Events That Define Our Lives

Image result for free photo of John 20: 1-2; 11-18

Daily Reflection – 7/22/19

Sacred Scripture

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20: 1-2; 11-18)

 Reflection

There are moments that occur in all of our lives that define who we are.  For most people these moments include their day of birth, choice of life’s work, the choice of marrying or staying single, the birth of children and of course death.    As Christians our lives are also made up of moments or events that define our Christian lives.  These moments mark for us God’s gracious action in our lives. 

On Easter morning Mary Magdalene went to the tomb.  Jesus’ body was gone.  All she could think of was that somebody had stolen His body.  What is so special about Mary, and this passage from the Gospel is that the moments that define her life and make it special are the moments that define our lives too – as the children of God.

Baptism – Like Mary Magdalene, we too have been delivered from the kingdom of Satan.  In baptism the Lord freed us from Satan’s power.  In baptism our Lord called us to follow Him all the days of our lives and be His disciples   

Life at the foot of the cross – As His disciples we have followed Him.  Through the hearing of God’s word we have joined Mary at the foot of the cross.  We have seen our dying savior and we know why He is dying.  He is dying for Mary and He dying for us.  He is dying because of our sins.  He is taking our place, taking our guilt and taking our punishment.  For His sake we have received forgiveness and reconciliation to God.

Standing at the empty tomb – Again with Mary because of her testimony recorded in scripture, we visit the empty tomb.  With the eyes of faith, we believe that Jesus was raised from the dead for our justification, proclaiming our innocence before God.  We share in Mary’s joy and hope in a Savior that will never leave us nor forsake us.  In Jesus we have the hope of eternal life.        

 The first time Mary met Jesus; Jesus proclaimed His victory over Satan by casting out her demons.  At the empty tomb Jesus proclaimed His victory over Satan’s curse on this world – death.  Then Jesus told Mary to go and tell the disciples the good news.    After meeting Jesus, life would never be the same for us.  In our baptism, in our lives lived at the foot of the cross, knowing what Jesus has done for us, having faith in Christ’s resurrection we too join that great cloud of witnesses that has gone before us that proclaims God’s grace in Jesus Christ to the world.  These are the moments that define our lives.

Prayer of The Day

Lord, we praise you for the gift of our lives and for the many blessings in our lives. You are our rock and our salvation; we praise you and thank you for all that we have and all that we are. Help us to never veer from your path and your ways. May we each be good stewards of all that you entrust to us. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Note

Take a moment and ask yourself: When was the last time you experienced the presence of Jesus? Perhaps it simply was a sense that Jesus was present to you? Did you cling to this experience? Did you share your experience with anyone? It is a wondrous gift to see or sense Jesus’ presence and love! At times, this gift may be a direct encounter with Jesus. At other times, we may experience Jesus as another person being attentive or loving with us! Or it may be in the beauty of a sunrise, a hug from a child, a smile from a stranger. Jesus is with us always! However, we have to have open eyes, an open mind and an open heart in every situation in our lives! Otherwise, we most likely will miss seeing Him!!

 

 

 

 

Never Alone

Image result for free photo of Matthew 12: 1-8

Daily Reflection – 7/19/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent? I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12: 1-8)

 Reflection

Jesus did break the rules on rare occasions, as he did in today’s gospel.  He also talked to a Samaritan woman at the well, healed on the sabbath, and defended an adulteress who by their own law should have been stoned to death.  What is the familiar theme that is beginning to emerge from Christ’s acts of healing? 

Love, compassion, and mercy is the common theme that ran throughout Christ’s ministry.  Not that he disregarded the rules entirely, as we can tell in today’s gospel, when he defended both his own actions and that of his disciples, by using the scriptures themselves.

Jesus stood up for his disciples and he is our advocate as well.  The devil accuses us, but Christ defends us.  His goodness is always stronger than the devil’s accusations.  The Pharisees allowed evil into their hearts when they accused Jesus and his disciples of breaking the sabbath.  Love did not rule in their hearts, because they were too busy finding fault with others.  We should remember this the next time we go to find fault with others too.

If I am still fearful of judgment day, then I should stop judging others. Why? Because the Lord said, “Stop judging and you will never be judged. Stop condemning, and you will never be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). If you ever wondered what is required to enter the express lane to Heaven, you now know

God and Jesus both love us in the same way.  Jesus goes to where we are at in life, to bring his love to us personally. At no point in our lives does Jesus abandon us.  What a comfort it is to know that you are not alone.  We journey this way together, and it is a truly beautiful gift.

Prayer of The Day

Lord, make us to walk in your way: ‘Where there is love and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance; where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor annoyance; where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice; where there is peace and contemplation, there is neither care nor restlessness; where there is the fear of God to guard the dwelling, there no enemy can enter; where there is mercy and prudence, there is neither excess nor harshness’; this we know through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Prayer of Francis of Assisi, 1182-1226) 

Daily Note

We are quick to judge!  We are quick to condemn, on and off the road. We are quick to seek out justice, and yet we do not see the wooden beam in our own eye. Christians are called to point out God’s Commandments, to be the light of the world, but we must also point out God’s enormous capacity to forgive our trespasses; to be a sign of hope.  We are called to unite the world with God’s love and truth.

 

His Yoke Brings Us Rest

Image result for free photo of Matthew 11: 28-30

Daily Reflection – 7/18/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)

Reflection

What a beautiful invitation from Jesus!  This passage is worth reading over and over and memorizing so that it can easily be reflected upon during those more difficult moments in life.  We all have those moments.  The moments when we feel overwhelmed and burdened.  It could be we are burdened by some tragedy in life, or it could be we are burdened by the small and monotonous aspects of life.  One of the greatest daily burdens is that of our own sin.  But whatever the case may be, Jesus wants us to hear and believe these words.  “Come to me…” He says.  Come to me no matter what is going on in your life.  Come to me without hesitation and without fear. 

Jesus also promises us that His “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light.”  What does that mean?  Does it mean that coming to Jesus will remove all hardship from our lives?  No, not really.  What it means is that coming to Jesus will enable us to endure and walk through any hardship we encounter in life. 

And what is happening here is a yoke-exchange. In the cross, Jesus takes our inconceivably and unbearably heavy yoke of sin’s condemnation and penalty, and offers us in exchange the easy yoke and light burden of simply trusting him. He does all the work and brings us rest!

“Rest,” not in the sense of cessation from work and struggle, but in the sense of peace of soul, joy and profound happiness. This is the rest that we all long for, the rest that will one day be uninterrupted in the bliss of heaven. We have each met individuals who experience this peace and joy despite their circumstances. Notice that Jesus does not promise to take away the burdens, the trials, the sufferings. But if we take his yoke upon ourselves, if we submit to his plan, his will, his love, he guarantees the joy. If you have never experienced it, then begin today; give him what you know in your heart he is asking of you. Although it may seem uncomfortable at first, as does every yoke, this one brings the lightness of peace and the ease of joy.

Reflect, today, upon this gentle and glorious invitation from Jesus.  Let Him enter into whatever it is that burdens you.  Let Him carry the yoke that you carry and give you, instead, the gentle yoke He has prepared for you.  The cross you bear may not go away, but it will be transformed and made light in His grace.

Prayer of The Day

Blessed Lord, you lead me towards everlasting peace if I will simply follow, but following does not always seem simple. Give me the very things you ask of me: faith, generosity, courage, trust, love. With these gifts and your grace, I will have the strength necessary for the journey.

Daily Note

Today we need to claim this promise in our lives – this promise that He himself will give us rest. This promise is to everyone weighed down by the grind of life. Every moment, wherever we are and whatever we are doing, we need to turn to the Lord and offer to Him the tiredness of the body, mind and soul. And in the evening when we come home, before we go to bed, we must present ourselves to the Lord again. It is not the bed but the arms of the Lord that gives us rest. A person who came for retreat described the big difference in the rest that the Lord gave. He said, “I was always a tensed person. I used to be bothered about many things and my mind never could be still. I could never get good sleep. I would wake up every now and then all through the night. But when I came here for the retreat, I offered my life in the hands of my God. I know my God is in control and that He will turn everything to my good. I began to sleep peacefully in the arms of my Father God.”

This indeed is the finding of every great human search. Not just are we made for rest but that our rest is in God. As St. Augustine prayed, “Our hearts were made for you God. And they shall never find rest until they find their rest in you.”

 

A Father’s Love

Image result for free photo of Matthew 11: 25-27

 

Daily Reflection – 7/17/19

Sacred Scripture

At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him. (Matthew 11: 25-27)

Reflection

Lord, return to me the joy of my childhood! Recreate in me a pure heart. Teach me your ways and protect my innocence.” It took Jesus, childlike, meek and humble of heart, innocent (not naïve) and wise, to reveal the mysteries of who we are and what we are here for. Who are we? A gift from God. What are we here for? Reflect God in our lives. What must I do? Follow the Will of God. 

Knowledge of the Father is the ultimate good man can possess because it corresponds to the deepest longing in the human heart for happiness. Thomas Aquinas tells us that happiness lies in knowing that we possess the good we seek. We call the full knowledge of the good possessed “heaven,” which is our ultimate goal in life.

One of the greatest truths of the Christian faith is that we can know the living God.  Our knowledge of God is not simply limited to knowing something about God, but we can know God personally.  The essence of Christianity, and what makes it distinct from Judaism and other religions, is the knowledge of God as our Father.  Jesus makes it possible for each of us to personally know God as our Father. To see Jesus is to see what God is like.  In Jesus we see the perfect love of God — a God who cares intensely and who yearns over men and women, loving them to the point of laying down his life for them upon the Cross.  Jesus is the revelation of God — a God who loves us completely, unconditionally and perfectly.

One of the greatest truths of the Christian faith is that we can know the living God.  Our knowledge of God is not simply limited to knowing something about God, but we can know God personally.

Jesus also promises that God the Father will hear our prayers when we pray in his name. That is why Jesus taught his followers to pray with confidence, Our Father who art in heaven … give us this day our daily bread.   Do you pray to your Father in heaven with joy and confidence in his love and care for you?

Prayer of The Day

Dear Lord, grant me the grace to possess the wisdom and knowledge that come from union with you while maintaining the childlike dispositions that you ask. Help me to depend on you as a loving child.

Daily Note

 To whom would Jesus not wish to reveal the Father? Has anyone ever lived for whom Jesus did not desire to know the Father and be in heaven? Jesus’ actions – his preaching, his sacrifices and death on the cross – demonstrate that he wants to reveal the Father to everyone. However, he also chooses to need you and me to help him achieve this goal. Do I really desire everyone to know the Father and reach heaven? My actions will answer that question for me.

Strive To Be Loved

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Daily Reflection – 7/16/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And as for you, Capernaum: Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld. For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”(Matthew 11: 20-24)

Reflection

Today’s Gospel is a difficult one to read.

The disciples of Jesus have just returned from their missionary journeys.  Jesus is disappointed that some of the villages did not accept the Gospel preached to them.  Jesus speaks to three cities in which he is especially disappointed because some of Jesus’ greatest miracles were performed in these cities, but the message was not accepted.

The reason Jesus is so disappointed is not that they would not believe but that they refused to have repentance for their lives.  The language Jesus uses here is harsh because these people do not see their need for repentance.  The miracles were a call to reformation. Jesus reminds these peoples it is not possessions that make one great but that their names are written in the Book of Life.  Jesus gave these people the knowledge of the Father. 

The gospel challenges us to make a proactive response to God’s presence in our lives. God is doing wonders in our lives every day. Are we aware of all his blessings? Are they helping us to change our lives? To what extent are we listening to God’s word? How much of it do we try to understand? And how much of it is reflected in our lifestyle? Are we clearly and obviously followers of Christ and his Way?

I wonder if Jesus is ever tempted to question us for not recognizing or appreciating the wonders he is working in our lives and in our world? It is so easy to become jaded. Do we see the many wonders Jesus is working in our world and our lives? Do we even look for them? Or are we so anesthetized with our daily routine that our minds, eyes and hearts are closed to the many wonders in our world? If so, how sad that is! There is so much goodness and beauty in people and in our world. However, we need to have open eyes, minds and hearts to truly see all this goodness! To do that means that we must have the courage to allow God to enter into our lives and seek his help.

Prayer of The Day

Dear God, we pray that You keep reminding us our purpose for which You created us. Give us strength to overcome the worldly temptations which can make us drift from Your Holy Will for us. Amen. 

Daily Note

Our true quality of life does not depend upon income, but rather on our expenses, how much we gave; that is, how we loved. We must come out ahead every single day. Otherwise the day is a loss. A little love produces an abundance of gratitude and understanding. Love is paid in full only with love. We should always strive for positive earnings – to be loved. Are we faithful to our personal commitments with the Lord? Do I know what the Lord demands from me today? Have I put myself in my neighbor’s place and am I willing to give until it hurts? Life is all about grace, and what I do with what the Lord generously gives to me. How do I respond to the Lord’s voice? Listen carefully because “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

 

 

 

 

Reflecting His Message

Image result for free photo of Matthew 10: 34-11:

Daily Reflection – 7/15/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his Apostles: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.’ Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple– amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” When Jesus finished giving these commands to his twelve disciples, he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns. (Matthew 10: 34-11:1)

Reflection

This gospel passage, if taken literally, would cause people to wonder if the Jesus of peace, compassion and love had somehow disappeared and another Jesus had surfaced. But that’s not the case. The Gospel has to be understood in terms of when it was written and why it was written.

Jesus was exhorting the apostles to have courage under persecution. He was aware that his message would not be accepted by everyone, and he warned his followers that members of their own families might be their adversaries. Those who wished to follow in Jesus’ footsteps must be willing to put the gospel before all else — even their own lives. They must be prepared to be treated like the prophets of old who suffered for proclaiming God’s word. The apostles were Christian “prophets” who would speak God’s saving message of the gospel. Whoever offered hospitality to them received Jesus himself and God who sent him, and they would be rewarded for their kindness.

Jesus’ purpose was not to set people against each other.  His hope was to draw all into the Kingdom, where everyone respected and cared for others.  That outcome, however, required conversion.  Not all would accept Jesus’ invitation to change; some, indeed, would oppose it.  

Jesus obviously wished that those sent out to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom realized what might lie before them.  The message of God’s Kingdom would not be seen as good news by many: especially by those with vested interests.

The words of Jesus in this Gospel are crystal clear: whoever receives YOU, receives ME. This Gospel challenges us to live our lives as an ambassador for the One who sends us. If Jesus sends us out into the world, we need to realize it really is Him we represent; so, if we can shift our focus to “less my way; more God’s way” then we’ll have a better chance of reflecting the One we really want others to receive. We want our message to be clear. We want our words to be matched by actions. We want people to see in us a message of Christ . . .  a message of love, compassion and peace. We want them to know the beauty of the Lord so they can receive the amazing mercy, love and grace He offers.

 Prayer of The Day

Lord, I pray for the grace to go forward in faith with you by recognizing your face in the poor, the suffering, the needy and reaching out to them with the same unconditional love that you love me.

Daily Note

Jesus shows that he is not calling us to a love of God that excludes others. The standard of placing God first does not exclude love for mother or father, sister or brother. Once we love God as he deserves, we will learn to love others as they truly deserve. In fact, we merit the vision of the God we cannot see by loving the neighbor we do see.

 

 

 

The Challenge of His Words

Image result for free photo of Matthew 10:16-23

Daily Reflection – 7/12/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his Apostles: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”(Matthew 10:16-23)

 Reflection

In today’s gospel, Jesus is about as candid as can be with his disciples. He tells them that this is my task for you at its grimmest and worst; do you accept it?  This is not the world’s way of offering a job. That’s not a messages that warm the heart. That’s not a message we prefer to hear when the Lord commissions us in his service.  Nonetheless, our privilege is to follow in the footsteps of the Master who laid down his life for us. 

One thing that we should always keep in perspective is why we should follow in His footsteps. Jesus tells his disciples that that they must endure for His sake; but He also make an important point to tell them why they should go through all these things. He tells them that the ones who are willing to endure all these things until the end will be saved.

This is the same thing that we should remember whenever we are going through difficult times or passages in our life. We are doing this so that we can be saved from an eternity without God’s love.

We often are in situations calling us to speak for the glory of God, whether the circumstances demand that we confront evil with our words, express our compassion to those who suffer, or respond to others in any moment moving us to bear witness to the love and wisdom of God.

In actuality, most of the time when we speak up for what is right, or good, or moral, then we usually make other people upset with us.  But this is exactly what Jesus called us to do.  God said the same thing when He spoke through the prophet Hosea saying, ‘for in you the orphan finds compassion.”  We are to care for the least among us, and speak up if they are being mistreated or not properly cared for.

Why should Jesus’ message of love arouse such hostility? The Christian message is counter-cultural. In asking folks to change their lives and lifestyles, there is an upsetting of vested interests and of the status quo. Folks get emotional when that happens.

Are there helps in handling this hostility? There is the promise given here of the Spirit’s assistance. There is the realization that Jesus went through all this and that Jesus asks no more of us than he was willing to do.

Can we expect hostility to our living out the Christian message? Hopefully, yes. If Christian values are to remain a counter-cultural challenge to secular, materialistic society, opposition is inevitable and ought to be joyfully welcomed. That is our calling as Christians.

Prayer of The Day

Lord, help me to patiently and joyfully accept the hardships, adversities, and persecution which come my way in serving you.  Strengthen my faith and give me courage that I may not shrink back from doing your will.

 Daily Note

“Following Jesus” may sound romantic. However, if we truly live as Jesus lived, we may rock some boats and make enemies just as he did. However, we always have a choice. And every morning, we have to make a choice! What is the choice we will make today? If we choose to live and act as Jesus did, we will receive abundant graces! Only we can choose!