Yielding To The Call

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Daily Reflection – 10/18/19

Sacred Scripture

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.'”(Luke 10: 1-9)

Reflection

We are all called by God to follow Him unreservedly and to be sent on a unique mission of the proclamation of the Gospel.  Each calling is different but each calling must be absolute and undeterred.  We must offer our talents, preferences, future and our very lives to Christ so that He may use us as He wills.  Following Jesus will always require some form of martyrdom, but whatever form of martyrdom we are called to embrace will produce much good fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Why do we sometimes waver with that call to our discipleship? I think it is for the reason that we lack focus and as a result we become half-hearted until we do not anymore trust the providence of God. After which we now trust more on ourselves and Jesus becomes a minimal factor in our lives.

The message of our gospel today is simple and strong.? It is full trust and dependence on God alone! If we would only learn to entrust our lives to Jesus and if we would only learn to be faithful to the mission that He has given us. Then we would see how God will provide for us, but the problem is some of us don’t even know what is our mission in this world.

We don’t know our mission because we don’t take our faith seriously. We hardly give it time because we are always busy with our worldly undertakings. Worldly undertakings that can evaporate from us anytime. Worldly undertakings that will not bring us eternal peace and happiness.

Our mission is to become modern-day zealous disciples that will help Jesus spread the good news of our salvation.

 Prayer of The Day

Lord help me to embrace a wholehearted commitment to the Gospel.  Use me, dear Lord, as an instrument of Your Holy Word and give me the courage to lay my life down without reserve.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 Daily Note

We are all called by God to follow Him unreservedly and to be sent on a unique mission of the proclamation of the Gospel.  Each calling is different but each calling must be absolute and undeterred.  We must offer our talents, preferences, future and our very lives to Christ so that He may use us as He wills.  Following Jesus will always require some form of martyrdom, but whatever form of martyrdom we are called to embrace will produce much good fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Your Agenda or His ?

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Daily Refection – 10/17/19

Sacred Scripture

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.” One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.”( Luke 11: 42-46)

Reflection

Today’s Gospel continues with Jesus’ rebuke of the practices of the Pharisees. Why is Jesus so upset?  If you take a look at the passage right before today’s Gospel, Luke 11:37-41, Jesus was invited to join a Pharisee for dinner and was rebuked by the Pharisee because Jesus had not ritually cleansed Himself before the meal. It is at that moment, that Jesus hits a boiling point.  He refers to the Pharisees as “You fools” (Lk 11:40)

One point that Jesus is trying to make with the Pharisees and scribes is, don’t be tyrannized by the law and don’t tyrannize others through the law.  Yes, it is important to have clean hands before a meal, but it is unlikely that God will be upset with a little dirt under your nails.  More to the point of today’s Gospel is that loving God, others and yourself; caring for the poor; and living a faith that promotes justice is the message of Jesus.  Laws are important, but all laws should help us to live in the Spirit of Christ.

In his teaching Jesus wants his disciples to concentrate on ‘justice and God’s love’ above all other practices and observances. When I begin to judge others without knowing their motives and intentions, I cease to act according to God’s justice. Only God knows our minds and hearts fully and therefore acts justly. But his justice is always characterized by love and mercy. Hence, whatever I do and say should be done with God’s love.

Do I give undue importance to external observances and practices? It is possible that when I observe external things meticulously through the letter of the law, I may be losing sight of the real spirit behind such observances? Do I use a Church teaching or an isolated verse from the bible to prove a point or construct an agenda where which centers on me ?  Am I conscious of my own sins and God’s forgiveness for those sins? When I know that God has forgiven my sins I will also look at others with mercy and forgiveness. How much am I conscious of God’s love for me? As I become aware of God’s love, I grow in His love and the love of neighbor. The essence of God’s commandments is love. God is love and everything he does flows from his love for us.

Today, I would ask you to consider what gets in your way of being more loving and what might you put in the way of others that may prevent them from loving God, themselves and others more fully.

Prayer of The Day

Lord, inflame my heart with your love that I may always pursue what matters most — love of God and love of neighbor.  Give me wisdom and courage to act with justice, kindness, and mercy in all that I do and say.”

Daily Note

Literally what God is always telling us, inviting us to is to live by His grace. And when we live by His grace, then those gifts and fruits of the Spirit come into our hearts and allow us to live as we are called to live in peace and patience and joy and gentleness and self-control.  Then we need not worry about the Law, not because we are free to violate it, but because we have freed ourselves for the full fulfillment of the Law, which is ultimately the law to love God and to love our neighbor

 

The Roots Within

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Daily Reflection – 10/16/19

Sacred Scripture

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.” One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.”( Luke 11: 42-46)

Reflection

The Gospel set before us today is a very important section.  We see Jesus’ condemnation of the religious system that the Pharisees and the Scribes had built in His day.

As we look to the condemnation of the religious leaders, let’s be very careful that we don’t write off these verses because we think that they don’t apply to us.  We all have a root of Phariseeism living within us.  We must kill it and guard against allowing it to guide us.   If we allow hypocrisy and legalism to dominate us, we will miss the Gospel and miss holiness.

The Pharisees were associated with God but He was not the center of their life.  For them, God was simply one part among many things they worshipped. They are more interested in their own personal agendas and their own self-aggrandizement than the words of Jesus Christ.  Jesus shows us the other things and then pronounces Divine judgment upon them.  Jesus comes down extremely hard on these religious leaders and even declares six woes upon them collectively.

As I read this text, I think we should place ourselves in the room and understand Jesus is speaking to us as well.  He points out our sinfulness as well as theirs.  Understand the difference is we are not condemned with them but if we listen to Jesus’ condemning words, we can be given forgiveness and grace.  Our responsibility is to use the searchlight of Sacred Scripture and shine it into the dark reaches of our souls to see if there is any trace of Phariseeism within us.

These religious leaders were more concerned with looking holy than actually being holy.  This may, in fact, be the dish that the ritual hand washing was done in.  It was shinny on the outside but inside it was filthy dirty.  It’s much more important for the inside of a bowl or dish to be clean than the outside.  Here the point is that if the inside is clean the outside will be clean as well.

What about us?  Are we more concerned with looking the part of a Christian or actually being a Christian?  Are you as concerned with holiness on Monday as you are on Sunday?  Are you a Christian example to your coworkers?  Do you uphold biblical standards when around non-believers or are you more apt to act like them?

Do we care more about what others think of us or what God thinks? Are we determined to convince other members of our parish of how smart we are or how holy we are? Do we lead other members of our congregation to a viewpoint not because it is about God but rather its about us.

Jesus knew that true religion comes from a saved heart.  Jesus would not go with the flow.  When everyone knelt down to do some act that only made people admire you, He stood back and would not do it.

Are we those who do what’s right by God’s standards or are we more concerned with standing out because we know more or look holier than others?

 Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus, at times I look at my heart and see that it is hard and bitter. It is ready to jump self-righteously at the first opportunity to condemn someone else, but only so as to assure myself of my own moral superiority. Grant me a heart, meek and humble like yours.

Daily Note

Today Jesus also is challenging each of us to examine why we do what we do! Do we do it simply because it is expected of us? Or do we act in a certain way because we want others to think well of us? Or do we choose to do something because it is the “loving” thing to do? As we walk through our day today, may we be mindful of our motivations. Let us pray that today and every day that all our actions will flow from our love for God and our love for God’s people!

 

 

First, Look Deep Within

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Daily Reflection, 10/15/19

Sacred Scripture

After Jesus had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. He entered and reclined at the table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal. The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.”( Luke 11: 37-41)

Reflection

The Mosaic Law was intended to free the Israelites for worship, delivering them from slavery to pagan gods and from slavery to sin. When the Law (and the added customs and regulations) became an end in itself, it was truncated and severed from the One to whom it was meant to lead.

The danger we face is that most Christian churches have developed their owm rules, regs and suggested behaviors . Our issue is thatv we can adhere to them with such vigor that we lose sight of the One they are freeing us to worship. We don’t allow our hearts and minds to be educated and formed by them, we just follow them blindly. We wind up cleaning the outside of the cup and stopping there, without going on to see God’s love The second trap we can fall into is at the other extreme: to give ourselves an easy pass by presuming that if my heart is in the right place, I don’t need to worry about all these rules and such. With a lax attitude we permit ourselves to ease up on fulfilling these laws which in truth will free us.

The law of love is the most important of all the commandments of the Lord. In Chapter 12 of the Gospel of Mark, Christ responds to a scribe’s question about the first of all the commandments: The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. Love of God and neighbor is both the source and the summit of the Law of the Old Covenant and of the New. Living these two greatest commandments purifies and cleanses our heart.

Yet, in parish after parish over the last 45 years, I always find a small group of parishioners who act more like Pharisees than followers of Christ. They look for literal applications of teachings so they can set themselves apart from the rest. In Catholicism, they look for a rubric to justify their smugness. In other more biblical stringent communities, they look for an application of the Word that justifies their behavior. The ironic part to me is these are“ Christians” in name but their lives often show a rigidity or lack of love that makes one wonder whether their spirit is in keeping with that of a true believer. It always comes back to a phrase we all know: “Judge not lest you be judged.”

 Prayer of The Day

Lord, I want my heart always to be focused on you. I need your guidance, for I can’t do it alone. I need you to teach me how to love you, how to worship and serve you. The laws you give me free me and guide me toward you. Help me to see your hand leading me.

Daily Note

 Let us resolve:  If there is a rule or a Word of scripture that I don’t understand or don’t practice, study it to come to understand better how it frees me and guides me in my relationship with Christ and prevents me from judging.

 

Faith Is Not An Emotion

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Daily Reflection – 10/14/19

Sacred Scripture

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”( Luke 11: 29-32)

Reflection

We all know the saying, “familiarity breeds contempt.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus contemporaries were in that situation regarding Jesus himself. He had already worked miracles, and his preaching and holiness of life were totally exceptional. Yet, some people were not satisfied, and Jesus rebukes them for seeking more signs.

It’s all too easy for us to fall into this same attitude with our faith. Instead of appreciating the riches conserved in the tradition of the Church, many still look for extraordinary signs. The Beatitudes, or the Gospel accounts of Jesus raising people from the dead might seem boring, but private revelations and possible apparitions capture our imagination.
Despite his harsh tone in the Gospel, Jesus actually does promise to give them a sign “the sign of Jonah.” By this he means his death and resurrection, as he explains in the Gospel according to Matthew (12:40).

Why do we lack faith in God?  Because most people settle with having an emotional affair with God.  They love God just because they can feel Him.    But that’s not a good enough reason to love anyone, especially God.  If someone gets married based purely on emotions (or due to an emotional affair), then chances are you’ll get divorced squarely on cold facts. 

Faith is not an “emotional affair” with God.  Faith is based on cold facts.  When Jesus told his disciples, “If you wish to follow me, pick up your cross and follow me.”  That means, “If you remain faithful to me, then you will suffer greatly.”  That’s faith!  And that’s the hard cold fact of our faith.   I can accept it or reject it.  If I stay close to God (keep their morals, values and dignity), I will go through Hell.  But in the end, I will be rehabilitated and resurrected.   God will love me forever. 

Jesus says to his listeners that they will be judged because they are not appreciating the gift they have before their eyes. It’s an invitation for us not only to appreciate all that we have received in the Church, but also to share it with others. The truths of our faith are not intended for us alone but for all humanity. Whether or not that message gets out depends on each one of us. What are we doing to share our faith with those around us?

Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus, help me to appreciate the great gifts you’ve given me in the in sacred Scripture, the sacraments, the testimony of the holy lives of so many saints and in my own life through the work of your grace in my soul. Help me to share these gifts with the people I encounter by living what I profess  and by having the courage to speak about my faith.

Daily Note

Faith is the leap into the water, now with the lived experience that there is One who can and will catch you—and lead you where you need to go! Religion, in some sense, is a necessary first half of life phenomenon. Faith is much more possible in the second half of life, not necessarily chronologically but always spiritually. As the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wisely said, “Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward.”

 

 

A Fuller Life

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Daily Reflection – 10/11/19

Sacred Scripture

When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven. But he knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons. If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, ‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that person is worse than the first.” ( Luke 11:15-26)

Reflection

Once he has answered his critics, Jesus moves on to exhort his listeners to fill their lives with the kingdom of God, because it is possible that despite the exorcism, if a person persists in his old ways, he will be possessed once again and this will be ever worse than before. Filling our lives with the kingdom of God leads us again to a perspective on why prayer has to be part of our daily life..

We are encouraged always to pray with hope and persistence, believing that we always get something. In the asking is the receiving and we never leave prayer worse off than when we began.

Any time we give to prayer we get something. We are transformed. St Ignatius speaks of the effect of prayer – an increase in faith, hope and love. We may not get the specific intention but we always get the Holy Spirit. I have never left prayer the poorer than when I went. Knock and the door will be opened ….in the knocking itself something is opened. In asking and seeking we get something. The first gift of prayer is the love of God. Other gifts follow.

Prayer increases our trust in God. I pray to change me. I pray in order to allow God to work in me and transform me. I pray to be freed from unhealthy desires, to recognize God’s will and workings in my life, and to be soft and receptive enough to accept what God is trying so hard to give.

Jesus does teach persistence in prayer and says that those who ask will receive. But notice what he says they will get. He says that even more than a father would give his son good things, so much more will God give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. He does not say God will give wealth, physical healing, a sports team win, or whatever the petitioner requests. That’s a very different premise.

So I’ve realized that God will never give me everything I want. Instead, God will give me everything I need. God will give me patience, strength, peace, wisdom, knowledge, sensitivity, perseverance, faith, and more. God will give me the Holy Spirit. When I open myself to pray and allow God to work, God molds me into a better person. In fact, I often end up surrendering whatever I was so certain I wanted, because God knows what is best anyway, and I can trust that.

Remember, Jesus certainly didn’t have everything that someone in his day would want. But he had the Spirit of God alive within him, and every time he prayed, he deepened in relationship to the Abba God who loved him and sustained him. That is what allowed him to be effective, healing, strong, and prophetic. That is what gave him what he needed to endure suffering, betrayal and death.

That is what prayer is all about. It is not a laundry list of “give-me” requests. It is a deepening in relationship so that I can become ever more like Christ. When I ask for that, I will most surely receive.

Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus, be the ruler of my heart and the master of my home. May there be nothing in my life that is not under your lordship.

 Daily Note

We affirm what Scripture tells us, and particularly what Jesus tells us in this passage: that we are invited into relationship with a loving God who wants to give us life, and who continues to work tirelessly for our redemption and that of all creation. That is what prayer is about. That is what a life with Christ is about.

It’s All About You and Him

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Daily Reflection – 10/10/19

Sacred Scripture

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”(Luke 11:5-13)

Reflection

Why is there so much interest in prayer and yet so little praying? The first part of that question is rather easy to answer.  There is much interest in prayer because God is very interested in us and is calling each of us into relationship with him. We are made for heaven and this life on earth is but the time and place of our pilgrimage—the journey to our eternal home to be with him. God himself placed this desire for him on our hearts.

There is a universal call from God to each of us… a call to prayer. That is why there has always existed, on the part of man and woman, the desire to seek him. But we are reminded, this desire does not originate in us, God calls us first. And so those who ask for help in their prayer life should first of all be encouraged—given hope from the fact that their desire to pray comes from God. Our prayer—that is, our spending time with God in conversation—is what God already desires of us and wills for us.

But many people keep looking for a better way to pray… a better method, if you will.  And maybe therein lies the problem—too many of us have an inadequate knowledge of what prayer is.  We are looking for the right method and forgetting that prayer is most of all about relationship—the relationship—prayer is an encounter with the One who made you and desires to be with you.

Prayer really is that simple—not primarily a method, but a relationship—an encounter with the One who made you and loves you. Spend time with Him just as you do with anyone else who you love and with whom you desire to be closer. And always know Who it is you are with.  Let your prayer be humble, urgent, persistent, expectant and faithful. And if at times you find prayer difficult to start, try this… simply praise Him, not for anything He has done for you, but simply for Who He is, giving all glory and honor to Him Who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Prayer of The Day

Dear Jesus, so often I expect you to take care of me without my having to ask. Help me to live my dependence on you through the practice of asking you for my needs. Increase my faith through my prayer so that I see my real dependence on you and how much you do for me.

Daily Note

 Jesus encourages to pray with persistence.  Not just to keep asking, but to have a rhythm of prayer in our lives –   times when we pray, places, spontaneity during the day.  He also gives an indication of what it does for you.  It brings an increase in faith, hope and love. We may not get the specific intention we ask for, but we always get the Holy Spirit. In asking, knocking on God’s door, in seeking, we always find God opening to us, giving us something, and finding a new rootedness in live.