Understanding Forgiveness

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Daily Reflection – 8/14/19

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

Jesus is telling us that there is no room in the kingdom of heaven for those who cannot find it in their hearts to forgive, not once or three times but always. As always, Jesus calls us to something diametrically opposed to the prevailing wisdom of the world. The Gospel then questions each one of us. Do we put limits on our forgiveness? Do we forgive relatives and perhaps friends  but other people we want removed from our sight? Or do we still live with the Old Testament spirituality which says an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?

Most of us developed and honed our personal response to being sinned against at a very young age. We didn’t even know we were developing a personal response. We may have modeled our response on how our parents responded in these types of situations. We may have learned how to manipulate others. Or we simply may have decided to keep our distance from the individuals who sinned against us (if that was an option). Or perhaps you were taught to talk with the person who had sinned against you and work it out? 

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 the Bible. God’s blueprint for our lives includes having conflicting parties sit down face to face and reconcile. The process of reconciliation is helped by prayer. When we are involved in conflict, we need to seek direction in prayer. If an outcome or resolution is reached through prayer, it will be accepted by God. Living a Christian life within a community of faith is not easy and demands some maturity from us. We have to determine how to love one another. It is more than being nice. Real love in our world requires informed thought and tough choices. Real love in our world flows from the heart of Christ. Real love in our world flows when our hearts are as loving and forgiving as His. Can you say that?

 Prayer of The Day

We thank you Lord for this teaching. We thank you for the many examples of people who live this teaching every day of their lives, persons always willing to give another chance. They teach us that it is possible to live the forgiveness which is an expression of the forgiving love of God for his people, the forgiving love of Christ for his Church. Help us Lord to conquer the desire for vengeance in our hearts and help us always to remember how often you forgive us.

 Daily Note

Today may be a good day to ask ourselves: how do I respond when I feel sinned against by another? Do we bind another to us with our anger or resentment? Or do we “loose the other person” by striving to “let the hurt, anger or jealousy go” by talking with the individual? The gift is we can always change our automatic responses to certain situations. It typically takes a concerted effort. It is so easy to slip back into old patterns.

 

 

To Be A Child

Image result for free photo of Matthew 18:1-5 10, 12-14

Daily Reflection – 8/13/19

Sacred Scripture

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father. What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”( Matthew 18:1-5 10, 12-14)

Reflection

Who is the greatest in the Kingdom and, by implication, in the Christian community, which is a sign of the Kingdom? Jesus answers the question very simply by putting a child in front of his disciples. To become the greatest is to become a small child.

Why? Children have their qualities and their defects. They are intellectually and emotionally immature. But children have some precious qualities which they often lose as they grow up. They are born free of prejudice and they are totally open to learning. It is this quality that we need to enter the Reign of God. To be totally open and free of prejudice when it comes to listening to God. To be fully teachable and malleable and flexible. Then we are ready to receive everything that God wants us to have and to become everything God wants us to become.

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. 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). Christ made us understand that who and what we are while on earth does not change the fact that to be great in the kingdom of heaven we have to be like children. We are to live our lives without comparing it to that of others and avoid unnecessary rivalry, competition for power and greatness.

Jesus moves from children to the ‘little ones’. These little ones are not just children but the weaker ones in the community and they may be adults. But they are the ones who can very easily be led astray by the bad example which others give. And there are severe penalties for doing this (mentioned in the omitted passage).

This is emphasized by the parable of the lost sheep. God is compared to a shepherd who has lost just one sheep out of a hundred. When he finds it again he is happier than over the other ninety-nine which have not strayed. Such, the gospel concludes, is the desire of God, that not even one of the ‘little ones’ be lost.

Christ has a different definition for greatness. As sons and daughters of God we are to follow God’s definition and not that of the world.

 Prayer of The Day

Lord, 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

Maybe today, we could try remember our childhood.  This would be a good challenge for us. To remember our childhood, and the simple pleasures and ways of relating to other people and the world around us, that we once knew. Maybe we could do something we haven’t done in a long time, that we used to enjoy when we were little. Or do something spontaneous, like picking wildflowers or go to the park on our lunch break. There are a million little ways we can reclaim some of the childlike qualities we once had, if we just look at the world around us, with fresh eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

An Empty House ?

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Daily Reflection – 8/12/19

Sacred Scripture

As Jesus and his disciples were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were overwhelmed with grief. When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes,” he said. When he came into the house, before he had time to speak, Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax? From their subjects or from foreigners?” When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him, “Then the subjects are exempt. But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you.”( Matthew 17:22-27)

Reflection

By obliging Jesus to pay the tax the tax collectors implied that they considered him a subject or a foreigner. Joined with Jesus’ prediction of his Passion, the scene harkens back the opening of John’s Gospel, “He was in the world and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him” (John 1:10-11). How this must have broken the heart of Christ to find himself unwelcome among those he came to save. 

 How often do we leave Christ alone in our churches with no one to visit him or acknowledge his presence. How often do our lives – thoughts, words, actions indicate that we really are not temples of Christ’s love? What does it mean to welcome Christ in our life? It must be more than a warm emotion.

Rather it must be opening ourselves to the presence of him who comes to make his home among us and share our lives. We have a God who is so close to us and wants a relationship with us. He wants our time and our attention. Welcoming Christ into our life means recognizing him as our personal Lord — as our master, and our savior. It is his will that must rule in our life and direct our behavior. We must acknowledge that only he has the word of life and we must turn our lives to him in loving obedience. The fruit of this will be interior peace and profound peace.

Our world reflects the human condition. Too often, Christ is refused entry into the world. He is excluded from government, from science, from business, law, and medicine. As followers of Christ, we must bring him and his word of life alive in our lives. We must evaluate the world and its leaders against His words and His life. A world without Christ is a world that knows neither its beginning nor its destiny and will turn against itself.

Prayer of The Day

Jesus, give me courage to make your presence felt in the world around me. Let me not be afraid to show that my faith in you is the center of my life and gives meaning to all I do. Let me give witness of the joy I experience in living by your law in my life.

 Daily Note

We never know who is watching us and how the Holy Spirit will work in the ordinary events of our lives. Our words and actions receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit
when we speak and act out of love. May something we say and do today to spark a fire in the heart ad life of someone whose faith is lost or who does not know Jesus Christ.

 

To Die To Self Is To Live In Him

Image result for free photo of Matthew 16:24-28

Daily Reflection – 8/9/19

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

When Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”, He did not mean so much that we have to suffer and die for His cause but rather have the decision to do the will of God whatever the cost may be. 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.

Our Christian lives are a constant battle. We should never forget that. We all are tempted to escape from the reality of our situation from time to time. Nevertheless, whoever perseveres until the end will be saved and have a fruitful life. We can’t expect to have a glorious eternity full of celebration and joy if we don’t shed some blood, sweat and tears here on earth for the sake of Christ and the good of our brothers and sisters.

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.

When Jesus said that we should take up our cross, He wanted us to open our hearts and minds into accepting and enduring what could be shameful, difficult and bitter, even to the point of martyrdom for His cause. Jesus’ will is 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.

Prayer of The Day

Heavenly Father, help me to seek the things that are above. Help me to seek the things that last forever, so that all the things that I do may give you glory and help my brothers and sisters to grow closer to you, who live and reign with Christ, your Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Daily Note

What was just revealed to us is the path we all have to take if we will ever consider discipleship in Christ. Everyone who comes to our Lord and hears His words and does them is a true disciple.  He is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 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!

 

Be That Rock

Image result for free photo of Matthew 16: 13-23

Daily Reflection – 8/8/19

Sacred Scripture

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah. From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”( Matthew 16: 13-23)

Reflection

At Caesarea Philippi, the question becomes acute for the twelve disciples chosen by God to carry out the ministry of the church throughout time. Who do you say I am? If Jesus is just a political provocateur or a wise teacher with healing gifts, then He’d hardly be remarkable or worth given one’s life to serve. No church, no Gospel of such a man would endure, nor would the disciples in their mission.

Who do you say that I am? That question applies to us as well, Christians living in a world vastly changed over two millennia. It’s pretty easy at those times when the burden of living our faith authentically in the world to just shrug off the divinity of Jesus. We can easily become the mighty throngs called to hear Jesus’ teaching, happy to be fed and entertained for a while on a Sunday morning and then act as if that had no bearing on the other 167 hours in the week.

Alternately, we can become the Pharisees and Sadducees. Instead of shrugging off Jesus, we can react with hostility and anger to the gentle nature of God’s call to holiness and salvation.

Who do you say I am? It’s the question that will force us to decide between being disciples, spectators, or antagonists. That’s as true now as it was in Caesarea Philippi .It was a challenge to the apostles then to choose now and make the commitment to faith.

And what happens? Simon Peter issues his statement of faith, one that marks the establishment of the Church in time: “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God.” But from that declaration forward, Peter surrenders his own will to Jesus, even if imperfectly, and declares his commitment to faith in His teaching rather than Peter’s conception of salvation.

Who do you say that I am? In the end, that question isn’t about the identity of Jesus, but the identity of each and every one of us. When we answer that, we answer for our own identities.

Will we be disciples? Spectators? Antagonists? Will you stand up and defend the word of God? Are you willing to be uncomfortable and perhaps ostracized because you decry those people and events in life that go against the teachings of Jesus Christ? Who do you say Jesus is — and who do you therefore say you are?

 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.  Make my faith strong like Peter’s and give me boldness to speak of you to others that they may come to know you personally as Lord and Savior and grow in the knowledge of your love”. 

Daily Note

Who do you say that I am?” Don’t just answer his question. Go live the answer. Discover the “rockness” that Jesus knows you to be. Live with hope in the midst of despair. Love your neighbor as yourself. Though the gates of death open to you know that they cannot prevail. Care for the poor, feed the hungry, and defend the oppressed. Offer forgiveness despite your anger. Pray when you are too busy to pray. Love your enemies despite your fear. Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow him Do these. Be the rock. Be the rock on which Jesus’ church stands before the world.

The Tenacity of Faith

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Daily Reflection – 8/7/19

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

There is something so compelling about this woman’s faith, isn’t there? It is a faith that is inextricably linked with her care for her daughter, who is tormented. This woman’s love for her daughter leads her to take a risk – the risk of being rejected, of looking very foolish in the company of all these men. But she is able to perceive Jesus with the eyes of faith. She recognizes in him the life-giving presence and power of God. Her faith, coupled with her selfless care for her daughter, leads to the dissolution of the barrier between Jew and Gentile. Her persistent faith and loving care pave the way for an experience of communion and healing.

In our own lives, sometimes we persistently pray for something but do not receive exactly what we asked for from God. We beg the Lord for that perfect job, for a child’s success in school, for reconciliation in a dispute with a family member or friend, for the physical healing of a loved one who is seriously ill. Sometimes it seems that the Lord’s response is one of silence. That may lead us to conclude that our faith just is not strong enough, or perhaps that the Lord is not really listening to us at all. The truth is that we cannot fathom all of the dynamics of God’s response to our prayers. Even with the most astute theology, we cannot wrap our minds around the mystery of God’s action in our lives and in our world.

We are, however, invited to cling to one important conviction. I believe that this gospel passage speaks to us about that conviction. We can be sure that when we are impelled by loving care to pray for another person Christ does hear us. The faith imbued with love that is expressed in such a prayer will ultimately lead to communion and healing. It leads us to communion with Christ and to deeper communion with those we love. And it leads to new life, even in cases when a physical healing does not take place. It is new life that comes from the faithful presence of Christ with us. It leads to new life the full extent of which we will know only in eternal life with God.

The Canaanite woman is placed before us as a model of selfless love and of courageous, tenacious faith in Christ. She invites us to speak to Christ out of our love for others, and to do so with the faith that he does hear and does answer.

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 for all evil and harm. 

Daily Note

On that day, Jesus saw a larger vision of the commonwealth of God. Jesus saw and heard a fuller revelation of God in the voice and in the face of the Canaanite woman. If Jesus could be changed, can we? Every generation sees some people as “other” and puts them under the table. The United States today is a country torn apart by division and by people pitted against people, the “others.”. How can any follower of Christ tolerate that? Aren’t we commanded to love one another, to build our love with one another, to see every person as a child of God? My heart aches that this fundamental  belief is so trampled upon.

 

Climb The Mountain and Listen

Image result for free photo of Luke 9: 28-36

Daily Reflection – 8/6/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up a mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.( Luke 9: 28-36)

Reflection

In today’s Gospel, for a brief moment, Christ reveals a glimpse of his true glory. Gathered with his closest apostles and with the greatest prophets from the Old Testament, he lifts the veil cloaking his divinity. When these three disciples went off to be alone with Jesus and pray, they saw his glory and came to know him better.

Here too, Jesus teaches us how to come closer to him, how to hear the voice of the Father and encounter the glory of God: by taking time to go off and be alone with him in prayer. In such moments of intimacy with God we will find the light and strength we need to convert the world instead of being converted by it. God has something to say to us; he wants us to discover him and his plan for our lives. .But if we refuse to go “up the mountain to pray,” we won’t be able to hear him.

The best way to is by dedicating ourselves more than usual to prayer, to heartfelt conversation with Christ. Christ has so much he wants to tell us – at all times and in so many ways – that all we need to do is “listen to him,” which is impossible unless we set aside time to pray.

In this scene, Christ also shows how personal his love is. Jesus is preparing his three closest friends for the mission they will have to carry out later. His love for each of us is just as personal and just as wise. He knows what we need when we need it. He gives us moments of consolation in prayer to propel us through dark periods of dryness. All he asks is that we follow along, trusting him, even when we don’t understand or when we feel clumsy and ignorant. Peter, James, and John didn’t become saints overnight, and neither will we. But if we stay close to the Lord, we will eventually – he will make sure of it.

 Prayer of The Day

Teach me to pray, Lord. Teach me to tune in to your voice. Not only during specific prayer commitments, but all throughout the day. I want to live each current moment to the full, pouring my love into your will, dedicating myself to whatever you ask of me with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Lord, help me to know you more, love you more and serve you more faithfully in my life.

Daily Note

We need to go up the mountain to find grace to have strength in our fears, to find the faith, hope and love that addresses fear.  Retreat, time of prayer every day, good conversations, a seaside walk. Going up the mountain can be literal, or spending good time with our loved ones. The unexamined life can keep us from being spiritually awake. Maybe we’re frantically occupied with daily anxieties of life or seeking pleasure, prestige, or wealth. Are you awake? Examine your thoughts, words, and actions! I wonder how much we miss of God’s glory because we are asleep spiritually?  Be alert and attentive! We do not want to miss Him!