How To Live A Valued Life

Romans 5:2❤ made with Bazaart
Daily Reflection – 8/25/2021

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”( Matthew 23:27-32)

Reflection

Strong words in today’s scripture.

Jesus was both saddended and angered by the scribes and the Pharisees. They were intensely religious in their outward observances, but their outward show didn’t match the inner reality of the state of their minds and hearts. They not only neglected the poor and the weak, but they were intolerant towards anyone who challenged their idea of religion.

Jesus chastised them for being double-minded and for demanding from others standards which they refused to satisfy. They professed admiration for the prophets who spoke God’s word by building tombs in their honor. But their outward show of respect did not match their inward refusal to heed the prophets’ warning to turn away from sinful attitudes and from neglecting to lead their people – through teaching and their own example – in God’s way of love and holiness of life.

As Jesus always did, he spoke to their hearts and to ours. He reminds us that true beauty and goodness come from within. The mark of a true Christian is the way we live our lives. After all, Christianity is a way of life as much as it is about precepts and rules.

It begins with how we view the world in which we live. We need to see the world and our self differently and to reflect on what Jesus taught us about what God considers important.

 God considers everything valuable.

God does not just value the blockbusters of creation like the Grand Canyon or Mount Everest. God values that shady corner in your back yard. God does not only care about the impressive creatures that God has made like the eagle that soars in the mountains. God also notices and cares for the sparrow who lacks the grandeur of the eagle. For God, value is universal. God values all things including the details of creation.

The meaning for us? We are called to value everything, even the details of our lives. Because the more that we limit value to only certain categories, to only big moments, to only important people, then the majority of our life will be value-less. The more that we are willing to write off a particular moment because it is ordinary, or a particular person because that person is not that interesting, or a particular opportunity because that opportunity does not look like it will produce income, then the majority of our life becomes barren and without joy.

But the more that we can see the world as God sees it, the more that we can see the value in every person and in every moment, the more that we can rejoice in the details of our lives, the more that our whole life is filled with value. Then it is easier for us to recognize the true value that God has given to us.

Allow me to suggest a strategy. Try to notice the value in the details of your life. Take time to appreciate the humming bird buzzing around your garden, the glint in your daughter’s eye, the courage that a co-worker struggling with a difficult burden, the patience of your spouse, or the laughter of a close friend. God notices all these details of life and so should we. The more that we notice the value of a sparrow, the easier it will be to see the greater value that surrounds us. Then it will be easier to see how all of creation has been wonderfully and lovingly made and is fused in with a deep worth and value, a worth and value in which we share.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, open my eyes to see as you see. Incline my heart to acts of love, dispel the anger in my thoughts and my words. Rid me of those past actions which harden my heart and weigh down my spirit. Help me mirror your life in the actions of how I live out your love.”

Daily Note

It’s important for us to ask ourselves to what extent we receive the Word of God as it really is and allow that word to work in us. Sometimes those who are close to the Word of God, who hear it every day, who get into the routine of good religious habits, can became harder soil, thinking we already “know” what we need, even though Christianity isn’t an intellectual exam but a way of life. The key is always whether we enflesh God’s word, whether we bear fruit from what he has revealed to us.

Loving Us From The Inside

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Daily Reflection – 8/24/2021

Sacred Scripture

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:45-51)

Reflection

Today’s Gospel has one central message but needs the context explained to grasp it.

So, let’s talk about Nathaniel and the fig tree.

Nazareth was at the crossroads of the ancient world where people from different cultures and religions would pass through. It’s very possible that Nathaniel thought that religious teachers from Galilea were not orthodox enough in their understanding and interpretation of the law of Moses.

When Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus, Jesus did something which only God could do! He opened Nathanael’s heart and his innermost thoughts and desires to God’s revelation.

For the people of Israel, the fig tree was a symbol of God’s peace and blessing It provided shade from the midday sun and a cool refreshing place to retreat, pray, and reflect on God’s word. Rabbis often gathered their disciples under the shade of the fig tree to teach them the wisdom and revelation of God’s word in the Scriptures.

It is very likely that Nathanael had been thinking about God’s word while sitting “under his fig tree” and reflecting on God’s promise to send a Messiah King who would free his people from sin and oppression and usher in God’s kingdom of righteousness and peace for the whole world. Through the gift of revelation Nathanael recognized that Jesus was truly the Messiah, the everlasting “Son of God and King of Israel” (John 1:49).

The Lord Jesus offered Nathanael the greatest gift of all – the gift of friendship with God and the offer of free access to God’s throne in heaven.

Jesus’ death on the cross, where he defeated sin and won new life for us through his resurrection, opens the way for each of us to come into a new relationship with God as his adopted sons and daughters.

This is how much that Jesus loves us. This is the kind of bond that Jesus establishes with us. Jesus does not love us from the outside, stepping into our life now and then to help us with this and that. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows us as his own and who lays down his life for us. Jesus loves us from the inside, knowing who we are, remembering how our relationship began and then developed, understanding our every doubt, hope and fear. Jesus loves us from the inside. He knows our heart.

And what this means is that we can turn to Jesus when we cannot turn to anyone else. When, even after years of marriage, your spouse still does not understand why a particular friend means so much to you, Jesus understands. When others wonder why you are not yet over grieving the loss of a person you love, Jesus does not wonder. He knows your soul. When even you cannot explain why you are unable to forgive someone who has hurt you, Jesus knows your pain and is already moving you toward forgiveness.

Jesus loves us from the inside. That kind of love does not promise that every phase of our life will be easy. it does not assure us that every good thing we attempt will be successful. But the love of Jesus promises this: He will hold onto us with a strength that nothing can break and walk with us faithfully, until we reach the other side.

Prayer of The Day

“Heavenly Father, through your Son Jesus Christ, you have opened the way to heaven for each one of us. As you personally revealed yourself to your beloved patriarchs and apostles, so reveal yourself to me that I may recognize your presence with me and know the power of your kingdom at work in my life. May I always find joy and peace in your presence and never lose sight of your everlasting kingdom.”

Daily Note

 Christ’s heart is deeply moved by our acts of faith in him, despite any prior reservations or doubts we may have had. He knows whom he chooses, and he longs for intimate friendship with us. When Nathanael acknowledged who Christ was, Jesus showed him where he longed to take him—to be with him in heaven: “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Everything in our life is just an excuse to draw us closer to God in this life, and ultimately into the next. Nathanael’s life was challenging, and he would lay down his life through a brutal death. But as he looks back on his life from heaven, he knows well that it was worth it to make the choice to follow Jesus that day. 

THE Relationships That Count

Daily Devotion — Matthew 9:9–13 — Through Jesus' Eyes | by Devotable |  Medium
Daily Reflection – 8/13/2021

Sacred Scripture

Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him for the crowd. 20 And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” 21 But he said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” (Matthew 9: 9-13)

Reflection

Who do you love and cherish the most? God did not intend for us to be alone, but to be with others. He gives us many opportunities for developing relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Why does Jesus seem to ignore his own relatives when they pressed to see him? His love and respect for his mother and his relatives is unquestionable. Jesus never lost an opportunity to teach his disciples a spiritual lesson and truth about the kingdom of God. On this occasion when many gathered to hear Jesus he pointed to another higher reality of relationships, namely our relationship with God and with those who belong to God

What is the essence of being a Christian? It is certainly more than doctrine, precepts, and commandments. It is first and foremost a relationship – a relationship of trust, affection, commitment, loyalty, faithfulness, kindness, thoughtfulness, compassion, mercy, helpfulness, encouragement, support, strength, protection, and so many other qualities that bind people together in mutual love and unity.
God offers us the greatest of relationships – union of heart, mind, and spirit with himself, the very author and source of love (1 John 4:8,16). God’s love never fails, never forgets, never compromises, never lies, never lets us down nor disappoints us. His love is consistent, unwavering, unconditional, unrelenting and unstoppable. There is no end to his love. Nothing in this world can make him leave us, ignore us, or withhold from us his merciful love and care (Romans 8:31-39). He will love us no matter what. It is his nature to love. That is why he created us – to be united with him and to share in his

God is a trinity of divine persons – one in being with the eternal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and a community of undivided love. God made us in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:26,27) to be a people who are free to choose what is good, loving, and just and to reject whatever is false and contrary to his love and righteousness (moral goodness). That is why Jesus challenged his followers, and even his own earthly relatives, to recognize that God is the true source of all relationships. God wants all of our relationships to be rooted in his love and goodness.
Each of can do that. How?  By allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our heart, mind, and will so that we can love freely and generously as God has loved us.  That is worth of both prayer and conversation with God.

Prayer of The Day

“Heavenly Father, you are the source of all true friendship and love. In all my relationships, may your love be my constant guide for choosing what is good and for rejecting what is contrary to your will.”

Daily Note

Through Jesus Christ we become brothers and sisters – members of God’s family
Lucian of Antioch (240-312 AD), an early Christian martyr once said that “a Christian’s only relatives are the saints”- namely those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ and adopted as sons and daughters of God. Those who have been baptized into Jesus Christ and who live as his disciples enter into a new family, a family of “saints” here on earth and in heaven. Jesus changes the order of relationships and shows that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood.

How Anger Destroys Us

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Daily Reflection – 8/12/2021

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 the fellow servant 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

Our scripture today is a strong reminder that we are born to forgive. Each of us has been given the gift of peace and forgiveness by the One who died for our sins so that we could be forgiven.

One would think that having received the promise of eternal life, we would do everything possible to merit it.

But too many don’t. They prefer not to forgive a hurt or even a slight. They prefer to dwell in anger – sometimes in silence but often visible.

We live in a contentious world. We live in a society where the differences between people are growing wider and louder. When we disagree with someone, it is becoming the common practice not only to state our opinion but to tear down or attack the person who disagrees with us. Civility and respect for one’s opponent are quickly set aside. For many, there is no desire to forgive.

I wonder how many of us live with anger on a daily basis, carrying it around with us as we go through our routines. How often does the anger within us burn in our gut, waiting to explode when someone crosses us?

 The anger can come from a variety of sources. We can be angry because someone we trusted and loved turned on us or slighted us. The anger tells us never to speak to that person again. We can be angry because of an economic situation, because we feel that things are stacked up against us and the know-it-alls at work do not respect us or value our contributions. The anger within us waits for the time when they will be put in their place. We can be angry because of the polarization of our political situation. “The Democrats are crazy.” “The Republicans are out of their minds.” We follow the media with knots in our stomach waiting for the next politician to say some senseless thing.

The anger is killing us, and yet we will not let it go. In the Book of Sirach the author writes: “Wrath and anger are hateful things, but the sinner hugs them tight.” Even though it drains our energy, compromises our effectiveness, and makes us miserable, we continue to feed our anger to make it grow.

Anger is both corrosive and addictive.

As with any metal object left out day after day rusts and ultimately corrodes, so does anger to our souls. We allow anger to build within us and it ultimately will corrode and rot our soul. Worse yet, it is addictive. The more we remain angry, the easier it is to be angry at anything that displeases us. And anger grows more and more, deeper and deeper.

So, what can be done to break this destructive pattern?

We need a new perspective, and Sirach offers us one. He says, “Remember your last days, and set enmity aside.” What would happen to your anger if you were just told you have two weeks to live? Would you call up a person who hurt you or your boss at work and tell them how much you hate them? Would you run out to put a bigger political sign on your lawn? Maybe. But Sirach is betting that you would not.

Sirach is betting that when we realize that we will all die, when we recognize our own mortality, anger can slip away. When we see how few days we have left and how valuable each of those days are, Sirach is betting that we will choose peace over rage, love over hate, and forgiveness over anger. Remembering our own mortality reminds us that we too are sinners, we too have hurt others, we too have been wrong on many occasions. When we remember our mortality, it gives us room to let go of anger, to let go of pride, and discover a way to be patient and kinder with others.

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

We who have received much need to give much, knowing that what we give is nothing compared to what we’ve been given. Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts (sins) as we have forgiven our debtors,” commenting afterward, that unless we forgive our brothers their sins our heavenly Father will not forgive us ours. Jesus made the same point just as emphatically at the end of the parable: “So will my heavenly Father do to you” — send you into prison until you pay back an unpayable debt — “unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” We’re supposed to forgive not just with words, but with a compassionate heart, just like God has forgiven us so many times. If we don’t grasp this lesson, we end up losing the Kingdom that awaits us. Not so much because of the sins we’ve committed but because of our failure to forgive others their sins against us. We won’t receive God’s mercy unless we first share it, not because he doesn’t want to flood us with his merciful love but because our hearts can’t receive it unless they are in turn forgiving others.

Do You Have An Issue With That?

Reconciliation", Stormont, Belfast | Gillipaw | Blipfoto
Daily Reflection – 8/11/2021

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 formula in today’s scripture passage is correct in its direction but often maligned in its application. There are those who twist the logic of the words of Jesus to justify criticism of another or, worse yet, to put another down while claiming the need to “correct.”

I have no issue with loving and fraternal correction. But I suggest that we have to start at a different place.

Correction always requires balance and the best way to accomplish that is to return to the words of Jesus. In this case, we start with these: “I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

He knows that our journey on this side of eternity will be imperfect, both because of the sufferings and sins we cause, and what others do to us. No suffering or hurt is hidden from him. Still, it is life, not death, that he desires. So, he invites us to take on his gaze and heart: Only then can we go to our brother who has hurt us, and with forgiveness, love, patience, and prudence seek to bring him back to the light. Doing so always brings us back to the heart of Christ and of his Church.

We now live in a society where angry words and actions are the coin of the realm. Hurt, criticism, cruel innuendo permeates the media and many use their public pulpits to encourage more. It seems that now, more than ever, people judge and feel free to judge. There are many negative endings from that conduct. It also leaves many experiencing hurt and vulnerability.

Too often in life, the clearest sign that a person is a mess inside is when he or she starts criticizing everyone else; a common, unconscious psychological diversion is to try to forget about our own problems is by focusing on everyone else’s issues

But Jesus says to all of us who have fallen into this trap that first we must take the logs out of our own eyes so that we can see clearly to help others take the specks out of theirs. Notice that Jesus does not say, “If you’ve got your own issues, don’t give fraternal correction to others, don’t help them remove whatever is blinding them.” But he wants us to be doing so exclusively out of love, which is why we have to notice our own failings and be working on them first. It’s when we start to see ourselves clearly that we can give effective fraternal correction, not as a hypocrite who doesn’t practice what he preaches, but as a humble fellow sinner trying to help a brother or a sister do better, uniting with him in the name of the Lord to battle sin together.

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.

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

If we truly want to settle a difference with someone, we need to do it face to face. If this fails in its purpose, then the second step is to bring another person or persons, someone who is wise and gracious rather than someone who is hot-tempered or judgmental. The goal is not so much to put the offender on trial, but to persuade the offender to see the wrong and to be reconciled. The emphasis here is on restoring a broken relationship by seeking the help of other Christians who hopefully will pray and seek a solution for reconciliation based on Christian love and wisdom, rather than relying on coercive force or threats.

Finding True Happiness

John 12:25 He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life  in this world shall keep it to life eternal.
Daily Reflection – 8/10/2021

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

There are two metaphors in today’s scripture . . . the grain of wheat falling to the ground and losing one’s life to preserve eternal life.

Some find them very understandable, still others find them perplexing.

Lt’s start with the easy one. In order for it to be fruitful, a grain of wheat has to fall into the ground and effectively be disintegrated so that it will be transformed into a new plant which in time will reproduce itself many times over.

God’s work in our souls is often like this too—God plants a seed and God and tends it, sometimes gently, sometimes firmly, until we are ready to bear the fruit he desires. It’s okay not to understand all that he is doing or asking; it may be part of the seed burying, which will rise to new life in us. What is important is that we keep our eyes on him. 

Those who belong to the kingdom of God do not have survival as their highest good. Their decisions are often different from those many others make in our world.  For those who belong to the kingdom of God, decisions will not be determined by what everybody else is doing or what the latest polls say.  They will have a different perspective on war, on poverty, on immigration, on healthcare.  They will have a different opinion on the value of life whether that life is found in the womb, or on death row. 

And that brings us to the discussion on losing one’s life. What does it mean to “die” to oneself? It certainly means that what is contrary to God’s will must be “crucified” or “put to death”. God gives us grace to say “yes” to his will and to reject whatever is contrary to his loving plan for our lives. Jesus also promises that we will bear much “fruit” for him, if we choose to deny ourselves for his sake.

Jesus says that nothing should get in the way of our preferring him and the will of our Father in heaven. To follow Jesus means to go the path of the grain of wheat, to die to oneself so as to bear fruit. That is the essence of Christianity.

The fundamental truth that flows through the veins of everything that is good and Christian is seeking to bring happiness to others. To lighten their burden. To replace a frown with a smile. To let one who feels unloved to feel loved.

It’s really quite easy. You see, the human heart was made not only for self-sustainment but also for self-donation. In giving we receive, in giving we live, in loving we experience love in a way that leaves us smiling for eternity.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, let me be wheat sown in the earth, to be harvested for you. I want to follow wherever you lead me. Give me fresh hope and joy in serving you all the days of my life”.

Daily Note

There are two kingdoms operating in the world in which we live and their values are different.  We must choose between them, and the choice we make will influence everything.  It will determine whether our highest value is one of survival or one of faithfulness to God’s will. It will determine whether we stand with Pilate or stand with Jesus.

It’s Always Our Choice

Pin on Prayer
Daily Reflection – 8/9/2021

Sacred Scripture

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel tax went up to Peter and said, “Does not your teacher pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel; take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” (Matthew 17:22-27)

Reflection

On three different occasions in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus predicted he would endure great suffering through betrayal, rejection, and the punishment of a cruel death. He wanted to remind the apostles the very reason for his being. Jesus defeated the powers of death and Satan through his cross and resurrection. The Lord Jesus offers us true freedom and peace which no one can take from us.

But it is our choice, isn’t it?

Throughout our life as followers of Christ, we are reminded of that invitation. It comes to us in the daily cycles of our living. Many of you here have the general knowledge that you should make contact with another. But every so often God puts in your mind a thought, or you catch something in the glance of another person, or you turn a corner and suddenly realize that God is personally asking you, “Why not do something about that now? I am inviting you to act.”

Now God keeps sending these personal invitations because God loves us and desires that we have a deeper and richer life.  But no matter how many times the invitation is sent, we retain the freedom to choose, the freedom to refuse the invitation. We are too busy or we don’t feel like doing that or our immediate family takes priority.

When we choose to refuse a personal invitation of God, there are consequences. When a person refuses the invitation to take some action to heal their marriage, that choice might well lead to a life that is empty or to the upheaval of divorce.  When we choose to put aside to some other day the opportunity to make contact with someone that we love, reach out to an ageing parent, spend more time with our children, tell the truth, or reach out in reconciliation to someone else, God does not become angry. But we have no guarantee that the same invitation will be offered to us tomorrow. 

If such opportunities slip through our hands, we have to deal with the consequences.

God will not punish us, but life will.  There is no more bitter pain than the realization that things could have been different if I would have chosen better, if I would have said yes to the invitation that was offered to me. 

Circumstances in our life change. What is possible today is not always possible tomorrow. The people with whom we need to be reconciled will not always be with us. The people we want to thank or tell them that we love them could be taken in an instant. When that happens, the door is locked and we can no longer get in.

But it is not just the circumstances in our life that can change. We ourselves change depending upon our decisions.

Every time we say no to an opportunity for life or growth it is easier to say no again. Every time we make a decision not to act, we begin to build a habit that lessons our freedom. The decision not to be honest moves us closer to living a lie. The decision not to be generous and forgiving begins to create a pattern of selfishness and inflexibility. Every time we say no to a good opportunity, we reduce the chances of recognizing the next opportunity that comes along. God will never cease to provide opportunities. The grace of God will never dry up.  But we can dry up.

That is the warning of today’s Gospel. God will never change in God’s desire to save us. But our circumstances can change and we can change. God will never lock the door to shut us out. But the circumstances of our life can shut us out, and we can lose the desire to enter by the choices we refuse to make. If there is an open door in your life, walk through it. If you need to forgive someone, do it. If you need to thank someone or tell someone that you love them, don’t wait until tomorrow. If there is an opportunity for change or growth, take it. God will never change, but our lives can .

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, your death brought true life and freedom. May I always walk in the freedom and power of your love and truth and reject whatever is contrary to your will for my life.”

Daily Note

God’s will is to save us. God is always willing and open to invite us in to eternal life. But salvation is a two-way street. It requires our participation. God’s intention is not the only factor. God will never change in God’s desire to save us. But two things can change: our circumstances and our very selves. When these things change, we can find that the door in fact is locked.

The Transfiguration Is Meant To Transform

Life-Changing Experiences: “Been There, Done That” | "From The Heart of A  Shepherd" by Pastor Travis D. Smith
Daily Reflection – 8/6/2021

Sacred Scripture

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So, they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant. ( Mark 9:2-10)

Reflection

What a glorious gospel. Glorious in its message and glorious in its invitation.

The revelation of the transfiguration does not center on Jesus’ being, but on his connectedness to the Father.  The words that come from the cloud are, “This is my beloved Son “.   What they reveal is the intimate, unbreakable bond of love that exists between Jesus and the Father.  What they proclaim is that Jesus is more than a prophet, more than a teacher. Jesus is God’s beloved Son. 

The words that come next are every bit as important: “Listen to him.”  Why should we listen to him?  What should we listen to?  We should listen to him because if Jesus is in fact God’s beloved Son, then we who are baptized into Jesus are truly God’s beloved daughters and sons as well.

But we don’t listen well, do we?

We live in an age when listening has become far less valued. We live in an era of so much talking and so much noise that it is becoming harder and harder to hear the voice of God which often comes in the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit, in the whispers of daily events.

Our faith will never grow if we don’t learn how to listen to the voice of the Lord. In order to grow in faith, we need to learn how to tune out so much of the noise of human and learn how to tune into the voice of the Lord. For most of us, that means doing two things.

First, it means that we have to make the time to listen to the Lord. We have to turn off the television, or the radio, or the phone, to put away the newspaper, close the magazine, and let go of the things of the world — like what we’re going to have for dinner, or what we’re going to do on the weekend, etc. — for a little while. We need to stop being so busy and stop giving our attention to these things for so much of our day.

Once we’ve got some quiet from all of the spiritual noise pollution that comes from this busy-ness, we then have to do something even more difficult. We have to shut up. We have to learn how to be quiet in front of the Lord and listen for his voice. We have to stop for a while giving him our laundry list of prayer intentions. We have to stop complaining to him about how others we live or work with are behaving. We have to stop talking and listen to him, so that he can speak to us in this quiet and whisper to us from within.

Jesus’ transfiguration is supposed to lead to our transformation through listening to Christ. Jesus’ word is supposed to be the guiding light of our entire life and make us lighthouses for others in the midst of the tumultuous seas of the world. Jesus’ word is a lamp shining in the darkness to guide us to our heavenly home.

Therefore, if we really believe that Jesus is God, if we sense his divinity penetrating through his humanity and ours, then we will listen to and act on what he says. We will base our lives on what he has told us about heaven, about hell, and about judgment. We will act on his words about mercy, that unless we forgive those who wrong us seventy times seven times, that we will never experience the consoling joy of his own mercy. We will remember his words about trusting dependence on God, that we should never worry, because our Father in heaven loves us and knows what we truly need even before we ask him. We will heed what he says about the importance of prayer, and how we should pray.

This is what we must hear and believe in above all else.  Why is it so important to hear it, to listen to it?  Because the minute we forget our status as beloved daughters and sons of God, the Good News evaporates. 

When we ignore our status as beloved daughters and sons and begin to see ourselves primarily as sinners, as victims, as unlovable, as flawed, as unworthy, the power of the gospel is lost to us.  Do we sin?  Are we flawed?  Is there a real sense that we are unworthy of the tremendous love that God showers on us?  Of course.  But despite all of those flaws, we remain chosen and beloved children of God.  It is only by claiming our true identity that we find the power to turn away from sin, the power to heal our hurts, the power to claim the dignity that God has so freely given us.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, keep me always alert to you, to your word, your action, and your constant presence in my life. Let me see your glory.”

Daily Note

The Lord Jesus not only wants us to see his glory – he wants to share this glory with us. And Jesus shows us the way to the Father’s glory – follow me – obey my words. Take the path I have chosen for you and you will receive the blessing of my Father’s kingdom – your name, too, will be written in heaven. Jesus fulfilled his mission on Calvary where he died for our sins so that Paradise and everlasting life would be restored to us. He embraced the cross to win a crown of glory – a crown that awaits each one of us, if we, too, will follow in his footsteps.

An Honest Conversation About Faith

Alexa...Who Is Jesus? Mark 8:27-30
Daily Reflection – 8/5/2021

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

Today’s Gospel is a powerful teaching about faith and the lack thereof!

Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter stood up and boldly replied that Jesus was far more than a great prophet, far more than the greatest figure in centuries, far more even than Moses. He wasn’t just the Messiah, the long-awaited Savior for whom the Jews had been waiting for a millennium. He was the Son of the Living God.

 Peter’s proclamation  was a great act of faith, a bold profession holding nothing back. We all have a lot to learn from how God the Father moved Peter to confess the identity of his Son, because God the Father wants to give us the same gift.

But as we know from scripture, such solid faith does not fully describe Peter. In 16:21-27 Jesus will rebuke Peter for not accepting the message of the cross saying, “you are a stumbling block to me” (16:23). The “rock” Peter is both a firm foundation and a stumbling stone. in 14:22-33 when Peter tries to walk on the water, doubts, and then begins to sink. As Jesus pulls him up out of the waves, he says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (14:31). 

 Describing Peter’s situation as one of “little faith” is certainly a rebuke, but it is a gentle one. It describes a situation in which real faith is present, but doubt is as well—a mixed condition in which belief and weakness coincide. Like the rest of the disciples who are “of little faith,” Peter is both a real believer and also one prone to weakness and doubt.

In truth, our faith is much like Peter’s. We really believe, but we never believe completely. Although our flaws like Peter’s can cause others to stumble and fall, our faith, if it is real, can provide a foundation upon which the belief of others can stand. Our faith is seldom great and never perfect, but God still calls us to change the world. In that mission, our little faith will have to do.

Far too many will profess their faith through their lips but not their hearts. We talk the talk but not walk the walk. Yes, we are human and frail. God knows that. That’s why prayer and reflection are so important. He wants each of us to be a rock of faith. He wants us to so live our lives that others see Christ in our lives. That is where our faith directs us.

That means not just belief in him but it means trusting him. Knowing that each step we take toward living him is both guided by him and strengthened by him. And the secret is that by trusting in God, by believing in His presence, by living out our faith does not simply lead us to the kingdom. It increases our joy and confidence as we proceed towards it.

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

Jesus asked his disciples a rather generic question: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” But there was no mistaking the very personal nature of the second question, “And who do you say that I am?” Our relationship with Jesus, to which every single one of us is invited, knows no end, has no gaps in time, is 24/7 and makes every minute of our life count in a new and profound way. Loving Christ gives our life its whole meaning. 

When Jesus Is Silent . . .

Stream DAILY MANNA 08/12/2019 Matthew 15:28 by Berakah Cim | Listen online  for free on SoundCloud
Daily Reflection – 8/4/2021

Sacred Scripture

Then Jesus went from that place and 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

We believe that Jesus is divine, and we also believe that he is fully human. And it is in his humanity that he is influenced by his culture and that he acts at times with incomplete knowledge.

In today’s Gospel Jesus struggles with boundaries. He withdraws from Israel to Canaanite country, and a Canaanite woman comes and asks him to heal her daughter. The Canaanites were not Jews. They were pagans who worshipped many gods. Their sacrifices were seen by Jews as abominations.  Most Jews of the time would withdraw from Canaanites. They would not interact with them. 

Jesus seems at first to follow this approach. He does not respond to the woman.

Total silence. St. Matthew, an eyewitness, tells us, “But he did not say a word in answer to him.” It seems weird. It seems almost a cruel thing to do to a desperate mother. But Jesus, who almost certainly was prepared to work the exorcism, wanted to effectuate a far greater miracle on that day on behalf of the woman, on behalf of the disciples with him, and on behalf of all of us, and to do that, he needed to try her faith.

 For us, we, too, need to learn how to deal with God’s silence. We pray and often we don’t seem to get a response. We pray again and it seems the door has remained shut. How we do handle it? Many of us give up, we stop praying, we think God doesn’t care, but what God is often doing in these circumstances is giving us a chance to learn how to pray perseveringly so that we may grow in faith to such a degree that we will always persevere in fidelity. Jesus is never silent. It’s only our ears failing to hear what he is saying or our minds rejecting the words because they are not what we want to hear.

The second lesson that springs from this Gospel is how we live and deal with the labels we use to define people.

We who follow Christ are asked to deal with other people in truth, not according to the false and prejudicial labels, which are often found in our environment. If we claim to be believers, we must not say, “This is the way Jews are. This is the way Moslems are. This is the way alcoholics, or homosexuals or people of a different race are.”

 We must ask ourselves whether we are viewing others through our own real experience or through the prejudices that labels can convey. To allow our lives be directed by the half-truths of labels is a serious flaw. It places us in direct opposition to the design of God.

God makes people. We make labels. So instead of letting our lives be directed by the prejudices that a label can carry, we are obliged to discover and to respect the real people God has made.

We cannot claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ and use language and labels to set us apart. We are called to be inclusive and to live according to the great commandment. Do we do that or do we allow the rhetoric of the day to influence who we are as children of God?

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

Jesus praises a Gentile woman for her faith and for her love. She made the misery of her child her own and she was willing to suffer rebuff in order to obtain healing for her loved one. She also had indomitable persistence. Her faith grew in contact with the person of Jesus. She began with a request and she ended on her knees in worshipful prayer to the living God. No one who ever sought Jesus with earnest faith – whether Jew or Gentile – was refused his help. Do you seek the Lord Jesus with expectant faith?