Returning The Gift

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Daily Reflection – 7/11/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus sent out the Twelve with the following instructions, “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words — go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of Judgment than for that town.” ( Matthew 10:7-15)

Reflection

There are several saving messages in today’s Gospel. I am struck by this message first : “Without cost you are to give.”

On its face, the words tell us that we are to offer the Gospel to others free of charge. But this action of freely giving the Gospel, includes also giving of ourselves freely. The simple fact is that the Gospel is all about a total free gift to us which requires a total free gift of ourselves to others.  The Gospel is a person, Jesus Christ. And when He comes and lives in us freely, we must then become a total and free gift to others.

To be completely willing to “give” it is summed up in the word “detachment”. The call is to detach ourselves from anything which will prevent us  from engaging in mission. The truth is that most of us are not willing to detach ourselves from the pleasures of life. It is one thing to “live life to the full.” But, in truth, that becomes an excuse. We can not be so busy living life to the full that we fail to see the difference between living in the beauty of the simple gifts of life versus using the material things of life to amplify the beauty of the moment. That’s a fine line that needs to be walked. The danger is that we are surrounded by too many excuses in today’s world that prevent us from stepping out and acting in the name of Christ. They range from the busy-ness of daily life to the demands of working and raising a family to the excesses of society that affluence brings. We all need to ask ourselves when was the last time we stepped out of our lives and our comfort zone and truly did for another that which He would have us do.

And that leads us to the third message . . . “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I believe that the kingdom of God IS at hand. We are called to be his missionaries today, at this moment, at this hour. Our ultimate judgement is based on what we do in this kingdom. It is far more than attending Church, or keeping the precepts of any Church. No, it lies in the quality of what we do for our brothers and sisters who surround us. It lies in the quality of what we do in His name. It is found every time we extend ourselves to another. It is found in every uncomfortable moment when we die a bit to ourselves and live a bit in the hearts of another. It is found in those times when we recognize that much has been given to each of us and much must be returned.

To love Him is to live Him.

Prayer of The Day

Lord, may the joy and truth of the gospel transform my life that I may witness it to those around me. Grant that I may spread your truth and your light wherever I go. 

Daily Note

God gives us his word that we may have life in him.  He wills to work through and in each of us for his glory. God shares he word with us and he commissions us to speak it boldly and simply to others.  Do you witness the truth and joy of the gospel by word and example to those around you?

 

Our Mission Is To Be That Mission

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Daily Reflection – 7/10/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. The names of the Twelve Apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” ( Matthew 10:1-7)

 Reflection

Today, Jesus empowers his disciples. He summons them and then he gives them authority over unclean spirits. They are to drive out these spirits and cure every disease and every illness. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the disciples were in our midst today? 

Imagine yourself as one of these disciples. Jesus is standing right in front of you and giving you these instructions. How do you think you would respond? Would you take Jesus’ words literally? Would you believe that you had been given the power to drive out demons and unclean spirits and to heal the afflicted? Are you anxious or fearful about this call? Or are you raring to go and ready try out your new powers?

The reality is that as Lord of the harvest, he has called each one of us. Our vocation as an apostle, is not a question of our wanting to be one. It is not a question of our talents or compelling feelings for this or that, but of our faith-driven awareness of God asking and our responding. Why are we where we are now in our vocation in life? In our marriage? In a particular lay movement? We can never know fully, for only God knows the depths of his own wisdom. This is the first mystery of the Kingdom that touches each one of us personally: God called, he willed it, and we said “yes.” This is the only answer an apostle must seek. Anything else slows down the mission and interrupts the dialogue of love and service to the mission.

Our Mission as disciples of Jesus is not merely a spiritual enterprise and not only to a select view. It is a practical mission, which includes the material, economic and tangible areas of people’s lives, and must include all. As disciples called to Mission we are called to make the world we live in a better place for everyone. We are asked to be conduits of his peace and his love. We are asked to stand against those who seek to challenge his command of love. We are asked to be reflections of His teachings in all that we do.

 Prayer of The Day

Lord, help my faith in You and my love of You to be deep, stable and strong. Help me to love You first and foremost out of a pure love for You. Teach us to be Your faithful missionaries in word and in action. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.

 Daily Note

Jesus wanted ordinary people who could take an assignment and do it extraordinarily well.  He chose these men, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming under his direction and power.  When the Lord calls us to serve, we must not think we have nothing to offer.  The Lord takes what ordinary people, like us, can offer and uses it for greatness in his kingdom.  Do you believe that God wants to work through and in you for his glory?

 

 

 

 

This Is YOUR Call

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Daily Reflection – 7/9/19

Sacred Scripture

A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus, and when the demon was driven out the mute person spoke. The crowds were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.” Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Matthew 9:32-38)

Reflection

The harvest is rich but the laborers are few, so asks the Lord of the harvest to send laborers to his harvest. That was then but not much has changed has it?

Today, the harvest is as big as ever; people are as lost and rudderless as they have ever been in spite of the great strides in knowledge we have made. Where are the laborers? They are not just those who minister. That is a very narrow concept of laborers. Every single baptized person is called, in some way, to be a harvester, to help people find and experience the truth and love that God gives in Jesus. Every single person, in that sense and it is a very real sense, has a vocation, a call to serve and to build the Kingdom.

Today and every day, Jesus is calling us to go out and care for the people who are in need: individuals who are filled with sorrow, pain, or loneliness. Jesus is calling us today to choose to see as he sees. Instead of merely glancing over people as the Pharisees did, our God calls us to peer into the hearts of the people around us: our friends, family, co-workers, and lovers.

He asks us to be present and enter into a relationship, however brief, with the cashier at the grocery store, the annoying customer at work, and that one person whom it would just take too much to completely forgive.

In truly seeing others, being present to them, and investing time in them, regardless of who they are, I believe Christ wants to show us something absolutely incredible: his own love and commitment to us. No matter how ordinary we may seem to ourselves, our God is madly in love with us exactly as he sees us and he wants to serve and love us with all of himself. Heaven is closer than we think. We don’t have to make up stories about a heaven of pink clouds. The heaven that awaits us has its counterpart here on earth—human love and the beauty of nature; the vision of beauty we see there will be magnified and known in all its levels of glory!

In our own calling to evangelize, we can ease the sufferings of a weary world by being heaven to others through our own daily “face to face”–paying attention to the needs of those around us.

That kind of love demands a response. A response to see as he sees and love as he loves.
How will you respond to his love today?
How will you respond to Jesus’ call?  Will you follow Him or will you ignore or dismiss Him? 

Prayer of The Day

Lord, may your kingdom come to all who are oppressed and in darkness. Fill my heart with compassion for the lonely, the oppressed, and for those around me who do not know your love and freedom. Use me to bring the good news of your saving love and mercy. 

Daily Note

God calls each of us to be his hands and feet. Sometimes, that calling even transcends borders we are comfortable with. Either way, the call is always one and the same. To build the kingdom. To partner with him in the task. To make his dream and vision a concrete and tangible reality. All of us are encouraged to take our place in the grand story. You will be overwhelmed with tasks at hand, as Jesus was. You will perform miracles which will move hearts, as Jesus did. Ask God to send out laborers for the harvest, and be prepared. Because the first one he will send will be you.

 

 

 

 

The Cost of Faith

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Daily Reflection – 7/8/19

Sacred Scripture

While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples. A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” And from that hour the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, “Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they ridiculed him. When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose. And news of this spread throughout all that land. ( Matthew 9:18-26)\

Reflection

Today’s gospel is a beautiful presentation of two miracles, a healing and a revival and restoration of life. These miracles were worked by Jesus as reward for the trusting faith of a synagogue ruler and of a woman with a hemorrhage. Though the ruler trusted Jesus out of desperation and the woman’s faith may have been a bit superstitious, even their defective faith was amply rewarded.

To me, three distinct messages arise from this Gospel:

Christ the Teacher:  Faith – belief in Jesus as Savior, trust in his goodness and omnipotence – unleashes the transforming power of God’s grace in our lives. God is not a soft drink dispenser – we don’t pay the price of a few rote prayers and rituals, press a button, and get divine grace in exchange. God is a person; faith is our relationship with that person. We are created to know and love him and to share in his knowledge and love, but to do that we have to trust in him.

Christ As A Friend:  St. Matthew shows us a Jesus who is utterly approachable. A sick woman is unafraid to fight through the crowds so she can reach out and touch the tassel on his cloak, and her confidence is rewarded. A synagogue official feels perfectly comfortable inviting Jesus into his house to resolve a tragic family crisis, and Jesus complies, taking the little girl’s hand in his own and restoring her to life. This illustrates the message of the Incarnation. God is close to us; he is with us. He wants us to approach him – he wants us to open our hearts to him. If we are willing to accept the friendship of Christ, we never have to be alone.
Christ In My Life We recover slowly from “the hemorrhages” that disrupt our lives and our peace. Unlike the little girl, we typically are not brought back to life in an instant. Rather, this may take longer than we like. And while we are waiting and hoping to come back to life, we may feel hopeless and alone. Yet, if we trust in Jesus, he will take our hand and we will arise. More likely, the reality is that Jesus already is holding our hand. We simply are unaware of it.

 Prayer of The Day

Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with and thank you for the gift of our lives. Help us to see every life as a great gift, no matter how young or old. Lord, increase our faith and hope in you, so that we too may have an unshakable faith, one in which no one could bring us down. 

 Daily Note

Today, will we reach out to touch Jesus’ cloak? Or will someone else intercede for us and beg Jesus to bring us back to life? Or we may intercede for another person and ask Jesus to heal the one who is in pain. Truly, Jesus is with us! Jesus is healing us and bringing us back to life! Do we trust Him?

 

 

 

How Will We Answer That Call?

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Daily Reflection – 7/5/19

Sacred Scripture

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. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”( Matthew 9: 9-13)

Reflection

This is a very short story in the Gospel of Matthew. But it is packed with teaching for all of us.

When Jesus called Matthew, Matthew stood up and left his livelihood to follow the Lord. The call of Jesus led to Matthew’s conversion. No longer did Matthew stand as a traitor and a cheat Jesus didn’t mind getting himself “dirty” with the outsiders. While he honored and kept the Jewish Law, he did not mind making himself unacceptable in the eyes of the Pharisees for the good of those he served. As much as the Pharisees defined themselves as exclusive, Jesus became inclusive. He reached out to the undesirable and the untouchable. He wanted to bring them into the Kingdom.

We learn that we are all acceptable to Jesus, just as we are. He doesn’t lay down any preconditions, we don’t need to be ‘better people’ or more holy. You are OK just as you are, and so am I. And God loves us how we are, right now, in this moment. That is so powerful! Regardless of your self-image, regardless of what another says, you know that you are loved by God. That is a gift that needs remembering every day.

Jesus doesn’t turn away the sinners in search for a saint. He calls us sinners to follow him because he can heal us. We are imperfect. We are sinners. We are in need of Jesus’ mercy. But the thing is, Jesus knows that and doesn’t care. He will give us his love and forgiveness. He will call us in his name. And the most important thing that we should take out of the Gospel today is that when Jesus called Matthew to follow him, Matthew did. He didn’t dilly-dally, he didn’t pause to consider if he wanted to leave his profitable profession; he just stood up and followed Christ. When Jesus calls you to follow him, even though we are sinners, even though we have a lot of baggage we would have to leave behind, would you drop everything and follow him?

When Jesus called Matthew, he defined his ministry. Jesus reached out to those whom society disdained. In doing so, he did not compromise his values for the Kingdom. He exercised them. After all, God’s reign is for all, not the elite or the pious or the moral.

Jesus challenges us to do the same. To reach out. To show respect. To gather into the Kingdom.

While we might not be called to leave our homes or occupations to follow Jesus, his call demands personal change. How has Jesus called you? How has he changed you?

Prayer of The Day

You are true goodness and life, Lord. Closeness to you brings peace and joy. You deserve all of my trust and my love. Thank you for the gift of life, my family and above all of my faith.

Daily Note

Jesus is the Healer and Physician Who will transform our self-centered minds but most especially our hearts so that we may have a character that is based on His compassion and His love rather than one that seeks compliance to the law and standards set only by man’s. He will give us the grace and spirit to discern the goodness and the very purpose of everyone whom He should decide to bring into His church.

Let us always be reminded of the words of Jesus:  “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” 

 

The Healing Power of Love

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Daily Reflection – 7/4/19

Sacred Scripture

After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to men. (Matthew 9:1-8)

Reflection

To understand this gospel we need to be aware of the close links that the people of the time saw between sickness and sin. Sickness, especially a chronic sickness, was often seen as a punishment for sin, either the sin of the person himself or of a parent. We remember, in John’s gospel (chapter 9), how the people asked Jesus if the man was born blind because of his own sin or the sin of his parents. Similarly, after Jesus had healed a man crippled for 38 years, he told him not so sin again, for fear something worse might befall him (John 5:14).

In telling the paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven Jesus was going to the root of his problem. We can probably say that sin in some form or other is at the root of all our problems. Jesus had been challenged for telling the man his sins were forgiven. To prove that he had the power to do this, he cured the man’s paralysis, which, in the minds of the onlookers, was the result of his sin. If there was no more paralysis, which was caused by sin, then the sin had been taken away too.

Nowadays, we do not see something like paralysis or a physical handicap as a punishment from God. We do not believe that God works like that. On the other hand it is likely that many health problems which we have can be linked with a disharmony in our lives arising from a conflict between what we are truly meant to be and what we tend to be. We refer to some sicknesses as ‘dis-eases’. They are the result of harmful stress when we are out of harmony with ourselves, with other people and with our environment. In that sense, we can see a clear link between sin and sickness.

Perhaps if we looked at our own lives we might see that some of our physical and mental ailments are due to a lack of harmony between God and others and our surroundings. Let’s think about that today.

Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus, through your merciful love and forgiveness you bring healing and restoration to body, soul, and mind. May your healing power and love touch every area of my life — my innermost thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and memories. Pardon my offences and transform me in the power of your Holy Spirit that I may walk confidently in your truth and righteousness.

Daily Note

Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.

What a dramatic … command. It is a command, a loving order given to someone who is waiting for such a freedom. And aligning with Jesus Christ, placing ourselves under his lordship and command, is indeed a freedom in comparison with the long, unjust expectations of ourselves and the naysaying “scribes” in our lives. At which point, we accept the experience of forgiveness, and move toward “home.”

 

Will You Stand or Hide ?

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Daily Reflection – 7/3/19

Sacred Scripture

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So, the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again inside, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”(John 20:24-29)

Reflection

I wonder how many of us see ourselves mirrored in those disciples who preferred to live, trapped by their inhibitions, avoiding contact with a hostile environment, and by that very attitude running the risk of not meeting the Risen Lord, and losing the opportunity to regain their joy?

As Christians we live to proclaim our faith in him, without fear or complexes. It is just not possible to know that Jesus is risen and live as if he were still dead. If we really believe that Jesus is alive, we cannot remain silent, closing ourselves in our houses and running away from giving testimony. If we are silent about what we have experienced, we condemn Jesus to anonymity and we rob the world of God’s pardon. We cannot stand by and allow the evils of the world to dominate. We are called to make our voices loud in all that our Savior taught.

And not only that but the witnesses of the Risen Jesus know that they are sent into a hostile world with the precise task of pardoning it. Jesus is risen to a new life without end. He has conquered sin and death, hatred and division. For this very reason, his witnesses cannot limit themselves to proclaiming him by word. They have to perform new deeds, and there is nothing more new, more life-giving, more divine that the offer of universal forgiveness.

The Christian who cannot forgive is not a living witness of the resurrection. It does not matter what evils the world may have caused him, because his capacity for forgiveness does not depend on the evil suffered but on the mandate of Jesus and the gift of his Spirit. The pardon we succeed in giving and the peace we restore will be the best proof of the resurrection of Jesus. If there is one thing needed in our world, in our society and in our hearts, it is to live reconciled, inwardly at peace, healed in the very depth of our being.

Bringing peace and reconciliation is the practical and effective way of believing in the resurrection of Jesus. We will know that Jesus is alive without needing to touch his risen body, and we will feel in our hearts his life-giving breath, if we live by the pardon we have received and if we give life through deeds of reconciliation among men. The Christian who has used his hands to pardon has no need to touch the Risen Lord. He lives by his Spirit and for his mission. Nothing else is needed in order to believe. Happy are we if we know that Christ is alive. We live at peace in ourselves and we bring peace to the world!

Prayer of The Day

Dear Jesus, I beg You to pour your grace upon me so that each time I have difficulty understanding other Christian brothers and sisters in community I may have the wisdom to turn to You instead. So that I may in the process be able to see You in them, so that I may be able to serve You and them and not my own interests and concerns. Amen.

Daily Note

The only way we can live up to our discipleship in Christ is by seeing the goodness of one another, by seeing Jesus in each other, by being reconciliatory rather than authoritative and trying to force others to be obedient to man’s own concocted words rather than God’s Word, by being humble and accepting our shortcomings.  In the same vein, we should be able to accept that all of us are inherently imperfect (just like Thomas’ and his unbelief) and would need to change and improve for the better so that our work for the Lord may to some degree reach a level of perfection.