Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time - “They Love Me… They Love Me Not…”

Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here. At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.”


Introductory Prayer: Lord, my prayer will “work” only if I have humility in your presence. So I am approaching you with meekness and humility of heart. I have an infinite need for you and your grace. Thinking about this helps me grow in humility. I trust in you and your grace. Thank you for the unfathomable gift of your love.

Petition: Lord, let me love the way you love – with self-giving generosity.

1. The Hurdle of Pride: “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” The relationship of the scribes and Pharisees with Jesus is uni-directional. They demand that he perform a sign if he wishes to be found worthy of their esteem, but they have closed their hearts to any possible openness toward him in advance. Pride makes impossible demands on others and will not be satisfied until these impossible demands are met! Thus pride is never satisfied. It is the cause of division, resentment and bitterness in relationships. Rather than make demands on Christ, we need to make demands on ourselves. We need to make demands that we grow in humility, selflessness and authentic love in imitation of the Lord.

2. To Love or Not to Love: Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI teaches us about self-giving love in his encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est. Commenting on the Song of Songs, he writes: “The poems contained in this book were originally love-songs, perhaps intended for a Jewish wedding feast and meant to exalt conjugal love. In this context it is highly instructive to note that in the course of the book two different Hebrew words are used to indicate ‘love.’ First there is the word dodim, a plural form suggesting a love that is still insecure, indeterminate and searching. This comes to be replaced by the word ahabĂ . By contrast with an indeterminate, ‘searching’ love, this word expresses the experience of a love which involves a real discovery of the other, moving beyond the selfish character that prevailed earlier. Love now becomes concern and care for the other. No longer is it self-seeking, a sinking in the intoxication of happiness; instead it seeks the good of the beloved, it becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice” (no. 6).

3. Nineveh and Love: Jesus tells us that at the Judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with the generation of people surrounding him and condemn it. The reason is that the contemporaries of Jonah repented at his preaching. True self-giving love begins with repentance. When I repent I acknowledge the person of God who is worthy of all my love. I feel remorse for having loved him so little or for having offended him who is all love. Love-filled remorse implies a bending of my will affectionately toward the other. This is a form a self-giving love that we can all achieve at any moment of our lives.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I love you. I want to strengthen the habit of self-giving love within me. Presently my love is weak and short-lived. I can always practice loving sorrow for having offended you. Lord, grant me the grace of practicing contrition of heart throughout the day.

Resolution: Today I will practice contrition in order to grow in effective love.

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fellowship with Christ

The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.


Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, I believe in you. I trust in you because as a man you experienced everything I experience except sin. You have pity on me in my weakness because you became weak for love of me. I believe in you. I trust you. I thank you for your everlasting love and benevolence.

Petition: Lord, help me to know you more intimately.

Father, Brother, Mentor: The apostles joyfully reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. They are like children, and he is a true father and a brother toward them. He is their mentor par excellence. He listens, responds, encourages and instructs them. They feel privileged to belong to him. Because of their love for Christ they continually renew their commitment to his cause. There is no doubt that he deserves this and much more. That is why they stick with him even when doing so means serving the large crowds amidst their own hunger and exhaustion. They wouldn’t leave him for the world.

Empowering the Apostles: Christ is a true leader for his apostles. He attracts them and guides them. His leadership is highly positive. He conquers their hearts because he is a man possessed by a transcendent and eternal ideal, which radiates from him with extraordinary vigor. With his deep knowledge of the human person (John 15:13), he is able to draw from each apostle’s qualities the maximum benefit for what is true and good. He doesn’t use them as lifeless instruments or tools. He begins by promoting each one’s temporal and eternal good and then directs them towards fulfilling the ideal that unites them. He creates a healthy mystique of belonging to the circle of his disciples.

Fellowship with Him: The crowds find out where Jesus and his apostles are going. From all the towns they hasten there on foot and arrive at that place before them. Imagine their excitement, their drive to seek out Jesus, and their rush to be with him. It is true that they are a fickle crowd. They have yet to know the Lord in all the breadth of his virtue and goodness. Nevertheless, the little they know of him resounds in the depths of their hearts. They sense in the Lord and within the community of his followers bonds of loyalty and fellowship and a spirit of authentic love. This is what their human hearts long for. Those who seek out Christ are never disappointed.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, you were a father, a brother and a guide for the apostles. You were a master sculptor, molding them into your image of goodness, humility and generosity. Do the same for me, Lord. Mold me. Sculpt me into your image. Make me one of yours.

Resolution: I will see myself as your apprentice today, Lord. I will try to listen to your voice in every thought and action. I will do this for love of you.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time - The Quiet Healer


The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. When Jesus realized this, he withdrew from that place. Many people followed him, and he cured them all, but he warned them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope."

Introductory Prayer: God our Father, you gave us your Son to make us your children. I believe, and I am hoping to be raised to full maturity in him through the school of the Gospel. Thank you for your unconditional love. I offer you my love in return, knowing you welcome it as a parent does a small child.


Petition: Jesus, like you, make my heart attentive to the needs of others.


When Jesus Realized This, He Withdrew from That Place: There is a great lesson for us here: It is not yet his "hour," so Jesus does not force the issue. Jesus does not taunt the Pharisees or provoke an unnecessary clash. Whenever Jesus challenges a person it is in order to lead that person to a deeper self-reflection and ultimately to a conversion of heart and of life. He did this on several occasions with the same Scribes and Pharisees. Yet this is not the time to engage them intellectually; their hearts are closed and they are unwilling to listen. When at times we find ourselves in a disagreement (perhaps even with a loved one), once the emotions are roused and it becomes clear that one or both parties are not ready for the truth, the prudent, loving and humble thing to do is withdraw from the situation until the moment our hearts are more open to listening. 


The Master Physician: Matthew’s comment in this section of the Gospel is quite revealing: "Many people followed him, and he cured them all." We must not imagine that all of the healings were physical. So "meek and humble" is Jesus that every person felt he could approach him. If a bruised reed comes to Jesus – a person battered by life, trials and his own sin – his first and only inclination is to heal that soul. Even to this very day Jesus continually takes what is broken and makes it whole. He is the master physician who binds up wounds so that the person may be healed. In light of this attitude we recognize the contrast between the Pharisees, who seek to kill, and Jesus, who continues to give life to all who come to him. 


A Ember of Faith: All Jesus needs is the slightest ember of faith and hope to change a person’s life. For instance, we cannot force a person to love us or to trust us. Likewise, God himself respects the very freedom he entrusted to us. Nonetheless, our Lord does give the human person a searching mind and heart. That is why we can say that the human person is religious by nature from the beginning. Atheists are not born; they are made by their choices. Within the human soul God already provides us with the kindling for faith, hope and love. Once we are baptized, that kindling can become an unquenchable fire. Yet it can also be extinguished if we carelessly expose it to the winds and waves of unbridled selfishness, secularism, skepticism and systematic doubt . No matter how far we think we may have drifted, if we will simply turn to Jesus, we will find that he is already looking at us. 


Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, you see and know what I am to become if I will keep close to you in faith, hope and love. Deepen within me the desire to remain united to you in prayer so as to imitate you in love. Help me become with you what I can never become without you. Mother Most Pure, make my heart only for Jesus.


Resolution: Today I will contact someone who needs to be encouraged and listened to.

Friday of the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time - Condemning the Innocent

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent? I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”


Introductory Prayer: Almighty and ever-living God, I seek new strength from the courage of Christ our shepherd. I believe in you, I hope in you, and I seek to love you with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength. I want to be led one day to join the saints in heaven, where your Son Jesus Christ lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.

Petition: Help me to make every Sunday a special day for me and my family.

1. Fasting on Sunday? It was the Sabbath, a day of rest. The disciples had had a difficult and busy week, and they were hungry. Jesus allowed them to look for food in the fields. This could have discouraged them, not having a meal waiting for them. But they were accustomed to hardship. They were busy and had much to do. There was little free time. Christ was busy on weekends; his mission didn’t stop. The disciples were united with Jesus, participating in his mission. This made all their sacrifices worthwhile and easier to cope with. When we trust in and unite ourselves with Christ, we can be patient and at peace in the midst of trials.

2. The Confrontation: The Sabbath was established in order for the Jewish people to remember and reflect on their special covenant relationship with God. He had delivered them from slavery and given them rest. The Pharisees, however, focused on “what you can’t do” and failed to see “what you should do.” On Sundays, we should focus more on what we should do in order to worthily receive Christ. Then secondary things will not distract us from what is essential. God has a special relationship with us. He has delivered us from slavery. He continues to love us and asks that we love him and others with all our heart. On Sundays, do I recall my covenant relationship with Our Lord? Am I mindful and grateful for all the good things he has done and continues to do for me? Does God take first place for me on Sundays?

3. Sunday Service: Christ instructed his disciples about his mission. They grew to understand, appreciate and live it. He taught them to participate at the Sabbath service with fervor, but also to be open to any needs others might have, even on the Sabbath. It is lawful to do good any day of the week, especially the Lord’s Day. Christ cured the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath, fed his disciples on the Sabbath, and cured another woman with a bent back on the Sabbath. Charity will inspire us to do good to others even on a Sunday. “Sunday service” and “Service-on-Sunday” go together. Do I ever dedicate my Sundays, or part of them, to bring rest to those who are most in need? What can I do to help the poor and marginalized on that day? How can I instill this spirit of service in my children?

Conversation with Christ: You long to share your Word and Body with me at Sunday Mass and at every Mass I can attend during the week. May I always have a hunger for this encounter with your love and friendship. May I serve others with the same charity and love as you serve me. May Sunday be the most important day of the week for me and my family.

Resolution: I will organize this coming Sunday to be a day of worship and rest. I will try to do good to someone this Sunday, and I will help someone come back to Sunday Mass attendance.

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time - The Yoke of Love

Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Introductory Prayer: Lord, you know the sincerity of my desire to spend this time with you. As I begin this meditation, I believe that you are here with me, that you never abandon me. Because I love you, my one wish is to please and console you in your solitude in the tabernacle. I hope in the boundless mercy that motivated your incarnation. May we one day meet again in your heavenly kingdom.

Petition: Mary, you who are the perfect model of humility, help me to be meek and humble like Christ your Son, who out of love for me became a helpless infant at Bethlehem.

Who Is This Man? Who is this man who stands before us in this Gospel—the man whose gaze has penetrated into the most secret recesses of our souls and discovered what lies hidden there? A man who recognizes that we labor, that we are burdened by the demands of life, weighed down by our sins and imperfections, straining under the load of our passions and unfulfilled desires. Who is this man who would dare promise what we have always longed for in the inner sanctuaries of our consciences, yet never quite allowed ourselves to hope for? Who could utter such a simple, gentle, and appealing invitation, more than we could ever find ourselves worthy of: “Come to me… and I will give you rest”? Who but God himself?

How Can We Come to Him? How can we accept the invitation of the one who is God become man? How can we come to him? How can we attain what our souls have longed for all the days of our existence? Christ himself gives us the answer: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” He is so humble that he does not even wait for us to respond to his invitation. He humbles himself so that he can first come to us at Christmas. To discover how to turn to him with our heavy burden of selfishness and unrestrained passions, we can first approach the manger where the King of Kings lies so helplessly.

A Mystery of Humility and Love: Bethlehem is a mystery of humility and love. Doesn’t Christ seem humble to you, reduced to the state of a helpless infant? Without words or speeches he teaches a living lesson we need to feel with all the intensity of which we are capable, allowing the consequences to spring forth on their own. Can we imagine any other state in which the goodness and humility of God radiate more clearly? Before this helpless child, who is God Incarnate out of love for us, we are reduced to silent wonder. All vain ambitions fade, all anger and bitter passion soften and all idle pursuits are driven far from our hearts. The yoke that burdened us, the rod of our taskmaster, is smashed and it is replaced by the light and easy yoke of love.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to penetrate more deeply into the mystery of your becoming a helpless and innocent child at Bethlehem for me. Help me to grow in goodness of heart so I can radiate your goodness to those around me.

Resolution: On my way to and from work today, I will contemplate Christ meek and humble in the manger at Bethlehem. I will imitate his loving humility in my own life and have the confidence to turn to him for help with my failings.

Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time - Knowing the Father and the Son


At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

Introductory Prayer: Almighty and ever-living God, I seek new strength from the courage of Christ our shepherd. I believe in you, I hope in you, and I seek to love you with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength. I want to be led one day to join the saints in heaven, where your Son Jesus Christ lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.

Petition: Jesus, help me to seek you with a sincere heart.

1. Hidden from the Wise: Wisdom, knowledge and understanding comprise three of seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. So in itself, being wise and learned cannot be an issue. Jesus is here speaking of those whose pride and inflated ego make them wise and learned in their own estimation and for their own purposes. The mysteries of God are thus hidden from them precisely because they have focused their hearts and minds on themselves as the supreme good: “The greater a being is, the more it wants to determine its own life. It wants to be less and less dependent and, thus, more and more itself a kind of god, needing no one else at all. This is how the desire arises to become free of all need, what we call pride” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, God and the World, p. 125). In the end, it is they who have closed the door to God since God will never close the door on us.

2. Revealed to the Childlike: Later in this same Gospel, Jesus will reaffirm this basic truth in another way: “Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Even as adults we must never cease to be childlike, uncomplicated and duly dependent. Children are not naturally complicated and deceitful. Hiding behind masks and developing subterfuges is a tendency learned with time. Little by little we begin to calculate, use excuses, ration out our generosity, and stray from the simplicity and rectitude of the way God has marked out. We must strive to be sincere with our Lord and sincere with ourselves, seeking to please him above all things. Failure in our lives is due to insincerity, that absence of the total nobility and utmost loyalty needed to fulfill honorably what Our Lord asks of us.

3. Christ, The Revelation of the Father: Knowledge of the Father is the ultimate good man can possess because it corresponds to the deepest longing in the human heart for happiness. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that happiness lies in knowing that we possess the good we seek. We call the full knowledge of the good possessed “heaven,” which is our ultimate goal in life. To whom would Jesus not wish to reveal the Father? Has anyone ever lived for whom Jesus did not desire to know the Father and be in heaven? Jesus’ actions – his preaching, his sacrifices and death on the cross – demonstrate that he wants to reveal the Father to everyone. However he also chooses to need you and me to help him achieve this goal. Do I really desire everyone to know the Father and reach heaven? My actions will answer that question for me.

Conversation with Christ: Dear Lord, grant me the grace to possess the wisdom and knowledge that come from union with you while maintaining the childlike dispositions that you ask. Help me to depend on you as a loving child. Mother Most Pure, make my heart only for Jesus.

Resolution: Today I will reflectively read Philippians 2:5-11.

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time - Harsh or Rash Judgment?


Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And as for you, Capernaum: Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld. For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

Introductory Prayer: God our Father, you are my shelter against the burning heat of the day and the storms of life. I know and I believe that I can count on your help when I stumble, that you will catch me when I fall and guide my steps firmly in faith toward the promise of eternal life. 

Petition: Jesus, help me to seek you with a sincere heart.

Blessings and Responsibility: Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more (cf. Luke 12:48). With every blessing comes a degree of responsibility. The mighty deeds worked in these towns were not seen by everyone in Israel, let alone the world. Therefore, those who do see them have a greater responsibility than those who do not. Jesus reproaches them so as to awaken them from their stupor. Since the miracles have not moved them to a deeper faith, then perhaps the reminder that they will one day be answerable to God might. Do I need a similar fear of punishment to drive me from my sins, or am I more focused on pleasing God in the details of my life?

The Goal is Repentance: The goal of all of Jesus’ signs is to bring about a change of heart. Even in the Old Testament, the signs and wonders worked by Yahweh were intended to elicit a response of faith and trust from Israel. The danger for Israel, as for Jesus’ listeners and for us, is to become accustomed to these signs and to demand more signs, thus losing sight of their purpose – a redirection of our life from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness. Like Herod, we want to be dazzled by Jesus’ miracles, but we do not want to change our lives. Jesus never works a miracle in order to impress, but only to convert a heart back to God or to bring it into deeper union with God.

Reward or Punishment: We can learn a great deal from this strong phrase: Firstly, that we will be judged for our actions and our omissions; secondly, that judgment from God has varying degrees. Since God sees and knows perfectly, the judgment will be objective; those who knew less will be judged less strictly. In other words, Sodom, Tyre and Sidon will indeed be judged, but according to natural law and not according to Christian faith, which they did not have access to at the time. Finally, but not exhaustively, we can deduce that there will be different gradations in heaven and hell, according to how well our actions corresponded to what we knew to be true and good. This knowledge should stimulate us to be more generous with God and more centered on things that are above. Our Lord will handsomely reward our smallest good deed.

Conversation with Christ: Dear Lord, open my eyes to the constant workings of your grace in my life. Never allow me to become complacent or to undervalue the tremendous gift of faith in my life. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of my daily decisions. Mother Most Pure, make my heart only for Jesus.

Resolution: Today I will read nos. 1783-1785 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.