Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Memorial of Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs “History Need Not Repeat Itself”

The Lord said: “Woe to you! You build the memorials of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building. Therefore, the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’ in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the temple building. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood! Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.” When he left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.


Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.


Petition: Lord Jesus Christ, help me to follow your example and set a good example for others. 

History Will Teach Us Something: Israel’s response to God’s love, as seen in the Old Testament, is pocked and pitted with infidelity, abuse, and ingratitude. At times the people outright reject God and whomever he sends to guide them back to his loving care. These falls from God’s grace are instructive for us today. We see the grandeur of what God did for the people of Israel and marvel at it. We should be aghast at how a people who received so much could respond so little. But more than this, we need to use this history of Israel as a mirror in which to regard our own lives: to recognize the same patterns of failure and lack of fidelity in our own lives and use this self-reflection to inspire us to return to the Lord. If we fail to admit our weaknesses and failures, however, we will be like the Pharisees to whom Christ spoke, who brought the blood of the prophets upon their own heads because of their stubbornness and hardness of heart.

History Repeats Itself: On one occasion Christ warns the disciples that if this is the way he is treated, they should expect no less themselves (cf. John 15:20). Do we honestly expect not to have to face some difficulty as disciples of the Lord? Of course not. But what if that difficulty comes from within? This is from where the most serious menaces to our discipleship come. Our pride, our vanity, our love of comfort: these are the battlegrounds and the martyrs’ fields where first and foremost we need to suffer for being a disciple of the Lord. The prophets and martyrs who suffered for their zeal for the Lord did so even up to the cost of their lives. He might not need us to lay our lives on the line in quite the same way, but an interior sacrifice is what Christ does ask of everyone whom he calls.

Stoppage Time: One of the key moments in Edith Stein’s conversion happened when she went into a Catholic Church to see what it was like, and as she sat there in silence, an older woman came in to spend a few moments with Christ in the Eucharist. She had groceries in her hand and was obviously on her way home to prepare dinner. For young Edith, still struggling with belief in God, it was an example of just how grounded in day-to-day reality the Catholic faith is. There is little chance that woman ever knew the importance her example played in helping form this future saint and patroness of Europe, but the woman’s authentic faith was just what Edith needed to see. Our living witness is critical for those around us, whether or not we ever see or hear of the consequence. We can serve as an occasion of grace, or we can be a stumbling block on the path that delays someone from arriving at the place God wants to lead them.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I know that I am an integral part in your plan to save souls. You have the confidence to use me as a channel of your grace for those around me, particularly those closest to me. I offer you my life today. Use me as a channel of grace and a testimony to your love.

Resolution: I will offer to God today the sacrifice necessary to change something in my behavior that might be an obstacle for someone else coming to know Christ better.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Feast of Saint Luke, evangelist “Set Ablaze for Souls”

The Lord appointed 72 others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.'”


Introductory Prayer: Lord, I bring myself into your presence knowing the zeal of your heart for souls. The glory of your heavenly Father can shape my own heart. I am confident that, just as the 72 lit the flame of their love for their mission from the furnace of your divine love, I can ignite all that is lukewarm and tepid in my own soul today. I desire to fulfill more perfectly the mission you have given me.

Petition: Lord, fill my heart with a holy zeal to make you known to many people!

Loving Souls without Limits: Contemplate our Lord’s hunger to bring salvation to the many souls whose number exceeds the reach of his humanity. His passionate, driving love for men breaks the confines of his human nature, multiplying his presence in the world. We can be so easily drained by the never-ending needs of those we serve. We can close the door on others with comfortable excuses; we can ignore their needs, for which God wishes to put a solution in our hands.Christ’s heart, rather, is expansive and grows with the awareness of the need of men for him. Creatively he brings a divine solution into play to reach more souls, heal more hearts, cure more ills. Does my charity bring me to use all my creativity, intelligence and will-power to meet the needs of those God has entrusted to my care? Does divine wisdom, rooted in prayer, come into play in how I serve others?

Christ Is to Be Known through Me: Christ uses his divine power to multiply himself, commissioning these disciples to be in effect other Christs in the world. This sending out of the 72 is a critical juncture in the plan of salvation. Here ordinary men, who at one time were simple-hearted recipients of Christ’s redeeming message, are now to be the carriers of that message to others. Yet with all their weaknesses, how could they ever hope to offer others an experience of Christ like that which they themselves experienced, an experience which is so ineffable and sublime? Christ explains: It will be done by their obedience, especially to the details of behavior that he outlines for them. It will be done by acting in Christ’s name, knowing that he has commissioned them. It will be accomplished not through their own talents and charismatic personalities, but through the power and grace of God that comes to those who serve him with a pure heart. I can reflect on my own vocation and see that it has its ultimate source in God, not in my own preferences. Knowing God has given me my mission in life, I must, like the 72, purify myself of all self-centeredness and personal ambition in order to respond to his singular invitation. Can others experience Christ through me?

In the End, Lambs Conquer: Wolves appear when the lamb is present. I should not think that opposition and contradiction mark the end of my mission. Rather, they are a sign of its authenticity. Being a lamb among wolves implies that the wolves are best defeated by the meekness and simplicity with which a disciple of Christ lives his life. A pure and selfless heart does not permit bitterness, resentment and hardship to weaken its commitment.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I wish to form my heart to be conquering and meek like your own, certain of the victory that awaits those who suffer in doing your will. Grant me the grace never to fall away from your divine commission. Every morning, help me to awaken with a generous and faithful spirit to its beauty and goodness.

Resolution: Today I will put more effort into the details that prove my love for my vocation.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr “Laws That Bind or Free”

After Jesus had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal. The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.”


Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.

Petition: Lord, grant me this grace of conversion.

1. Law for the Law’s Sake: The Mosaic Law was intended to free them for worship, delivering them from slavery to pagan gods and from slavery to sin. When the Law (and the added customs and regulations) became an end in itself, it was truncated and severed from the One to whom it was meant to lead. Today in the Catholic Church there are enough laws, customs and regulations to make even the most rigorous Pharisee proud. The danger is that we can fall into one of two traps. First, we can adhere to them with such vigor that we lose sight of the One they are freeing us to worship. We don’t allow our hearts and minds to be educated and formed by them, we just follow them blindly. We wind up cleaning the outside of the cup and stopping there, without going on to see God’s love and let it purify our hearts.

2. The Second Trap: The second trap we can fall into is at the other extreme: to give ourselves an easy pass by presuming that “if my heart is in the right place, I don’t need to worry about all these rules and such.” With a lax attitude we permit ourselves to ease up on fulfilling these laws which in truth will free us. “I know today is Sunday and I should go to Mass, but it’s vacation! God knows I’m a good person.” Yet it is in the Sunday Mass that we receive the many graces necessary toward our being that “good person”. The commandment to keep the Sabbath holy, as with any of the Ten Commandments and customs of the Church, is there to lead us to God. These free us from our often confused subjective conclusions about how we should worship God and live our lives.

3. Cleaning the Cup: “Charity covers a multitude of sin” (1 Peter 4:8). The law of love is the most important of all the commandments of the Lord. In Chapter 12 of the Gospel of Mark, Christ responds to a scribe’s question about the first of all the commandments: “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Love of God and neighbor is both the source and the summit of the Law of the Old Covenant and of the New. Living these two greatest commandments purifies and cleanses our hearts—the inside of the cup. So when Christ says to give alms, he is telling the Pharisees to love their neighbors. Then their hearts will be clean.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I want my heart always to be focused on you. I need your guidance, for I can’t do it alone. I need you to teach me how to love you, how to worship and serve you. The laws you give me free me and guide me toward you. Help me to see your hand leading me ever closer to you.

Resolution: If there is a rule or custom of the Church that I don’t understand or don’t practice, I will read up on it to come to understand better how it frees me and guides me in my relationship with Christ.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time “The Queen, the Ninevites and Me”

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”


Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.

Petition: Lord, help me to recognize the signs of your presence in my life. 

Three Days in the Fish: When Jonah is swallowed by the whale he dies, and when he is spit out onto the shore, he comes to life again. This is the only sign that Christ promises to his listeners who seek a sign. Christ will be seen by them as truly dead, swallowed by the tomb of the earth. Then, after three days, he will come to life again in the Resurrection. As Jonah preached conversion to the Ninevites after coming back from the dead, so Christ would bring conversion and peace to some of the very ones who abandoned him or cried out for his crucifixion. Even in rebuking the “evil generation”, Christ promises them a sign that will bring hope to any of them who—like the Ninevites—later repent. If later in life they realize their evilness, Christ himself will be there to guide them back to friendship with his Father.

Even the Queen Came: Christ is reminding his unbelieving listeners that the Queen of Sheba traveled from afar to hear Solomon’s wisdom. The distance from the Kingdom of Sheba in southern Arabia to Jerusalem would have taken weeks to traverse. It would have been an exhausting and expensive journey, especially considering the entourage that would have accompanied the Queen. She recognized the gift of God in him and relished the pearls of divine wisdom that he shared with her. We need to reflect on how often we avail ourselves of all that God offers us that is not a journey of weeks away, but is just a few miles away: Christ in the Eucharist. Closer still, the Bible on the shelf is filled with Christ’s message of love. All this is within easy reach and is much more than anything Solomon could share with us.

Greater than Jonah: The whale was greater than Jonah. It swallowed him whole. Yet that violent death and subsequent resurrection was the key moment in Jonah’s life and mission. It was necessary not only for Jonah’s own salvation (he had been running from God), but it also was necessary for the salvation of the whole city of Nineveh. Christ makes this reference to Jonah as a forewarning to his listeners: He is greater than Jonah. He is greater than the death that would swallow him. This should inspire our faith and confidence in Christ. There is nothing greater than he. There is no greater prophet; no greater event can consume him. All things are under his dominion except one: our free will. That he doesn’t force; that he doesn’t conquer. He leaves it perfectly intact, so that we might respond freely to his call to ongoing conversion, just like the citizens of Nineveh.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, the sign of love that you give is your willingness to die a cruel and humiliating death. Yet that is not everything: You give me your Word in the Gospel. You give me your Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Help me to appreciate these great gifts and to make the most of every opportunity to receive them.

Resolution: At some point today I will offer a prayer of thanksgiving, thanking Christ for the blessings received over the past few days.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time “Invited and wearing the right clothes”

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”


Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you because you have created me to be with you. I hope in you because you always give me what I need to be with you. I love you because you continue to invite me, in spite of my reticence and sinfulness.

Petition: Lord, grant me the grace to value heaven and to live in such a way that I can get there.

How Dare You Not Accept! God invites us to accept freely the gift of union with him to which he calls us. But, lo and behold, we can use our freedom badly and not accept the only thing that can truly make us happy. This occurs when we forget about God, no longer giving him the adoration and love he deserves as our Creator and Father, putting ourselves in first place, and becoming the sole criteria for our decisions and actions. This passage helps us to remember what type of freedom we have. We do not have absolute freedom. We can’t choose what our end should be. Only God is our end. Our freedom is limited and consists in being free to choose the means that most efficaciously help us to reach that end.

An Undeserved Invitation: Our possibility of getting to heaven is truly a gift from God. He invites us even though we are sinners, even though we don’t take his Son’s death and resurrection seriously, even though we continue to fall in spite of having all the grace and strength we need to overcome temptation. St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, states how hard it is for a man to give his life for another person (see Romans 4:7). Maybe he would do it for a very good person. Christ didn’t give his life for good persons; he gave it for sinners. We should be moved to respond to this amazing manifestation of love for us: Total adherence to God is the only worthy response.

Dressing for the Occasion: God is good, but he is not naïve. He won’t let us in to full communion with him if we do not value it properly. The robe mentioned in the Gospel passage is an image of the soul. The soul that has been purified and is prepared to enter into heaven wears a wedding robe. The soul that is full of selfishness and sin is improperly dressed. It is not a matter of God not having mercy on us. It’s a matter of the use of our freedom. When we encounter something that has value and know that it will make us better, we have to appropriate that value through conscious effort. We have to live up to it. We can’t be indifferent or superficial regarding heaven. We shouldn’t regard it as just something possible; it should be an existential need.

Conversation with Christ: Dear Lord, so many times I give more importance to my own satisfaction than to centering my attention and efforts on achieving true communion with you. Help me to value your invitation to reach heaven through a truly Christian life that prefers virtue to sin, disinterested love to selfishness, humility to pride.

Resolution: Today I will try to work on a virtue that I need so as to respond to God’s love for me.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Saturday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time “Mary Is My Master Educator in Virtue”

While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”


Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are the master of the universe, and yet you wish to listen to me and guide me. You know all things past, present and future, and yet you respect my freedom to choose you. Holy Trinity, you are completely happy and fulfilled on your own, and yet you have generously brought us into existence. You are our fulfillment. Thank you for the gift of yourself. I offer the littleness of myself in return, knowing you are pleased with what I have to give.

Petition: Lord, help me to imitate Mary.

Mary’s Masterpiece: The woman in this passage has a great insight. She senses the greatness of Jesus. Probably she intuits that he is the Messiah. It is doubtful if she has guessed that he is also God-made-man. But from Jesus’ greatness, she is able to infer the greatness of Mary. It is obvious to her that whoever produced this masterpiece of humanity must have been a masterpiece of humanity herself. And she is right. The humanity of Jesus is Mary’s masterpiece. All of what she is, she imparted to him. While we cannot credit Mary with the perfections of Jesus’ divinity, we would be doing her a grave injustice to think that Jesus’ human virtues and perfections were not positively impacted by her example.

The Immaculate Conception: God desired Jesus to come into this world like every one of us, as an infant, and so Jesus needed a mother. God wanted him to have the finest mother, a perfect mother, and so he gave Mary many gifts, starting with her Immaculate Conception, preserving her from original sin. Who could imagine Jesus – pure and innocent – wrapped in flesh polluted by sin for the first nine months of his existence? Would such an innocent child ever have been able to stop crying while being tended to by a sinner? The Father wanted the best for his Son and gave him the best, even though he had to provide the miracle of the Immaculate Conception in order to do it.

Jesus’ Educator: Being truly human, Jesus had to learn just like any one of us. Because of his divinity, his human capacities were untainted by sin, but it was Mary who taught him how to use them, who honed them in the everyday life of the family until they were perfect – just as any mother would. Mary was the perfect one to bring out all the perfections in Jesus’ human nature. Being immaculately conceived, Mary’s mind was not wounded by sin and so was always able to discover ways of parenting and teaching that were perfectly suited to Jesus’ human nature. To educate doesn’t mean to just give knowledge. In its fullest sense, it means to train in virtue. Mary’s continuous example of virtue – hearing the word of God and observing it – was certainly compelling for Jesus in his educational upbringing.

Conversation with Christ: Dear Jesus, it’s hard for me to understand that, as human, you needed education just like anyone else. Help me to see that you were truly and fully human like me. Moreover, since you have already given me Mary to be my Mother, ask her to educate me too, to form me in all the virtues the way she formed them in you.

Resolution: Do I really think of Mary as my educator in the full sense, in the sense of teaching me virtue? What is the virtue I need the most? I will ask Mary to educate me in it in a special way today.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Friday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time “Keeping House”

When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven. But he knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons. If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, ‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that person is worse than the first.”

Introductory Prayer: Lord, you are omnipotent, all-powerful. For that reason alone, I ought to ally myself to you. I believe that you can do all things. I am confident that you will act in my life. I love you because even though you are the all-powerful God, you are humble, having made yourself one like me, so that I can approach you without being intimidated, with trust.

Petition: Lord Jesus, your kingdom come in my soul!

THE Sign from Heaven: When Jesus casts out a demon from a soul, some of the bystanders then ask him to perform a sign from heaven. Jesus is the sign from heaven, the living presence of God with us. His casting out a demon already testifies that he can do what no one else can do. It proves that he is God. However, I want to fix my eyes on him as the object of my love, not on the spectacular things that he does. It is important to look at the Giver, not the gift he gives.

The Kingdom of God: There is combat going on, and the human soul is the battleground. In this case the man is freed of demonic possession, and one kingdom has been dispossessed of its conquest. Another Kingdom is on the move! Light is replacing darkness. Springtime melts away the winter. This brings joy and warmth to my soul.

The Gentle Guest: When the soul has been freed from the effects of evil, it can be likened to a tidy house. Jesus chose to clean the house, the interior dwelling place, of the possessed man. He will not, by his choice alone, take up the vacant place in that soul. He very much desires to be there, but he knocks and wants to be invited in freely by the homeowner. Once at home in my heart, Jesus is the strong man whom no one can overcome.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus Christ, I am not content just with being liberated from sin, although that is already a great gift. I know that you are knocking at the door of my heart. I ask you to come in and make my soul your dwelling place. I have been made to be a dwelling place of the Blessed Trinity, and I desire that fullness of life.

Resolution: I will be attentive to the fact that I am a dwelling of God and look to do what is worthy of that dignity. Specifically, I will be attentive to the thoughts that pass through my mind and the words that cross my lips today.