Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time - Price of the Kingdom

Jesus said to his disciples: “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose their reward. If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.”


Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I believe in your presence in my life. I believe that you consider those around me your children and that you ardently desire to possess them with love for all eternity. I trust that you will help me treat others as your brothers and sisters. I love you now with my prayer. May this prayer increase my desire to honor and serve you with my life.

Petition: Jesus, help me to set a good example for others out of love.

1. You Are Priceless: Jesus leaves us with no doubt: We are valuable. We all carry within us a God-given dignity. And this dignity is identified and enhanced when we bear his name. Every human being has an intrinsic dignity because every human being is created in God’s image. But this image of God is perfectly incarnated in Christ, God made man. So, a baptized Christian—a Christ bearer—carries a more perfect image: Christ, in whom we are made children of God. It is little wonder, then, that Jesus assures a reward to anyone who serves us for his sake!

2. Every Little One Is Priceless: To carry his image is also a responsibility. We must live up to this dignity and show to others a life worthy of the image we carry within. Others may be “little” due to their age, the newness and immaturity of their Christian life, or even their weakness and struggle. We put a stumbling block in their way, we scandalize them, when our behavior causes them to doubt or become discouraged about living the ideals of faith. A “millstone” suggests that anything would be better for us than this. How damaging then are my bad examples given to “little ones”! Damaging for them and for me! What can I do to avoid such scandal? On the other hand, what a great reward awaits those who do the contrary, giving these little ones good example! If I loved “these little ones” just half as much as Jesus does, would it not be much easier to avoid giving bad example?

3. Better to Lose Anything Else: In today’s world, the value of something is measured in comparison to other items of the same kind: stocks, food, clothes, even music and films are judged against each other. Yet, there are some things that have absolute value: the value of a soul. Nothing compares! Jesus paints this total non-comparison in terms of cutting off whatever becomes an obstacle. You are so valuable that you must be ready to deny, subdue, silence and even sacrifice your own body, or any of its members, rather than risk losing your soul. Do I value my immortal soul, my vocation to eternal life? If so, do I show this by the self-denial I exert in controlling what makes me (and eventually others through me) stumble? How often do I prefer my “things” to the loved ones who depend on my example of Christ? How radical is my faith?

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, open my eyes to understand a little more just how valuable I am to you, how priceless my eternal life is. Make me sensitive to value each and every person in my life. I know you want me to help save them. Never allow me to become a stumbling block for anyone. If I have, may my love and efforts of faith be used by you now to restore what was lost.

Resolution: I will repair a past act of “scandal” (outburst of anger, foul language, gossip or slander, dishonesty, etc.) with a period of quality time given to the “little ones” so as to rebuild the trust and Christ-like behavior they expect from me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Wednesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time - The Zeal of Charity 

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”


Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I believe in you and in all the expressions of your goodness and love in my life. I believe in your Eucharist, where you have made yourself my bread and a prisoner of love to teach me goodness of heart. I trust that you can train my heart to react more as you do, with forgiveness and blessing. I love you, Lord; I wish to love you with my prayer and increased charity. Mary, teach me to love with the heart of your son.

Petition: Make my heart more like yours, Lord.

1. A Son of Thunder: The young apostle says with uncontrolled fervor, “We tried to prevent him.” They obviously acted first and consulted Jesus only afterwards. What moved them? What so often moves us––a sense of righteous zeal! We know or think we know what is right. “Let no one step out of line, or we will let him know!” Moreover, this person “does not follow us,” so he should not be able to act in your name! What is this “Son of Thunder” missing? Is not the mightiest deed an act of charity? How often do I make rash judgments without really knowing the full picture and without consulting Jesus first?

2. Judgments of Gospel Charity: Jesus does not hesitate to offer a positive judgment. Mighty deeds in his name can be found only in one speaking well of him. Moreover, beyond logic, Jesus possesses a deeper insight. He reads all actions with a heart of charity. His judgments will always be colored by his looking to find the very best in each person. His every action will be interpreted by love. In such manner he interprets well the actions of the woman who wipes his feet with her tears and hair, of the paralytic lowered from the roof, of the tax collector who climbed a tree to see him. Do I judge others with a heart filled with gospel charity, or am I very quick to spot faults? Are my impulses modified by my experience of Christ’s love for me?

3. For or Against Him? Jesus presents a simple principle for judging. Unless a person shows himself to be against us, consider him for us. We should fight to help others be “for us.” “Believe all the good you hear and only believe the evil you see.” This supposition of goodness runs contrary to our tendency to judge and speak evil of others with a minimum of evidence while demanding disproportionate proofs to credit them for good. Is it my job to find deformities in a member of the Body of Christ? A good person sees with eyes of goodness. Why can I not find excuses for the weakness and failings I see in others? Why is it so easy to speak poorly of others, to point out their defects and to fall into slander or gossip? Would the answer be found in the narrow or stingy dimensions of my own heart?

Conversation with Christ: Dear Lord, grant me a heart overflowing with your love. Make charity my first reaction, my constant hope and my irresistible tendency. Open my eyes in faith to see you working in people of all backgrounds and faiths. Help me to dismiss all personal, unnecessary judgments with an assumption of charity. May I win souls with my goodness and never be without charity in my fight for your Kingdom.

Resolution: I will counter every thought against charity with two thoughts of charity. I will counter every word against charity with two words of sincere charity for the one maligned.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time - The Journey Away from Self

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.”


Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I believe in you, present and interested in my life. I believe you await my prayer to guide my heart, my visits to the Eucharist to strengthen my will, and my challenges to help my surrender. I trust you will give your life to me in exchange for my self-denial. I love you and want to love you more by embracing and living out your will. Mother Mary, teach me to say with you, “Let it be done unto me.”

Petition: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”

1. Apostolic Training: This was one journey Jesus chose to do in secret. Why? Because he wanted to dedicate all his attention and efforts to teaching his apostles the deepest and most important secret of his life: He must die! All that they had lived so far was thus incomplete, merely a preparation for the final act of his mission: the consummation of his love, his total immolation on the cross. Would they understand the need for the seed to die before rising to new life? How hard it would be for them to listen! He was their Lord, the powerful, Messianic king coming to free them and establish his kingdom of truth and love. They still imagined scenarios of new victories, cures, defeat of demons, the silencing of their opposition…. How far their dreams were from Jesus’ message! We too have our own desires and needs. Can we detach ourselves from these dreams long enough to understand in prayer his will and his plan of salvation for us?

2. Slow Learners: Not only did they “not understand the saying,” but “they were afraid to question him.” In other words, they did not want to know. How often our communication problem is not something intellectual, but rather something of the will! Our desire is more to “get our way,” “make our point” or “affirm ourselves.” Learning Christ’s way requires that we in some way unlearn our own ways. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). This explains why no one can be neutral before Christ; he challenges us to change our life. Jesus occasioned the fierce opposition of those who would ultimately put him to death. How open am I to his challenges? Do I listen in prayer in order to respond with a docile but firm “Amen”?

3. The Hardest Lesson: Like little boys caught in the act, the apostles don’t dare admit that they have been arguing about who among them is greatest. Not only do they fail “to listen” to Jesus; to the contrary, they are busy asserting their will. What would it take to teach them this most difficult but vital truth? So Jesus, with a father’s love, holds a child before them and begins the lesson anew. This small child is the greatest! To be last, to serve, to give your life makes you great, since this is how God comes to us. Only the sight of Jesus crucified would burn this lesson more deeply on their hearts. Am I learning this lesson of sacrificial love to become the greatest I can become?

Conversation with Christ: Dear Lord, open my heart to listen to your will for me. Free me from my own self-love, ideas and dreams. Teach me to die to myself as I enter into prayer and as I enter into work. Help me to work, pray and live so that you and your love can rise up in my life in place of the poverty of my own qualities and efforts.

Resolution: I will listen well before trying to offer my own thoughts or desires in prayer and in interacting with family and others, so better to hear the Lord.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church - Taking Mary into My Home

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So, they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.


Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and they be taken down. So, the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately Blood and water flowed out.

Introductory Prayer: You are true goodness and life, Lord. Closeness to you brings peace and joy. You deserve all of my trust and my love. Thank you for the gift of life, my family and above all of my faith. Thank you as well for giving us your Mother at the foot of the cross.

Petition: Lord, help me to grow in my filial love for Mary, your Mother and mine.

1. Standing: Today is a Marian celebration; the memorial of“Our Lady of Sorrows”. Mary, like me, had no particular love of pain and sorrow. The first announcement of her vocation by the Archangel Gabriel mentioned nothing about it, being filled only with messianic promises. However, soon after Jesus’ birth, Simeon completed the dimensions that were to enlighten her vocation: “…and a sword will pierce your heart that the thoughts of many might be revealed”. Recognizing the fulfillment of her calling in the accompanying of her Son during his crucifixion, she does so with a desire to fulfill God’s mysterious plan, not reluctantly, but standing closely to Jesus with all the sorrow that this implied for her.

2. Last Will and Testament: The words Jesus speaks to his mother and his beloved disciple are equivalent to his last will and testament. He bequeaths what is most precious to him to a beloved person. To Mary, he gives the friend that he loves so much, who will also need her help in the difficulties he will face. To John, he gives his greatest human comfort, his mother who is his best disciple. He knows that she needs him, an adopted son, to comfort and accompany her.

3. Mary Makes My Home Sweet: John took his responsibility for Mary seriously, taking her into his own home. Home for John was nothing less than the Church that Jesus founded. Mary was to have the pride of place there, as Jesus’ mother, and as she who knew, loved and served him best. She also took her role seriously, so seriously that she immediately perceived that all those she encountered were her adoptive sons and daughters. In this house that is the Church, Mary is the sweetness of the traditional saying, “Home, sweet home”.

Conversation with Christ: Jesus, I can’t thank you enough for entrusting your mother to me and me to her. I want to take care of her by being an attentive, faithful son who imitates you. That’s what will console her and make her heart rejoice. Mary be always at my side and intercede for me before God, in order that I persevere in following your Son.

Resolution: I will make my devotion to Mary very personal, whether it be in spontaneous conversation with her or contemplating the mysteries of Christ’s life while praying the Rosary.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Pentecost Sunday - The Power of the Spirit

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”


Introductory Prayer: Today, Lord, we celebrate the gift of your Holy Spirit to the Church, which you won for us through your patient suffering on the cross. I believe and trust in his power to make me a better apostle of your Kingdom, to bring fervor where I have grown tepid, to instill detachment where I have become too indulgent, and to perfect the innocence of my baptism, which leaves my soul more pure and worthy to serve and honor you each day.

Petition: Come Holy Spirit, fill my heart with your grace and enkindle in me the fire of your love.

1. The Doors Were Locked: What is it that makes a disciple of Christ stop cold in the path of conversion and commitment? Cloaked underneath our spiritual inertia and lack of zeal are not so much our personal defects or our lack of human virtue as blindness to the dynamic power of the Crucified and Risen Lord. We can leave our self-made prisons only by opening our hearts to a faith in Christ that is total: total trust (in spite of the confusion of the present and uncertainty of the future), total hope (by breaking away from having to see the ideal in ourselves before we will act), and total divine confidence (in setting aside the sins of others and our personal failures that keep us stuck in myopic visions of life). Christ comes through bolted doors again today to ask us to unlock them with an authentic experience of the Risen Lord in the power of the Spirit.

2. Peace Be With You: It is vital to examine our “peace” and see if it truly speaks of the peace of the Upper Room. Substitute “satisfaction” for the word “peace,” and see where our hearts have tried to find consolation this past week. Then substitute the word “fulfillment.” This is the peace that Christ brings through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Some passing satisfactions are part of life, and we can be grateful for them. When we seek them for their own sake, however, we can easily drown out the life of the Spirit, who comes to bring us deep peace and fulfillment in life. Pentecost must convince us above all about prayer and the order of life that permit us to have constant contact with sources of grace and divine inspiration.

3. Receive the Holy Spirit: In the sacrament of penance, we are forgiven our sins through the action of the Holy Spirit, who makes the actions of Christ present through the priest. We believe that mercy founds hope and change in our soul. Why, then, do we not believe that this same grace from the Holy Spirit can make us heroic saints, victorious in trial, patient in difficult relationships and more effective as apostles? Christ assures us that his power will never leave us, so we have no reason to “slip into neutral” after a few bad incidents in our life. Rather, the Holy Spirit’s goal moves us from mercy to transformation into Christ, permitting us spiritually to carry and reveal his wounds to an unbelieving world.

Conversation with Christ: Oh, Jesus, I will trust more in the power of your Holy Spirit to change me than in my own efforts. I will depend on you in that face-to-face encounter I need to have with you every day. Let the sources of divine grace become my true food, and may I move away from feeding my soul on passing pleasures and vain ambitions.

Resolution: This week, I will write down daily all the lights and inspirations of the Holy Spirit I receive, and I will try to act on them with promptness, confidence and generosity.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter - You Follow Me

Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved, the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper and had said, “Master, who is the one who will betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die. But Jesus had not told him that he would not die, just “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?” It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.


Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you and all that you have revealed for our salvation. I hope in you because of your overflowing mercy. Every single act of yours on this earth demonstrated your love for us. Your ascent into heaven before the eyes of the Apostles inspires my hope of one day joining you there. I love you and wish you to be the center of my life.

Petition: Lord, increase my faith, hope and love.

1. The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved: Peter is walking with Jesus along the shore where Jesus has just foretold his future martyrdom. He turns to ask Jesus about John, who was following them. Throughout his Gospel, John designates himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. It is as if the most striking point of John’s life and experience with Christ was that Jesus loved him. It became his identity. How often do I reflect on Christ’s love for me? How often do I cherish it?

2. What About Him? Jesus responds to Peter’s question with a question of his own. What concern is it of yours what happens to John? Christ’s relationship with his disciples is deeply personal. Each has a mission to complete in life. We can get distracted thinking about and comparing ourselves to others, or whether they may or may not be following Christ. However, these comparisons with others (or their gifts, or their mission) can frequently be a sign of our pride. We have our own mission to fulfill, and no one can take our place. We need to concentrate instead on that part of our mission which is still ahead of us, yet to be fulfilled.

3. We Know That His Testimony Is True: John is a witness to all that has taken place in his Gospel. His testimony was entrusted to a community of believers and has come down to us under the guarantee of the Church. The Gospel presents us with what Jesus actually said and did. We need to hold fast to our faith in the Gospel and not get sidetracked by modern interpretations that cast doubt on everything. When we read the scriptures, we hear God’s voice. Do I read them with such faith?

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, thank you for the testimony of your life that I find in the Gospel. Increase my faith. Help me to read the Scriptures and meditate on them with greater fervor. I know that you want to speak to me through them. Help me to follow you today.

Resolution: Today I will help another person read a passage of the Gospel prayerfully.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter - Love Demands a Loving Response

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them, he said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”


Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you and all that you have revealed for our salvation. I hope in you because of your overflowing mercy. Every single act of yours on this earth demonstrated your love for us. Your ascent into heaven before the eyes of the Apostles inspires my hope of one day joining you there. I love you and wish you to be the center of my life.

Petition: Lord, help me to respond with love to your self-giving love.

1. “Do You Love Me?” The moment for which Christ has been preparing ever since his Resurrection has arrived. He is alone with Peter. Their last encounter before Jesus’ death was that sad occasion when Christ looked at Peter, forgiving him after his threefold denial. Now Christ takes Peter a little apart from the others and gives him the opportunity to affirm a threefold pledge of his love. The one, supreme condition for Christ to renew Peter’s commission to tend his sheep is Peter’s love for his Master. Love is the one, supreme condition for each of us who aspires to be an apostle. Peter’s love has been purified by his betrayal of Christ during the Passion: It has been chastened and humbled. Now Peter entrusts everything — even his love — into Christ’s hands: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Do my failures enable me to love Christ more, with greater trust?

2. “Can Love Be Commanded?” Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI posed a provocative question in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love). How can Christ demand love from us in order for us to be his followers, his apostles? In other words, “Love cannot be commanded; it is ultimately a feeling that is either there or not, nor can it be produced by the will” (no. 16). The response to this apparent quandary is twofold. In the first place, love can be commanded because it has first been given. “God does not demand of us a feeling which we ourselves are incapable of producing. He loves us, he makes us see and experience his love, and since he has ‘loved us first,’ love can also blossom as a response within us” (no. 17). In the second place, “it is clearly revealed that love is not merely a sentiment. Sentiments come and go. A sentiment can be a marvelous first spark, but it is not the fullness of love” (no. 17).

3. “Love in Its Most Radical Form” What, then, is the essence of love, that love which Christ first gave to us and which he in turn demands of us as his followers? “It is characteristic of a mature love that it calls into play all man’s potentialities; it engages the whole man, so to speak. Contact with the visible manifestations of God’s love can awaken within us a feeling of joy born of the experience of being loved. But this encounter also engages our will and our intellect. Acknowledgment of the living God is one path towards love, and the ‘yes’ of our will to his will unites our intellect, will and sentiments in the all-embracing act of love” (Deus Caritas Est, no. 17). As Pope Saint John Paul the Great has phrased it so many times, true love is the gift of one’s entire self.

Conversation with Christ: Thank you, Lord, for helping me to see, through Pope Saint John Paul the Great and Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI, the meaning of authentic love. Thank you for your limitless love for me. Your love is the standard to which my own poor love must rise.

Resolution: I will give myself to Christ today in acts of love that embrace my whole person: intellect, will and sentiments.