Why Is It So Difficult?

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Daily Reflection – 8/13/2020

Sacred Scripture

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan. ( Matthew 18:21 – 19:1)

Reflection

When Peter posed the question of forgiveness, he characteristically offered an answer he thought Jesus would be pleased with.  Why not forgive seven times!  But Jesus countered with the proposition that one must forgive seventy times that.  Jesus made it clear that there is no reckonable limit to forgiveness.

How many times have you or someone you know said, “I want to forgive, but it is just too hard”? It is true, that it is difficult to forgive others who have wronged us, but forgiveness is not supposed to be that hard. I believe that forgiveness is hard because we make it so.. Some don’t want to let go of the memories or the wrongdoing against us. Part of this is a protective measure to make sure that no one can hurt us like that again. Part of it is that some tend to like to play the victim, but self-pity for it is an emotion that can trap us and make us unable to forgive.

Perhaps we need to concentrate on the benefits of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a sign of strength. To free myself from what others think of me; from the opinions of the world; from my own faults and failures; from resentment and revenge. I have nothing to prove to anyone because forgiveness requires courage! “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man…Peter, from now on, you will be a fisher of men!” The Lord is capable of great forgiveness because he knows who he is, and he knows what he must do. He is fully human – a man! He invites us to follow him.

Forgiveness creates space for new life. Forgiveness is an act of hopefulness and resurrection for the one who forgives. It is the healing of our soul and life. Forgiveness takes us out of darkness into light, from death to life. It disentangles us from the evil of another. It is the refusal to let our future be determined by the past. It is the letting go of the thoughts, the hatred, the fear that fill us so that we might live and love again.

Forgiveness is realism. We are all sinners and justice would demand our very own condemnation. But the Lord’s life was a life of forgiveness. He forgave his disciples and his enemies; his people and their occupiers. Most importantly, he forgave our sins and those who sin against us

Forgiveness is equivalent to holiness. Forgiveness is impossible without God’s grace. I can only forgive my enemies and my brothers by an infusion of God’s love for me – a personal experience of God’s mercy towards me, and by a desire to forgive those who sin against me.

Finally, forgiveness is not human; it is Christian.To forgive means to imitate the Lord in his dealings with humanity, a rebellious humanity, that does not seek God but rather its own pleasures even at the expense of others.

We must remember how easily our Father in heaven forgives us each day. Shouldn’t we be able to make this choice as well? I think that the more that we keep in mind how quick God is to forgive us, and the more that we do it, then forgiveness can be an action that comes more easily for us.

Jesus, who insisted that disciples be ready to forgive, does not withhold his own forgiveness from them when they fail to do so.  Jesus understood the human heart and its struggles.  His desire was always to set hearts free. Forgiveness does that.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, you have been kind and forgiving towards me.  May I be merciful as you are merciful.  Free me from all bitterness and resentment that I may truly forgive from the heart those who have caused me injury or grief.”

Daily Note

C.S. Lewis, a contemporary Christian author wrote: “Mercy will flower only when it grows in the crannies of the rock of Justice: transplanted to the marshlands of mere Humanitarianism, it becomes a man-eating weed, all the more dangerous because it is still called by the same name as the mountain variety.”  If we want mercy shown to us we must be ready to forgive others as God has forgiven us.

THE Defining Mark of a Christian

Forgiveness Painting by Deborah Nell

Daily Reflection – 8/12/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18: 15-20)

Reflection

The passage from Matthew was intended to give the early church guidance about how to deal with conflict and broken relationships. This was so important as the Church was in its infancy.

At the heart of this discourse lies the truly defining mark of a follower of Christ. In fact, it is truly part of the DNA left to us in and by Jesus Christ. It’s also the most overlooked, the most abused and he most freely interpreted. It is forgiveness.

Forgiveness is meant to be at the core of who we are, and to be honest with you, if we can’t do it between ourselves in the church, how can we ever be agents of reconciliation in the world? Some of the greatest sadness I bear is the memory of parishes filled with noble, forward thinking charitable people. Yet, there were so many who could not forgive, so many who wore a breastplate of wrongs done against them, so many who bore the weight of past emotional injustice. On the surface some were viewed as pillars of the Church. As I mounted the pulpit on Sundays, I saw the inner pain and lack of forgiveness in their faces while to their fellow parishioners, they were the backbone of the church. Why did that sadden me?

Because the inability to let go, to forgive and to move on leaves a tortured soul. And even more serious is that it is so contra to the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is so contra to His memory. It is so contra to the reason He suffered. He died so that we might live. He taught us that God deeply loves each lost sinner who strays away from. This divine love that forgives and saves should be manifested in our lives. God wants us to love as he loves, even loving those whose sins may have directly harmed us in some way. That is hard.  I know that. But it is the very essence of our faith,

Jesus isn’t interested in who is right or who is wrong. He only cares about getting a broken relationship fixed. Our concerns about who is right and who is wrong often lead to giving up on relationships with others. Our natural response is to wage war with the other person, but that’s not part of the blueprint God has for our lives-and that blueprint is His word in the bible.

When you are offended, are you willing to put aside your own grievance and injury in order to help your brother’s wound? The Lord Jesus wants to set us free from resentment, ill-will, and an unwillingness to forgive. The love of Christ both purifies and sets us free to do good to all – even those who cause us grief. The call to accountability for what we have done and have failed to do is inevitable and we can’t escape it, both in this life and at the day of judgment when the Lord Jesus will return. But while we have the opportunity today, we must not give up on praying for those who cause us offense. With God’s help we must seek to make every effort to win them with the grace and power of God’s healing love and wisdom.

When someone sins against us, we have to look beyond our pain. Indeed, we have to embrace that pain in the redemptive way that Christ shows on the cross. Jesus refuses no one who is open to receive pardon, healing, and restoration.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, make me an instrument of your healing love and peace. Give me wisdom and courage to bring your healing love and saving truth to those in need of healing and restoration.”

Daily Note

The late Jack Layton expressed it so well in the last letter that he wrote to Canadians before he died. He wrote, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So, let us be loving and optimistic, and we’ll change the world”. If we remember his words and the words of Jesus, especially when we are in conflict with our fellow man, we will change the world. Loving our neighbor fulfills any and every other divine command, for genuine love does no harm to its neighbor.

And A Child Leads Us

Like a Little Child Matthew 18:1-5. Kingdom of Heaven Live worthy ...

Daily Reflection – 8/11/2020

Sacred Scripture

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.( Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14)

Reflection

I have always enjoyed this Gospel because its wisdom brings a smile to my face.

The disciples ask Jesus for a criterion so they can measure the importance of the persons in the community: “Who is the greater in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus answers that the criterion are the little ones!

Children in the ancient world had no rights, position, or privileges of their own. They were socially at the “bottom of the rung” and at the service of their parents, much like the household staff and domestic servants. What is the significance of Jesus’ gesture? Jesus elevated a little child in the presence of his disciples by placing the child in a privileged position of honor at his right side. Why ?

Reflect for a moment on all the children in your life. A childlike heart is a Christlike heart. A heart that is innocent, without deceit, forgives easily and exhibits simplicity and credulity. A heart that finds it easy to trust, that embraces its weakness; one that is not worried about the future and totally depends on parents for all needs. Children simply live in the present moment and accept things as they are.  This is an especially beautiful thing they do with people too.  Children accept certain kinds of people that society rejects sometimes, (the homeless, mentally ill, alcoholics, drug addicts, etc.).  Children see the inner beauty of a person, instead of noticing the flaws and shortcomings that most adults notice first in a person.

The simple of heart know that they belong to God – he is their father, teacher, and provider – the one who shows them the way of peace, joy, and life everlasting. They are content to recognize their total dependence on God who is the source of all goodness and every good gift.

Would it not be of great happiness to relate with a childlike heart in our relationship with God and people around us? To relate with the heart of a child it is of great importance that we possess certain qualities, one of those qualities include humility which was not exhibited by the apostles in the gospel of Matthew (18:1-5).

We become humble by focusing on His greatness, not our smallness. The best way to become sensitive to his grace is to spend time with Him: to give thanks to him for what he has done for us, and to learn of his ways. The more we sit at His feet, in fact, the more prepared we’ll be for heaven—because that’s exactly what we’ll be doing for all eternity!

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, teach me your way of humility and simplicity of heart that I may find perfect joy in you. May your light shine through me that others may see your truth and love and find hope and peace in you.”

Daily Note

We can easily fall into the same trap the apostles did if we put serving the Lord ahead of relating to him. He wants us to put him first in our lives, but we can’t do that by running ourselves ragged. His first concern is that we come to know him, and that we are filled with his life-giving Spirit. That’s what will make us vessels of his mercy, doing his will and not worrying so much about the seating arrangement in heaven!

I Die To Live

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Daily Reflection – 8/10/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.” (John 12:24-26)

Reflection

The Gospel passage today establishes two key beliefs of the Christian faith: Christ dies so the fruit of humanity can be reconciled with God and grafted to Him. Implicitly, Jesus also addresses His listeners and readers, too. He gives us the “how” of living a Christian life so that we can, in fact, dwell with Him.

In ministry, we often discuss the concept of dying to self. Yet, to many, it is a pulpit statement. The fact is that it is far from a phrase in preaching. Jesus is offering us a path to life that seems counter intuitive—in order to live, you have to die. It’s not just about keeping the ten commandments. Christianity is not keeping the rules and being somewhat interested in Jesus.

Jesus dying for our salvation is also His design for our imitation. He is saying to us: if you want to be with me then prepare to become like me. Prepare to follow me on the road I am going. How?

By adopting His plans as our plans. Do the things he did. Care about the things he cared about. Christians are those people who see the glorified Jesus and serve him. We are those who are changed by the work of Christ so that we give ourselves to the work of Christ. Christians work the works that God sent Jesus to do. Christians serve Christ and follow Christ by joining in the grain harvest. Serving and following Jesus demand our everything.

The faithful in Christ must die to the self-serving allurement of this world. The allurement of this world, lies in the emphasis of self.  When we die to the ideology of worldly thinking, we gain eternal life in Christ. Jesus is not telling us to forget the life we live in this world. He is telling us, instead, to imitate Him in living it: Mercy, unconditional love, self-giving, forgiveness, welcoming the marginalized, and service to others are ways in which we can imitate Christ. For Jesus states that “Whoever wants to serve me must follow me.”

Our thinking and living must be transformed..  Although our thoughts gravitate toward self-will, self-comfort, and self-satisfaction, the answer lies in the life of Jesus. He provides the road map to living. Through His example and grace, we can all imitate and live a life guided by loving God and neighbor.

When we do that, we are assured that the Father will honor anyone who seeks to live a life modeled on Him. Surely, imitation of Christ is inescapably the standard of Christian perfection.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, help me to choose to follow you with my whole life. I want to empty myself so that I can serve others. I want to bear much fruit for your kingdom!”

Daily Note

We become a Christian by a decisive surrender to Jesus Christ through which, by faith in him, he becomes our Lord. Then comes a lifelong experience of becoming in practice what we are by our position. And that becoming strengthens our  assurance that we are real. If we are not living a life that focuses on being His light to those around us then we are only pretending to be His followers.

It’s All About You, Not Me

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Daily Reflection: 8/7/2020

Sacred Scripture

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct. Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”(Matthew 16:24-28)

Reflection

Over the last two millennia, much has been written about the meaning of taking up our crosses and following Jesus Christ. For me, the second sentence truly completes the message that we are receiving.

Let’s begin with taking up our cross. Our very lives give us a variety of crosses. Some of them are more difficult than others. It is never easy to accept a cross, be that illness, financial worries, family difficulties, depression, joblessness, etc. However, what may be helpful or detrimental to us is how we view our cross. Do we view it as a punishment from God? Or do we believe that crosses simply are part of our lives, just as joy and love are part of our human condition?

The reality of being human means that we will suffer, just as we will experience joy, love, peace and comfort. The gift is: when we are carrying a cross, Jesus is with us and he will help us to carry our cross. Jesus also will grace us with comfort, peace and strength as we deal with our cross.

For that to happen, we must understand that it is Jesus’ will for us to die to our sins, our world and our very own self. To follow Him, He wants us to live His life of compassion, love, mercy and humility. To follow Him is follow His nothingness, His powerlessness and be closest to the ground, the least and the last of all. When we deny our old drives, aspirations, dreams, inclinations and plans and decide to choose God’s will for us, we are actually picking up our cross and carrying it.

By choosing to do God’s will no matter how difficult it could be, we actually lose our old self and we are transformed to the new creation that God has wanted us to be. By giving up our old life, we find our new life in Jesus, our Lord and Savior.Not a lot of us will be asked to die for God’s cause. But what our Lord wants is for us to be able to die to ourselves, again and again, as we do His work and relate with one another. He wants us to yield to His control without any reservation and conditions so that we do not claim any rights whatsoever.

Today, God is calling all of us to give up self and allow Jesus to prevail in every aspect of our lives. He wants us to be firmly founded on Jesus, live His life and allow ourselves to be subsumed by His will, so that we can truly say that we are one with Him and in Him we live and move and have our being!

Prayer of The Day

“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and all my will, all that I have and possess.  You have given them to me; to you, O Lord, I restore them; all things are yours, dispose of them according to your will.  Give me your love and your grace, for this is enough for me.” (Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556)

Daily Note

Everything we have is an out-right gift from God.  We owe him everything, including our very lives.  It’s possible to give God our money, but not ourselves, or to give him lip-service, but not our hearts.  A true disciple gladly gives up all that he has in exchange for an unending life of joy and happiness with God.  God gives without measure. The joy he offers no sadness or loss can diminish.  The cross of Christ leads to victory and freedom from sin and death.  What is the cross which Jesus Christ commands me to take up each day?  When my will crosses with his will, then his will must be done.  Are you ready to lose all for Jesus Christ in order to gain all with Jesus Christ?

It’s Your Mountaintop Too

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Daily Reflection – 8/6/2020

Sacred Scripture

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my  beloved Son; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:1-9)

Reflection

It is difficult to be optimistic right now. The Coronavirus continues cutting its deadly swath around the world. All the economic news is depressing. The partisanship of politics has never seemed so raw and mean spirited. Try as we might, there’s just not enough good news to help us feel positive about the future. It’s hard to see beyond today and believe that the world as we knew it will ever return. How we feel affects the way we look at things and the way we look at the world.

And today comes the Gospel passage describing the Transfiguration. On the mountain Peter, James and John saw that there was more to Jesus than met the eye. During the transfiguration they got a glimpse of the future glory of Jesus’ resurrection. Like them we too get glimpses of the presence of God in our lives. Transfigurations are waiting for us—in the face of a newborn child, in the eyes of someone we love, in a quiet moment of prayer, at the peak of a mountain above the tree line when it seems you can almost see forever, standing in front of a beautiful painting that seizes our imagination. Christ is in each of these peak experiences—we just have to see with the eyes of faith and we’ll catch a glimpse of the glory of Christ which we will one day share.

The good times take us through the bad times. So, when our cross is heavy or when we are tempted to despair about the meaning of life, we should s look beyond the pain of the present moment and remember those times when we got glimpses of God, those times when God sent us his consolations. We need to look beyond the pain of life and see the presence of God in our world.

Jesus shows us God, by showing us what it means to be human. And really being human means being in the muddle and mess that Jesus was in. This is where God is. Peter wanted to grasp the divinity without the failure, but the flash of the divine, the glimpse of meaning, only comes out of the failure. Out of the Cross. There’s no place to find God except in man, and no way to find man except in Jesus Christ.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, I profess and believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God. You are my Lord and my Savior who has set me free from sin and deception. Make my faith strong like the Apostles Peter and Paul and give me boldness to speak of you to others that they may come to know you as Lord and Savior.”

Daily Note

The Cross helps us to recognize Jesus when we meet him in the random encounters we have with those who suddenly need us. There’s no straight and settled road towards God. The coming of the Son of Man is like a lightning bolt, and you never know when the revelation is to be offered to you. Perhaps at the most unlikely moment , just when you’re at your most irritable with that boring, grasping person who needs you. The gospel makes us ready for the sudden transfiguration of such moments; ready to see God, to see Christ in the mess of being human.

In Her Faith Lies Our Challenge

Matthew 15:21-28 28 She was persistent in her plea, stubborn in ...

Daily Reflection – 8/5/2020

Sacred Scripture

At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour. (Matthew 15: 21-28)

Reflection

The persistence of the Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel is remarkable. The response of Jesus is not remarkable but expected. Yet, in His response, lies a challenge for us.

The words of Jesus initially sound so harsh, so mean, so wrong. They are. But maybe they are not about Jesus or the woman. Jesus is naming the reality of the world in which they both live. The reality is that there are children and there are dogs. We see it every day. Some have while many do not. Some are in and others are out. For some life flourishes. Others struggle to make it another day. Children and dogs.

Jesus can be seen as holding a mirror up to the disciples, revealing their prejudice and bigotry and challenging the woman to stand up for her dignity in the face of hatred. Christ, by healing her, sends a strong message to his disciples that he has come both for the Jewish people and the Gentiles as well. It is an interpretation that can see Jesus provoking the woman to boldness in the face of hate.

This interpretation reminds us that human dignity is something that people need to defend. Due to our fallen nature, we can easily fall into the trap of embracing a prejudicial mindset that tears down people based on exteriors. We love to proclaim how we are a people of equality, but a walk through the park or the mall with ears carefully attuned to the conversations around us can reveal otherwise. Whether it be the color of one’s skin, the size of one’s waste line, the cloths that someone is wearing, the limp in the walk of someone with a physical disability, the snide comment with a sexual undercurrent, or the homeless person who hasn’t had a chance to shower in over a week, we can become vicious and treat people like dogs in the bad sense. We need Christ to hold this mirror to our face and be reminded of the dignity that all people possess.

The dignity of the person is the only legitimate end in any society. The rights of the individual precede the rights of the state, or the rights of the majority within a society. If the state or the majority do not ensure the dignity of the individual, they lose moral legitimacy.

Respect for the individual transcends mere legal means. Those in society must foster the virtue of solidarity: to treat others as self. This includes the poor, the disadvantaged, the illiterate. This also includes those who look, think, or act differently. Prejudice based upon social or cultural differences is incompatible with God’s plan. We cannot hold it within us nor should we tolerate any person – regardless of station in life – who treats any one with prejudice or lack of respect for the dignity of another.

God made us all in his image. We all possess the power to choose. When we choose to serve others, especially those different from ourselves, we choose to be formed in God’s likeness. Because we serve God’s creatures in the same way God serves them, we take on divine qualities. We take steps closer to his likeness.

Prejudice, injustice, and social separation promote the likeness of the demon. To battle this image, we all need the faith of the Canaanite woman whose loyalty broke down barriers. May our prayer be as persistent as hers and our trust as strong.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, your love and mercy knows no bounds. May I trust you always and pursue you with indomitable persistence as this woman did. Increase my faith in your saving power and deliver me from all evil and harm.”

Daily Note

The end of solidarity is not the merely a sense of equity between members of a society. Solidarity transcends the material need. The virtue bonds people from different social backgrounds, classes, and cultures together in a common purpose that finds its source in faith.

The Contours of His Heart

Daily Reflection – 8/4/2020

Sacred Scripture

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. As he went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14: 13-21)

Reflection

The story of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is well known. It appears in all four of the Gospels and is told with an understated simplicity that speaks to the historical veracity of the event and to the supernatural power at the heart of it. There are many levels to the narrative, beginning with the literal one: Jesus, moved with great pity, miraculously fed the hungry crowds that followed him into the wilderness.

But to better appreciate this story, we should be mindful of what Matthew wrote about immediately prior: the violent and heinous murder of John the Baptist by Herod the tetrarch. John had been imprisoned because he publicly rebuked Herod—who considered himself a Jew—for marrying his sister-in-law Herodias . Herod, bound by a rash promise made at his birthday celebration, ordered the execution of John, who was beheaded in prison.

The contrasts that emerge are so telling. The violent and egomaniac Herod is contrasted with Jesus, who is moved by pity, mercy, and love. Herod grasped after earthy power and pleasures; Jesus, on the other hand, reached out in humility to the townspeople who hungered for his words.

While Herod feasted in a palace and shed innocent blood, Jesus and his followers ate simple food miraculously multiplied. And in doing so, as the Gospel of John emphasizes, Jesus taught how his innocent body and blood would be given up as true food and true drink for our salvation.

Herod was a self-serving man driven by strong and sinful passions: lust, violence, anger. Jesus was perfectly oriented to the will of his Father, continually spending time in prayer so he could bring light and life to those dwelling in darkness and in the shadow of death.

The multiplication of the loaves and fishes is a microcosm of salvation history, a concrete demonstration of how the Incarnation reaches man where he lives so man can live where he cannot reach on his own.

Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus Christ, you satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts and you feed us with the finest of wheat (Psalm 81:16). Fill me with gratitude for your blessings and give me a generous heart that I may freely share with others what you have given to me.

Daily Note

The feeding of the five thousand shows the remarkable generosity of God and his great kindness towards us. When God gives, he gives abundantly. He gives more than we need for ourselves that we may have something to share with others, especially those who lack what they need. God takes the little we have and multiplies it for the good of others.

These Words Are The Bedrock of Our Faith

Jesus Walks on Water - Bible Story Verses & Meaning

Daily Reflection – 8/3/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side of the sea, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening, he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid. “Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me! “Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt? “After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the men of that place recognized him, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought to him all those who were sick and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed (Matthew 14:22-36)

Reflection

When troubles come our way, often, we forget that God is still with us or wonder where He is. It is strange really, but that is what happens to so many people when they get upset. They think God has gone on holidays. But that is not so. God is still with us. We cannot always rely on our feelings, and we can rely on them still less when there is something bothering us. The truth is that God is with us always, whether or not we feel his presence. Remember when Jesus was worried, he prayed and received strength in prayer to face his passion.

In these times, it is important to rely on absolutes. Not another person’s feelings but rather that absolute voice that is inside each of us. That voice which some characterize as “conscience,” others (including me) believe that it is the Holy Spirit – the breath of God that each of us has. It is the bedrock of faith.

We should keep in mind that life is truly a journey to God, a journey of growth and maturation and there is often more growth and maturation in the valleys than on the mountaintops. Trials are an opportunity to grow closer to God and if we don’t learn our lesson from a trial the first time it comes I would not be surprised if God were to allow the same or a similar trial to come our way again so that we learn the next time and grow closer to him. So, when a trial comes our way some of the questions we can ask ourselves are, “Are you trying to say something to me, God, during this trial?” “What are you trying to teach me during this crisis, God?” “What do you want me to learn, God?” Someone has said that when a trial comes our way, we should milk it for meaning. Trials are opportunities if we want to succeed spiritually and really grow close to the Lord.

One of the things learned during a trial is that we cannot do by our own strength what we can do with the grace of God. What we cannot do by nature we can do by grace.

One important lesson of today’s readings is that, in our turbulent world (and much of the turbulence is in our own hearts), Jesus is the source of peace. Jesus told his disciples at the Last Supper (John 14:27), “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” These words were spoken just before Jesus was to be arrested, tried and executed by his enemies. The “world” cannot provide peace in such a situation but Jesus can and does. It is for us to learn how to find the Jesus who gives peace in the ups and downs, in the storms of our own lives.

Hold on the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel and remember that His words are addressed to men and women in every trial, “Courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.”

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, help me to trust you always and to never doubt your presence and your power to help me.  In my moments of doubt and weakness, may I cling to you as Peter did.  Strengthen my faith that I may walk straight in the path you set before me, neither veering to the left nor to the right”.

Daily Note

In reality, I think we’re all in various parts of this Gospel at any one time.  Some may be near the beginning of the story, being tossed by waves and contrary winds, not recognizing the presence of Jesus.  Some may not recognize Him when He comes to us.  Some of us vacillate between moments of walking on the water with the Lord and moments of sinking as we look at ourselves and our lives.

The goal, always, is to look for Jesus and, having found Him, to go to Him.  When you are afraid or are sinking, cry out to Him.  When He asks you to come to Him, even though what He asks is as unlikely as walking on the water, come to Him.  And when He delivers you or comes to you in any way today, come before Him to worship Him as the Son of God.

Make it your goal today to see Jesus, and when you do, to share Him with someone else.

Relax, I’ve Got You

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Daily Reflection – 7/31/2020

Sacred Scripture

And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith. ( Matthew 13:58)

Reflection

Imagine yourself by the ocean enjoying the day. You grab a raft and paddle out into the water. A current pushed you out father than you intended. You begin to panic but you see a life guard paddling after you. Just then a wave knocks you off the raft but the life guard is only a few inches away. He has a hard time holding on to you because you’re struggling so much. You have a hard time believing he can really help you. “Let go!” he shouts over the water. “I’ve got you.” As you finally surrender, he gets you free and is able to bring you to the shore safe and sound.

Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus wasn’t able to perform many miracles in his hometown because of the people’s weak faith. Mind you, the people weren’t thrashing around emotionally, but they still couldn’t bring themselves to surrender to Jesus. They stayed stuck in their limited logical thinking, even though he was right in front of them, offering them a way out and a way up.

Rather than being proud of Jesus and his intelligence and wisdom, some of his neighbors and relatives took offense at him. I wonder: Were they jealous of Jesus? Did they think that Jesus thought that he was better than they were? Or were they envious of him? By their words and actions, they scorned Jesus! And thus, he was not able to work any great deeds there. Their lack of faith was too deep!

In our journey with the Lord, we too need to learn to surrender to Jesus. This is an important element in the call to faith: to trust that Jesus knows what he’s doing and to believe that he is strong enough to save you. Yes, faith has to do with knowing the tenets of the Church. Yes, it has to do with trying our best to follow the commandments and to care for the poor and needy. And yes, it has to do with sharing our beliefs and standing up for what is right. But at the heart of faith is this call to surrender. Without this, all the other things lose their power.

Christ want to work miracles in our lives. He wants to help us be a light for others. If we can shake off our superficiality and lack of faith, we will discover the powerful presence of the Savior who helps us live each moment with depth and love. He can do miracles in our life. He can help us live the virtues which are most costly for use. But we have to be willing to take a risk for Christ and trust him totally.

What gets you stuck? Fear over the future? Guilt or resentments from the past? A “logical” approach to the present that doesn’t leave room for the grace of God? Whatever it is, know that Jesus is inviting you to something greater. Imagine him standing in front of you, his arms open wide. Hear him tell you, “Relax. I’ve got you. You can let go.”

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, I know you want to do great things in my life. Help me to see how you can transform the ordinary, seemingly unimportant circumstances of my day into moments when your grace triumphs. Enable me to be docile to your Holy Spirit, so he can do miracles in my life.”

Daily Note

Jesus is all powerful, but our unwillingness to accept the fact that we are important enough for Him to work miracles within us can blunt the power. His work is hidden, sometimes even denied, to those who refuse to believe in Jesus’ power. So, let’s be a people who not only pray, but pray with faith and expectation, anticipating Jesus’ mighty work and providential surprises.