Tuesday (August 13): “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”

Daily Reading & Meditation

Tuesday (August 13): “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”
Scripture: Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14  

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?  13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Meditation: Are you surprised to see the disciples discussing with Jesus who is the greatest? Don’t we do the same thing? The appetite for glory and greatness seems to be inbred in us. Who doesn’t cherish the ambition to be “somebody” whom others admire rather than a “nobody”? Even the Psalms speak about the glory God has destined for us. You have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor (Psalm 8:5).

Whose glory do you seek?
Jesus made a dramatic gesture by placing a child next to himself to show his disciples who really is the greatest in the kingdom of God. What can a little child possibly teach us about greatness? Children in the ancient world had no rights, position, or privileges of their own. They were socially at the “bottom of the rung” and at the service of their parents, much like the household staff and domestic servants. What is the significance of Jesus’ gesture? Jesus elevated a little child in the presence of his disciples by placing the child in a privileged position of honor at his right side. It is customary, even today, to seat the guest of honor at the right side of the host.

The lowly of heart empty themselves of pride
Who is the greatest in God’s kingdom? The one who is humble and lowly of heart – who instead of asserting their rights willingly empty themselves of pride and self-seeking glory by taking the lowly position of a servant and child before God. The simple of heart know that they belong to God – he is their father, teacher, and provider – the one who shows them the way of peace, joy, and life everlasting. They are content to recognize their total dependence on God who is the source of all goodness and every good gift.

Jesus restores us to the people he has made holy
What does Jesus’ story about a lost sheep tell us about God and his kingdom? Shepherds normally counted their sheep at the end of the day to make sure all were accounted for. Since sheep by their very nature are very social, an isolated sheep can quickly become bewildered and even neurotic. The shepherd’s grief and anxiety is turned to joy when he finds the lost sheep and restores it to the fold. What was new in Jesus’ teaching was the insistence that sinners must be sought out and not merely mourned for. God does not rejoice in the loss of anyone, but desires that all be saved and restored to fellowship with him. That is why the whole community of heaven rejoices when one sinner is found and restored to fellowship with God (Luke 15:7). Seekers of the lost are much needed today. Do you pray and seek after those you know who have lost their way to God?

“Lord Jesus, teach me your way of humility and simplicity of heart that I may find perfect joy in you. May your light shine through me that others may see your truth and love and find hope and peace in you.”

Psalm 119:14,24,72,103,111,131

14. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
24. Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.
72. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
103. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!.
111. Your testimonies are my heritage forever; yes, they are the joy of my heart.
131. With open mouth I pant, because I long for your commandments.

Daily Quote from the early church fathersWhat it means to become a child a God, by Epiphanius the Latin (late 5th century)

“Here the Lord not only repressed the apostles’ thoughts but also checked the ambition of believers throughout the whole world, so that he might be great who wanted to be least. For with this purpose Jesus used the example of the child, that what he had been through his nature, we through our holy living might become – innocent, like children innocent of every sin. For a child does not know how to hold resentment or to grow angry. He does not know how to repay evil for evil. He does not think base thoughts. He does not commit adultery or arson or murder. He is utterly ignorant of theft or brawling or all the things that will draw him to sin. He does not know how to disparage, how to blaspheme, how to hurt, how to lie. He believes what he hears. What he is ordered he does not analyze. He loves his parents with full affection. Therefore what children are in their simplicity, let us become through a holy way of life, as children innocent of sin. And quite rightly, one who has become a child innocent of sin in this way is greater in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives such a person will receive Christ.” (excerpt from  INTERPRETATION OF THE GOSPELS 27)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2019 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

“You will know them by their fruits”

The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 


“You will know them by their fruits”

Scripture: Matthew 7:15-20

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?  17 So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.  18 A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.

Meditation: What do grapes, thorns, figs, and thistles have to teach us about the kingdom of God?  The imagery used by Jesus would have been very familiar to his audience.  A certain thornbush had berries which resembled grapes.  And a certain thistle had a flower, which at least from a distance, resembled the fig. Looks can fool us. How do you know when someone or something is genuine?  Jesus’ warning about false prophets and teachers applies today as well.  What’s the test of a true or false teacher?  Jesus connects soundness with good fruit.  Something is sound when it is free from defect, decay, or disease and is healthy. Good fruit is the result of sound living — living according to moral truth and upright character. The prophet Isaiah warned against the dangers of falsehood: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness (Isaiah 5:20).  The fruits of falsehood produce an easy religion which takes the iron out of religion, the cross out of Christianity, and any teaching which eliminates the hard sayings of Jesus, and which push the judgments of God into the background and makes us think lightly of sin. How do we avoid falsehood?  By being true — true to God, his word, and his grace.  And that takes character!  Those who are true to God know that their strength lies not in themselves but in God who supplies what we need.   The fruit of a disciple is marked by faith, hope and love, justice, prudence, fortitude and temperance.  Do you cultivate good fruit in your life and reject whatever produces bad fruit?

“Lord, may I bear good fruit for your sake.  Help me to reject whatever will produce evil fruit.  And help me grow in faith, hope, love, sound judgment, justice, courage, and self control.”

Daily Reflection

As adults, we are become the sum of all of our experiences. We have likely had periods of great joy, contentment, sadness, uncertainty, pain, anger maybe even depression. Hopefully in experiencing both extremes of our human condition we have felt and seen the hand of God in our varied experiences. Over the span of our lives, we sometimes develop, in the language of Ignatian spirituality, “disordered attachments.” These attachments might be rooted in our insecurities, our striving for money or status, or any number of things that can become a barrier to our openness to the full love and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Saint Ignatius encourages us to become “indifferent” to those ideas or items that bind us and prevent us from being free to accept and receive the full measure of God’s plan for us.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus relates two distinct but related messages. In the first, he exhorts his followers to become humble like children and to receive and not despise the little ones. So how can we become like our child-like selves? Children certainly experience in the context of their lives joy and sadness, happiness and pain. In general, however, in their innocence and life experience they have not had the chance to develop attachments of the kind that prevent them from fully receiving the love and grace of our Lord. This, I suggest, Jesus is asking us to become indifferent and free from the kinds of attachments in our adult lives to allow us to fully accept the love of our God.

The second message from Jesus is embedded in the parable of the shepherd rejoicing in the recovery of the lost sheep. We sometimes can let the guilt of carrying the burden of our sins, our disordered attachments as it were, carry over into a kind of depression that prevents us from giving ourselves back to the Lord. Clearly Jesus shows that any sincere effort on our part to be open to the love of the Lord will be met with great joy and open arms by our heavenly Father.

Thus in the midst of whatever difficulty or challenge we might be experiencing in life, we cantake comfort and joy in the knowledge that no matter what, through Jesus we are saved; “knock and the door shall be opened.”

Daily Light on the Daily Path

Hebrews 11:16  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

John 14:3  “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

1 Peter 1:4  to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

Hebrews 13:14  For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.

Acts 1:11  They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

James 5:7,8  Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. • You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

Hebrews 10:37  FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY.

1 Thessalonians 4:17,18  Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. • Therefore comfort one another with these words.

 

Monday (August 12): “Not to give offense”

Daily Reading & Meditation

Monday (August 12): “Not to give offense”
Scripture: Matthew 17:22-27  

22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. 24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel tax went up to Peter and said, “Does not your teacher pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel; take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”Meditation: Who likes to pay taxes, especially when you think they might be unreasonable or unjust? Jesus and his disciples were confronted by tax collectors on the issue of tax evasion. When questioned about paying the temple tax, Jesus replied to his disciples: We must pay so as not to cause bad example. In fact, we must go beyond our duty in order that we may show others what they ought to do. The scriptural expression to give no offense doesn’t refer to insult or annoyance – rather it means to put no stumbling block in the way of another that would cause them to trip or fall. Jesus would not allow himself anything which might possibly be a bad example to someone else. Do you evade unpleasant responsibilities or obligations?

Jesus predicts his death and triumph over the grave
On three different occasions in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus predicted he would endure great suffering through betrayal, rejection, and the punishment of a cruel death (Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, and 20:17-19). The Jews resorted to stoning for very serious offenses and the Romans to crucifixion – the most painful and humiliating death they could devise for criminals they wanted to eliminate. No wonder the apostles were greatly distressed at such a prediction! If Jesus their Master were put to death, then they would likely receive the same treatment by their enemies. Jesus called himself the “Son of Man” because this was a Jewish title for the Messiah which the prophet Daniel explained in his vision of the One whom God would send to establish his everlasting kingdom of power and righteousness over the earth (Daniel 7:13-14).

The Suffering Servant and Lamb of God
Why must the Messiah be rejected and killed? Did not God promise that his Anointed One (Messiah in Hebrew) would deliver his people from their oppression and establish a kingdom of peace and justice? The prophet Isaiah had foretold that it was God’s will that the “Suffering Servant” make atonement for sins through his suffering and death (Isaiah 53). John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1: 29, Isaiah 53:6-7). When Jesus willing offered up his life for us on the cross he paid the price for our redemption with his blood.

Jesus offers freedom and victory over sin and death
Jesus came to rescue us from sin and its destructive forces and to restore us to fullness of life with our heavenly Father. Sin not only separates us from God – it leads us down the path to corruption and unending death. Slavery to sin is to want the wrong things and to be in bondage to hurtful desires and addictions. The ransom Jesus paid sets us free from the worst tyranny possible – the tyranny of sin, Satan, and death. Jesus’ victory did not end with his sacrificial death on the cross – he triumphed over the grave when he rose again on the third day. Jesus defeated the powers of death and Satan through his cross and resurrection. The Lord Jesus offers us true freedom and peace which no one can take from us. Do you want the greatest freedom possible, the freedom to live as God truly meant us to live as his sons and daughters?

“Lord Jesus, your death brought true life and freedom. May I always walk in the freedom and power of your love and truth and reject whatever is contrary to your will for my life.”

Psalm 148:1-2,11-12,14

1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together, old men and children!
14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him.  Praise the LORD!

Daily Quote from the early church fathersJesus speaks of his death and resurrection, by Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD)

“I think we have an obligation to examine this, too: that Jesus was delivered into the hands of men, not by men into the hands of men but by powers to whom the Father delivered his Son on behalf of us all. In the very act of being delivered and coming under the power of those to whom he was delivered, he “destroyed him who had the power of death.” For “through death he destroyed him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.” (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 13.8)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite credits: copyright (c) 2019 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

“Enter by the narrow gate”

The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 


“Enter by the narrow gate”

Scripture:  Matthew 7:6-14

6 “Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.7 “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good  things to those who ask him!

12 So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Meditation: What can pearls teach us about God’s truth and holiness? In the ancient world pearls were of very great value and were even considered priceless. They were worn as prized jewels to make a person appear more beautiful and magnificent to behold. Holiness, likewise, is a very precious jewel that radiates the beauty of God’s truth, goodness, and glory. God offers us the precious gift of his holiness so that we may radiate the splendor of his truth and goodness in the way we think, speak, act, and treat others. We can reject or ignore this great gift, or worse yet, we can drag it through the mud of sinful behavior or throw it away completely.

Pearls before dogs and swine (Matthew 7:6)
Why does Jesus contrast holiness and pearls with dogs and swine (Matthew 7:6)? Some things don’t seem to mix or go together, like fire and water, heat and ice, sweat and perfume, pure air and poisonous vapors, freshly cleaned clothes and filthy waste. The Talmud, a rabbinic commentary on the Jewish Scriptures, uses a proverbial saying for something which appears inconguous or out of place: an ear-ring in a swine’s snout. Jesus’ expression about “pearls before swine” and “not giving dogs what is holy” is very similar in thought (Matthew 7:6). Jewish law regarded swine as unclean. Wild dogs were also treated as unfit for close human contact, very likely because they were dirty, unkept, lice-infested, and prone to attack or cause trouble.

What is the point of avoiding what is considered unclean? Jesus’ concern here is not with exclusivity or the shunning of others (excluding people from our love, care, and concern for them). His concern is with keeping spiritual and moral purity – the purity of the faith and way of life which has been entrusted to us by an all-holy, all-loving, and all-wise God. The early church referenced this expression with the Eucharist or the Lord’s Table. In the liturgy of the early church, a proclamation was given shortly before communion: Holy things to the holy. The Didache (The Teaching of the Apostles), a first century church manual stated: Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist except those baptised into the name of the Lord; for, as regards this, the Lord has said, ‘Do not give what is holy to dogs.’ The Lord Jesus invites us to feast at his banquet table, but we must approach worthily.

Prayer and gift-giving (Matthew 7:7-11)
Do you expect God to hear your prayers?  Jesus wanted to raise the expectations of his disciples when he taught them how to pray. Jesus’ parable of the father feeding his son illustrates the unthinkable!  How could a loving father refuse to give his son what is good; or worse, to give him what is harmful?  In conclusion Jesus makes a startling claim: How much more will the heavenly Father give to those who ask! Our heavenly Father graciously gives beyond our expectations. Jesus taught his disciples to pray with confidence because the Heavenly Father in his goodness always answers prayers. That is why we can boldly pray: Give us this day our daily bread.

Those who know and trust in God’s love, pray with great boldness. Listen to what John Chrysostom, a 5th century church father, has to say about the power of prayer:

“Prayer is an all-efficient panoply [i.e. ‘a full suit of armor’ or ‘splendid array’], a treasure undiminished, a mine never exhausted, a sky unobstructed by clouds, a haven unruffled by storm. It is the root, the fountain, and the mother of a thousand blessings. It exceeds a monarch’s power. ..I speak not of the prayer which is cold and feeble and devoid of zeal. I speak of that which proceeds from a mind outstretched, the child of a contrite spirit, the offspring of a soul converted – this is the prayer which mounts to heaven. ..The power of prayer has subdued the strength of fire, bridled the rage of lions, silenced anarchy, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, enlarged the gates of heaven, relieved diseases, averted frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. In sum prayer has power to destroy whatever is at enmity with the good.”

Prayer flows from the love of God; and the personal love we show to our neighbor is fueled by the love that God has poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Jesus concludes his discourse on prayer with the reminder that we must treat our neighbor in the same way we wish to be treated by God and by others. We must not just avoid doing harm to our neighbor, we must actively seek his or her welfare. In doing so, we fulfill the law and the prophets, namely what God requires of us – loving God with all that we have and are and loving our neighbor as ourselves. The Holy Spirit is every ready to transform our lives in Jesus’ way of love.  Do you thirst for holiness and for the fire of God’s love?

The golden rule (Matthew 7:12)
Jesus summed up the teaching of the Old Testament law and prophets with the expression, So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them (Matthew 7:12) – and in the same breath he raised the moral law to a new level of fulfillment and perfection. God’s law of love requires more than simply avoiding injury or harm to one’s neighbor. Perfect love – a love which is unconditional and which reaches out to all – always seeks the good of others for their sake and gives the best we can offer for their welfare. When we love our neighbors and treat them in the same way we wish to be treated by God, then we fulfill the law and the prophets, namely what God requires of us – loving God with all that we have and are and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

How can we love our neighbor selflessly, with kindness, and genuine concern for their welfare? If we empty our hearts of all that is unkind, unloving, and unforgiving, then there will only be room for kindness, goodness, mercy, and charity. Paul the Apostle reminds us that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). It is the love of God that fuels our unconditional love for others. Are you ready to let the Holy Spirit transform your life with the purifying fire of God’s love?

The narrow gate and way (Matthew 7:13-14)
Jesus used an illustration of a narrow gate which opens the way that leads to a life of security and happiness (Matthew 7:13-14) to reinforce his lesson about choosing the one true way which leads to peace with God rather than separation and destruction. The Book of Psalms begins with an image of a person who has chosen to follow the way of those who are wise and obedient to God’s word and who refuse to follow the way of those who think and act contrary to God’s law : Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night  (Psalm 1:1-2). When a path diverges, such as a fork in the road, each way leads to a different destination. This is especially true when we encounter life’s crossroads where we must make a choice that will affect how we will live our lives. Do the choices you make help you move towards the goal of loving God and obeying his will?

The Lord Jesus gives us freedom to choose which way we will go. Ask him for the wisdom to know which way will lead to life rather than to harm and destruction. See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. …Therefore choose life that you and your descendants may live (Deuteronmy 3:15-20). Choose this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15). Behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death (Jeremiah 21:8). If we allow God’s love and wisdom to rule our hearts, then we can trust in his guidance and help to follow his path of love, truth, and holiness.

“Let me love you, my Lord and my God, and see myself as I really am – a pilgrim in this world, a Christian called to respect and love all whose lives I touch, those in authority over me or those under my authority, my friends and my enemies. Help me to conquer anger with gentleness, greed by generosity, apathy by fervor. Help me to forget myself and reach out towards others.”  (Prayer attributed to Clement XI of Rome [1649–1721])

Daily Reflection

In today’s gospel, we find Jesus spending time with his disciples in Galilee.  He forewarns them of what his future holds for him:

“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men,
and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.”

And they were overwhelmed with grief.

This is one of several times throughout the gospels where Jesus mentions his coming torture, death, and resurrection.  Of course his dear friends were grief-stricken.

We know that we will all die someday.  Are we living life with this in mind?

Recent events have caused me to pause and reflect on what I’ve done in my professional life and questioning my purpose and direction.  I’ve mentioned in my reflections in the past, that I truly believe my role as a nurse is my vocation.  So, I’ve pondered much more than just my professional life…

I’ve spent some wonderful time with Jesus asking for guidance and direction.  A difficult time has turned into a blessing of sorts…most days.

I highly encourage each of you to take some time to reflect on the impact of Jesus revelation to his disciples.  How are you living each day?  Are you living the life that God has designed for you?  How do my actions or inactions impact others?  Really think about this.

I’ve come to two conclusions during this summer of reflection.  Here they are:

  • We were put on this earth to care for each other—no matter what!
  • We will be where we are supposed to be—God is the one in control.

My focus now is to ‘trust the process”.  Jesus knew what was ahead, as did his disciples.  I don’t know what is ahead.  Most of us don’t.  But should that really matter?

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.                                                                                                                             Jeremiah 29:11

Daily Light on the Daily Path

Lamentations 3:31,32  For the Lord will not reject forever, • For if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion According to His abundant lovingkindness.

Jeremiah 46:28  “O Jacob My servant, do not fear,” declares the LORD, “For I am with you. For I will make a full end of all the nations Where I have driven you, Yet I will not make a full end of you; But I will correct you properly And by no means leave you unpunished.”

Isaiah 54:7,8,10,11  “For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you. • “In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” Says the LORD your Redeemer. • “For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” Says the LORD who has compassion on you. • “O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, Behold, I will set your stones in antimony, And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.

Micah 7:9  I will bear the indignation of the LORD Because I have sinned against Him, Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me out to the light, And I will see His righteousness.

 

“First take the log out of your own eye”

The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 


“First take the log out of your own eye”

Scripture:  Matthew 7:1-5

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.  2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  4 Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Meditation: Everybody is a critic, but nobody wants to be judged or condemned.  Then why is judgementalism so rampant, even among Christians?   “Thinking the best of other people” is necessary if we wish to grow in love.  And kindliness in judgment is nothing less that a sacred duty.  The Rabbis warned people:  “He who judges his neighbor favorably will be judged favorably by God.”  How easy it is to misjudge and how difficult it is to be impartial in judgment. Our judgment of others is usually “off the mark” because we can’t see inside the person, or we don’t have access to all the facts, or we are swayed by instinct and unreasoning reactions to people. It is easier to find fault in others than in oneself.

Jesus states a heavenly principle we can stake our lives on: what you give to others (and how you treat others) will return to you.  The Lord knows our faults and he sees all, even the imperfections and sins of the heart which we cannot recognize in ourselves.   Like a gentle father and a skillful doctor he patiently draws us to his seat of mercyand removes the cancer of sin which inhabits our hearts. Do you trust in God’s mercy and grace?  Ask the Lord to flood your heart with his loving-kindness and mercy that you may only have room for charity and forbearance towards your neighbor.

“O Father, give us the humility which realizes its ignorance, admits its mistakes, recognizes its need, welcomes advice, accepts rebuke.  Help us always to praise rather than to criticize, to sympathize rather than to discourage, to build rather than to destroy, and to think of people at their best rather than at their worst.  This we ask for thy name’s sake.  (Prayer of William Barclay, 20th century)

Daily Reflection

Your people awaited the salvation of the just. Wisdom 18

May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
 Psalm 33

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
 Hebrews 11

“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. …
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”
 Luke 13

On my retreat this summer, I found that my prayer – relationship with Jesus – came to a simple and fairly “new” place. I just had read a piece which asked – asked me personally – “To whom do you belong?” and “Do I believe what I say I believe?” I found myself chewing these questions and returning to the simple – graced – realization that, if I really belong to the Lord (in whom I am baptized and whose servant I desire to be) and if I really believe what I say I believe (that I have nothing to fear because Jesus has overcome the power of sin and death) then I should be a much more joyful, trusting and courageous person.

Jesus is laying it out for us today. We really have nothing to fear. Of course, that confronts the fact that we live with a lot of fears. We live, too often, in a self-protective mode, as though we can “control” how safe and secure we are. Jesus is inviting us to live more freely because our life is in his hands and because we are going to enjoy eternal life in his kingdom forever and ever.

I’ve found myself, since that retreat, asking for the grace to live with daily trust, to walk with deeply joy in my heart – even in the midst of challenging things – and to ask myself more often if I’m being courageous enough in taking risks to love more completely, to witness my faith by the ways I am self-sacrificing in my care, and to open my heart to better hear the cry of the poor, so I might be a better advocate for those without a voice. Asking for the grace alone give me more courage to find steps in these directions in the here and now of each day.

I’m not always successful, and I am by no means a model of a person in solidarity with the poor. But, desiring makes a difference. I believe it is also a step in the direction of “being ready,” as Jesus describes it. Not out of fear. Not with anxiety. Being in better communion with Jesus each day, remembering that I belong to him, and to him alone, frees me from all the messages of the culture around me. It frees me from so desperately trying to live in both worlds, to give myself to companionship with the Lord, in half measures. And, most of all, the anticipation Jesus talks about tastes more like longing – a desire to be with the one who loves me so unconditionally and completely.

May you find me eager for your coming, Lord, fully engaged in being one with you, here and now, where your people most need this simple disciple to be.