The Transforming Power of Gratitude

Sermons | West Point Grey United Church
Daily Reflection – 11/10/2021

Sacred Scripture

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going, they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.  He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” (Luke 17:11-19)

Reflection

Why did only one leper out of ten return to show gratitude?

 I like to think that the reason why the Samaritan leper returned to say thanks is because he was thanking the Lord always and everywhere, including during his leprosy, and perhaps even because of his leprosy, since that disease had brought him to confide far more in the Lord for a cure. To not only confide but to believe that his plea for healing would be met.

He returns to say “thank you.”

The significance of those two words is akin to another phrase . . .” I love you.”

Two powerful phrases that are part of our lives and two powerful phrases that have an indelible and enduring effect on our lives.

Gratitude and love. They are part of our life as they were very much a part of the life of Jesus Christ. His thankfulness to His Father for the opportunity to save us from the tolls of sin and love for all that had been created by His Father.

As Christians, we have been taught the two Great Commands and we are expected every day to bring them alive in our thoughts, words and actions. With the world as it is, living the two great commands is difficult for most. But even more difficult is our ability to consciously and continually give thanks to God.

Like children, we may say a “quick word of thanks,” but then not really remain in a perpetual attitude of gratitude. That’s what we’re called to be as Christians, people who are constantly thanking God for the gift of our faith, of Creation, of Redemption, of the ability to pray, of the opportunities for us to love others, of the promise of heaven, of our family members, of our fellow Christians, and so many other things.

Here is where the transformative power of gratitude comes into play because gratitude is the homage of the heart which responds with graciousness in expressing an act of thanksgiving.
We become a person who thanks God always and everywhere — and learns how to thank others too — through prayer. The majority of our time in prayer should be in praise and thanksgiving if we’re ever going to be able to thank God always and everywhere. That’s a habit we need to form, in which we count our blessings and thank God for each of them. The more we do so, the more we see these blessings, and the more we acquire that attitude of gratitude that is essential for someone who is fully Catholic.

Look at the reverse of gratitude. Ingratitude leads to lack of love and kindness, and intolerance towards others. If we do not recognize and appreciate the mercy and help shown to us, we will be ungrateful and unkind towards others. Ingratitude is forgetfulness or a poor return for kindness received. Ingratitude easily leads to lack of charity and intolerance towards others, as well as to other vices, such as complaining, grumbling, discontentment, pride, and presumption. How often have we been ungrateful to our parents, pastors, teachers, and neighbors? Do we express gratitude to God for his abundant help and mercy towards us?

Today’s scripture tells us that our sins and our failures are no barriers to God. We are not contagious to Jesus. He still has the power to make us whole. So, on days that we are healthy and happy, we should give thanks and praise God. But on the days when we are the leper, this gospel is our hope.

Thank you, Father.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, may I never fail to recognize your loving kindness and mercy. Fill my heart with compassion and thanksgiving, and free me from ingratitude and discontentment. Help me to count my blessings with a grateful heart and to give thanks in all circumstances.”

Daily Note

For us as Christians, it’s essential that we learn how to thank the Lord always and everywhere as a sweet duty that leads us more securely to salvation. Like the Jews in the desert, we can often be complainers, who obsess about what we don’t have rather than gratefully thank God for what we do. We can be eaten alive by envy such that even when those we love are blessed, we can be upset about it, because we personally don’t have those same blessings. If we’re not thanking the Lord always and everywhere, however, we will often not thank him sufficiently when he does something truly spectacular for us

Each Day, We Destroy The Temple of God

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Daily Reflection – 11/9/2021

Sacred Scripture

Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me. At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his Body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken. (John 2:13-22)

Reflection

In today’s scripture, we see Jesus declare that the temple is meant to be his Father’s house, a house of prayer not a den of thieves and sin. He overturned tables and formed a cord to drive out whatever was unfit, whatever was not holy and consecrated to God and his service. 

There is great symbolism in this scripture.

We begin of course understanding that Jesus was referring to himself when he said that the temple would be raised back up within three days.

Jesus Christ himself is the foundation of the Church, the cornerstone. And the Church is the spiritual house built of living stones on this foundation. These living stones are those who build their life on Christ, those who are trying to become saints. The Church is made not of marble, wood, bricks and glass, but of men, women, boys and girls, living stones erected on Christ the cornerstone.

Jesus’ ultimate plan is to make of us a temple through uniting us totally with him. The temple is God’s dwelling place. Jesus, God-with-us, wants to be with us not just on the outside but on the inside. The Word made flesh wants to dwell not just “among” us but “within” us.

God’s plan is for us to become a true tabernacle of God.

Yet, through two millennia, history has given rise to people who seek to destroy the concept of Jesus, God-with-us.

Instead of accepting the liberating vision of people filled with God, they seek to destroy that tabernacle.

That intent to destroy lives with us today. Even among those who profess to be followers of His way.

We see the destruction continue when:

We ignore the climatic changes around us and deny that we have polluted this earth and caused climate change;

We allow racism to exist around us and shrug our shoulders and say that slavery has been part of the history of the United States since its founding;

We allow the passion of our politics to divide us, to separate us one from another and claim that our cause is THE right cause;

We attend our churches but desecrate them by our presence because our hearts are full of anger, spite and unforgiveness;

We profess love of Christ but our thoughts, words and action betray an inner life where we allow criticism of others, diminishment of others, gestures and words of incivility mark who we really are;

We erect temples not to Christ but to political figures or a partisan and exclusionary philosophy which says some are better than others.

We grow such an inflated sense of self that we begin to glorify our wisdom, our philosophy, our way of life as the right and only way.

The list goes on and on and seems to grow each day. Each day we seek to crumble the stones of the temple that Jesus came to build. If you see yourself anywhere in this list of destruction then pause and review how you can return to the temple of God.

Everything changes once we begin to view ourselves as a Church, and view others either as a Church or someone destined to be a Church. When we grasp this, and when we have basic love for God, the whole way we view ourselves and others changes. We begin to have reverence for God, for others, and for ourselves.

And that’s the way all of us, together, grow into the temple of God.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus Christ, you open wide the door of your Father’s house and you bid us to enter confidently that we may worship in spirit and truth. Help me to recognize that I and my brother and sisters around us are called to be your holy temple. Grant me the wisdom and strength to live in that one and only truth.”

Daily Note

Through his death and resurrection, Jesus not only reconciles us with God, he fills us with his Holy Spirit and makes us temples of the living God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God’s word enlightens our minds and purifies our hearts that we may offer God fitting worship and enjoy his presence both now and forever. Do you live a life that recognizes that?

Are You Wearing A Millstone?

First Priority: Following Jesus" — Luke 9:59-60 (What Jesus Did!)
Daily Reflection – 11/8/2021

Sacred Scripture

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, `I repent,’ you must forgive him.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, `Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17: 1-6)

Reflection

There is not one of us who would want the experience of attempting to carry a millstone around our neck.

Yet, in truth, many Christians do. They may be unconscious of its weight but very mindful of the effect. The effect is when our faith no longer sustains us and we live a life of feeling despair more than hope.

The apostles in today’s scripture ask to have their faith increased. Jesus, in return, offers hope by pointing out that a little faith is sufficient if we just let it grow,

But letting it grow means that we need to live our lives doing our very best to bring alive his words in our life. Most often, the stumbling block to be fully alive in Christ is an inability to forgive.

One of the most important parts of our life of faith is our recognition that just as God never tires of forgiving us, we should never tire of asking him for forgiveness and of sharing a similar mercy with others.

It requires great humility to ask for forgiveness. It requires greater humility to give it. By his words today, Jesus is calling us not merely to give people a second chance, but an eighth chance. This forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending that the offense wasn’t sinful or scandalous; it doesn’t mean keeping or putting the person in a position where he or she can continue to injure others should the person fall again; but it does mean not holding their sin against them in a way that prevents they’re reconciling with God and others. But doing so is hard and to be capable of doing this, we need God’s help through the strength that comes from faith.

We can never know the liberating power of faith alive in our lives if we haven’t learned to forgive.  Why is that?

To allow the mustard seed of faith to grow in our lives, we need to provide it fertile soil. That “soil” is our hearts. How can faith grow if we carry malice in our hearts? How can faith grow if we spend part of every day criticizing another? How can faith grow if we refuse to accept the fact that every person is created by God and our equal? How can our faith grow when we wuill not let go of a grudge against another or refuse to forgive anther?

After all, how can we profess the love of Christ when we can’t show that love through the forgiveness of another?

But if we can muster up the strength to forgive another in His name then we will notice something else about our faith. It grows because we are surrounded by people who are seeking to live their faith.

When we look at ourselves as isolated creatures, our faith is small, very small. But Jesus tells us is that when we feel the smallness of our faith, then it is time that we draw upon the faith of others. When we become discouraged about the world around us, it is time to look at the people in our life who we love and who can give us energy and hope. If we lose our job or our health, it is not time to go it alone. It is time to draw upon the strength of the people who respect and support us. When we doubt whether there really is a heaven, it is time that we turn to the people around us whose faith is stronger than ours and draw on their strength.

Our faith might be the size of a mustard seed but we are not an isolated plant. We are a Church, a part of a community of believers. As a community of believers, we need to draw upon one another for faith and hope. Alone, our faith is much too small. But it is still sufficient. It still has power, because we do not fly alone.

We fly on his love and our shadow of love creates a better place for each one of us.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, you give us victory over the destructive forces of sin and harmful desires that keep us from doing your will. Give me the strength to always choose what is good and to reject what is wrong. May your love and truth rule my heart that I may give good example to others and guide those who need your wise instruction and help.”

Daily Note

As we ask the Lord for an increase in faith, we are asking him for the light that comes from faith so that we may examine our consciences appropriately, see our spiritual blind spots and look at our behavior from God’s perspective, and come, even seven times a day, to say, “Lord, have mercy on me!”

Claiming Our Pain

Jason Smith on Twitter: "“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also  be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also  be dishonest with much. Luke 16:10
Daily Reflection – 11/5/2021

Sacred Scripture

Then he also said to his disciples, “A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said, ‘What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.’ The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.’ He called in his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’ Then to another he said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.’ And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” (Luke 16:1-8)

Reflection

Today’s scripture is often misunderstood or, at least to many, it’s a “head scratcher”.

We need to think about all that is going on here to be sure that we understand the parable correctly. 

The manager was certainly dishonest.  He clearly squandered his master’s property and was being fired because of it.  But it is important that we understand correctly what his actions were, once his dishonesty had been found out.  Normally we presume that when he brought in his master’s debtors and reduced their bills that he was further cheating his master.  But this is not the case.  In the ancient world managers were given their income through commission.  When the manager in the parable reduced the debtors’ bills, he was not removing his master’s profit but his own.  His hope was that by giving back to the debtors what was his own, they would recognize his shrewdness and generosity.  Then, once he was fired, they might welcome him into their own financial operations.  It was a risk to be sure.  There was no guarantee that the debtors would respond in this way.

But what is noteworthy about this dishonest manager is that he had the insight to size up his situation and realize that the only possibility for future employment and security was to give away what he presently possessed. 

 It is this insight and this action that Jesus commends and invites us to imitate.  Because Jesus knows that if we correctly size up our present situation, we will realize that the only way to our future security is to give away some of what we possess today.

What is our present situation?  Everything we have is a gift: our life, our time, our relationships, our health, our money.  Everything we have is a gift.  This realization should certainly lead us to thankfulness.  But thankfulness is not enough.  Thankfulness has to  give way to generosity.  For generosity is the sign of the kingdom of God.  The person who understands God’s kingdom understands that everything that we have been given has been given to us to share.  Faithful stewardship requires giving back part of what we have been given.

Why is giving back so important?  Two reasons: others need it and generosity is good for us.  There is no doubt that others need the things that we possessPeople need our time, our presence, our money.  God loves all people. So, whenever anyone is hungry or sick or depressed God is counting on us and on our resources to help that person.  Christians know this better than anyone else because the gospel tells us that whatever we fail to do for the least of our brothers or sisters we fail to do for Jesus.  Therefore, refusing to give of what we have been given is a bad idea, a poor decision.  Our relationship to God is connected to our generosity to others.  We give because others are in need.

We also give because generosity is good for us.  The deepest joy in life is giving out of love.  Parents know this.  Lovers know this.  Sometimes we think that what is going to make us happy is to hold onto our time, to conserve our talents, to hoard our money.  But this is not true.  Joy comes from giving, giving freely and with love.  The deepest moments of joy occur in the context of generosity.

Everything you have is a gift, a gift for which to be thankful and a gift to share.  Holding onto the things we have been given will not make us happy.  Giving what we have away will help others and give us the deepest joy.

So that is our present situation.  That is how things stand.  When the dishonest manager in the gospel saw how things stood, he did not hesitate. He swung into action. He started giving what he had away.  We are called to follow his example.  In the days ahead, you will be given time, the opportunity to use your talents, and money.  You could choose to hold onto all of these things and use them only for yourself, but that would be a bad idea, a poor investment.  The gospel today poses a wiser and more helpful question.  It asks us, “This week, how much of your time and your talent and your money are you willing to give away?”

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, all that I have is a gift from you. May I love you freely and generously with all that I possess. Help me to be a wise and faithful steward of the resources you put at my disposal, including the use of my time, money, and possessions.”

Daily NoteJesus is concerned here with something more critical than a financial or economic crisis. His concern is that we avert spiritual crisis and personal moral disaster through the exercise of faith and foresight. If Christians would only expend as much foresight and energy to spiritual matters, which have eternal consequences, as they do to earthly matters which have temporal consequences, then they would be truly better off, both in this life and in the age to come.

Knowing Our Worth

The Lost Coin – Wisdom from Gregory of Nyssa – Abiding In Love and Truth
Daily Reflection – 11/4/2021

Sacred Scripture

The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them he addressed this parable. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:1-10)

Reflection

The sense of belonging to God as beloved sons and daughters is very strong in today’s scripture, which is perhaps the most moving chapter in all of Sacred Scripture, when Jesus gives us the Parables of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin and Lost Sons, all of which stress how his love for us is greater than our sins, how he rejoices when he is able to restore us to our identity.

But first a word on the lost coin. It would help us to realize that at the time of Jesus there was a Palestinian custom that a bride on her wedding day would wear a special a special headdress. On that headdress coins were attached to indicate prosperity and good luck. Now, if we suppose that the coin in the parable was one such coin, suddenly the woman’s action makes sense. She is not looking for a quarter. She is looking for her wedding coin, which today would be comparable to a wedding ring. She is searching for it not because of its monetary value, but because what the coin means to her.

That coin and that one sheep symbolize the infinite love of God for us.

It’s so important for us to recognize how much God loves every one of us, especially when we’re lost. When we think of all of the blessings God has given us over the course of life and the thought wells up in us to thank him, the thanks he most desires, which will give him the most joy, is when we come to receive his forgiveness and when we help lead others to that same font of love.

To lead others to that font of love means recognizing our value.

There are times in our lives when we question our value or perhaps feel that we have lost value. Perhaps we have hurt someone deeply because of selfishness or fear, and this brought an important relationship in our life to a close. Perhaps we are struggling with a destructive habit, the abuse of alcohol or pornography. As hard as we try, we are not able to bring that habit under control. Perhaps we have less energy or ability because of sickness or advancing age. We are not able to contribute in the way in which we once could.

Whatever the reason, there are times that we feel that our value has slipped, our worth is reduced, and we are not the people we can or should be. In those circumstances the parable of the woman and the coin reminds us that we still have value in God’s sight. God still cares for us and treasures us. God is committed to finding us.

This is because our worth is not dependent on how perfectly we have lived or how much we are able to do. Our worth depends on what we mean to God. And we mean a lot. We mean enough for God to create us, save us, and keep searching to bring us closer, closer to the life that God wants us to live.

So, however down your spirits may be, however lost you may feel, just remember that even now God has lit the lamp and is sweeping away ever obstacle, so that he can say to the angels of heaven, “Rejoice with me, for here is my beloved daughter or son whom I have been able to bring closer to myself.”

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, let your light dispel the darkness that what is lost may be found and restored. Let your light shine through me that others may see your love and truth and find hope and peace in you. May I never doubt your love nor take for granted the mercy you have shown to me. Fill me with your transforming love that I may be merciful as you are merciful.”

Daily Note

Both the shepherd and the housewife “search until what they have lost is found.” Their persistence pays off. They both instinctively share their joy with the whole community. What was new in Jesus’ teaching was the insistence that sinners must be sought out and not merely mourned for. God does not rejoice in the loss of anyone, but desires that all be saved and restored to fellowship with him. That is why the whole community of heaven rejoices when one sinner is found and restored to friendship with God. Seekers of the lost are much needed today. Do you persistently pray and seek after those you know who have lost their way to God?

Here’s the Cost. Too High?

St. Mark Lutheran Church » “Living Wide Awake”
Daily Reflection – 11/3/2021

Sacred Scripture

Great crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-33)

Reflection

Today’s scripture has three very different metaphors which all carry the same message.

How much are we willing to live a Christ filled life?

Jesus was utterly honest and spared no words to tell his disciples that it would cost them dearly to be his disciples – it would cost them their whole lives and all they possessed in exchange for the new life and treasure of God’s kingdom.

Our faith in Jesus is supposed to revolutionize the way we relate to our family, our property, our pleasures, even our own life. To be a faithful disciple, he says, is going to cost us and cost us dearly.

 It’s tempting to try to soften Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel, as if he really didn’t or couldn’t mean them literally, because they are so challenging. It’s tempting to try to reduce the price tag of the faith, as if Jesus were running a Yard Sale and we could haggle the cost down to something we think a bargain.

If our end is truly to be Jesus’ disciple, we’ve got to face three things we’re often tempted to overlook or minimize.

The first condition is: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” In other words, Jesus must be our greatest love. The word “hate,” in Hebrew, does not mean “detest” but to “put in second place.” Jesus, after all, calls us to honor our parents and love them, not despise them or anyone else. If he calls us to love even our enemies, then we are certainly called to love our families.

The point of Jesus’ expression is that we must love him more than we love ourselves or our loved ones. Jesus cannot just be a part of our life but the center.

The second condition Jesus describes is, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Jesus tells us that we cannot be his disciple unless we’re prepared to suffer out of love for him and others.

The important word in Jesus’ admonition is the word “carry”—whoever does not carry his own cross. What Jesus is trying to tell us is that it is only by carrying our cross, by taking it up, that we will be free. Now you and I usually do anything other than carry our cross. We deny the cross, pretending it’s not there. We try to go on with life as usual. But the denial only pushes down our fear and our anger within us. We try to drag the cross behind us, pushing ahead, saying “This is not going to stop me!” But in time, the cross wears us out, and we collapse in exhaustion.

Once we put the cross on our shoulders, we are free to move forward into life. Yes, at times the cross is heavy. It is a burden. But it need not prevent us from love and hope. And Christ, who carried his own cross, will be with us. Once we take up the cross, and begin to carry it, Jesus is immediately at our side, supporting us, and saying, “Courage. Let’s take this one step at a time. Follow me into glory.”

The third condition is, “None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” We cannot help but think of the parable of the Rich Young Man who chose his material gifts rather than Jesus. Jesus says that we cannot be his disciple unless we’re prepared to choose differently from the Rich Young Man, to detach ourselves from our possessions to attach ourselves to the treasure of Jesus.

“No one can serve two masters; for he will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other,” he told us during the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 6:24). He then gave that sentence a clear practical application: “You cannot serve both God and money” (Mt 6:24).

Jesus does not mean that we necessarily have to liquidate our bank accounts tomorrow. Jesus who calls us to love him above all our things is prepared to give us all the help he knows we need to be poor in spirit, but we have to receive that gift and act in accordance with it. The price of discipleship is, in some sense, the actual value of all we own.

Jesus offers us a path to his father’s kingdom. It boils down to choosing between life and death, truth and falsehood, goodness and evil. If we choose for the Lord Jesus and put our trust in him, he will guide us on the way that leads to true joy and happiness with our Father in heaven.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, you are my Treasure, my Life, and my All. There is nothing in this life that can outweigh the joy of knowing, loving, and serving you all the days of my life. Take my life and all that I have and make it yours for your glory now and forever.”

Daily Note

We were once slaves to sin and a kingdom of darkness and oppression, but we have now been purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ who has ransomed us from a life of darkness and destruction so we could enter his kingdom of light and truth. Christ has set us free to choose whom we will serve in this present life as well as in the age to come.

I Remember Death to Live

On Today's Gospel | CatholicJules.net
Daily Reflection – 11/2/2021

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to the crowds: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from Heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” (John 6:37-40)

Reflection

Jesus made an incredible promise to his disciples and a claim which only God can make and deliver: Whoever sees and believes in Jesus, the Son of God, shall have everlasting life and be raised up at the last day.

The power of those words can not be expressed adequately. The promise of those words has inspired people through two millennia. Eternal life. Life without an ending.

The foundational thought behind those words is one that can easily be remembered. Because if we believe that God has loved us and is loving us now, is it not logical, is it not even expected, that God will continue to love us even after death? If we believe that God has blessed us and is continuing to bless us now, why would we imagine that God would stop blessing us even when our life here comes to an end?

There’s a German proverb which says, “Those who live in Christ will never see each other for the last time.” It is a beautiful thought, isn’t it? I believe that and I know that you do as well.

Believing that should bring us to not just an acceptance of death but also to a way of living.

You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference “remembering death” will make in helping you to “learn how to live.”

 It’s already made a huge difference in mine. When I’m having a conversation with someone who really is trying my patience, I say to myself, “Stop, be charitable and patient. This might be the last conversation you ever have. Treasure it.”

If I’m tempted to rush through my prayers, I remind myself, “Stop, you may die within the hour. Pray for all the things you would if you knew this were your last opportunity.” My prayer takes on new meaning.

 If I’m tempted to commit a sin, I recall that that deed might be the last thing I ever do, and that if it’s not worth it to gain the whole world if I lost my soul in the process, then surely, it’s not worth it to gain whatever momentary and illusory pleasure that particular sin might bring.

Indeed, if we were to realize that we may in fact die today — for we know not the day or the hour and today is just as likely as five years from now — it would change the whole way we would spend the day.

What would you do if you knew you were going to die today? Would you call up someone and tell that person that you loved them? Then do it. Would you call up someone you’ve hurt and say you’re sorry?

To wake up each morning and live each day as if it were our last is the secret to having life come truly alive, to treasure each moment, each person, each event as a real gift.

Living each day as if it were our last entails only two habits. Sacrifice and thanksgiving. When we sacrifice ourselves for the sake of another, when we give of ourselves in a way that makes a difference in the life of someone else, there is something eternal in our action. When we witness the way that a parent loves his or her child, the way that a child cares for his aging parent, or the way time and energy is spent to correct something that is wrong in our school, neighborhood, or world, those actions are not just for a moment. There is something in that kind of giving that goes on and flows into eternity. Sacrificing for the sake of love is one of the things that matter.

So is thanksgiving. When we truly appreciate what we have received, how we have been blessed, when we see how we have been loved by a spouse, by a friend or by our God, that kind of thankfulness not only humbles us but lifts us up. It is not a feeling for a moment, but it both anticipates and actuates the eternal love of God that will surround us forever. Thanksgiving in its deepest sense is eternal.

When I visit people in the last hours of their lives, they do not focus on the joys and sorrows that have passed long ago. What is important to them is how they have given for the sake of another and how they are loved by their family, by their friends, and by God. These are the things that are important. For those on the very edge of life, sacrifice and thanksgiving are eternal.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus Christ, your death and resurrection brought life and hope where there was once only despair and defeat. Give me unwavering faith, unshakeable hope, and the fire of your unquenchable love that I may know you fully and serve you joyfully now and forever in your everlasting kingdom.”

Daily Note

Jesus promises that those who accept him as their Lord and Savior and submit to his word will be raised up to everlasting life with him when he comes again at the close of this age. Is your life securely anchored to the promises of Christ and his kingdom of everlasting peace, joy, and righteousness?

Are You a Winner or a Loser?

Blessed are you: the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 (Epiphany 4A) – An Informed  Faith
Daily Reflection – 11/1/2021

Sacred Scripture

When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in Heaven.” (Matthew 5: 1-12)

Reflection

In today’s scripture, Jesus gathers us around him and presents to us the way to heaven, the way to happiness, the way to holiness, precisely so that we can choose to follow him on it.

The path that he shows us stands in stark contrast to the path that the majority of people in the world believe will make us happy. Jesus’ words present us with the choice on which our lives hinge.

The heart of Jesus’ message is that we can live a very happy life. The call to holiness, to be saints who joyfully pursue God’s will for their lives, can be found in these eight beatitudes. Jesus’ beatitudes sum up our calling or vocation – to live a life of the beatitudes. The word beatitude literally means “happiness” or “blessedness”.

The beatitudes which Jesus offers us are a sign of contradiction to the world’s understanding of happiness and joy. How can one possibly find happiness in poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution?

Poverty of spirit finds ample room and joy in possessing God as the greatest treasure possible. Hunger of the spirit seeks nourishment and strength in God’s word and Spirit. Sorrow and mourning over wasted life and sin leads to joyful freedom from the burden of guilt and spiritual oppression.

God reveals to the humble of heart the true source of abundant life and happiness. Jesus promises his disciples that the joys of heaven will more than compensate for the troubles and hardships they can expect in this world.

Yet, the words of Jesus still may seem very strange to us. Jesus exalts those whom the world generally regards as weak. He basically says to us “Blessed are you who seem to be losers, because you are the real winners: the kingdom of heaven is yours!”

Jesus is essentially beckoning us to follow him, because he is the face of the beatitudes, he was poor in spirit, compassionate to the point of tears, meek and humble of heart, pure of heart, hungry for our righteousness, merciful, the Prince of Peace, and persecuted unto crucifixion. His words present a challenge that demands a deep conversion of the spirit, a great change of heart, because so many of us don’t really strive to live that way, don’t really make the choices that will lead us to eternal blessedness.

Most people spend a majority of their lives  seeking happiness whether it be in our families, our lives, our neighborhoods. In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with that. What happens is that we seek that happiness in the wrong places. It’s a happiness that can’t be found in the attractions of the secular world.

True happiness is found deep inside. It begins by acknowledging that God is the author and creator of our life. It continues by our willingness to follow him. We follow him by living the beatitudes. By living the beatitudes, we experience a change in our hearts. That change in our hearts leads to a life focused on bringing alive the values that God teaches us. And THAT is what will bring us to profound happiness and eternal life with him.

The question that each of us face is whether we are willing to lose the values of the world and win the rewards of heaven. It’s our choice.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, increase my hunger for you and show me the way that leads to everlasting peace and happiness. May I desire you above all else and find perfect joy in doing your will.”

Daily Note

There are the two voices competing for our hearts, the voice of the Good Shepherd and the voice of blind guides. Putting one’s faith in Jesus means choosing to believe what he says and to act on it — no matter how strange. And choosing to follow Jesus means choosing to reject the seductive claims of the world and of evil, no matter how sensible or attractive they may seem.

Guess What? Its Not About You!

john-14-6 - NationsU : NationsU
Daily Reflection – 10/27/2021

Sacred Scripture

Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:22-30)

Reflection

Jesus told this story in response to the question of who will make it to heaven – to God’s kingdom of everlasting peace and eternal life. Many rabbis held that all Israel would be saved and gain entry into God’s kingdom, except for a few blatant sinners who excluded themselves!

Jesus surprised his listeners by saying that one’s membership as a people who have entered into a covenant relationship with God does not automatically mean entry into the everlasting kingdom of God. Then he warns that we can be excluded if we do not strive to enter by the narrow door. What did Jesus mean by this expression?

The door which Jesus had in mind was himself. “I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved: (John 10:9). God sent his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to open the way for us to have full access to the throne of God’s grace (his favor and blessing) and mercy (his pardon for our sins).

He did all of that and won redemption for us. What do we need to do?

A couple of things

If we want to enter God’s kingdom then we must follow the Lord Jesus in his way of the cross through a willing renunciation of our own will for his will – our own life for his life – our own way for his way.

In a land where there is a continual outcry about personal freedom and what some believe they are entitled to, that’s a big ask. One can almost guess the response. “To give up my way for another’s way? You must be kidding.”

Ah, now we are getting to the nub of it. The narrow gate.

It means that we live our lives knowing and claiming God’s sovereignty over us and embracing every moment as an opportunity to accept God’s love. Heaven is not about us. It is about God’s decision to save us. It is when we accept that reality that we are on the road to glory.

So today should be the day that we should enter through the narrow gate. Today we should accept the power of God’s love which surrounds us. If you are fortunate to be in a strong marriage, have healthy children, live comfortably, you can of course say, “I worked hard for this. I’ve made good decisions. I’m a responsible person.”

But we enter through the narrow gate when we say, “All that I have comes from God’s hands. God is the one who has given me my life, my abilities, my relationships. God is the one who has guided me in my wise decisions.” (Now that may seem impossible to politicians but the authentic Christian knows that everything we have is a gift from God.)

So, although I have done my best, it is God who is to be praised. If your life is in disarray, if your relationships are broken, if your health deteriorating, if you’re coping with depression or addiction, of course you could say, “I should have made better decisions. I could have seen this coming.”

But you enter through the narrow gate when you say, “Despite my faults and sins, I believe that God still loves me. This gives me the power and hope to move ahead knowing that God will not abandon me.”

Those who enter through the narrow gate understand that God is in charge. Those who enter through the narrow gate realize that for all they have done or failed to do, it is God’s action that is definitive. And God chooses to save us. What we need to do is to accept that salvation with humility and trust.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, may I never doubt your guiding presence and your merciful love towards me. Through the gift of your Spirit fill me with courage and persevering faith to trust you in all things and in every circumstance that, I find myself. Give me the strength to cling to your promises when the world around me begins to shake or crumble. And when my love and zeal begin to waver, fan into my heart a flame of consuming love and dedication for you who are my All.”

Daily Note

To enter the kingdom of God we must struggle against every force or power of opposition – even the temptation to remain indifferent, apathetic, or compromising in our faith and personal trust in Jesus, our hope in holding firm to the promises of Jesus, and our uncompromising love for God above all else (the “love that has been poured into our hearts through the gift of the Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

Small Steps Toward The Kingdom

Stream Faith Like A Mustard Seed by Faith Lutheran Church | Listen online  for free on SoundCloud
Daily Reflection – 10/26/2021

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.” Again he said, “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.” (Luke 13:18-21)

Reflection

The parables of the mustard seed and of yeast are well known to most Christians. So well known, in fact, that we forget how directional they are in pointing us to the kingdom of God.

The parable of the mustard seed allows us to visualize the future fruitfulness of our seemingly small actions on behalf of Christ whether they be small prayers, small sacrifices, or small, hidden acts of virtue. These are tiny, from the world’s perspective—not worthy of even a footnote in the annals of the relentless 24/7 news cycle, let alone a headline. And yet, hidden within these tiny acts of faith and responses to God’s grace is a great future, just as the tiny mustard seed contains in potency the largest of shrubs. Contemplating this comparison will enable us to continue committing ourselves to the small things, the things that don’t appear in the headlines, but the things that will be fruitful for an everlasting Kingdom.

The story of leaven in the dough allows us to visualize the hidden and transforming power of faith, hope, and love, of the grace and truth brought into the world by the Gospel. The leaven literally disappears within the mass of dough. In comparison with the dough, its weight and volume are insignificant. And yet, the entire loaf is affected by that leaven. It is changed and transformed. Just so, Christians living their faith authentically may be indistinguishable on the outside from their neighbors, their coworkers, their comrades, while their witness, their mere presence, gradually works a transformation not only of their inner circles, but even of entire communities, societies, and cultures.

We live in a culture that values what is big and impressive. We get excited about new car or better clothes or the most recent laptop or smart phone. And we are so keyed into these big and impressive things that at times we overlook what seems to be less. That is unfortunate, because small things matter. They matter because God uses them, and they matter in two different ways. They matter in the actions that we do, and they matter in the things we receive.

As we live any day or our life, we should never discount the small things we can do: a word of love or support to our spouse, a few moments to affirm a son or daughter about something they are good at or something that they have achieved, a phone call to a friend who is grieving the death of a loved one, or even a thankful smile instead of a vacant stare as we approach the cashier in the supermarket. These are all small things, tiny things, things that could seem to have no significance. Yet they can be important because God can choose to use them to build up some person in our lives and to increase the goodness around us. We should never discount doing small things in the course of every day.

But neither should we overlook the importance of receiving small things each day. For each day there are people in our lives who give us signs of love and support. How much richer our lives would be if we were open to accept those signs and take them in: the smile of our 3-year-old as we come home from work, the person who breaks to let us into traffic, a friend who says to us, “How are you? How are you really?” All of these are signs that God is using to show us that we are loved and that there are reasons for hope.

Big and flashy things always seem important. But small things matter. Things as little as a mustard seed can shape our lives. We can be the farmer who plants the mustard seed or the soil that receives it—the giver or the receiver. In both cases small things like a mustard seed can make a difference. God uses the small things in our lives to build the kingdom of God.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and transform me into the Christ-like holiness you desire. Let me grow in your love by reaching out in love in all things. Even the shadow of my outstretched hand shows another that I desire to act in holiness and love in all things.”

Daily Note

Even if at present, the kingdom seems to be one of the tiniest of seeds, we know that that tiny seed — the grain of wheat that fell to the ground and died so that it could bear fruit, Christ himself (Jn 12:24) — already contains within the fullness of the kingdom, just as a mustard seed already contains in “fertilized embryo” the full identity of the future mustard tree. Likewise, the image of the Kingdom as yeast points to us the confidence Christ has that, together with him, one or a few faith-filled hopeful Christians in a neighborhood, in a work setting, in a school, are enough to lift up the entire environment. The confidence comes from our already having received in the present in embryonic form the power of Christ’s resurrection, which has lifted up the entire fallen world.