Archangels

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels

Readings for Today

“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  John 1:51

Yes, angels are for real.  And they are mighty, glorious, beautiful and magnificent in every way.  Today we honor three of the multitude of angels in Heaven: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

These angels are “archangels.”  An archangel is the second order of angels just above the guardian angels.  In all, there are nine orders of celestial beings that we commonly refer to as angels and all nine of these orders are traditionally organized into three spheres.  The entire hierarchy is traditionally organized this way:

Highest Sphere: Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones.
Middle Sphere: Dominions, Virtues and Powers.
Lower Sphere: Principalities, Archangels and Angels (Guardian Angels).

The hierarchy of these celestial beings is ordered in accord with their function and purpose.  The highest of the beings, the Seraphim, were created solely for the purpose of surrounding the Throne of God in perpetual worship and adoration.  The lowest of the beings, the Guardian Angels, were created for the purpose of caring for humans and communicating God’s messages.  The Archangels, whom we honor today, were created for the purpose of bringing messages of great importance to us and to accomplish tasks of the highest importance in our lives.

Michael is well known as the archangel who was empowered by God to cast Lucifer out of Heaven.  Lucifer is traditionally thought to be of the highest sphere of celestial beings and, thus, being cast out by a lowly archangel was quite a humiliation.

Gabriel is well known for being the archangel who brought the message of the Incarnation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

And Raphael, whose name means “God heals” is referred to in the Old Testament Book of Tobit and is said to have been sent to bring healing to Tobit’s eyes.

Though not much is known of these archangels, it’s important to believe in them, honor them and to pray to them.  We pray to them because we believe God has entrusted them with a mission to help us bring healing, fight evil and proclaim the Word of God.  Their power comes from God, but God has chosen to use the archangels, and all celestial beings, to accomplish His plan and purpose.

Reflect, today, upon your knowledge of the angels.  Do you believe in them?  Do you honor them?  Do you rely upon their powerful intercession and mediation in your life?  God wants to use them, so you should truly seek their help in your life.

Lord, thank You for the gift of the Archangels whom we honor today.  Thank You for their powerful working in our lives.  Help us to rely upon them and to love them for their service.  Archangels, pray for us, heal us, teach us and protect us.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Day Eight: Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux – The Little Flower

 

 

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Today’s Feast– Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels

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Supporting One Another

September 28, 2020
Monday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

 Saint Wenceslaus, Martyr—Optional Memorial

Saints Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs—Optional Memorial

Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”  Luke 9:49-50

Why would the Apostles try to prevent someone from casting a demon out in Jesus’ name?  Jesus was not concerned about it and, in fact, tells them not to prevent him.  So why were the Apostles concerned?  Most likely because of jealousy.

The jealousy we see in this case among the Apostles is one that can creep into the Church at times.  It has to do with a desire for power and control.  The Apostles were upset because the person casting out demons did not follow in their company.  In other words, the Apostles were not able to be in charge of this person.

Though this may be hard to understand it may be helpful to see it in a modern context.  Say someone is in charge of a ministry at church and another person or persons start up a new ministry.  The new ministry is quite successful and, as a result, those who have been working in the older more established ministries may get upset and a bit jealous.

This is silly but it’s also reality.  It happens all the time, not only within a church setting but also in our daily lives.  When we see someone else doing something that is successful or bearing good fruit, we may get envious or jealous.

In this case, with the Apostles, Jesus is quite understanding and compassionate about the whole thing.  But He is also quite clear.  “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”  Do you see things in life this way?  When someone does well do you rejoice or are you negative?  When another does good things in Jesus’ name, does that fill your heart with gratitude that God is using that person for good or do you get envious?

Reflect, today, upon the many good things going on all around you.  Reflect, especially, upon those who are furthering the Kingdom of God.  And reflect upon how you feel about them.  Pray that you will see them as your coworker in the vineyard of Christ rather than as your competitor.

Lord, I thank You for the many good things taking place within Your Church and within society.  Help me to rejoice in all that You do through others.  Help me to let go of any struggle I have with envy.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Day Seven: Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux – The Little Flower

 

 

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Saints of the Day –

Saint Wenceslaus, Martyr
 Also
Saints Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs

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Overcoming Obstinacy

September 27, 2020
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings for Today

“Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.  When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”  Matthew 21:31c-32

These words of Jesus are spoken to the chief priests and elders of the people.  They are very direct and condemning words.  They are also words spoken so as to awaken the consciences of these religious leaders.

These religious leaders were full of pride and self-righteousness.  They held to their own opinions and their opinions were wrong.  Their pride kept them from discovering the simple truths that tax collectors and prostitutes were discovering.  For that reason, Jesus makes it clear that tax collectors and prostitutes were on the path to holiness whereas these religious leaders were not.  This would have been hard for them to accept.

In which category do you find yourself?  Sometimes, those who are considered “religious” or “pious” struggle with a similar pride and judgmentalness as the chief priests and elders of Jesus’ time.  This is a dangerous sin because it leads a person into much obstinacy.  It is for this reason that Jesus was so direct and so harsh.  He was attempting to break them free from their obstinacy and prideful ways.

The most important lesson we can take from this passage is to seek the humility, openness and genuineness of the tax collectors and prostitutes.  They were praised by our Lord because they could see and accept the honest truth.  Sure, they were sinners, but God can forgive sin when we are aware of our sin.  If we are not willing to see our sin, then it’s impossible for God’s grace to enter in and heal.

Reflect, today, upon how open you are to seeing the truth of God and, especially, to seeing your own fallen and sinful state.  Do not be afraid to humble yourself before God, admitting your faults and failures.  Embracing this level of humility will open the doors of God’s mercy toward you.

Lord, help me to always humble myself before You.  When pride and self-righteousness enter in, help me to hear Your strong words and to repent of my obstinate ways.  I am a sinner, dear Lord.  I beg for Your perfect mercy.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Day Six: Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux – The Little Flower

 

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Vincent de Paul, Priest
Not celebrated as a liturgical memorial this year since it falls on Sunday

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Meaning in Suffering

September 26, 2020
Saturday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

 Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs—Optional Memorial

“Pay attention to what I am telling you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.” But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.  Luke 9:44-45

So why was the meaning of this “hidden from them?”  Interesting.  Here Jesus tells them to “pay attention to what I am telling you.”  And then begins to explain He will suffer and die.  But they did not get it.  They did not understand what He meant and “they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.”

The truth is that Jesus was not offended by their lack of understanding.  He realized that they would not immediately understand.  But this did not stop Him from telling them anyway.  Why?  Because He knew that they would come to understand in time.  But, at first, the Apostles just listened in a bit of confusion.

When did the Apostles come to understand?  They understood once the Holy Spirit descended upon them leading them into all Truth.  It took the workings of the Holy Spirit to understand such deep mysteries.

The same is true with us.  When we face the mystery of Jesus’ sufferings, and when we face the reality of suffering in our own lives or the lives of those we love, we can often be confused at first.  It takes a gift from the Holy Spirit to open our minds to understand.  Suffering is most often inevitable.  We all endure it.  And if we do not allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, suffering will lead us to confusion and despair.  But if we allow the Holy Spirit to open our minds, we will begin to understand how God can work in us through our sufferings just as He brought salvation to the world through the sufferings of Christ.

Reflect, today, upon how well you understand both Jesus’ sufferings and your own.  Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the meaning and even the value of suffering?  Say a prayer to the Holy Spirit asking for this grace and let God lead you into this profound mystery of our faith.

Lord, I know You suffered and died for my salvation.  I know that my own suffering can take on new meaning in Your Cross.  Help me to more fully see and understand this great mystery and to find even greater value in Your Cross as well as mine.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Day Five: Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux – The Little Flower

 

 

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Saint of the Day – Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs

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Who Do You Say That I Am?

September 25, 2020
Friday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

“Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”  Luke 9:18c-20

Peter got it right.  Jesus was “the Christ of God.”  Many others spoke of Him as one who was only a great prophet, but Peter saw deeper.  He saw that Jesus was uniquely the Anointed One who is of God.  In other words, Jesus was God.

Though we know this to be true, we can sometimes fail to fully comprehend the depth of this “Mystery of Faith.”  Jesus is human, and He is God.  This is hard to comprehend.  It would have been hard for those of Jesus’ time to comprehend this great mystery, also.  Imagine sitting before Jesus listening to Him speak.  If you were there before Him, would you have concluded that He is also the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity?  Would you have concluded that He existed from all eternity and was the great I AM WHO AM?  Would you have concluded that He was perfect in every way and that He was also the Creator of all things and the one who keeps all things in being?

Most likely none of us fully would have comprehended the true depth of the meaning that Jesus was “the Christ of God.”  We most likely would have recognized something special about Him, but would have failed to see Him for who He is in His full essence.

The same is true today.  When we look at the Most Holy Eucharist, do we see God?  Do we see the Almighty, Omnipotent, All-loving God who existed for eternity is the source of all good and is the Creator of all things?  Perhaps the answer is both “Yes”  and “No.”  “Yes” in that we believe and “no” in that we do not fully understand.

Reflect, today, upon the divinity of Christ.  Reflect upon Him present in the Most Holy Eucharist as well as His presence all around us.  Do you see Him?  Do you believe?  How deep and complete is your faith in Him.  Recommit yourself to a deeper understanding of who Jesus is in His Godhead.  Try and take a step deeper in your faith.

Lord, I do believe.  I believe You are the Christ of God.  Help me to comprehend even more what that means.  Help me to see Your divinity more clearly and to believe in You more fully.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Day Four: Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux – The Little Flower

 

 

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Holy Curiosity

September 24, 2020
Thursday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him. Luke 9:9

Herod teaches us both some bad qualities as well as some good ones.  The bad ones are quite obvious.  Herod was living a very sinful life and, ultimately, his disordered life led him to have St. John the Baptist beheaded.  But the Scripture above does reveal one interesting quality which we should try to imitate.

Herod was interested in Jesus.  “He kept trying to see him” the Scripture says.  Though this did not ultimately lead to Herod accepting John the Baptist’s original message and repenting, it was at least a first step.

For lack of better terminology, perhaps we can call this desire of Herod a “holy curiosity.”  He knew there was something unique about Jesus and he wanted to understand it.  He wanted to know who Jesus was and was intrigued by His message.

Though we are all called to go much further than Herod did in the pursuit of the truth, we can still recognize that Herod is a good representation of many within our society.  So many are intrigued by the Gospel and all that our faith presents. They listen with curiosity to what the pope says and how the Church reacts to injustices in the world.  Additionally, society as a whole often condemns and criticizes us and our faith.  But this still reveals a sign of its interest and desire to listen to what God has to say, especially through our Church.

Reflect, today, upon two things.  First, reflect upon your own desire to know more.  And when you discover this desire don’t stop there.  Allow it to draw you close to the message of our Lord.  Secondly, be attentive to the “holy curiosity” of those around you.  Perhaps a neighbor, family member or coworker has shown interest in what your faith and what our Church has to say.  When you see that, pray for them and ask God to use you as He did the Baptist to bring His message to all who seek it.

Lord, help me to seek You in all things and at all times.  When darkness closes in, help me to discover the light You have revealed.  Then help me to bring that light to a world in great need.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Day Three: Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux – The Little Flower

 

 

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Dealing With Rejection

September 23, 2020
Wednesday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), Priest—Memorial

“And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.”  Luke 9:5

This is a bold statement from Jesus.  It’s also a statement that should bolden us in the face of opposition.

Jesus had just finished telling His disciples to go from town to town preaching the Gospel.  He instructed them not to bring extra food or clothing on the journey but, rather, to rely upon the generosity of those to whom they preach.  And He acknowledged that some will not accept them.  As for those who do in fact reject them and their message, they are to “shake the dust “ from their feet as they leave the town.

What does this mean?  It especially tells us two things.  First, when we are rejected it can hurt.  As a result, it’s easy for us to sulk and stew over the rejection and hurt.  It’s easy to sit and be angry and, as a result, to allow the rejection to do us even more damage.

Shaking the dust from our feet is a way of saying that we ought not allow the hurt we receive to affect us.  It’s a way of making a clear statement that we will not be controlled by the opinions and malice of others.  This is an important choice to make in life when facing rejection.

Secondly, it’s a way of saying that we must keep moving on.  Not only do we have to get over any hurt we have, but we need to then move on to seek out those who will receive our love and our message of the Gospel.  So, in a sense, this exhortation from Jesus is not first about dealing with the rejection of others; rather, it’s primarily about seeking out those who will receive us and will receive the message of the Gospel we are called to give.

Reflect, today, upon any hurt you still carry in your heart because of the rejection of others.  Try to let go of it and know that God is calling you to seek out others in love so that you can share the love of Christ with them.

Lord, when I experience rejection and hurt, help me to let go of any anger I have.  Help me to continue with my mission of love and to keep sharing Your Gospel with those who will receive it.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Day Two: Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux – The Little Flower

 

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), Priest

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Jesus’ Family

September 22, 2020
Tuesday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”  Luke 8:21

Perhaps you’ve wondered what it would be like to have a powerful and famous family member.  What would it be like if your sibling or a parent were the President of the United States?  Or a famous athlete?  Or some other famous person?  It probably would be the source of a certain joy and pride in a good way.

At the time Jesus walked on the Earth, He was becoming quite “famous,” so to speak.  He was admired and loved and followed by many.  And as He was speaking, His mother and brothers (which would have most likely been cousins) showed up outside.  No doubt people looked at them with a certain respect and admiration and perhaps even a bit of jealousy.  How nice it would be to be Jesus’ actual relative.

Jesus is quite aware of the blessing of being His own kin, part of His own family.  For that reason He makes this statement as a way of inviting everyone present to see themselves as an intimate member of His family.  Sure, our Blessed Mother will always retain her unique relationship with Jesus, but Jesus wants to invite all people to share His familial bond.

How does this happen?  It happens when we “hear the Word of God and act on it.”  It’s that simple.  You are invited to enter the family of Jesus in a deep, personal and profound way if you but listen to all God says and then act on it.

Though this is simple on one level, it’s also true that it’s a very radical move.  It’s radical in the sense that it requires a total commitment to the will of God.  That’s because when God speaks, His words are powerful and transforming.  And acting on His words will change our lives.

Reflect, today, upon the invitation of Jesus to be a member of His intimate family.  Hear that invitation and say “Yes” to it.  And as you say “Yes” to this invitation, be ready and willing to let His voice and His divine will change your life.

Lord, I accept Your invitation to become a member of Your intimate family.  May I hear Your voice speak and act upon all that You say.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Day One: Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux – The Little Flower

 

 

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Responding to the Call

Monday, September 21, 2020

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Readings for Today

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.  Matthew 9:9

St. Matthew was a wealthy and “important” man in his day and age.  As a tax collector, he was also disliked by many of the Jews.  But he showed himself to be a good man by His immediate response to Jesus’ call.

We do not have many details to this story, but we have the details that matter.  We see that Matthew is at work collecting taxes.  We see that Jesus simply walks by him and calls him.  And we see that Matthew immediately gets up, abandons everything, and follows Jesus.  This is quite a conversion.

For most people, this sort of immediate response would not happen.  Most people would have to first get to know Jesus, be convinced by Him, talk to their family and friends, think, ponder and then decide if following Jesus was a good idea.  Most people go through a long rationalizing of God’s will before responding to it.  Is that you?

Every day God is calling us.  Every day He calls us to serve Him radically and completely in one way or another.  And every day we have an opportunity to respond just as Matthew did.  The key is to have two essential qualities.  First, we must recognize the voice of Jesus clearly and unmistakably.  We must, in faith, know what He says to us when He says it.  Secondly, we must be certain that whatever Jesus calls or inspires us to do is worth it.  If we can perfect these two qualities we will be in a position to imitate the quick and total response of St. Matthew.

Reflect, today, upon your willingness to imitate this Apostle.  What do you say and do when God calls each day?  Where you see a lacking, recommit yourself to a more radical following of Christ.  You will not regret it.

Lord, may I hear You speak and respond to You wholeheartedly every time.  May I follow You wherever You lead.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Tomorrow begins the Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux – The Little Flower

 

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Matthew the Evangelist, Apostle, Evangelist

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It’s Never Too Late

September 20, 2020
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings for Today

“Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’”  Matthew 20:6-7

This passage reveals the fifth time in one day that the owner of the vineyard went out and hired more workers.  Each time he found people idle and hired them on the spot, sending them to the vineyard.  We know the end of the story.  Those who were hired late in the day, at five o’clock, were paid the same wage as those who worked all day long.

One lesson we can take from this parable is that God is exceptionally generous and it is never too late to turn to Him in our need.  Too often, when it comes to our life of faith, we sit around “idle all day.”  In other words, we can easily go through the motions of having a faith life but fail to actually embrace the daily work of building up our relationship with our Lord.  It’s much easier to have an idle faith life than one which is active and transforming.

We should hear, in this passage, an invitation from Jesus to get to work, so to speak.  One challenge that many face is that they have spent years living an idle faith and do not know how to change that.  If that is you, this passage is for you.  It reveals that God is merciful to the end.  He never shies away from bestowing His riches on us no matter how long we have been away from Him and no matter how far we have fallen.

Reflect, today, upon the level of commitment with which you are living your faith.  Be honest and reflect upon whether you are more idle or hard at work.  If you are hard at work, be grateful and remain committed without hesitation.  If you are idle, today is the day our Lord invites you to make a change.  Make that change, get to work, and know that our Lord’s generosity is great.

Lord, help me to increase my commitment to living my life of faith.  Allow me to hear Your gentle invitation to enter into Your Vineyard of grace.  I thank You for Your generosity and seek to receive this freely given gift of Your mercy.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

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Saint of the Day – Sts. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs
Not celebrated as a liturgical memorial this year since it falls on Sunday

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Listening

September 19, 2020
Saturday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Januarius, Bishop and Martyr—Optional Memorial

“Those on the path are the ones who have heard, but the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts that they may not believe and be saved.”  Luke 8:12

This familiar story identifies four possible ways in which we hear the Word of God.  Some are like a trodden path, some like rocky ground, others like a bed of thorns and some are like rich soil.

In each one of these images, there is a possibility of growth with the Word of God.  The rich soil is when the Word is received and bears fruit.  The seed among thorns is when the Word grows but the fruit is choked off by daily troubles and temptations.  The seed sown in the rocky ground results in the Word growing, but ultimately dies off when life gets hard.  The first image of seed falling on the path, however, is the least desirable of all.  In this case, the seed does not even grow.  The earth is so hardened that it can’t sink in.  The path itself provides no nourishment whatsoever and, as the passage reveals above, the Devil steals the Word away before it can grow.

Sadly, this “path” is becoming more and more prevalent in our day and age.  In fact, many struggle with actually listening.  We may hear, but hearing is not the same as actually listening.  We often have much to do, places to go and things to occupy our attention.  As a result, it can be difficult for many people to actually receive the Word of God into their hearts where it can grow.

Reflect, today, on the many ways that the Devil can come and steal the Word of God away from you.  It may be as simple as keeping you so occupied that you are too distracted to soak it in.  Or it may be that you allow the constant noise of the world to contradict what you hear before it sinks in.  Whatever the case may be, it is essential that you seek to take, at very least, the first step of listening and understanding.  Once that first step is accomplished, you can then work to remove the “rocks” and “thorns” from the soil of your soul.

Lord, help me to hear Your Word, to listen to it, to understand it and to believe it.  Help my heart to ultimately become rich soil that You enter so as to bear an abundance of good fruit.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

 

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Januarius, Bishop and Martyr

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Following Jesus

September 18, 2020
Friday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities… Luke 8:1-2

Jesus was on a mission.  His mission was to preach to town after town tirelessly.  But He did not do this alone.  This passage points out that He was accompanied by the Apostles and several women who had been healed and forgiven by Him.

There is much this passage tells us.  One thing it tells us is that when we allow Jesus to touch our lives, heal us, forgive us and transform us, we want to follow Him wherever He goes.

The desire to follow Jesus was not only an emotional one.  Certainly there were emotions involved.  There was incredible gratitude and, as a result, a deep emotional bond.  But the bond went so much deeper.  It was a bond created by the gift of grace and salvation.  These followers of Jesus experienced a greater level of freedom from sin than they had ever experienced before.  Grace changed their lives and, as a result, they were ready and willing to make Jesus the center of their lives following Him wherever He went.

Reflect, today, upon two things.  First, have you allowed Jesus to pour forth an abundance of grace into your life?  Have you allowed Him to touch you, change you, forgive you and heal you?  If so, have you then repaid this grace by making the absolute choice to follow Him?  Following Jesus, wherever He goes, is not just something these Apostles and holy women did long ago.  It’s something that we are all called to do daily.  Reflect upon these two questions and recommit yourself where you see a lacking.

Lord, please do come and forgive me, heal me and transform me.  Help me to know Your saving power in my life.  When I receive this grace, help me to return to You in gratitude everything that I am and to follow You wherever You lead.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

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Begging for Mercy

September 17, 2020
Thursday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor—Optional Memorial

A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.  Luke 7:36-38

In part, this Gospel is about the Pharisee.  If we read on in this passage we see the Pharisee becoming quite judgmental and condemning of this woman and Jesus.  Jesus rebuked Him just as He has done so many times before with the Pharisees.  But this passage is much more than a rebuke of the Pharisees.  At its heart, it’s a story of love.

The love is that love in the heart of this sinful woman.  It’s a love manifested in sorrow for sin and deep humility.  Her sin was great and, as a result, so was her humility and love.  Let’s look at that humility first.  It is seen in her actions as she came to Jesus.

First, “she stood behind Him…”
Second, she fell down “at His feet…”
Third, she was “weeping…”
Fourth, she washed His feet “with her tears…”
Fifth, she dried His feet “with her hair…”
Sixth, she “kissed” His feet.
Seventh, she “anointed” His feet with her costly perfume.

Stop for a moment and try to imagine this scene.  Try to see this sinful woman humbling herself in love before Jesus.  If this full action is not an act of deep sorrow, repentance and humility then it’s hard to know what else it is.  It’s an action that is not planned out, not calculated, not manipulative.  Rather, it’s deeply humble, sincere and total.  In this act, she cries out for mercy and compassion from Jesus and she doesn’t even have to say a word.

Reflect, today, upon your own sin.  Unless you know your sin, you cannot manifest this type of humble sorrow.  Do you know your sin?  From there, consider getting down on the ground, on your knees, bowing your head to the ground before Jesus and sincerely begging for His compassion and mercy.  Try literally doing that.  Make it real and total.  The result is that Jesus will treat you in the same merciful way He did this sinful woman.

Lord, I beg for Your mercy.  I am a sinner and I deserve damnation.  I acknowledge my sin.  I beg, in Your mercy, to forgive my sin and pour forth Your infinite compassion upon me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

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The Music for Life

September 16, 2020
Wednesday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs—Memorial

Jesus said to the crowds: “To what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’”  Luke 7:31-32

So what does this story tell us?  First of all, the story means that children are ignoring the “songs” of each other.  Some children sing a song of sorrow and that song is rejected by others.  Some sang joyful songs for dancing, and others did not enter into the dance.  In other words, the appropriate response was not given to the offer of their music.

This is a clear reference to the fact that so many of the prophets who came before Jesus “sang songs” (meaning preached) inviting people to have sorrow for sin as well as to rejoice in the truth.  But despite the fact that the prophets poured out their hearts, so many people ignored them.

Jesus gives a strong condemnation of the people of that time for their refusal to listen to the words of the prophets.  He goes on to point out that many called John the Baptist one who was “possessed” and they called Jesus a “glutton and drunkard.”  The condemnation of the people by Jesus especially focuses upon one particular sin: Obstinacy.  This stubborn refusal to listen to the voice of God and change is a grave sin.  In fact, it is traditionally referred to as one of the sins against the Holy Spirit.  Do not let yourself become guilty of this sin.  Do not be obstinate and refuse to listen to the voice of God.

The positive message of this Gospel is that when God speaks to us we must listen!  Do you?  Do you listen attentively and respond wholeheartedly?  You should read it as an invitation to turn your full attention to God and listen to the beautiful “music” He sends forth.

Reflect, today, upon your willingness to listen.  Jesus strongly condemned those who did not listen and refused to hear Him.  Do not be counted among their number.

Lord, may I listen, hear, understand and respond to Your sacred voice.  May it be the refreshment and nourishment of my soul.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

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Saint of the Day – Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs

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The Sorrowful Heart of Our Blessed Mother

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Readings for Today

“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  Luke 2:34-35

What a profound, meaningful and very real feast we celebrate today.  Today we try to enter into the profound sorrow of the heart of our Blessed Mother as she endured the sufferings of her Son.

Mother Mary loved her Son Jesus with the perfect love of a mother.  Interestingly, it was that perfect love she had in her heart for Jesus that was the source of her deep spiritual suffering.  Her love drew her to be present to Jesus in His own Cross and sufferings.  And for that reason, as Jesus suffered, so did His mother.

But her suffering was not one of despair, it was a suffering of love.  Therefore, her sorrow was not a sadness; rather, it was a profound sharing in all that Jesus endured.  Her heart was perfectly united with her Son’s and, therefore, she endured all that He endured.  This is true love on the deepest and most beautiful level.

Today, on this memorial of her Sorrowful Heart, we are called to live in union with the Blessed Mother’s sorrow.  As we love her, we find ourselves feeling the same pain and suffering her heart still experiences as a result of the sins of the world.  Those sins, including our own sins, are what nailed her Son to the Cross.

When we love our Blessed Mother and her Son Jesus, we will also grieve over sin; first our own and then the sins of others.  But it’s important to know that the sorrow we experience over sin is also a sorrow of love.  It’s a holy sorrow that ultimately motivates us to a deeper compassion and deeper unity with those around us, especially those who are wounded and those caught in sin.  It also motivates us to turn from sin in our own lives.

Reflect, today, upon the perfect love of the heart of our Blessed Mother.  That love is capable of rising above all suffering and pain and is the same love God wants to place in your heart.

Lord, help me to love with the love of Your dear Mother.  Help me to feel the same holy sorrow she felt and to allow that holy sorrow to deepen my concern and compassion for all those who suffer.  Jesus, I trust in You.  Mother Mary, pray for us.

 

 

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The Glorious Cross of Our Lord!

September 14, 2020

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Readings for Today

“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”  John 3:14-15

What a glorious feast we celebrate today!  It’s the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross!

Does the Cross truly make sense?  If we could separate ourselves from all we have learned about the Cross of Christ and just look at it from a secular and historical perspective, the Cross is a sign of great tragedy.  It’s connected to the story of a man who became quite popular with many, yet was vehemently hated by others.  In the end, those who hated this man arranged for His brutal crucifixion.  So, from a purely secular point of view, the Cross is an awful thing.

But Christians do not see the Cross from a secular point of view.  We see it from the divine perspective.  We see Jesus lifted up on the Cross for all to see.  We see Him using horrible suffering to eliminate suffering forever.  We see Him using death to destroy death itself.  Ultimately, we see Jesus become victorious on that Cross and, therefore, forever we see the Cross as an exalted and glorious throne!

Moses’ actions in the desert prefigured the Cross.  Many people were dying from snake bites. Therefore, God told Moses to lift up the image of a snake on a pole so that all who looked upon it would be healed.  And that’s exactly what happened.  Ironically, the snake brought life instead of death!

Suffering occurs throughout our lives in various ways.  Perhaps for some it’s daily aches and pains from ill health, and for others it may be on a much deeper level, such as an emotional, personal, relational or spiritual one.  Sin, in fact, is the cause of the greatest suffering, so those who struggle deeply with sin in their lives suffer deeply from that sin.

So what is Jesus’ answer?  His answer is to turn our gaze to His Cross.  We are to look at Him in His misery and suffering and, in that gaze, we are called to see victory with faith.  We are called to know that God brings good out of all things, even our suffering.  The Father transformed the world eternally through the suffering and death of His only Son.  He also wants to transform us in our crosses.

Reflect, today, upon the Cross of Christ.  Spend some time gazing upon the crucifix.  See in that crucifix the answer to your own daily struggles.  Jesus is close to those who suffer, and His strength is available to all those who believe in Him.

Lord, help me to gaze upon the Cross.  Help me to experience in Your own sufferings a taste of Your final victory.  May I be strengthened and healed as I look upon You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

40 Days at the Foot of the Cross: A Gaze of Love from the Heart of Our Blessed Mother

By Thomas, John Paul (Paperback)

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Forgiveness

September 13, 2020
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings for Today

“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”  Matthew 18:21-22

This question, posed by Peter to Jesus, was asked in such a way that Peter thought he was being quite generous in his forgiveness.  But to his surprise, Jesus adds to Peter’s generosity in forgiveness in an exponential way.

For many of us, this sounds good in theory.  It is inspiring and encouraging to ponder the depths of forgiveness that we are called to offer another.  But when it comes to daily practice, this may be much harder to embrace.

By calling us to forgive not only seven times but seventy-seven times, Jesus is telling us that there is no limit to the depth and breadth of mercy and forgiveness that we must offer another.  No limit!

This spiritual truth must become far more than a theory or ideal we strive for.  It must become a practical reality which we embrace with all our might.  We must daily seek to rid ourselves of any tendency we have, no matter how small, to hold a grudge and remain in anger.  We must seek to free ourselves from every form of bitterness and allow mercy to heal every hurt.

Reflect, today, upon that person or persons you need to forgive the most.  Forgiveness may not make perfect sense to you right away and you may find that your feelings do not fall in line with the choice you are trying to make.  Do not give up!  Continue to make the choice to forgive, regardless of how you feel or how hard it is.  In the end, mercy and forgiveness will always triumph, heal and give you the peace of Christ.

Lord, give me a heart of true mercy and forgiveness.  Help me to let go of all bitterness and pain I feel.  In place of these, give me true love and help me to offer that love to others without reserve.  I love You, dear Lord.  Help me to love all people as You love them.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor
Not celebrated as a liturgical memorial this year since it falls on Sunday

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A Rock Foundation

September 12, 2020
Saturday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary—Optional Memorial

“I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built.”  Luke 6:47-48

What does your foundation look like?  Is it solid rock?  Or is it sand?  This Gospel passage reveals the importance of a solid foundation for life.

A foundation is not often thought about or worried about unless it gives way.  This is important to reflect upon.  When a foundation is solid it often goes unnoticed and there is little concern during storms at any time.

The same is true of our spiritual foundation.  The spiritual foundation we are called to have is one of deep faith grounded in prayer.  Our foundation is our daily communication with Christ.  In that prayer Jesus Himself becomes the foundation for our life.  And when He is the foundation of our life, nothing can harm us and nothing can keep us from fulfilling our mission in life.

Contrast this with a weak foundation.  A weak foundation is one that relies upon oneself as the source of stability and strength in times of hardship.  But the truth is that none of us are strong enough to be our own foundation.  Those who attempt this approach are fools who learn the hard way that they cannot endure any storm life throws at them.

Reflect, today, upon how well the foundation of your life has been built.  When it’s strong, you can give your attention to many other aspects of your life.  When it’s weak, you will continually be doing damage control as you seek to keep your life from falling apart.  Recommit yourself to a life of deep prayer so that Christ Jesus will be the solid rock foundation of your life.

Lord, You are my rock and my strength.  You alone support me through all things in life.  Help me to rely upon You even more, so that I may daily accomplish all that You call me to do.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Noticing the Sins of Others

September 11, 2020
Friday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”  Luke 6:41

How true this is!  How easy it is to see the minor faults of others and, at the same time, fail to see our own more obvious and serious faults.  Why is this the case?

First of all, it’s hard to see our own faults because our sin of pride blinds us.  Pride keeps us from any honest self-reflection.  Pride becomes a mask we wear which presents a false persona.  Pride is an ugly sin because it keeps us from the truth.  It keeps us from seeing ourselves in the light of truth and, as a result, it keeps us from seeing the log in our own eye.

When we are full of pride, another thing happens.  We start to focus in on every small fault of those around us.  Interestingly, this Gospel speaks of the tendency to see the “splinter” in your brother’s eye.  What does that tell us?  It tells us that those who are full of pride are not so much interested in putting down the serious sinner.  Rather, they tend to seek out those who have only small sins, “splinters” as sins, and they tend to try and make them seem more serious than they are.  Sadly, those steeped in pride feel far more threatened by the saint than by the serious sinner.

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you struggle with being judgmental toward those around you.  Especially reflect upon whether or not you tend to be more critical of those striving for holiness.  If you do tend to do this, it may reveal that you struggle with pride more than you realize.

Lord, humble me and help me to be free of all pride.  May I also let go of judgmentalness and see others only in the way You want me to see them.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Love Your Enemies

September 10, 2020
Thursday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  Luke 6:27-28

These words are clearly easier said than done.  When it comes right down to it, when someone acts in hate toward you and mistreats you, the last thing you want to do is love them, bless them and pray for them.  But Jesus is very clear on the fact that this is what we are called to do.

In the midst of some direct persecution or malice done to us, we can easily be hurt.  This hurt can lead us to anger, desires for revenge, and even hatred.  If we give in to these temptations, then we suddenly become the very thing that hurt us.  Sadly, hating those who have hurt us only makes things worse.

But it would be naive to deny a certain interior tension we all face when we are confronted with harm from another and the command from Jesus to love them in return.  If we are honest we must admit to this interior tension.  The tension comes as we try to embrace the command of total love despite the hurt and angry feelings we have.

One thing this interior tension reveals is that God wants so much more for us than to simply live a life based on our feelings.  Being angry or hurt is not all that enjoyable.  In fact, it can be the cause of much misery.  But it doesn’t have to be.  If we understand this command of Jesus to love our enemies, we will start to understand that this is the path out of the misery.  We will start to realize that giving in to hurt feelings and returning anger for anger or hate for hate only makes the wound deeper.  On the other hand, if we can love when we are mistreated, we suddenly discover that love in this case is quite powerful.  It’s love that goes way beyond any feeling.  It’s true love purified and given freely as a gift from God.  It’s charity at the highest level and it is a charity that fills us with an abundance of authentic joy.

Reflect, today, upon any wounds you carry within.  Know that these wounds can become the source of your own holiness and happiness if you let God transform them and if you allow God to fill your heart with love for everyone who has mistreated you.

Lord, I know that I am called to love my enemies.  I know that I am called to love all those who have mistreated me.  Help me to surrender to You any feelings of anger or hate and replace those feelings with true charity.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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The True Blessings

September 9, 2020
Wednesday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Peter Claver, Priest—USA Memorial

“Blessed are you who are poor…
Blessed are you who are now hungry…
Blessed are you who are now weeping…
Blessed are you when people hate you…
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!”  (See Luke 6:20-23)

Are the above statements typos?  Did Jesus really say these things?

At first, the Beatitudes can seem quite confusing.  And when we strive to live them, they can be very challenging.  Why is it blessed to be poor and hungry?  Why is one blessed who is weeping and hated?  These are difficult questions with perfect answers.

The truth is that each Beatitude ends with a glorious outcome when fully embraced in accord with the will of God.  Poverty, hunger, sorrow and persecution are not, by themselves, blessings.  But when they befall us they do offer an opportunity for a blessing from God that far surpasses any difficulty the initial challenge presents.

Poverty affords one the opportunity to seek out the riches of Heaven above all else.  Hunger drives a person to seek the food of God that sustains beyond what the world can offer.  Weeping, when caused by one’s own sin or the sins of others, helps us seek justice, repentance, truth and mercy.  And persecution on account of Christ enables us to be purified in our faith and to trust in God in a way that leaves us abundantly blessed and filled with joy.

At first, the Beatitudes may not make sense to us.  It’s not that they are contrary to our human reason.  Rather, the Beatitudes go beyond what immediately makes sense and they enable us to live on a whole new level of faith, hope and love.  They teach us that the wisdom of God is far beyond our own limited human understanding.

Reflect, today, upon the incredible wisdom of God as He reveals these, the deepest teachings of the spiritual life.  At very least, try to reflect upon the fact that God’s wisdom is far above your wisdom.  If you struggle to make sense of something painful and difficult in your life, know that God has an answer if you but seek out His wisdom.

Lord, help me to find blessings in the many challenges and hardships of life.  Rather than seeing my crosses as evil, help me to see Your hand at work in transforming them and to experience a greater outpouring of Your grace in all things.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Happy Birthday Blessed Mother!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Readings for Today

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.”  Matthew 1:23

We all love to celebrate birthdays.  Today is the birthday celebration of our dear mother.  In December we honor her Immaculate Conception.  In January we celebrate her as the Mother of God.  In August we celebrate her Assumption into Heaven and there are many other days throughout the year where we honor a unique aspect of her life.  But today is simply her birthday celebration!

Celebrating her birthday is a way of celebrating her personhood.  We celebrate her simply for being herself.  We do not necessarily focus in on any of the unique, beautiful and profound aspects of her life today.  We do not necessarily look at all she accomplished, her perfect yes to God, her coronation in Heaven, her assumption or any other specifics.  All parts of her life are glorious, beautiful, awe-inspiring and worthy of their own unique feasts and celebration.

Today, however, we simply celebrate our Blessed Mother because she was created and brought into this world by God and that alone is worth celebrating.  We honor her simply because we love her and we celebrate her birthday as we would celebrate the birthday of anyone we love and care for.

Reflect, today, upon the fact that Mother Mary is your mother.  She truly is your mother and it’s worth celebrating her birthday in the same way that you would celebrate anyone’s birthday who was a member of your family.  Your honoring of Mary, today, is a way of solidifying your bond with her and assuring her that you desire her to be an important part of your life.

Happy birthday, Blessed Mother!  We love you dearly!

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.  Precious Jesus, through the heart of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, our Mother, we trust in You!

 

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A Disturbing Sin

September 7, 2020
Monday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

“Stretch out your hand.” He did so and his hand was restored. But they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.  Luke 6:10-11

This is a very disturbing passage.  Over and over again we find that the scribes and Pharisees acted with much intentional and calculated malice.  Here they were looking for anything they could try to accuse Jesus of doing.  And what do they find they can accuse Him of?  They witness Him doing a miracle on the Sabbath day.  And they act as if this is a sin on the part of Jesus.  Seriously?

The reason this passage is so disturbing is because those who were the religious leaders of the time were clearly only interested in themselves, and Jesus was getting in the way of their self-importance.  He was becoming more popular and respected than the scribes and Pharisees and they were filled with envy.

One important point to learn from this passage is that the sin of envy lead us to irrationality and foolishness.  This sin blinds us and leads us to think and say foolish things.  This is what the scribes and Pharisees did.  Who in their right mind would “accuse” Jesus of doing something as good as healing on the Sabbath?  Only those who have become blind by envy.

Though this passage is disturbing, it should hopefully become disturbing in a helpful way.  It should be an opportunity for each of us to look at our own lives and to examine the relationships we have.  Do you see envy present in any of those relationships?  Do you see yourself acting and thinking in an irrational way at times towards this person or that?

Reflect, today, upon any tendency you may have to be like the scribes and Pharisees.  Know that their actions were included in the Scripture to teach us about this ugly sin we sometimes struggle with.  Let the disturbing part of it motivate you to work toward freedom from envy in your life.

Lord, I do want to be free of the sins of pride, envy and jealousy.  Help me to see these in my life, to repent of them and to replace them with Your mercy and love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Reconciling with Another

September 6, 2020
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings for Today

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.”  Matthew 18:15

This passage above offers the first of three steps Jesus offers to reconcile with someone who has sinned against you.  The steps Jesus offers are as follows: 1) Speak privately to the person. 2) Bring two or three others to help with the situation. 3) Bring it to the Church.  If after trying all three steps you are not able to reconcile, then Jesus says, “…treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”

The first and most important point to mention in this process of reconciliation is that we should keep the sin of another quiet, between them and us, until we have sincerely tried to reconcile.  This is hard to do!  So often when someone sins against us, the first temptation we have is to go forth and tell others about it.  This may be done out of hurt, anger, a desire for revenge, or the like.  So the first lesson we should learn is that the sins another commits against us are not details we have a right to tell others about, at least not at first.

The next important steps offered by Jesus do involve others and the Church.  But not so that we can express our anger, gossip or criticism or to bring them public humiliation.  Rather, the steps of involving others are done so as to assist another in repentance, so that the person in error sees the gravity of the sin.  This takes humility on our part.  It requires a humble attempt to help them not only see their error but to also change.

The final step, if they do no change, is to treat them like a Gentile or tax collector.  But even this must be understood properly.  How do we treat a Gentile or tax collector?  We treat them with a desire for their continued conversion.  We treat them with continued respect, while at the same time acknowledge that we are not “on the same page.”

Reflect, today, upon any relationship you have that requires healing and reconciliation.  Seek to follow this humble process given by our Lord and continue to remain hopeful that the grace of God will prevail.

Lord, give me a humble and merciful heart so that I may reconcile with those who have sinned against me.  I forgive them, dear Lord, just as You have forgiven me.  Give me the grace to seek reconciliation in accord with Your perfect will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Scrupulosity

September 5, 2020
Saturday of the Twenty-Second Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta—Memorial

While Jesus was going through a field of grain on a sabbath, his disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them.  Some Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?”  Luke 6:1-2

Talk about being petty!  Here the disciples were hungry, they most likely had been walking for some time with Jesus and came upon some wheat and picked it to eat as they walked.  And they were condemned by the Pharisees for doing this very normal action.  Did they really break the law and offend God by picking and eating this grain?

Jesus’ response makes it clear that the Pharisees are quite confused and that the disciples did nothing wrong.  But this passage does give us an opportunity to reflect upon one spiritual danger that some fall into at times.  It’s the danger of scrupulosity.

Now, if you are one who tends to be scrupulous you are probably already beginning to be scrupulous right now about being scrupulous.  And the more you read on you may be tempted to feel scrupulous about feeling scrupulous about being scrupulous.  And the cycle can go on and on with this struggle.

We do not know if this is the case, but if one or more of the disciples struggled with scrupulosity and then heard the Pharisees condemn them for eating the grain, they may have felt immediate remorse and guilt over their actions.  They would have started to fear that they were guilty of breaking God’s command to keep holy the Sabbath.  But their scrupulosity has to be seen for what it is and they have to recognize the trigger that tempted them toward scrupulosity.

The “trigger” that tempted them toward scrupulosity is an extreme and erroneous view of the law of God as presented by the Pharisees.  Yes, God’s law is perfect and must always be followed down to the last letter of the law.  But for those who struggle with scrupulosity, the law of God can easily become distorted and exaggerated.  Human laws and human misrepresentations of the law of God can cause confusion.  And, in the Scripture above, the trigger was the arrogance and harshness of the Pharisees.  God was not offended in any way by the disciples picking and eating grain on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees, therefore, were attempting to impose a burden on the disciples that was not from God.

We, too, can be tempted to look at God’s law and will in a scrupulous way.  Though many people do the opposite (are too lax), some do struggle with worrying about offending God when He is not offended at all.

Reflect, today, upon your own struggle with scrupulosity.  If this is you, know that God wants to free you from these burdens.

Lord, help me to see Your law and will in the light of truth.  Help me to shed all misconceptions and misrepresentations of Your law in exchange for the truths of Your perfect love and mercy.  May I cling to that mercy and love in all things and above all things.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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New Wine into New Wineskins

September 4, 2020
Friday of the Twenty-Second Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

“No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.”  Luke 5:37

What is this new wine?  And what are the old wineskins? The new wine is the new life of grace we have been blessed with in abundance and the old wineskins are our old fallen natures and the old law.  What Jesus is telling us is that if we wish to receive His grace and mercy in our lives we must allow Him to transform our old selves into new creations and embrace the new law of grace.

Have you become a new creation?  Have you allowed your former self to die so that the new person can rise again?  What does it mean to become a new creation in Christ so that the new wine of grace can be poured into your life?

Becoming a new creation in Christ means that we live on a whole new level and no longer cling to our former ways.  It means that God does powerful things in our lives far beyond anything we could ever do by ourselves.  It means we have become a new and fit “wineskin” for God to be poured into.  And it means that this new “wine” is the Holy Spirit taking hold of and possessing our lives.

Practically speaking, if we are made a new creation in Christ then we are properly prepared to receive the grace of the Sacraments and all that comes our way through daily prayer and worship.  But the first goal must be to become those new wineskins.  So how do we do this?

We do it by Baptism and then by intentionally choosing to turn from sin and embrace the Gospel.  But this general command from God, to turn from sin and embrace the Gospel, must be very intentional and lived daily.  As we make daily practical and intentional decisions to turn to Christ in all things, we will discover that the Holy Spirit suddenly, powerfully and immediately pours the new wine of grace into our lives.  We will discover a new peace and joy that fills us and we will have strength beyond our own ability.

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you are truly a new creation in Christ.  Have you turned from your former way and shed the shackles that bound you?  Have you embraced the new full Gospel and do you daily allow God to pour forth the Holy Spirit in your life?

Lord, please do make me a new creation.  Transform me and renew me completely.  May my new life in You be one that continually receives the full outpouring of Your grace and mercy.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Put Out Into the Deep

September 3, 2020
Thursday of the Twenty-Second Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor—Memorial

After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.  Luke 5:4-6

“Put out into deep water…”  There is great meaning to this little line.

First of all, it’s important to note that the Apostles had fished all night long with no success.  They were most likely disappointed at their lack of fish and were not all that ready to fish some more.  But Jesus directs Simon to do so and he does it.  The result is that they caught more fish than they thought they could handle.

But the one piece of symbolic meaning we should not miss is that Jesus tells Simon to put out into the “deep” water.  What does that mean?

This passage is not only about the physical miracle of catching fish; rather, it’s much more about the mission of evangelizing souls and accomplishing the mission of God.  And the symbolism of putting out into the deep water tells us that we must be all in and fully committed if we are to evangelize and spread the Word of God as we are called to do.

When we listen to God and act on His word, committing ourselves to His will in a radical and deep way, He will produce an abundant catch of souls.  This “catch” will come in an unexpected way at an unexpected time and will clearly be the work of God.

But think about what would have happened if Simon would have laughed and told Jesus, “Sorry, Lord, I’m done fishing for the day.  Maybe tomorrow.”  If Simon would have acted this way he would never have been blessed with this abundant catch.  The same is true with us.  If we fail to listen to the voice of God in our lives, and fail to heed His radical commands, we will not be used in the way He desires to use us.

Reflect, today, upon your willingness to act upon the voice of the Savior.  Are you willing to say “Yes” to Him in all things?  Are you willing to radically follow the direction He gives?  If so, you also will be amazed at what He does in your life.

Lord, I desire to put out into the deep water and to radically evangelize in the way to which You call me.  Help me to say “Yes” to you in all things.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Desiring Jesus Always

September 2, 2020
Wednesday of the Twenty-Second Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place. The crowds went looking for him, and when they came to him, they tried to prevent him from leaving them.  Luke 4:42

What a beautiful act of affection and love for Jesus.  Here, Jesus was with the crowds at sunset and spent the entire night with the people curing them and preaching to them.  Perhaps they all got some sleep at some point but it may have happened that Jesus was up with them all night.

In this passage above, Jesus went away to be alone at daybreak just as the sun was rising.  He went to pray and simply be present to His Father in Heaven.  And what happened?  Even though Jesus had dedicated the entire last evening and night to the people, they wanted to be with Him some more.  He was gone for a short time to pray and they immediately went searching for Him.  And when they found Jesus, they begged Him to stay longer.

Though Jesus had to move on and preach to other towns, it is clear that He made quite an impression with these people.  Their hearts were touched deeply and they wanted Jesus to stay.

The good news is that Jesus can now stay with us 24/7 today.  At that time, He had not yet ascended to Heaven and therefore was limited to being in one place at a time.  But now that He is in Heaven, Jesus can live in all places at all times.

So what we see in this passage above is the desire that we should all have.  We should desire that Jesus remains with us 24/7 just as these good people desired.  We should go to sleep with Him on our minds, wake praying to Him and allow Him to accompany us throughout every day.  We should foster the same love and affection for Jesus that the people had in this passage above.  Fostering that desire is the first step to allowing His presence to accompany us all day every day.

Reflect, today, upon your desire or lack of desire to be with Jesus always.  Are there times when you prefer He not be there?  Or have you allowed yourself to have this same affection for Jesus seeking His presence in your life always?

Lord, I desire that You be present in my life all day long every day.  May I always seek You and always be attentive to Your presence in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Demons are For Real

September 1, 2020
Tuesday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
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“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down in front of them and came out of him without doing him any harm. They were all amazed and said to one another, “What is there about his word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.”  Luke 4:34-36

Yes, it’s a frightening thought.  Demons are for real.  Or is it frightening?  If we look at the whole scene here we find that Jesus is clearly victorious over the demon and casts him out without allowing him to do the man any harm.  So, truth be told, this passage is far more frightening for the demons than it should be for us!

But what it does tell us is that demons are real, they hate us and they desire deeply to destroy us.  So, if that’s not frightening it should at least make us sit up and pay attention.

Demons are fallen angels who retain their natural powers.  Though they turned from God and acted in complete selfishness, God does not strip away their natural powers unless