Christian Service

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tuesday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin – USA Memorial

“When you have done all you have been commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”  Luke 17:10b

This is a hard phrase to say and it is even harder to truly mean when said.

Imagine the context in which this attitude toward Christian service must be spoken and lived.  For example, imagine a mother who spends the day cleaning and then preparing the family meal.  At the end of the day, it is certainly nice to be recognized for her hard work and to be thanked for it.  Of course, when the family is grateful and acknowledges this loving service, this gratitude is healthy and is nothing other than an act of love.  It is good to be grateful and to express it.  But this passage is not so much about the fact that we must strive to be grateful for the love and service of others, rather, it’s about our own motivation for service.  Do you serve so as to be thanked?  Or do you provide service because it is good and right to serve?

Jesus makes it clear that our Christian service to others, be it in the family or in some other context, must be primarily motivated by a certain duty of service.  We must serve out of love regardless of the receptivity or acknowledgment of others.

Imagine, then, if you spent your day in some service and that service was done out of your love of others.  Then imagine that no one expressed gratitude for your work.  Should that change your commitment to service?  Should the reaction, or lack of reaction, of others deter you from serving as God wants you to serve?  Certainly not.  We must serve and fulfill our Christian duty simply because it is the right thing to do and because it is what God wants of us.

Reflect, today, upon your motivation for loving service to others.  Try to speak these words of the Gospel within the context of your life.  It may be hard at first, but if you can serve with the mind that you are an “unprofitable servant” and that you have done nothing more than what you were “obliged to do,” then you will find that your charity takes on a whole new depth.

Lord, help me to serve freely and wholeheartedly out of love for You and others.  Help me to give of myself regardless of the reaction of others and to find satisfaction in this act of love alone.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint for Today – Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini

Forgiving…Seven Times a Day

Monday, November 12, 2018

Monday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

Saint Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr – Memorial

“Be on your guard!  If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’  you should forgive him.”  Luke 17:3-4

Complete forgiveness can be very difficult at times.  This is especially the case when the same person sins against you “seven times in one day” as Jesus says.

But Jesus’ words should be taken to heart.  He was not being idealistic; rather, He was being very realistic.  Forgiveness must be given, over and over and over again.  We cannot hesitate in offering it, especially to those who sincerely repent.

One of the first things we should notice from this passage is that when someone sins against us, we should rebuke him.  The rebuke is not to be an act focused on revenge; rather, it must be done so as to invite repentance.  This is the only reason for the rebuke of another.  If we have a sense that someone who sins against us may be open to change, then we must offer them a rebuke of love.  And when they accept it and seek our forgiveness, we must offer it.

But, as mentioned, this can especially be difficult when the sin is committed over and over again.  It can become wearying and discouraging.  And when a sin is committed over and over again, it’s easy to become sceptical about the authentic sorrow of the one seeking forgiveness.

But none of that should be our concern.  Our only concern should be to hear those words, “I’m sorry.”  This is the command of Jesus.  When one says these words, we must forgive and do so immediately.

This Scripture also reveals to us the importance of expressing our sorrow to those whom we hurt.  It’s dangerous to simply presume that another will forgive.  There is great power in actually saying to another, “Please forgive me, I’m sorry for my sin.”  Though these words may be difficult to say, they are words of great healing.

Reflect, today, upon the act of asking for forgiveness and offering it to another.  We are all given numerous opportunities every day to forgive and seek forgiveness.  Do not hesitate in doing so and you will be grateful you did.

Lord, I am truly sorry for the many sins I have committed against You.  Please forgive me.  When I am obstinate, please offer me a rebuke of love.  When I need to ask forgiveness of another, please give me the courage to do so.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint for Today – Saint Josaphat

Prayer and Humility

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings for Today

Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop – Memorial

“Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”  Mark 12:38-40

It’s important to note here that Jesus says, “They will receive a very severe condemnation.”  These words are spoken from Him who is the source of mercy and grace.  His heart is full of kindness and compassion, He is gentle and forgiving, and He wants nothing other than our eternal salvation.  And yet Jesus is clear that the scribes will be severely condemned.  Ouch!

The first thing we should think is that we do not want to be like the scribes!  We do not want to receive similar condemnation and, thus, we should avoid their state of sin.  So that begs the question, “What sin of the scribes earned them this severe condemnation?”

The bottom line is that they were frauds.  They were consumed with a desire for “places of honor.”  They clearly treated others poorly: “They devour the houses of widows.”  What’s worse, they presented themselves as people of prayer when they clearly were not.  As a result, Jesus severely condemned them.

So what do we learn from their errors?  We should learn at least the following two lessons:

1) The true “place of honor” is the place of the greatest humility.  True honor, in the eyes of God, is found when we serve without notice and give without recognition.  In this way our giving and serving are done purely out of a motivation of love and not self-serving intentions.  The humble person does not seek to be praised and honored for the love they give.  The act of giving and serving is itself the gift they receive.

2) Reciting lengthy prayers is not the same as praying.  Prayer is about one thing.  It’s about entering into communion with God.  It’s about establishing a relationship with Him in a deep, beautiful and abiding way.  It’s about love.  Prayer is not for show or to gain the admiration of others.

Reflect, today, upon the harsh judgment Jesus issued toward the scribes.  Know that this is done, in part, to teach us what to avoid in life.  Avoid all selfish pride.  Seek humility and true prayer and you will be greatly blessed.

Lord, help me to be a person of true prayer and worship.  Help me to remain humble and true.  Help me to love You out of love of You alone.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Martin of Tours

Righteous Anger

Friday, November 9, 2018

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Readings for Today

Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”  John 2:13b-16

Wow, Jesus was angry.  He drove the moneychangers from the temple with a whip and overturned their tables as He rebuked them.  That must have been quite a scene.

What’s key, here, is that we must understand what sort of “anger” Jesus had.  Normally when we speak of anger we mean a passion that is out of control and, in fact, controls us.  It’s the loss of control and is a sin.  But this is not the anger Jesus had.

Obviously, Jesus was perfect in every way, so we must be very careful not to equate His anger with our normal experience of anger.  Yes, it was a passion for Him, but it was different from what we normally experience.  His anger was an anger that resulted from His perfect love.

In Jesus’ case, it was love for the sinner and His desire for their repentance that drove His passion.  His anger was directed at the sin they were engrossed in and He willfully and intentionally attacked the evil He saw.  Yes, this may have been shocking to those who witnessed it, but it was, in that situation, the most effective way for Him to call them to repentance.

At times we will find that we also must be angered by sin.  But be careful!  It’s very easy for us to use this example of Jesus to justify losing control of ourselves and entering into the sin of anger.  Righteous anger, as Jesus manifested, will always leave one with a sense of peace and love for those who are rebuked.  There will also be an immediate willingness to forgive when true contrition is perceived.

Reflect, today, upon the righteous anger God may want to put into your heart at times.  Again, be careful to discern it correctly.  Do not allow yourself to be deceived by this passion.  Rather, allow the love of God for others to be the driving force and allow a holy hatred for sin to direct you to act in a holy and just way.

Lord, help me to cultivate in my heart the holy and righteous anger that You desire I have.  Help me to discern between what is sinful and what is righteous.  May this passion and all my passion always be directed at achieving Your holy will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Dedication of the Lateran Basilica>>>

Welcoming Sinners

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Thursday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

All Saints for Today

The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  Luke 15:1-2

How do you treat the sinners you encounter?  Do you shun them, talk about them, ridicule them, pity them, or ignore them?  Hopefully not!  How should you treat the sinner?  Jesus allowed them to draw near to Him and He was attentive to them.  In fact, He was so merciful and kind to the sinner that He was harshly criticized by the Pharisees and scribes.  How about you?  Are you willing to associate with the sinner to the point that you open yourself up to criticism?

It’s quite easy to be harsh and critical toward those who “deserve it.”  When we see someone clearly going astray, we can almost feel justified in pointing the finger and putting them down as if we were better than they or as if they were dirt.  What an easy thing to do and what a mistake!

If we want to be like Jesus we must have a very different attitude toward them.  We must act differently toward them than how we may feel like acting.  Sin is ugly and dirty.  It’s easy to be critical toward one who is caught in a cycle of sin.  Yet if we do so, we are no different than the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus’ time.  And we will most likely receive the same harsh treatment right back from Jesus for our lack of mercy.

It’s interesting that one of the only sins that Jesus consistently rebukes is that of judgmentalness and criticalness.  It’s almost as if this sin shuts the door on God’s mercy in our lives.

Reflect, today, upon how you look at and treat those whose sins are somewhat manifest.  Do you treat them with mercy?  Or do you react with disdain and act with a judgmental heart?  Recommit yourself to mercy and a complete lack of judgment.  Judgment is Christ’s to give, not yours.  You are called to mercy and compassion.  If you can offer just that, you will be much more like our merciful Lord.

Lord, help me when I feel like being harsh and judgmental.  Help me to turn an eye of compassion toward the sinner, seeing the goodness You put in their souls before seeing their sinful actions.  Help me to leave judgment to You and embrace mercy instead.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Choosing God Above All

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Wednesday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

All Saints for Today

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”  Luke 14:26

No, this is not an error.  Jesus really said this.  It’s a strong statement and the word “hating” in this sentence is quite definitive.  So what does this actually mean?

Like everything Jesus said, it must be read in the context of the entire Gospel.  Remember, Jesus said that the greatest and first commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart…”  He also said to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This most certainly includes family.  However, in the passage above, we hear Jesus telling us that if anything whatsoever gets in the way of our love of God, we must eliminate it from our life.  We must “hate” it.

Hate, in this context, is not the sin of hate.  It’s not an anger welling up within us that causes us to lose control and say mean things.  Rather, hate in this context means we must be ready and willing to distance ourselves from that which gets in the way of our relationship with God.  If it is money, prestige, power, the flesh, alcohol, etc., then we must eliminate it from our lives.  Shockingly, some will even find that they must distance themselves from their own family in order to keep their relationship with God alive.  But even in this case, we are still loving our family.  Love simply takes on different forms at times.

The family was designed to be a place of peace, harmony and love.  But the sad reality that many have experienced in life is that sometimes our family relationships directly interfere with our love of God and others.  And if this is the case in our lives, we must hear Jesus telling us to  approach those relationships in a different way out of love for God.

Perhaps this Scripture could be misunderstood and misused at times.  It is not an excuse to treat those in the family, nor anyone else, with spite, harshness, malice or the like.  It is not an excuse to let the passion of anger well up in us.  But it is a call from God to act in justice and truth and to refuse to allow anything to separate us from the love of God.

Reflect, today, upon that which is the greatest obstacle to your relationship with God.  Who or what tears you away from loving God with your whole heart.  Hopefully there is nothing or no one who fits this category.  But if there is, hear the words of Jesus today encouraging you to be strong and calling you to put Him first before anything else in life.

Lord, help me to constantly see those things in my life that keep me from loving You.  As I identify that which deters me in faith, give me the courage to choose You above all things.  Give me the wisdom to know how to choose You above all things.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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My Catholic Life!

Priorities

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tuesday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

All Saints for Today

“A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many. When the time for the dinner came, he dispatched his servant to say to those invited, ‘Come, everything is now ready.’ But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves.”  Luke 14:16-18a

This happens far more often than we may at first think!  How does it happen?  It happens any and every time Jesus invites us to share in His grace and we find ourselves too busy or occupied with other more “important” things.

Take, for example, how easy it is for many to intentionally miss Sunday Mass.  There are countless excuses and rationalizations that people use to justify missing Mass on occasion.  In this parable above, the Scripture goes on to speak of three people who excused themselves from the feast for “good” reasons.  One just bought a field and had to go examine it, one just bought some oxen and had to go care for them, and another just got married and had to be with his wife.  All three had what they thought were good excuses and thus failed to come to the feast.

The feast is the Kingdom of Heaven.  But it is also any way that you are invited to participate in God’s grace: Sunday Mass, moments of daily prayer, the Bible study you should join, the mission talk you should attend, the book you should read or the act of charity that God wants you to perform.  Every way that grace is offered to you is a way in which you are invited to the feast of God.  Sadly, it is very easy for some to come up with an excuse for denying the invitation of Christ to share in His grace.

Reflect, today, upon God coming to you and inviting you to share more fully in His life of grace.  How is He inviting you?  In what way are you being invited to this fuller participation?  Do not make excuses.  Answer the invitation and enter into the feast.

Lord, help me to see the numerous ways in which You call me to share more fully in Your life of grace and mercy.  Help me to recognize the feast that is prepared for me and help me to always make You the priority in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Mercy

Monday, November 5, 2018

Monday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

All Saints for Today

“…when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.  For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  Luke 14:13-14

Too often in life we fall into the trap of working for immediate rewards.  If we do well, we want to be noticed, thanked and repaid.  But this exhortation from Jesus reveals that our lives of service should be lived in such a way that we expect no repayment here and now.  Rather, we should anticipate our reward in Heaven.

This mission from our Lord can be hard to actually live.  It requires great selflessness and concern about the other without expecting anything in return.  But when we understand this spiritual principle, we will realize that “payment” is not only awaiting us in Heaven, it is also received through our act of selflessness here and now.

The “payment” we receive here and now for acts of selfless service of others is holiness of life.  We achieve holiness of life when we seek to bestow mercy upon others.  Mercy is an act of love given to one in need without any selfish motivation.  It’s not something done on the condition that you receive something back.  Mercy is offered as love of another for the good of the other and for no other reason.  But the good news is that true mercy has an effect upon the one who offers it in a profound way.  By showing selfless mercy to another, we imitate our merciful God and become more like Him.  This is a greater reward than we could ever receive from another.

Reflect, today, upon how willing you are to be merciful to others in need.  Are you willing to give without expectation of repayment from them?  If so, you will find far greater blessing in this selfless act than in anything else for which you obtain worldly recognition.

Lord, give me a heart that is full of mercy and compassion for all those in need.  May I daily seek to serve them without any expectation of reward.  May these acts of mercy be reward enough and become a source and foundation of my holiness of life.  Jesus I trust in You.

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Love of God and Neighbor

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings for Today

Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop – Memorial

“The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:31

The first and greatest Commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  But Jesus goes on to give us the second most important Commandment.  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

First of all, it’s important to point out that loving God with all your might is the greatest Commandment, in part, because unless you do so you cannot also love your neighbor.  Love of neighbor hinges on whether you love God with your whole being.  Only when you love God can that love overflow into other relationships.

When we look at the love of neighbor as an effect of the overflow of your love of God, this second Commandment takes on a clearer meaning.  Jesus doesn’t only say to love your neighbor, He says to do so “as yourself.”  So how do you love yourself?  You do so primarily by fulfilling the first Commandment of the love of God.

Loving God with your whole self is, in fact, the best way to also love yourself.  Why?  Because we were made for love and communion with God.  Loving God is not some extra favor we do for God; rather, it’s a way of fulfilling the deepest meaning of who we are.  We are made for love and we are made for God.  Therefore, loving God is the best way to love yourself.

From this starting point, we then move to a better understanding of how we are called to love our neighbor.  If the fulfillment of loving yourself is found by loving God and being in an intimate relationship of love with God, then you love your neighbor as yourself by drawing your neighbor into a relationship of love with God also.  There is nothing you could do that is more loving for others than to act as a bridge between them and God.  And the more directly you act as that bridge, the greater your love for them and the more completely you fulfill this Commandment.

Reflect, today, upon the ways that you act as a bridge of love between God and others.  Recognize this as your absolute duty, privilege and honor.  Commit yourself to a wholehearted love of God and allow that love to overflow and be poured out upon all those with whom you encounter every day.  Love is contagious and it must consume everything you are and everything you do.

Lord, I desire to love You with my whole being.  Increase my love for You and allow that love to overflow into every relationship I have in life.  May love be the one and only mission of my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint for Today – Saint Charles Borromeo

My Catholic Life!

All Souls’ Day

Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)

Readings for Today

The following excerpt is from Chapter 8 of My Catholic Faith!:

As we celebrate the Commemoration of All Souls, let’s reflect upon our Church teaching on Purgatory:

The Church Suffering:  Purgatory is an often misunderstood doctrine of our Church.  What is Purgatory?  Is it the place we have to go to be punished for our sins?  Is it God’s way of getting us back for the wrong we’ve done?  Is it the result of God’s anger?  None of these questions really answer the question of Purgatory.  Purgatory is nothing other than the burning and purifying love of our God in our lives!

When someone dies in God’s grace they are most likely not 100% converted and perfect in every way.  Even the greatest of saints most often would have some imperfection left in their lives.  Purgatory is nothing other than that final purification of all remaining attachment to sin in our lives.  By analogy, imagine that you had a cup of 100% pure water, pure H2O.  This cup will represent Heaven.  Now imagine that you want to add to that cup of water but all you have is water that is 99% pure.  This will represent the holy person who dies with just some slight attachments to sin.  If you add that water to your cup then the cup will now have at least some impurities in the water as it mixes together.  The problem is that Heaven (the original cup of 100% H2O) cannot contain any impurities.  Heaven, in this case, cannot have even the slightest attachment to sin in it.  Therefore, if this new water (the 99% pure water) is to be added to the cup it must first be purified even of that last 1% of impurities (attachments to sin).  This is ideally done while we are on Earth.  This is the process of getting holy.  But if we die with any attachment, then we simply say that the process of entering into the final and full vision of God in Heaven will purify us of any remaining attachment to sin.  All may already be forgiven, but we may not have detached from those things forgiven.  Purgatory is the process, after death, of burning out the last of our attachments so that we can enter Heaven 100% freed of everything to do with sin.  If, for example, we still have a bad habit of being rude, or sarcastic, even those tendencies and habits must be purged.

How does this happen?  We do not know.  We only know it does.  But we also know it’s the result of God’s infinite love that frees us of these attachments.  Is it painful?  Most likely.  But it’s painful in the sense that letting go of any disordered attachment is painful.  It’s hard to break a bad habit.  It’s even painful in the process.  But the end result of true freedom is worth any pain we may have experienced.  So, yes, Purgatory is painful.  But it’s a sort of sweet pain that we need and it produces the end result of a person 100% in union with God.

Now since we are talking about the Communion of Saints, we also want to make sure to understand that those going through this final purification are still in communion with God, with those members of the Church on Earth, and with those in Heaven.  For example, we are called to pray for those in Purgatory.  Our prayers are effective.  God uses those prayers, which are acts of our love, as instruments of His grace of purification.  He allows us and invites us to participate in their final purification by our prayers and sacrifices.  This forges a bond of union with them.  And no doubt the saints in Heaven especially offer prayers for those in this final purification as they await full communion with them in Heaven.  It’s a glorious thought and a joy to see how God has orchestrated this entire process for the ultimate purpose of the holy communion to which we are called!

Lord, I pray for those souls going through their final purification in Purgatory.  Please pour forth Your mercy upon them so that they may be freed of all attachment to sin and, thus, be prepared to see You face to face.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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My Catholic Life!