Emptying Means Filling

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Daily Reflection – 9/11/19

Sacred Scripture

Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.” (Luke 6: 20-26)

 Reflection

Luke’s account of the beatitudes is a little different from the better know version that Matthew offers. In these passages, for instance, Luke is a little more concrete, a little more focused on those who are in actual need. So while Matthew records Jesus as blessing those who are “poor in spirit” and “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” in Luke Jesus attends to the more immediate and physical dimension of our lives: blessed are you “who are poor” and “who are hungry now.”

Moreover, while Matthew has only blessings, Luke also adds “woes” or warnings to those who are rich and full and content and, apparently, have little regard for those who are doing without.

Why the differences?

I find helpful to remember that the gospels are always as much or more confession as they are history. That is, as we saw from the very beginning of Luke’s story, he is offering his “orderly account” in order to confirm his community in what they have learned about Jesus.

Jesus begins his teaching on the way of the kingdom of heaven by addressing the issue of where true happiness is found. The word beatitude literally means happiness or blessedness. Jesus’ way of happiness, however, demands a transformation from within — a conversion of heart and mind which can only come about through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

How can one possibly find happiness in poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution? If we want to be filled with the joy and happiness of heaven, then we must empty ourselves of all that would shut God out of our hearts. Poverty of spirit finds ample room and joy in possessing God alone as the greatest treasure possible. Hunger of the spirit seeks nourishment and strength in God’s word and Spirit. Sorrow and mourning over wasted life and sin leads to joyful freedom from the burden of guilt and oppression. God reveals to the humble of heart the true source of abundant life and happiness. Jesus promises his disciples that the joys of heaven will more than compensate for the troubles and hardships they can expect in this world. Thomas Aquinas said: No person can live without joy. That is why someone deprived of spiritual joy goes after carnal pleasures. Do you know the joy and happiness of hungering and thirsting for God alone?

Prayer of The Day

Dear God, make us mindful of those with less; more than that, use us to demonstrate your love and special concern for all those who suffer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Daily Note

When we are struggling with the woes, it may be helpful to sit down and focus on the blessings we are experiencing at this time. This may give us some perspective. We may realize that even though life may not be what we would like it to be, we receive many blessings every single day. True, they may seem like small blessings: a smile, a phone call from a friend, the beauty of the sunset or a hug from someone you love, but they still are blessings.

When you are in the woes of life, look for beauty, laughter, or quiet, or ask God for a hug! Who knows: you may be surprised what gift you may receive!

 

Follow The Pattern of God

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Daily Reflection – 9/10/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. And he came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground. A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured. Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all .(Luke 6: 12-19)

Reflection

Luke makes special mention of the personal prayer of Jesus at all the important events in his life, and so Luke portrays Jesus as praying before his baptism, before his temptation, after a hard day’s work of preaching, teaching and healing and just before his choice of the Twelve. Jesus knows that even though humans will be weak and fail, even though they will deny and betray him again and again, he would still want them to collaborate with him in bringing about the kingdom.
Our Scripture reading is a beautiful story that moves from night to morning to afternoon. Jesus spent the night alone in prayer and meditation with God. In the morning, He gathered His apostles around Him and formed a community. In the afternoon, with His apostles, He went out and preached the Word and healed the sick.
Notice the order – from prayer to community to ministry.
So often we want to do things in the opposite order. If something doesn’t work, we go to others and ask for their help. And, if that doesn’t work, then we start praying.
But the order that Jesus teaches us is the reverse. It begins by being alone with God in prayer and meditation; then it creates a fellowship, a community of people who support us; and finally this community goes out together to heal and to proclaim good news.
Prayer, community, and ministry. That is the pattern by which God acts and speaks through us. That is the pattern God uses to make great things happen. That is the pattern through which we become the hands and mouths of God.

 Prayer of The Day

Holy and loving Father, stir my heart with a deeper yearning for prayer. I need your guidance every day, so please dear Lord, bless me with the discipline of daily fervent prayer. Particularly in those times when I face very hard decisions, have your Holy Spirit stir my spirit with a longing to come into your presence and find my guidance and peace in you. In Jesus’ name, and because of Jesus’ example, I pray. Amen.

Daily Note

The Lord did not find friends the day he consecrated them Apostles. He made them his friends. He opened their hearts to the Father’s heart. He opened their minds to God’s holy Will. He strengthened their faith with the Holy Spirit. He made them his friends. He entrusted to them the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. He entrusted to them the keys of salvation. He shared with them his love, mercy and compassion. He spilled his blood for them so that they would learn to spill their blood for us. This is the life of Christ. This is the life of the Apostles. This is our life as Christians. To open our hearts to the word of God. To learn that our best friend is Jesus Christ. To give ourselves to Him as did His apostles. This is our faith. This should be our life.

 

 

 

His Day or Our Way?

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Daily Reflection – 9/9/19

Sacred Scripture

On a certain Sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the Sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up and stand before us.” And he rose and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” Looking around at them all, he then said to him, “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: 6-11)

Reflection

The scribes and Pharisees wanted to catch Jesus in the act of breaking the Sabbath ritual so they might accuse him of breaking God’s law.  In a few penetrating words Luke records that Jesus knew their thoughts.  They were filled with fury and contempt for Jesus because they put their own thoughts of right and wrong above God.  They were ensnared in their own legalism because they did not understand or see the purpose of God. 

Jesus shows their fallacy by pointing to God’s intention for the Sabbath: to do good and to save life rather than to do evil or to destroy life.  Christians celebrate Sunday as the Lord’s Day, to commemorate God’s work of redemption in Jesus Christ and the new work of creation he accomplished through Christ’s death and resurrection. Taking “our sabbath rest” is a way of expressing honor to God for all that he has done for us. 

 Such “rest” however does not exempt us from our love for our neighbor.  If we truly love the Lord above all else, then the love of God will overflow to love of neighbor as well.  Do you honor the Lord in the way you celebrate Sunday, the Lord’s Day and in the way you treat you neighbor?

Or are we more like the Pharisees in Luke’s story than we care to admit? How have we managed to turn God’s gift of the Sabbath into a burden?

One could argue, for instance, that we have gone to the opposite extreme of the Pharisees. There are no restrictions on what we can do on our Sabbath day. Our kids have soccer and baseball. The stores are open. Sundays for many is a day to catch up on chores and projects around the house. And worship? That becomes one more thing to squeeze into a busy day.

Jesus says that the Sabbath was made for humankind. It is meant to be life-giving, not life-draining. It is meant to be a gift, a time apart from the relentless demands of daily life, a time to rest in God’s presence, a time to savor the goodness of God’s creation and celebrate God’s deliverance, a time to do what is good and what gives life.

The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath. What might our Sabbaths look if we truly followed his rule of loving one another?

Prayer of The Day

Lord, in your victory over sin and death on the cross and in your resurrection you give us the assurance of sharing in the eternal rest of heaven. Transform my heart with your love that I may freely serve my neighbor for his good and find joy and refreshment in the celebration of Sunday as the Lord’s Day.”

Daily Note

We might tend after reading this story to condemn the Pharisees and scribes. However, we too often behave as they did. How often do we attend church with others, pray together, sing together and discuss our love of God together and then, as soon as we leave Church , we return to the same people issues we had before we entered Church — finding fault with others, not forgiving others, and generally acting as our Sunday worship was a nice interlude but in truth not part of our lives.

 

 

 

 

His Day or Our Way ?

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Daily Reflection – 9/9/19

Sacred Scripture

On a certain Sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the Sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up and stand before us.” And he rose and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” Looking around at them all, he then said to him, “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: 6-11)

 Reflection

The scribes and Pharisees wanted to catch Jesus in the act of breaking the Sabbath ritual so they might accuse him of breaking God’s law.  In a few penetrating words Luke records that Jesus knew their thoughts.  They were filled with fury and contempt for Jesus because they put their own thoughts of right and wrong above God.  They were ensnared in their own legalism because they did not understand or see the purpose of God. 

Jesus shows their fallacy by pointing to God’s intention for the Sabbath: to do good and to save life rather than to do evil or to destroy life.  Christians celebrate Sunday as the Lord’s Day, to commemorate God’s work of redemption in Jesus Christ and the new work of creation he accomplished through Christ’s death and resurrection. Taking “our sabbath rest” is a way of expressing honor to God for all that he has done for us. 

 Such “rest” however does not exempt us from our love for our neighbor.  If we truly love the Lord above all else, then the love of God will overflow to love of neighbor as well.  Do you honor the Lord in the way you celebrate Sunday, the Lord’s Day and in the way you treat you neighbor?

Or are we more like the Pharisees in Luke’s story than we care to admit? How have we managed to turn God’s gift of the Sabbath into a burden?

One could argue, for instance, that we have gone to the opposite extreme of the Pharisees. There are no restrictions on what we can do on our Sabbath day. Our kids have soccer and baseball. The stores are open. Sundays for many is a day to catch up on chores and projects around the house. And worship? That becomes one more thing to squeeze into a busy day.

Jesus says that the Sabbath was made for humankind. It is meant to be life-giving, not life-draining. It is meant to be a gift, a time apart from the relentless demands of daily life, a time to rest in God’s presence, a time to savor the goodness of God’s creation and celebrate God’s deliverance, a time to do what is good and what gives life.

The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath. What might our Sabbaths look if we truly followed his rule of loving one another?

Prayer of The Day

Lord, in your victory over sin and death on the cross and in your resurrection you give us the assurance of sharing in the eternal rest of heaven. Transform my heart with your love that I may freely serve my neighbor for his good and find joy and refreshment in the celebration of Sunday as the Lord’s Day.

Daily Note

We might tend after reading this story to condemn the Pharisees and scribes. However, we too often behave as they did. How often do we attend church with others, pray together, sing together and discuss our love of God together and then, as soon as we leave Church , we return to the same people issues we had before we entered Church –finding fault with others, not forgiving others, and generally acting as our Sunday worship was a nice interlude but in truth not part of our lives.

 

 

Following Means Leaving Behind

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Daily Reflection – 9/6/19

Sacred Scripture

The scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same; but yours eat and drink.” Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” And he also told them a parable. “No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. Otherwise, he will tear the new and the piece from it will not match the old cloak. Likewise, 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. And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.'” (Luke 5: 33-39)

Reflection

In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers all those present a challenge. Both images – the cloth and the wineskins – emphasize the idea that in order to embrace his message we need to think “outside the box”.

It is so tempting to criticize and judge others on the basis of what we “see and observe.” This is exactly what the Pharisees do in today’s Gospel. In their eyes, Jesus should be more ascetical. He should be more like John the Baptist, eating locusts and wild honey!! We all have our own standards of what we think is best and how others should act. However, I assume that most of us don’t appreciate it when another person criticizes or judges us simply by observing our behavior!

Jesus invites his listeners to look at the situation in a different way. He tells them that he is doing something new. Are we open to the “new” that Jesus may be inviting us to? This may be an uncomfortable invitation. Like the Pharisees, I can get comfortable with the way things have always been. I may be tempted to criticize another person who is not doing things the way I think they “should” be done. Jesus is challenging the Pharisees, and us, to be “open” to other ways of doing things. He is challenging them not to judge others so quickly. Today may we be mindful of not “jumping to judgment!”

To follow Christ and his “Good News” truly, we need to leave behind what St. Paul called the “old self” in order to be new creatures in Christ (Colossians 3:9-10). For the Pharisees, that would have meant leaving behind their strict formalism and judgmental attitude. For Levi and his friends, it meant abandoning their worldliness and sinful lifestyle. Making a break with our old self is difficult – the “old wine” is what we’re used to – but we have to take the step of recognizing in what our old self consists and deciding to leave that behind to embrace Christ’s message, which is always challenging, ever new.

 Prayer of The Day

Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit, that I may grow in the knowledge of your great love and truth.  Help me to seek you earnestly in prayer and fasting that I may turn away from sin and willfulness and conform my life more fully to your will. May I always find joy in knowing, loving, and serving you. 

Daily Note

The Lord gives us wisdom so we can make the best use of both the old and the new. He doesn’t want us to hold rigidly to the past and to be resistant to the new work of his Holy Spirit in our lives.  He wants our minds and hearts to be like the new wine skins — open and ready to receive the new wine of the Holy Spirit.  Are you eager to grow in the knowledge and understanding of God’s word and plan for your life?

 

 

If He Asks, Will You Say Yes?

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Daily Reflection – 9/5/19

Sacred Scripture

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 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. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.(Luke 5:1-11)

Reflection

Jesus shows his mastery over the hearts of men (the crowd was “pressing round” him to hear him speak) and over the forces of nature (they caught a “huge number of fish”). Yet when he asks Peter to “put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch,” the future Apostle complains before he obeys. However, many times God shows himself worthy of our trust (creation, the Incarnation, the Passion, the Resurrection, the sacraments – what more could he have done to win us over?), we still hesitate to do things his way. We need to acknowledge him as Lord not only with our lips, but with our hearts as well, and with our decisions.

This applies not just to our apostolic endeavors, but it also applies to our moral lives. Many times, the Christian tradition’s teaching on controversial moral issues is hard to understand on a merely natural level, especially when the prevailing culture bombards us with contrary views. In those moments especially, we need to realize that the life we are called to live surpasses our natural capacities. To experience the wonderful action of God’s grace in our lives, we have to bolster our natural understanding with supernatural faith (we need both faith and reason – either one without the other is not Christianity), and then we, like Peter, will draw in a wondrous catch.

We need to remember also that we are called to catch men for Christ. Consider, for a moment, the state of the world around us. Consider this city we are in, and the cities and towns nearby. Consider the frightful nature of the world, of the overflowing cup of evil all around us. Consider the huge numbers of confused and frightened people, darting this way and that, like frightened fishes in a great dark sea. Some, though perhaps not all, would doubtless find peace and joy if they could but find Christ, in the fullness in which we find Him. We need only lower our nets, as Christ bids us, and we can catch them for Him. How do we do this?

We can do it by witnessing for Christ through the lives that we lead. If we are kind, patient, and generous towards our neighbors, that in itself is the beginning of our witness. If we are models of Christian piety in our lives, praying and remaining close to His teachings that too is a witness and will attract a larger catch. Finally, we must not be ashamed of Christ’s Church by hiding it from those around us. Let each of us also put aside all those things that distract us from our real purpose in this life, let us leave those things, as the Gospel says, and, like the Apostles, follow Christ and, in our following, draw others closer to Him.

 Prayer of The Day

Deliver us, O Lord, from everything that clouds our understanding of You. We know we cannot see you in Your glory and Your majesty until the end of time; but may we never be satisfied until we have explored every means to know You more and know You better. Give us a thirst for You and for Your will that is never quenched until we see You in glory either on this earth or in the heavens.

 Daily Note

Remember that God’s ways are not our ways.  Sometimes, when we pray, we end up telling God what He should be doing.  And when we hear God talking to us, we think His ideas are bad ideas.  When Jesus asks us to do something for Him, we should listen.  And through the grace that we receive in our daily living, we should speak as Peter speaks, and say to Jesus, But if you say so, I will….”

 

Knowing Me Better Than I Do

 

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Daily Reflection – 9/4/19

Sacred Scripture

After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her. He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them. At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him. He laid his hands on each of them and cured them. And demons also came out from many, shouting, “You are the Son of God.” But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Christ. 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. But he said to them, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.” And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.( Luke 4:38-44)

 Reflection

You know what struck me as I meditated on this scripture?

It was that The Lord gave himself; his time and attention, to every single soul that sought Him.  It is this extraordinary fact and highly inefficient tactic that made Him so loveable, memorable, personable and believable to others.  The Lord had no fears in allowing others to get close to Him; to get to know Him.  This should not be taken lightly. 

 After all, most celebrities keep their distances.  Stages are set well above the crowd. Cameras and microphones allow pop stars to easily communicate with millions of their adoring fans…and get away with it from a distance!   It is for their security.   It is not for their safety; it is for their sake; their image. It’s not to keep them safe and sound but to keep what is hidden from being revealed

“He stood over her”.  The Lord reaches out to us.  And even though He knows us, He continues to love us. Though He was without sin, He does not shy away from us.  Instead, He over reaches to get to us so that we can’t help but touch Him, know Him and be saved by Him.  His light is what shines all over our hearts, minds, body and soul.  His light dispels the darkness in our lives.  

When we leave this earth, how many people will have known us intimately, personally and affectionately?  Two?  Three?  A handful?  Is this a bad thing?  Not at all!  Not at all if it was for good, and better yet if it was for worse.   

Do you realize that the Lord was known intimately by just a few people?  But boy…look at what they did with that knowledge! 

Regardless of how long we live:  ten years, thirty years, fifty years, even one hundred years, we will only be intimately and personally known by just a few.   

Some people may get to know us by our size, height, width, DNA, look or feel or some Freudian measuring stick.  Still others may even get to know us by what we wrote, said and did.  But only a few will ever know us by heart.  And if only a few ever got to know us by heart, then I can truly imagine only One who would have known us better than we knew ourselves; who would have known what we were capable of before we were ever formed in our mother’s womb. 

That is the touch of God !

Prayer of The Day

My Precious Lord. You have put me back on my feet many times of my life and have asked me simply to imitate your life of service. Help me to be generous with the life you have restored in me so that I, too, might put the interests of your Kingdom above my personal plans.

 Daily Note

The passage tells us of the desire for Jesus that we should all have. We should desire that Jesus remains with us 24/7. 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?