we should simply trust and stay strong.  This seems to be the most ideal lesson we can learn from this story.

Reflect, today, on how you react to hardship and problems in your life.  Be they big or small, do you face them with the confidence, calm and hope that Jesus wants you to have?  Life is too short to be filled with terror.  Have confidence in the Lord no matter what you face each day.  If He seems to be asleep, allow Him to remain asleep.  He knows what He is doing and you can be certain that He will never allow you to endure more than you can handle.

Lord, whatever may come my way I trust You.  I know You are always there and will never give me more than I can handle.  Jesus, I do trust in You.

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Being Ready and Willing Monday, July 1, 2019

Monday of the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

Saint Junipero Serra, Priest – USA Optional Memorial

A scribe approached and said to [Jesus], “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”  Matthew 8:19

This scribe said the right thing to Jesus.  This is the attitude we should all have toward our Lord.  We must be ready and willing to follow Him no matter what.  However, Jesus’ response to this scribe is interesting.  He said, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head” (Matthew 8:20).

What do we take from this response?  It appears to be a way for Jesus to say to the scribe, “Are you truly ready and willing to follow me no matter what?”  In other words, Jesus wants to illustrate to the scribe that the choice to follow Him is a commitment to travel down a road that is risky only in the sense that following Jesus requires complete trust in Him.  We will not be told, ahead of time, where our Lord will lead and what He will ask of us.  Rather, when we unreservedly choose to follow Jesus, we are putting our trust in Him as a person and are telling Him that we embrace His will no matter what it is.  This level of trust is the key to what Jesus wants.

Reflect, today, upon two things.  First, reflect upon these words of the scribe and ask yourself whether or not you can confidently say them in your own life.  Say them over and over and try to let them move from your head to your heart as a willing embrace of the Lord’s plan for your life.  Second, reflect upon the effects of such a response in your own life.  Are you willing to not only say these words but to also embrace all that follows from such a commitment?  Are you willing to trust the Lord with your whole life?  Strive to make this firm resolution and this resolution will lead you down the path of much joy.

Lord, I do commit myself to following You wherever You go.  I choose Your most holy will above all things.  Help me to live faithfully in accord with Your divine will and to say “Yes” to You every day.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Junipero Serra

Being Resolute Sunday, June 30, 2019

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings for Today

First Martyrs of the Church of Rome – Optional Memorial

When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him.  Luke 9:51-52a

Jesus was “resolutely determined” in His mission to travel toward Jerusalem.  The significance of this line can easily be lost.

There are two things to point out about this passage.  First, Jerusalem was the destination where He would ultimately die for the sins of the world.  It was His place of glorification through the Sacrifice of the Cross.  Thus, the disciples did not want Jesus to go to Jerusalem since they knew it was a risk.  But Jesus saw through the suffering He would soon endure to the future glory of the Sacrifice He would offer.

Second, the fact that Jesus was “resolute” in His determination to go to Jerusalem and sacrifice His life reveals His courage and perfect love.  He did not fear what would happen to Him because He had the bigger picture in mind.  He saw the good fruit of the salvation of many souls and this overshadowed any temptation to be deterred from His divine mission.

We can learn much from Jesus’ determination to sacrifice His life in Jerusalem for the salvation of the world.  Certainly we should see the fruit of this sacrifice and be eternally grateful for it.  But we should also see it as an invitation to imitate Jesus’ actions.  In our own lives there are many opportunities we are given to choose a life of selfless sacrifice for the good of others.  These opportunities come in many forms, but in the end they are always opportunities of love and self-giving.  Though sacrifice will tempt us to flee in a different direction, if we keep our eyes upon the good fruit of all selfless sacrifice, we will be encouraged to be resolute in our determination of love.

Reflect, today, upon whatever your “Jerusalem” is.  What is it that you are invited to sacrifice your life for out of love.  When you discover what it is, look also on your willingness to embrace this sacrifice for the good of others and strive to imitate the firm determination of our Lord.

Lord, I offer my life to You and accept Your invitation to offer my life for the good of others.  Give me the courage and determination I need to see the value of selfless living and fill me with unwavering love of Your holy will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saints of the Day – First Martyrs of the Church of Rome


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Proclaiming the Gospel Saturday, June 29, 2019

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

Readings for Today

“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.”  Matthew 16:18

The Church, throughout the ages, has been hated, misunderstood, slandered, ridiculed, and even attacked. Though sometimes ridicule and rebuke come as a result of the personal faults of Her members, most often the Church has been and continues to be persecuted because we have been given the mission of clearly, compassionately, firmly, and authoritatively proclaiming, with the voice of Christ Himself, the truth which liberates and sets all people free to live in unity as children of God.

Ironically, and sadly, there are many in this world who refuse to accept the Truth. There are many who instead grow in anger and bitterness as the Church lives out Her divine mission.

What is this divine mission of the Church? Her mission is to teach with clarity and authority, to pour forth God’s grace and mercy in the Sacraments, and to shepherd God’s people so as to lead them to Heaven. It is God who gave the Church this mission and God who enables the Church and Her ministers to carry it out with courage, boldness and fidelity.

Today’s Solemnity is a very appropriate occasion to reflect on this sacred mission.  Saints Peter and Paul are not only two of the greatest examples of the Church’s mission, but they are also the actual foundation upon which Christ established this mission.

First, Jesus Himself in today’s Gospel said to Peter, “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; whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.”

In this Gospel passage, “the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” are given to the first pope of the Church. St. Peter, the one entrusted with the divine headship of the Church on Earth, is given the authority to teach us all we need to know in order to attain Heaven.  It’s clear from the earliest days of the Church, that Peter passed these “Keys to the Kingdom,” this “ability to authoritatively bind and loose,” this divine gift that today is called infallibility, on to his successor, and he on to his successor and so forth until today.

There are many who get angry at the Church for clearly, confidently and authoritatively proclaiming the liberating truth of the Gospel. This is especially true in the area of morality. Often, when these truths are proclaimed, the Church is attacked and called every sort of slanderous name in the book.

The primary reason that this is so sad is not so much that the Church is attacked, Christ will always give us the grace we need to endure persecution.  The primary reason this is so sad is that most often those who are the angriest are, in fact, those who need to know the liberating truth the most. Everyone needs the freedom that comes only in Christ Jesus and the full and unaltered Gospel truth that He has already entrusted to us in Scripture and that He continues to make clear to us through Peter in the person of the Pope. Furthermore, the Gospel does not ever change, the only thing that changes is our ever deeper and clearer understanding of this Gospel. Thanks be to God for Peter and for all of his successors who serve the Church in this essential role.

St. Paul, the other Apostle we honor today, was not himself entrusted with the keys of Peter, but was called by Christ and strengthened by his ordination to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. St. Paul, with much courage, traveled throughout the Mediterranean to bring the message to all he met. In today’s Second Reading, St. Paul said of his journeys, “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear” the Gospel. And though he suffered, was beaten, imprisoned, ridiculed, misunderstood and hated by many, he was also an instrument of true freedom to many. Many people responded to his words and example, radically giving their lives over to Christ. We owe the establishment of many new Christian communities to St. Paul’s tireless efforts. When facing the opposition of the world, Paul said in today’s epistle, “I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.”

Both St. Paul and St. Peter paid for their faithfulness to their missions with their lives. The First Reading spoke of Peter’s imprisonment; the epistles reveal Paul’s hardships. In the end, both became martyrs. Martyrdom is not a bad thing if it is the Gospel for which you are martyred.

Jesus says in the Gospel, “Fear not the one who can bind your hand and foot, rather fear him who can throw you into Gehenna.” And the only one who can throw you into Gehenna is yourself because of the free choices you make. All we ultimately need to fear is wavering from the truth of the Gospel in our words and deeds.

The truth must be proclaimed in love and compassion; but love is not loving nor is compassion compassionate if the truth of the life of faith and morals is not present.

On this feast of Saints Peter and Paul, may Christ give all of us, and the entire Church, the courage, charity, and wisdom we need to continue to be the instruments that set the world free.

Lord, I thank You for the gift of Your Church and the liberating Gospel it preaches.  Help me to always be faithful to the truths You proclaim through Your Church.  And help me to be an instrument of that truth to all in need of it.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saints Peter and Paul

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The Heart of Perfect Love and Self-Giving Friday, June 28, 2019

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Friday following the second Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for Today

But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.  John 19:33-34 (Year B Gospel)

Happy Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!

To some, this can seem like an old and outdated celebration in the Church.  It can be seen as one of those ancient feasts that have little meaning in our lives today.  Nothing could be further from the truth!

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is exactly what we need to know, experience and receive in our lives today.  His heart, that heart which was pierced by the lance and from which flowed blood and water, is the sign, symbol and source of the burning love of His very soul.  The blood is an image of the Most Holy Eucharist and the water is an image of the cleansing waters of Baptism.

This celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a celebration of Jesus pouring out on us His whole life and all of His love.  He held nothing back which is symbolized by the pouring forth of the last drop of this blood and water from His Heart as He lay there dead on the Cross.  Though it’s a very graphic image, it’s graphic to make a point.  The point, again, is that He held nothing back.  We need to realize that Jesus continues to give us everything if we are willing to receive it.

If you are finding that you need to know His love more deeply in your life this day, try spending time reflecting on the Scripture passage above.  Spend time reflecting upon that last self gift, the gift of that water and blood flowing from His wounded Heart.  It is a sign of His infinite love for you.  Reflect upon it being poured out especially for you.  See it, be immersed in it, and be open to it.  Let His love transform and fill you.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.  I thank You, dear Lord, for giving all to me.  You held nothing back from me and You continue to pour out Your life for my good and for the good of the whole world.  May I receive all You give to me and hold nothing back from You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Further Reading – Sacred Heart of Jesus

Strength Thursday, June 27, 2019

Thursday of the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor – Optional Memorial

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.”  Matthew 7:24-25

This passage above is followed by the contrast of one who built his house on sand.  The wind and rains came and the house collapsed.  It’s a clear contrast that leads anyone to conclude that having your house built on solid rock is much better.

The house is your life.  And the question it raises is simply, how strong am I?  How strong am I to face the storms, hardships and crosses that will inevitably come my way?

When life is easy and all goes smoothly, we do not necessarily need great inner strength.  When money is plentiful, we have many friends, we have our health and our family all gets along, life can be good.  And, in that case, life can even be easy.  But there are few who can go through life without facing some storm.  When that happens, our inner strength is tested and the strength of our inner convictions is required.

In this story from Jesus, the rain, floods and wind that buffeted the house are actually a good thing.  Why?  Because they allow the foundation of the house to manifest its stability.  So it is with us.  The foundation of our lives must be our fidelity to the Word of God.  Do you believe the Word of God?  Have you pondered it, studied it, internalized it and allowed God’s Word to become the foundation of your life?  Jesus makes it clear that we will have a solid foundation only when we listen to His words and act on them.

Reflect, today, upon how deeply you believe all that Jesus says.  Do you trust in every word He has spoken?  Do you believe Him enough to rely upon His promises even in the midst of life’s greatest challenges?  If you are not sure, then this is a good day to recommit yourself to the prayerful reading of His Word.  All He says in Scripture is true and those truths are what we need to create a firm foundation for the rest of our lives.

Lord, help me to listen to Your words and to act on them.  Help me to believe in Your promises and to trust You even when the storms of life seem fierce.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Cyril of Alexandria

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Bearing Good Fruit Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Wednesday of the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

Saint Josemaría Escrivá, Priest – Optional Memorial

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.  By their fruits you will know them.  Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”  Matthew 7:15-16

The obvious answer to this question of Jesus is “No, people do not pick grapes from thornbushes.”  In other words, an evil person cannot bear good fruit.

This statement from our Lord can give us much guidance in the area of discernment.  First of all, it’s important to be aware of the very simple fact that “false prophets” do exist.  This can be understood as anyone who actively misleads another under the guise of doing good.  Some may do this unknowingly, but normally the one who acts as a wolf in sheep’s clothing does so out of the intention of some form of selfish gain.  The selfish gain by which they are motivated could be many things, but the basic principle of selfishness usually applies.

By way of a secular example, take a used car salesman who deceptively tells a potential car buyer that a particular car is wonderful, when the salesman actually knows the car has serious mechanical problems.  His goal is the sale of the car for a selfish profit with little care about the harm done to the unexpectant buyer.

Similarly, many of us may be tempted to “sweet talk” people or say what we think others want to hear in order to get them to do what we want.  This is deceptive and misleading.

When it comes to discernment, the key Jesus gives us is to look at the fruit of what someone says or does.  Inevitably, when something comes from the Heart of our Lord and is in accord with His will, the fruit will be good.  But when it is deceptive or misleading, cloaked in superficial “goodness,” the end result, the fruit that is born, is at most only sour grapes.

Reflect, today, upon anything in your life you are striving to decide or discern.  If you truly want to know the Lord’s will in your daily decisions, try to look beyond the immediate choice to the effects that this choice will have down the road.  If you sincerely see goodness as a result of certain choices, know that this is a good sign that it is good and from the Lord.  If you see negative effects of certain decisions, producing bad fruit, then it is a good sign that the decision you are contemplating is not from God.  Choose the good fruit and you will be choosing the will of God.

Lord, give me the grace of discerning Your holy will in my life.  Help me, especially, to see the good fruit that comes as a result of following You always.  As You bear good fruit in my life, dear Lord, help me to continue down that holy path toward an abundance of every good gift.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Josemaría Escrivá

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