That Good Old Junk Drawer

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Daily Reflection 8/25/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.” (Matthew 23:23-26)

Reflection

Do you have a junk drawer at home? That’s the place where anything for which we can’t find a place winds up. Usually jumbled. I have one. Others have a junk closet. Whatever its shape, it hides a lot. On the surface, the room or the house looks great but inside it’s a mess.

This kind of superficial remedy can give us an image of what our spiritual life can be like. It can be tempting to clean the outside of the cup while not tending to the inside. At a restaurant we make sure to  say grace before eating but think nothing of snapping at a waiter. Or we go to Church and look pious but come out and think nothing of making a snide comment about someone. Or we listen to a sermon, don’t like it because it gets to close to exposing a flaw and we make sure to criticize the message or the messenger to friends.

Why don’t our outward observances more closely match what’s inside us? Oftentimes, it’s because we find it easier to manage our appearance than to deal with our flaws. We want to hide them away and occupy ourselves with what we can control. It’s as if we were a parent whose teenager is always fighting, and all we do is keep reminding him to comb his hair! But like a wise parent, Jesus insists that we come to him and tell him what the real problem is. He is anxious to listen to us and to offer us his healing remedy.

We need to tend to our soul and make sure the intentions behind our actions are holy motivations. We need to check our heart frequently so that we can work with purity of intention. Sometimes we work only to present an appearance to others, to appear virtuous and holy, but inside we are filled with negative judgments, such as lack of charity. Virtue comes from within the heart of a person, where the Spirit dwells and inspires as he wills. We need to be attentive to the Holy Spirit and follow his lead.

Being attentive to the Holy Spirit means we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to hold up a mirror to our souls every day. It begins with an honest question. Why do you follow Jesus? Do you follow Him because you are obliged by your faith or you follow Him because of your deep love for Him? When you follow Jesus because you see it as your obligation; there will not be a deep transformation within you. You simply follow for the reason that it creates a positive self-image for you and it ends with the positive self-image: No interior cleansing and transformation.

When we follow Jesus because we love Him, we allow the love of Jesus to deeply transform us. For example, if we follow Jesus because we love Him, we will be forgiving, we will not store hatred in our hearts. And we will abhor anything that is bad and evil because we give Jesus the freehand to transform us.

Our discipleship with Jesus must always be rooted in our love for Him and not because this is dictated by our faith. For this is what true discipleship is all about, a discipleship that creates a very deep and honest transformation within our being.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, you know what is in my heart. Purify it and recast it in the image of your divine heart, so that I may love you and love others as you love them. Let me put aside all vanity and desire for appearances that does not give glory to you.”

Daily Note

Authentic spirituality is not a question of formalisms and actions to appease God, but rather of turning our hearts to his word. We need to make our hearts more like His, in charity and mercy toward others. How many times do we miss the most important things and work only at side issues? How often do we try to please God in the wrong way, by supposing we are doing his will when actually we are only doing our own will instead? How often do we forget the true essence of devotion to the law of God?


Hypocrites Need Not Apply

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Daily Reflection – 8/24/2020

Sacred Scripture

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, `If any one swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’  You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, `If any one swears by the altar, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and he who swears by the temple, swears by it and by him who dwells in it; and he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.( Matthew 23:13-22)

Reflection

Today’s Gospel presents a stern Jesus who calls out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. Following His scathing denouncement of the Pharisees and scribes, Christ wrathfully indicts them with seven woes for their unfaithfulness.  “Woes” are a declaration of doom, curses that warn the unrepentant of God’s coming judgment.

What Jesus is attacking is not so much a particular people as certain attitudes of mind. And these attitudes can be found just as easily within the Christian community of that time and every period since then.

Jesus calls out the fact that the Pharisees had no hesitation in drawing up rules which are difficult for people to carry out but they do absolutely nothing to help in their implementation. In fact, they devised ways to get around them subtly. We see that even today where people of authority set up standards but don’t live them. This is the double standard, where people set the rules which they themselves do not keep: “Do as I say, not as I do” or “You will do it because I tell you to do it.”

The scribes and Pharisees lacked the authenticity and rectitude of conscience that were needed to please God. As followers of Christ, we need to let our behavior, our word, and our conscience be in harmony with God.  We have been given a conscience to help us do that. Conscience is that secret sanctuary in which where we are alone with God and we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us in the depths of our heart. To violate that conscience, that is, to go against what we know to be true, is to deny ourselves what is most important to our salvation.

Jesus wants us to be sincere in all we say and do, so that the integrity of our lives may be apparent to all who see us. Think of those Christians you admire and use as role models. They are people who are simple and transparent, can be taken at face value, because to be devious or calculating, it never occurs to them to be devious or calculating, or to be in any way false or insincere.

Unlike the Pharisees and scribes, the greatest respect we give is to the one who serves, – the person who uses his or her gifts for the benefit of others, whose whole life is dedicated to making this world a better place for others to live in. This is the model to which we are called. Our faith calls us to live in such a way that our interior faith is matched by our exterior conduct. No more. No less.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, give me the grace of real sincerity of heart in dealing with you and with others. Teach me to give my word and mean it with all my heart.”

Daily Note

How do we shut the door of God’s kingdom in our own personal lives? We close it through hypocrisy, stubborn pride, disobedience, and ignorance. We do it by picking and choosing Christian principles that suit us. But He is calling us to a higher standard. He is calling us to reject the world’s way of thinking forming  the way we think, act, and speak . Instead, we are called to allow God’s word of truth to form the way we think, act, and speak.

Simple Language But Profound In Its Living

You Shall Love the Lord Your God With All Your Heart… – Bible ...
Daily Reflection – 8/21/2020

Sacred Scripture

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

Reflection

Just about every Christian knows the two great commands. Just about every Christian knows that they are the bedrock of the faith.

Pretty straight forward. Pretty simple.

Then why do we find them so hard? I believe that even though Jesus said they are inextricably linked, too many people separate them.

If we practice religion but do not love, if we are indifferent to the sufferings of others, if we are not committed to love of neighbor, if we do not look around at our life situation and respond to the needs of the poor, the orphan, the immigrant,  the widow, the suffering who are in our midst, then our religion becomes an empty shell. It is a façade that betrays a self-centered ego not an other-directed person.

 There is an inseparable unity between the two great commands. God is love. It is His very nature. If we truly worship God, we center our life around Love Himself. If we don’t love, we don’t worship Him. To love is to commit to the well-being of another, to make sacrifices for them, all so that they may know the love of God and that God may be loved by them.

Loving God has everything to do with being kind and charitable toward our neighbors especially those who are most in need. Loving God has everything to do with being just in our dealings with others, sharing our resources to help others live a life befitting their dignity as human beings and children of God, forgiving, etc. In the divine plan, love for God is never separated from love of flesh and blood people. Put another way, though God must always come first, there is no true love of Him which is not incarnated in love of neighbor.

The key to incorporating the two commands into our very lives is to work every day at making God the center of our life. If we do that then the second commandment of loving our neighbor becomes easier. He likens the love of neighbor to the love of God. John wrote, No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1Jn. 4:12).

When one does it often enough it becomes a habit. If this sounds too serendipitous then reflect on one other part. To love somebody who is lovable is easy to do, but we are called love those that are different from us, those who may even make us uncomfortable in their difference.

So, what do we do when we have to gulp hard and love “the unlovable?” We need to look at the standard by which we will be judged and that is the love that appears to us from the cross. Was our life an evasion of the cross, a constant pursuit of our own well-being, as it is for some today? Or, was our life the pursuit of that crucified love? Was every day of our life an effort to become more deeply entwined into the life of the Son of God?

It’s an important question, because the Joy of Heaven is all about love. If we do not know the joy of loving the poor and suffering of this world, we have not yet had a foretaste of the joy of heaven, and we just might feel very out of place in heaven if we die without ever having learned to love, without tasting the joy of loving.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, your love surpasses all. Flood my heart with your love and increase my faith and hope in your promises. Help me to give myself in generous service to others as you have so generously given yourself to me.”

Daily Note

Faith in God and hope in his promises strengthens us in the love of God. They are essential for a good relationship with God, for being united with him. The more we know of God the more we love him and the more we love him the greater we believe and hope in his promises. The Lord Jesus, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, gives us a new freedom to love as he loves. Paul the Apostle writes, “For freedom Christ has set us free… only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh [sinful inclinations], but through love be servants of one another” (Galatians 5:1,13). Do you allow anything to keep you from the love of God and the joy of serving others with a generous heart?

Yup, Received It, But . . .

God's Invitation — Gore Baptist Church
Daily Reflection – 8/20/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus again in reply spoke to them in parables, saying, “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1-14)

Reflection

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus talks about what the kingdom is all about through a parable. He likened faith to a wedding feast: the king invited people to attend the wedding of his son. The invitation was given to all guests but all of them ignored and refused to come.

He then dispatched his servants and instructed them to invite anyone they would meet on the roadside. But the king saw a man not wearing a wedding garment and ordered that man to be taken out from the feast as he did not fit in the feast.

Among the characters in the parable, each one of us can identify with one of them. We are always invited by God to join him in a feast. Symbolized by the feast hosted by the king, many were invited but few really showed up.

Most of us are like these people who ignored and relented the king’s invitation to be with him in celebrating life and love. . Why is it so hard to say “yes” to that? Why don’t we make ourselves available for others and celebrate God’s goodness and kindness instead?

When we refuse to put on the wedding garment, we fail to put into effect the words “all of you who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ” because what good is it to put on Christ and do nothing about it? What good is it to say we are Christian and we believe in Jesus Christ, but not actually live it; faithfully?

There is only one question for each of us :  am I ready to put on this “wedding garment” of obedience and faithfulness to God, and be in a Christian in all that I do? Whether I am at work, or at university, at school, or even at home? Am I reaching out to my neighbor and my friend, who might need me?

God first loved us to desire all of us to be at this wedding banquet. If we can’t respond to that call of love, just as God first loved us, then, perhaps we should God, and ask Him to help us search for our “wedding garments” within our souls so that we can live out the Christian life.

God invites each of us to His banquet that we may share in his joy.  How can we not desire that joy?

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, help me to always know the joy of living in your presence and grow in the hope of seeing you face to face in your everlasting kingdom.”

Daily Note

Our God-given human freedom allows us to make both good choices and bad choices. We are not forced like puppets on a string to pursue and embrace a life of holiness. Rather, we are invited — and we must make a choice. Our past sins are not meant to cripple us from ever walking into the banquet hall of God. We gain the status of being his guests whom he wishes to meet in a special, personal way. There is no other invitation that measures up to it.

But That’s Not Fair !

The first will be last… Matthew 20: ppt download
Daily Reflection – 8/19/2020

Sacred Scripture

And Jesus said,] “The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”(Matthew 20: 1-16)

Reflection

In today’s gospel, we are taught to be open to God’s grace of love and mercy. And we are reminded that a generous person neither counts the cost nor expects any return for that which he or she gives freely and joyfully.

What we see on display today is jealousy, It’s “He got two pieces and I only got one!”

Jesus says that jealousy is begrudging God’s generosity. What that means is this: we think somehow that the good things we have aren’t good enough, because someone else has better things. God is showing favoritism! It’s not fair!

It’s not so much that we think the world is unfair, but that we think God is unfair TO ME.

Let’s face it. There is always an imbalance in life, an unfairness in the way that the bad things of life get handed out—but there’s also an imbalance of generosity. God is far more generous than we imagine or we deserve. God’s grace is unbounded and indiscriminate. We may look at someone else with jealous eyes, believing somehow their good luck is the cause of our misfortune—but what we’re really doing is not trusting God. God’s generosity is so great that no one can take it away from us.

The challenge is to have faith that God’s generosity is the real ruling principle of the universe. To look at the world not through the green-eyed lens of jealous, but with the clear eyes of faith.

We express that confidence in the generosity of God by rejoicing in the good fortune of others. That seems to be a lost art in our personal lives and certainly in our political discourse today. It seems as if politics in the United States is oriented toward making the person who receives less feel even more untitled – there is a stoking of the need to “get even.”

We rejoice and are grateful because anyone experiencing an extra helping in life is proof that God gives extra helpings to us all, if we only look for them. And if we’re willing to acknowledge that, then we’re certain to see the extra helpings that God provides for us, as well—extra helpings we might otherwise have missed if we’d continued to let our eyes be clouded by jealousy.

And the best way to  express our belief in the generosity of God’s grace is by being generous ourselves—especially to those we think are somehow benefitting at our expense. Generosity, especially when we’re living in a time when we feel like our resources are scarce, is a powerful way to demonstrate to the world that you believe in a generous God.

Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may serve you joyfully and serve my neighbor willingly with a generous heart, not looking for how much I can get, but rather looking for how much I can give.

Daily Note

The Lord Jesus wants to fill each one of us with the power and strength of the Holy Spirit so we can bear great fruit for God’s kingdom (the fruit of peace, joy, righteousness, and love) and also bring the fruit of his kingdom to our neighbor as well. We labor for the Lord to bring him praise, honor, and glory. And we labor for our neighbor and for their welfare with the same spirit of loving-kindness and compassion which the Lord has shown to us.

Here Comes The Camel !

Proverbs 28:6 | Book of proverbs, Proverbs, Proverbs 28

Daily Reflection – 8/18/2020

Sacred Scripture

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Then Peter said to him in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.( Matthew 19:23-30)

Reflection

Here it is again. That persistent old camel who knows he has to get  down on his knees to enter through the small gate while his owner unloads the side bags to help him get through. It takes a lot of work, persistence and focus on the end goal. But the camel does it. Jesus reminds the disciples though that it is easier for the camel to enter through the eye of a needle than a wealthy person to enter the kingdom of God.!

Did Jesus have a problem with wealth? No. Jesus had several wealthy acquaintances including a tax collector who became a disciple. He did have a problem with the attitude that comes to many who are wealthy. He is saying that to be attached to material things means not having room for God. Just as a mountain climber doesn’t use heavy gear or take a weighty rucksack, in our spiritual climbing of the mountain (which is our intimate relationship with God), we need to be free of anything burdensome.

Our lives sometimes get so pre-occupied and anxious with the accumulation of material wealth and amassing even more that God gets pushed out of life and the one who is Source and Sustainer of all goodness finds no place in our hearts and minds.

Jesus is reminding us that the more we have around us the harder it will be for us to not get used to looking for our security there and trusting God instead. The destiny that God wishes for us is that we should return to Him on the last day where we will receive our reward for the good work we did for Him here on earth. Humility and meekness is the key to serving God and whomever puts himself first before men, will become last in God’s eyes and whoever puts himself last before men, will become first in the Kingdom of God.

That is counterintuitive in a society where so much emphasis is put on achieving wealth. But think about it. How many of us truly revere people who are known only for material achievement? Isn’t it true that we admire and respect those that have lived lives that are centered around making this world better? Some of them were and are wealthy. But what we tell ourselves and our children about are about those whose lives have enriched (no pun intended) the lives of others,

Jesus offers us an incomparable treasure which no money can buy and no thief can steal. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. Material wealth will shackle us, like a bound slave, to this earth unless we guard our heart and set our treasure in God and his kingdom of everlasting life and joy.

Jesus makes us realize that unless we discover, maintain and hold on to the Lord as the Supreme Treasure of our life and consider all other riches and wealth as flowing from His Mercy.  Instead of clinging on to worldly wealth, may we cling to the Lord, who alone can help us to find the true meaning of our lives! Instead of holding on to material glory, may we hold on to the Kingdom of Heaven, where alone can we find the perfect peace and happiness!

There is a quote that fits so well here: “A person is no fool to give up what he cannot keep, in order to gain what he cannot lose.”

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, you are my only hope. I commit myself to you as Lord and Savior. Help me to become the person you want me to be. Amen”

Daily Note

Jesus offers us an incomparable treasure which no money can buy and no thief can steal. These are the good things that we set in our hearts, the values that we uphold, and the principle of being more not having more. Accumulating much material wealth, on the other hand, is not dreadful unless we guard our hearts and set our treasures on God and His everlasting kingdom.

Yes But, Well Maybe, Ah No

The Power of the Sea in 24 Breathtaking Images
Daily Reflection – 8/17/2020

Sacred Scripture

Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. ( Matthew 19:16-22)

Reflection

I too am always saddened a bit when I read this Gospel. Here was a wealthy young man who followed the commandments but was seeking something deeper in life. He hears of Jesus, believes that Jesus had the wisdom to help him. But when Jesus tells him, he realizes that he could not do as Jesus asked.

In the end, he really did not understand what Jesus said. The statement that Jesus made about seeing all the riches the young man was meant to focus the man on the interior of his being. His treasure and his hope for happiness were misplaced.  The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. The Lord himself is the greatest treasure we can have.

Jesus does call some people to literally sell all their possessions and give them away. We certainly know how Francis of Assisi, similarly a wealthy young man, gave away everything and dedicated his life to working for and among the poor.  Their vocation is a sign to all of us of the radical change in our that each of us is called to.

What is that radical interior calling given to us by our Lord?  It’s a calling to spiritual poverty.  By “spiritual poverty” we mean that each and every one of us is called to detach from the things of this world to the same extent as those called to literal poverty.  The only difference is that one calling is both interior and exterior, and the other calling is only interior.  But it must be just as radical.

What does spiritual poverty look like?  It is a Beatitude.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” as St. Matthew says, and “Blessed are the poor,” as St. Luke says.  Spiritual poverty means we discover the blessing of spiritual riches in our detachment from the material enticements of this age.  No, material “things” are not evil.  That’s why it’s perfectly acceptable to have personal possessions.  But it is quite common for us to also have a strong attachment to the things of this world.  Too often we want more and more and fall into the trap of thinking that more “things” will make us happy. Too often we fall into the trap of outdoing everybody.

Why is it that so many of us fail to understand that it is not about what we do but rather who we are. What does it matter if we spend our life doing but our interior is not a mirror of God’s love? If there is not peace in our hearts? If forgiveness is begrudgingly given? If envy, jealousy, meanness  and constant judging of others is part of our us.

The radical change that Jesus is all about calls for  a radically changed heart.  Stop doing for a moment and reflect. Reflect on that moment when we meet Jesus. In the blinding reality of that moment, our hearts are measured by their interior beauty. Our hearts and lives are measured by the purity of our dedication to following Christ on earth. The doing is the exterior. But the exterior actions must match the internal purity of our love of Christ.

Prayer of The Day

“Forgive me for putting so many things before you. Thank you for your mercy and love. My prayer today is that You help me put You before everything in my life. By doing this I will hope to know You better and discover why you created me. Amen.”

Daily Note

Those who are generous towards God and others find that they cannot out give God in generosity. God blesses us with spiritual goods that far outweigh the fleeting joys of material goods. He alone can satisfy the deepest longing and desires of our heart. Are you willing to part with anything that might keep you from seeking true joy with Jesus?

1+1 Does Not Equal 2

45 Ouvrez La Bible Et La Fleur Photos libres de droits et ...
Daily Reflection – 8/14/2020

Sacred Scripture

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”(Matthew 19: 3-12)

Reflection

The Pharisees heard Jesus’ teaching against divorce at the Sermon on the Mount, a teaching which contradicted the practice of the Jews. And so they sought to trap him in this instance into putting his teaching in opposition to Moses. They were hoping to discredit him. But Jesus knew their twisted intentions and grounded his teaching on God’s original plan for man and woman.

The disciples seem to be discouraged at first, because the new teaching of Jesus is difficult to live: “then it is better not to marry.” They are seeing things through their own narrow experience and through the lens of popular opinion. Yet they must make the transforming encounter with the grace of Christ. We, too, need to believe in that grace and to communicate it to others, since it enables us to love others “as he loved us.” It is what brings the vitality and freshness to our Christian lives, and makes us able to offer something new and hopeful to the world around us.

And that brings us to why, in this case, 1+1 does not equal 2. Why? Christian marriage is not a union of just two parties. It is a couple’s union with a third party—God.
 If we believe that ,then the marital relationship takes on a totally different perspective. Instead of a discourse on indissolubility, the discourse is constructive and about building, not tearing down. If Christ is truly a part of a marriage, doesn’t the dynamic of a marriage change? The call of Jesus Christ is to each of us, in all of what we do and in all of what we say. We need to be truly more disciplined about believing and acting on that. The ideal is that all that we do and say in a relationship reflects Jesus Christ. Can we do that? That may be a daunting task.

But Jesus knew the reality of people’s lives. He was a keen observer of life around him and engaged with people just as they were, “warts and all”. He knows all of us in the concrete situation of our lives. Yet, he also had a vision, God’s vision, of how human life should be, including married life. He proclaimed his ideal vision while continuing to relate in a loving way to people who could not reach it, for whatever reason. That includes us all, for none of us lives up fully to the values Jesus proclaimed and lived. There will always be that two-fold aspect to his relationship with us; he loves us where we are, but keeps calling us beyond where we are.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus Christ, your call to holiness extends to all in every state of life.  Sanctify our lives–as married couples and as singles–that we may live as men and women who are consecrated to you.  Make us leaven in a society that disdains life-long marriage fidelity, chastity, and living single for the Lord.”

Daily Note

Jesus sets the high ideal of the married state before those who are willing to accept his commands.  Jesus, likewise sets the high ideal for those who freely renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.  Both marriage and celibacy are calls from God to live a consecrated life, that is to live as married couples or as singles who belong not to themselves but to God.  Our lives are not our own, but they belong to God.  He gives the grace and power to those who seek to follow his way of holiness in their state of life. 

Why Is It So Difficult?

618 Forgiveness Flower Photos - Free & Royalty-Free Stock Photos ...
Daily Reflection – 8/13/2020

Sacred Scripture

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

Reflection

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

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

Perhaps we need to concentrate on the benefits of forgiveness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer of The Day

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

Daily Note

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

THE Defining Mark of a Christian

Forgiveness Painting by Deborah Nell

Daily Reflection – 8/12/2020

Sacred Scripture

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

Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer of The Day

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

Daily Note

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