Saturday, August 31, 2013

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time "Christ, the Demanding Guest"

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ´Give your place to this man,´ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ´My friend, move up to a higher position.´ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Then he said to the host who invited him, "When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." (Luke 14: 1, 7-14)

Introductory Prayer: Lord God, I come from dust and to dust I shall return. You, however, existed before all time, and every creature takes its being from you. You formed me in my mother’s womb with infinite care, and you watch over me tenderly. I hope you will embrace my soul at my death to carry me home to heaven to be with you forever. Thank you for looking upon me and blessing me with your love. Take my love in return. I humbly offer you all that I am.

Petition: Grant me, Lord, to put my life humbly in your hands.

1. Opening the Door to God: Today’s reading shows us Jesus dining at the house of a Pharisee. Apparently they had invited him in order to examine him closely, as they tended to find fault with everyone who was not of their sect. Jesus turns the tables by calling them to task for their pride. Inviting Jesus into our lives always means opening ourselves to a challenge. He will reward our generosity by offering us the road to greater holiness – which means that he will reveal our weaknesses to us and challenge us to be better. Christianity isn’t comfortable. We have to be ready to discover that we are not as holy and good as we thought we were. Humility is an essential virtue for any true Christian. We need to ask ourselves if we give God the first place at the table in our lives, and if we are really listening to his invitation to conquer our defects and grow in sanctity.

2. The Quickest Way Up Is to Go Down: Living humility may be difficult sometimes because of our natural tendency to be self-centered, “to look out for #1.” Nonetheless, Jesus teaches that living humility is the gateway to the road that leads to happiness. If we are only looking out for ourselves, seeking the highest “places of honor,” we are bound to be disappointed. God does not reward self-love. Moreover, because of our limitations, we do not know well what is good for us, nor are we able to achieve it without God’s grace. The rewards we can expect from human beings – honors, power, pleasure – are limited in time and quantity, and cannot satisfy our soul, which yearns for God. How often has our pride been the cause of conflict and unhappiness? God will lift us up to true fulfillment only if we get down from our own ivory tower of egotism.

3. Save Room for Dessert… If we are humble and seek to serve God instead of our own aggrandizement, then we leave the reward up to God: He will give us the place in his plan that is best for us. God’s reward is always better than what the world can offer because he promises everlasting life and the joy of heaven. Although we don’t know exactly what that will be like, Jesus clearly tells us that it’s so good, we should strive not to be rewarded in this life. That seems to go against common sense – “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” – but if we really have faith in God and his Word, we need to put it into practice. If life is like the banquet of today’s reading, our time in this world is just the appetizer. "What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to trust in you completely, not seeking myself, but doing my best to serve you with humility and letting you take care of the rest. I know you are all good and loving, and you will not let those who serve you go without their reward.

Resolution: Today I will practice humility by putting others first in whatever way I can: yielding to them in conversation, giving them the first choice when possible.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Saturday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time "Bearing Fruit for the Kingdom"

Jesus told his disciples this parable: "A man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one-- to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master´s money. After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ´Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.´ His master said to him, ´Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master´s joy.´ Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ´Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.´ His master said to him, ´Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master´s joy.´ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ´Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.´ His master said to him in reply, ´You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.´" (Matthew 25: 14-30)

Introductory Prayer: My God, I believe in you with all my heart because you have made yourself known to me in so many ways, especially through the gift of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I hope in you because you have never abandoned me. I love you, Lord, because you have loved me first and have shed your blood for my salvation. I want to love you with my whole life. Recognizing my sinfulness and trusting in your mercy, I humble myself before you. Mother Mary, I entrust my life to your maternal care so that I will always be faithful to God’s holy will for my life.

Petition: Lord, help me to take all the gifts and talents you have given me and put them to use for the greater good of the Kingdom of God.

1. Free to Use My Talents
Christ has given each of us a certain number of talents. Each of us now has to decide how we are going to use them. We can use them and multiply them, or we can bury them. Christ wants each of us to make full use of the talents we have been given. He gives us the liberty to discern what the best way to do so is. This is what is so great about Christ: He respects our freedom. Our freedom was given to us as a tool to help us choose the greatest good to be done at any given moment. We have to ask ourselves if we are using our freedom to make the most of our God-given talents.

2. Taking Stock
The talents and gifts given us by Christ were given not only for personal use but for the service of others. Christ will demand an account from us as to how we made use of them. We have to think about this: At the end our lives do we want to be accounted before God for making use of 100% of our talents, or just 25% or 50% of them? How are we going to explain why we didn’t make use of the other 50% or 75%? It is an important question that we need to ask ourselves because, as we meditated earlier this week, Christ is counting on us. The mere fact we are conscious of the need to use our talents for Christ is in itself a grace. Now is always the best time to change if need be.

3. Making Christ Happy
Have you ever thought that by doing God’s will faithfully and by giving your full effort, you could make our Lord happy? It is true, because Christ is extremely interested in each one of us being totally faithful to his Father’s will, just as he himself took interest in his Father’s will perfectly and completely. Don’t think that if no one in this world acknowledges us, all our sacrifices and labor go unnoticed. Rather know this: Christ sees all and knows why we do all that we do. Christ is very happy that we put everything that we are at his service out of love.

Conversation with Christ: Lord and Savior, thank you for calling me to yourself and for strengthening me in the fight for holiness in my life. I want nothing more than to bring to fruition all the talents you have given me and to put them at your service. They are your gifts to me; the least I can do is use them to bring you glory and praise. So often in the world people use their talents for selfish gain, but I don’t want to do that, Lord. I want to be your faithful servant.

Resolution: I will offer up the use of my talents today to give glory to God.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Friday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time " Ready or Not!"

Jesus told his disciples this parable: "The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ´Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!´ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ´Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.´ But the wise ones replied, ´No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.´ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ´Lord, Lord, open the door for us!´ But he said in reply, ´Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.´ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour." (Matthew 25:1-13)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I come to you again in prayer. Even though I cannot see you, I know through faith that you are present in my life. I hope in your promise to be with me. I love you, and I know you love me. Accept this prayer as a token of my love.

Petition: Lord, make me long for and strive to enter the kingdom of heaven.

1. A Severe Oil Shortage: The Gospel invites us to have oil for our lamps, that is, to be always ready for the coming of the Lord. He appears in moments and ways we do not expect and at all times throughout our day. The foolish virgins failed to anticipate when and how the Lord would come to them, and they were not prepared. So often we, too, get caught up in a thousand affairs and worries, and we can miss what is essential. We miss the presence of Christ in the people around us, in the circumstances in which we are living. Sometimes, Christ comes to us through some sacrifice or suffering; but we do not recognize him in it, and we reject it. We need to strengthen our faith and see how the Lord may appear in our lives.

2. The Door Closes: Over and over in the New Testament, Jesus makes clear that there is a real possibility some people, due to their own choices, may not be saved. The most terrible thing that could happen to any person would be to hear those words from the Lord who created us and died to save us: “I do not know you.” The Lord takes our freedom to choose very seriously. He never forces our will. He never imposes himself on us. Rather he invites us to make a free response of love and obedience to him and the way of life he taught us. We must choose to remain steadfast in the way of the Christian life. God cannot save us without our cooperation.

3. Stay Awake: Saint Augustine said, “Beware of the grace of God that passes and does not return.” We need to perceive God’s presence in the little things of each day and never let the opportunity to love and serve him pass us by. Our faith must be ready and watching for him. If we take him for granted, or presume that we are already saved, we can miss our chance to be with him.

Conversation with Christ: Jesus, thank you for teaching us so clearly about the seriousness of our choices. How terrible it would be to opt for death instead of eternal life with you! I want to choose you and your ways, but I am weak. Make me watch and wait always, ready to see you in all things and do your will.

Resolution: I will actively look for signs of Christ in others today.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist "Witness to the Truth"

Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother´s wife." Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias´s own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, "Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you." He even swore many things to her, "I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?" She replied, "The head of John the Baptist." The girl hurried back to the king´s presence and made her request, "I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist." The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. (Mark 6:17-29)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in your wondrous shining glory, although this is hidden from my eyes. I hope in the peace and everlasting joy of the world to come, for this world is a valley of tears. I love you, even though I am not always able to discern the love in your intentions when you permit me to suffer. You are my God and my all.

Petition: Lord, let me never fear the consequences of speaking the truth.

1. Speaking Truth to Power: Although Herod was a cruel tyrant, John the Baptist did not hesitate to condemn his adulterous conduct and to denounce his sin publicly. John was moved by the Holy Spirit to give witness and teach the people that no one can legitimately violate God’s commandments, not even a king. John did not fear the consequences of his actions, because he knew that if he were faithful, God would be at his side and never let him down, even if he had to suffer on account of the truth. We, too, need to give courageous witness to our family, friends and to the society at large. When we do, God will be with us and we will have nothing to fear.

2. It Was Something That You Said: Mark tells us that Herod, although he resented what John said in accusing him of adultery, nonetheless “like[d] to listen to him,” and he was “much perplexed.” In his moral weakness, he persisted in his sin, yet the cries of the prophet to repent did reach his conscience. Herod was in confusion. Something was stirring in his conscience; the Holy Spirit was moving inside him to bring him to true repentance for his sin. God never abandons the sinner, but gives him grace to turn back to him. We should never lose hope for one who seems to be lost and wandering in sin. We should always continue to speak the truth with love and pray for a full conversion. God can change the heart of even the worst of sinners. He has forgiven us so much, and he can forgive others as well.

3. A Conversion Cut Short: The Gospel tells how Herod, in an imprudent promise to Herodias’ daughter, found himself compromised and, for fear of losing face, had to order the beheading of John the Baptist. Here his moral weakness overcame the first stirrings of the grace of conversion. He closed his heart to God’s action due to his lust and vanity, and he committed the terrible crime of murder of an innocent man. How sin can darken the conscience and extinguish God’s grace in the heart of a person given over only to satisfying their passions.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I want to be faithful to your teachings and to be frank with those I love who need to hear your word. I know that takes prudence, courage and steadfastness. Help me to be true to you. Give me the grace of a good conscience always to speak the truth with rectitude and love for your law.

Resolution: I will pray for the grace to witness to the truth, “in season and out of season,” no matter what the consequences.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Memorial of Saint Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church "To Be or Not to Be"

Jesus said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men´s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ´If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets´ blood.´ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out!" (Matthew 23:27-32)

Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I believe that you are “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). I humbly come before you today. I trust completely in you, and therefore I want my life to be an open book where you write the pages of my life story.

Petition: Lord Jesus, grant me a sincere and humble heart.

1. What You See Is Not What You Get! One of the sternest reprimands Jesus gave was against the hypocrisy of those charged with the grave task of leading God’s people. They were called to transmit the hope of God’s promise of deliverance: “I will be your God and you shall be my people” (Jeremiah 24:7). Yet their vain righteousness was nothing but self-indulgence that burdened the flock of Israel to the point of despair. Instead of helping the people of God to turn from sin to a life of fidelity to God’s love, they preyed upon the spiritual sensitivity of the people for their own sordid gain.

2. Guillotine of Saints or Saints to the Guillotine? Human respect is the “guillotine of saints.” It has a suicidal effect and a deadly capacity to cut short the action of a zealous heart. Human respect renders love of God and souls sterile because it is nothing but pride disguised as fear, doubt, or the sophism of not wanting to hurt others’ feelings. True charity, on the other hand, gives testimony to the truth, regardless of the consequences this may bring – even persecution or the sword (cf. Romans 8:35). Shunning human respect may lead us to the “guillotine” of ridicule or persecution, but then we are on our way to becoming saints.

3. Like Father, Like Son; Hypocrites All: The Pharisees’ ancestors killed the prophets for chastising the people in God’s name. Now, Jesus ironically urges the Pharisees to prove themselves worthy of their heritage. Jesus separated himself from the religious leaders of the time. Unlike the Pharisees and Temple priests, who had become like mercenaries for the flock of Israel, Jesus was the Good Shepherd. Jesus instituted a new priesthood, based on his own: that of the Suffering Servant, the Paschal Lamb, the Messiah, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He made all things new and in truth set us free from sin.

Conversation with Christ: Oh Jesus, I thank you with all my heart for redeeming me. You let me hear your voice gently calling me. Strengthen me in faith, and fill me with your love so that I can one day join St Paul in saying, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Resolution: I will be an enemy of hypocrisy and insincerity in my dealings with others today.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Memorial of Saint Monica "First Things First"

Jesus said: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean. (Matthew 23:23-26)

 Introductory Prayer: Lord, I come to you again in prayer. Even though I cannot see you, I know through faith that you are present in my life. I hope in your promise to be with me. I love you, and I know you love me. Accept this prayer as a token of my love.

 Petition: Lord, help me to dedicate my life to weightier matters rather than mere appearances.

 1. Tithed Up in Knots: When God originally commanded his people to tithe, it was so that they would acknowledge him as the source of all the gifts in their lives. It was to be the recognition on their part that all they had was from him, that he is Lord, and that his law is the way to salvation. Yet it became easy for the Israelites to fall into legalism and forget the true purpose of the tithe. They observed the letter of the law and forgot the meaning of the law: acknowledge the sovereignty of God. In the end, all we are and all we have belongs to God. We have to use our talents, wealth and possessions all for him and his kingdom. Is there some area in which I do not acknowledge his sovereignty in my life?

 2. What Really Counts: What are the weightier matters of the law? Jesus speaks of justice and mercy and faith. When we neglect these, we are distorting true religion, for true religion 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 really we are only doing our own will instead? How often do we forget the true essence of devotion to the law of God?

 3. Interior Cleaning: “First clean the inside of the cup…” We should 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.

 Conversation with Christ: 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.

 Resolution: I will examine my conscience as to the motives of my actions each day, making sure I am inspired by mercy, justice and faith. 


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Monday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time "Am I My Brother’s Keeper?"

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of Heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ´If one swears by the Temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the Temple, one is obligated.´ Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the Temple that made the gold sacred? And you say, ´If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.´ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it; one who swears by the Temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it; one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it." (Matthew 23:13-22)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I come to you again in prayer. Even though I cannot see you, I know through faith that you are present in my life. I hope in your promise to be with me. I love you, and I know you love me. Accept this prayer as a token of my love.

Petition: Lord, help me to be a person of great integrity – the same inside and out.

1. No Hypocrites Need Apply: The scribes and Pharisees lacked the authenticity and rectitude of conscience needed to please God. We need to let our behavior, our word and our conscience be in harmony and open before God. Conscience is that secret sanctuary where we are alone with God and we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speak 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. A good conscience is the greatest good thing we can possess in this life. It gives us peace, serenity and an assurance of our perseverance in good.

2. Misleading Others Has a Price: Christ is very harsh on those who lead others astray, especially those who have a responsibility to teach and guide others in the way of salvation. It is a great sin to give scandal and to lead others away from the path of truth. There are many examples of this: There are those entrusted to teach in the name of the Church but substitute their personal opinions, and those who give a testimony of disordered lifestyles, especially to the young and impressionable. The salvation of all of us is linked together; we need to build each other up and help each other on the way to Christ. Others have a right to our good example and to our speaking truth.

3. No Swearing Here! Jesus warns against idle words, exaggerations and swearing in the name of God or by his altar. He 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. If we live with a clear conscience and act before God in all things, we can then simply give our word and have it mean all we have inside us. What a wonderful thing it is to deal with people who are simple and transparent, who can be taken at face value, because to be devious or calculating never occurs to them, or to be in any way false or insincere.

Conversation with Christ: 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.

Resolution: I will review my examination of conscience to make sure I am going deep enough to know what God wants of me.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time "The One Thing Necessary"

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

Introductory Prayer: I believe in you, my God. You called me into existence from nothingness and carefully watch over me. You have even numbered the hairs of my head. I trust in your infinite goodness, and I abandon into your loving hands my fears, my hopes, my needs, my desires, everything. I love you, Lord, and wish to love you with all my mind, heart, soul and strength.

Petition: I shall not fear for my salvation, but grow in confidence in you, my God.

1. Salvation: A Numbers Racket? We never stop asking the question the person in the Gospel asked Jesus. If we don’t achieve eternal life, nothing else we have attained in life matters. Jesus does not give the answer we might want to hear: that many are saved, and salvation is a sure and simple thing to reach. Instead, he warns us against presumption in this matter. As Saint Paul later said, “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). It is something we need to take with the utmost seriousness. Every day we need to pray for the grace to persevere to the end. We need to live each day with the perspective that it could be our last. We need to go back to the venerable tradition of praying for a “happy death.”

2. Narrow Gates: When Jesus speaks of the narrow gate, he is saying that salvation is not a birthright or something guaranteed. It depends on our active cooperation with his grace -- the real effort to love God and follow his will. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Jesus warned that not everyone who cries out, “Lord, Lord…” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of his Father in heaven. Obedience to God’s will is the best assurance we can have of our salvation. What is there in my life that is not in accord with his will?

3. Judge Not… We might also be surprised that those from “the east and the west” will enter the kingdom before many others. We might be surprised at those who are saved. Salvation is not a privilege of a race or a chosen people. It is a matter of how we respond in freedom to grace and the invitation of the Lord to a certain way of life. We shouldn’t give in to judging where others stand; we should only attend to our own soul. Are we at peace with God in our conscience? Can we be sure we are objective about our own situation in God’s eyes? Our conscience should be clear, and we should make sure we are serene and have peace of soul. If we find there is something between us and God’s will, we should go to confession and pray for the grace to change.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, give me the grace to know your will and the discernment to know if there is anything in my soul that is keeping me from you. Help me to overcome any obstacle, so that I may be one with you and that your will may be my guide every day.

Resolution: I will make frequent confession a habit and every day examine my conscience to seek union and peace with the Lord.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Saint Bartholomew, Apostle "How Does He Know Me?"

Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth." But Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him." Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this." And he said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." (John 1: 45-51)

Introductory Prayer:Lord, You know all things. You know my inmost thoughts and secret desires. You know my qualities and defects. As St. Peter said, “Lord, You know all things.” Help me to be sincere before you, especially when I approach the sacrament of confession or when I come before those who can help bring me closer to you. May it be said of me too: “In him there is no duplicity.”

Petition:Give me the courage to cleanse my heart Lord so that I may never complain that I cannot find you. Help me to see that it is not you who hide from me, but rather, I who choose not to look for you.

1. Authenticity, an increasingly rare virtue It is true that very holy people can delve into the interior of a soul with a single glance. It was exceptionally true with Christ. One look at Nathanael and He already had him sized up: “There is no duplicity in him.” There is something special about a sincere person. Even those have not achieved a high degree of holiness can easily spot them. You’ve seen the type before. They are people whom at first glance you know you can trust. You know that “what you see is what you get.” These sincere souls have magnetic personalities. They are extremely joyful and peaceful even though they occasionally pass through moments of turbulence. Sincerity gives us stability, peace of soul, and a solid foundation on which to build our spiritual edifice.

2. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God If it is true that the sincere are easily spotted, it is equally true that the sincere can easily spot the truth and recognize it: Without hearing a discourse or witnessing a single miracle of Christ’s, Nathanael would say, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Those who are sincere are aware that they are creatures with a limited intelligence. They recognize their own blind spots and prejudices, and they don’t let these limitations cloud their vision of the transcendent reality before them. They don’t need many physical proofs because the Holy Spirit blesses them with a higher power, a spiritual intuition capable of recognizing God’s hand and presence where it exists.

3. A Light for the World We can be amazed at the wisdom of simple folk with profound faith. Christ promises that the sincere will see great things. It only makes sense that God will show them great things since they can be trusted to spread the Word without fear or duplicity. They put no conditions on their discipleship. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. I could entrust you with smaller things, now I will entrust you with greater.” Bearing God’s message often makes us enemies of this world. Yet a sincere soul will be ready to suffer isolation and rejection because he is always aware that he is simply a creature of God and that his best bet is to rely on God’s plan and providence in everything.

Dialogue with Christ: Lord, you call me to your company of intimate friends even though you see all of my weaknesses. I am humbled by how much you trust in me. I know my weaknesses. I am in awe of your grace, which will enable me to do anything you ask.

Resolution: I will try to be more sincere with my spouse or parents today.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Friday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time "Being Like God"

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus 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)

Introductory Prayer: Dear Lord, I believe in you, because you have a plan for me that will bring me to be like you. I hope in you, because your example and your grace give me the strength to be able to identify my will with yours. I love you, because only by loving you can I be transformed into you and be holy.

Petition: Give me, Lord, the grace to practice charity faithfully.

1. Wanting What God Wants: What is true love? Quoting the Roman historian, Sallust, Pope-Emeritus Benedict shows us what the authentic content of love is: “To want the same thing, and to reject the same thing was recognized by antiquity as the authentic content of love: the one becomes similar to the other, and this leads to community of will and thought” (Deus Caritas Est, 17). This quote helps us understand that to love is to identify our will with God’s will. This leads us to be like God. This fact corrects the error of our first parents who disobeyed God.

2. Love Has Two Dimensions: True love has two dimensions: love for God and love for our neighbor. The first epistle of John, known as the “Magna Carta” of charity, expresses frequently and clearly the close relationship between them. One cannot exist without the other: “No one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God, nor anyone who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10); “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God” (1 John 4:7); “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another” (1 John 4:11); “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21).

3. Loving Others: Loving God requires loving others. This is not easy, especially in a world that highly esteems individualism and permits stepping on others to get ahead. If loving others according to the Old Testament requirement, “as you love yourself” is difficult, we can imagine how difficult it is to love others according to Christ’s requirement, “as I have loved you” (cf. John 13:34), which is a true Christian’s hallmark: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). How many times do we judge only from appearances, or judge people only by their physical traits or defects? It’s so easy to comment on peoples’ defects, imperfections, and ways of acting; yet, it is so difficult to praise constantly what is positive in them. One of the best ways to love our neighbor is to seek charity in speech.

Petition: Dear Jesus, give me the grace to love others with all my effort and good will. I want to contemplate you, Lord, so that I may learn from you how to love them to the point of giving my life for them.

Resolution: I will practice charity towards others in a very concrete way.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary "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." (Matthew 22: 1-14)

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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Dressing for the Occasion: God is good, but he is not na├»ve. 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.

Petition: 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.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Memorial of Saint Pius X, Pope "Working for God"

Jesus told his disciples this parable: "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)

Introductory Prayer: Dear Jesus, I believe in you because you have revealed your plan of love to the Church. I hope in you because you are more interested in my happiness and salvation than I am. I love you because you have loved me without my deserving your love.

Petition: Lord, help me to appreciate and be grateful for your grace.

1. There Is Always an Opportunity: One of the worst experiences is to accept that you have lost the last opportunity to do something you have always wanted to do. This can occur in any human situation: job opportunities, university acceptances, etc. In the spiritual life, on the other hand, there is always the opportunity to live only for God, the opportunity to be redeemed. There is always the possibility to start again. Why is this? It is because God has granted us our time on earth to walk towards him. Therefore, even if we fall, he continues to give us the strength to get up. That is why the sacrament of reconciliation is so important. When we lose grace, our spiritual strength, we can regain it in the sacraments, especially in confession.

2. Expecting More Than You Deserve: Considered from a merely human point of view, this Gospel’s situation is an unjust one. Whoever works more should receive more than those who work less. We tend to forget, however, that in terms of the spiritual, everything is a gift. There is nothing in our nature that can demand grace. The demands of our faith are not “favors” we do for God, but existential obligations. That is why Christ reminds us, “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ´We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do´” (Luke 17:10).

3. The Generosity of God: God’s generosity is a manifestation of his love for us. He knows each and every person intimately and personally. He knows that the needs of some are bigger than those of others. To think that God loves some people more than others is an injustice to God. We owe love and respect to others because we are all human persons with the same dignity. We owe adoration and love to God because he is our creator and provident Father. But God owes nothing to his creatures. Everything he gives us is gratuitous and a fruit of his infinite love. It’s too easy to treat God in a human way, forgetting that he is God. The most beautiful gift he gives us is his grace.

Petition: Dear Lord, I sometimes see things from a very human and selfish point of view. Sometimes I find myself getting angry because others may have more than I do. Help me understand that the most important thing to be truly happy in my life is to be aware of the need I have of your grace.

Resolution: I will thank Christ for his grace and love and will try to imitate him by being generous to others.




Monday, August 19, 2013

Memorial of Saint Bernard, abbot and doctor of the Church "Getting to the Top"

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)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, you know what is best for me, and that is why I believe in you. You are always faithful to your word and are more interested in my spiritual well-being than I am, and that is why I trust in you. In spite of my sins, you always give me your loving forgiveness, and that is why I love you, Lord.

Petition: Lord, grant me a profound desire to reach heaven as shown by my proper use of material things.

1. Entering the Kingdom: We know from the Gospels that Christ spends most of his public ministry preaching about the Kingdom of heaven. God wants to be the King of our hearts. This is impossible if we are attached to things. When Christ says that it will be hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven, he is speaking to every person. Christ is saying that to be attached to material things means not having room for God. It’s not a matter of riches. 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.

2. It Seems Impossible: The reaction of the disciples helps us to remember how easy it is for us to be attached to ourselves, to things, to pleasures and to desires. To leave all of these in order to get to heaven may seem impossible for us to do. In fact, it is. No one can overcome these attachments without the help of God’s grace. That is why Christ says, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” God will take us to heaven if we let him. An overloaded boat will sink not because it is incapable of floating, but because the weight is more than it can carry. We can reach God when we empty ourselves and allow his grace fill our hearts.

3. Having Nothing in Order to Have It All: We can usually give up something in order to receive something better. That is why the apostle Peter, not really sure of what “the prize” of his following Christ is, asks the Master, “What will there be for us?” The reward of our renunciation is to be with Christ, forever sharing in his glory. The awesome thing is that Christ tells us it’s not something we will receive in the future, but something we can already begin to receive here on earth. St. John of the Cross, who had a profound love for Christ, understood very well that “to come to the possession you have not, you must go by a way in which you possess not” (The Ascent of Mount Carmel , Book 1, Chapter 13).

Petition: Lord, thank you for reminding me about what is necessary for me to do in order to reach heaven. It’s so easy to get caught up with the things of this world and forget that they are worthless when compared to heaven.

Resolution: I will offer up a concrete sacrifice: I will detach myself from something I like and reflect on heaven while doing it.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time "Money Changes Everything"

A young man approached Jesus 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)

Introductory Prayer: Dear Lord, I believe in you because you know what is best for me and what I must do in order to reach heaven. I hope in you because you have called me to detach myself from worldly things in order to possess you. I love you because you are greater than any of the things you have created.

Petition: Lord, grant me spiritual detachment from material things.

1. Are You Sure? Sometimes we ask for or desire something without really considering the conditions necessary to obtain it. We understand that most things cannot be obtained for free; nevertheless, in the spiritual life we easily forget this. What the rich young man asks for is the most valuable, the greatest possible achievement, but he thinks getting it will be easy. Maybe he was accustomed to being able to buy whatever he wanted with money. He probably didn’t even think that Christ might tell him to detach himself from his possessions. The fact that we could want something, but not want to do what is necessary to attain it, should raise a question: Do we really want it?

2. A First Step to Eternity: Christ takes the young man’s question seriously. He doesn’t want to waste the young man’s time allowing him to think things are easier than they really are. Sadly, in today’s society people are used to seeking what requires the least effort. This is not the way of a true Christian. To get to heaven – and everybody should really want to – one thing is totally necessary: “Keep the commandments.” That means to avoid sin. God’s love for us precedes the commandments. When we love someone, we do not treat that person in any old way, but rather in a way that reflects the love we have for that person. So, we keep the commandments not just to follow a moral code, but to show in a specific way our love for God. This step is very important, but it is only a first step to heaven.

3. Not So Sure: The rich young man had no trouble with living the commandments. Feeling confident, he asks for more, and Christ asks him to leave his possessions. He wasn’t expecting this. He went away sad, because he had many possessions. The problem is not having possessions, but that having many possessions makes us more preoccupied with material things than with “things of above,” as St. Paul would say (see Colossians 3:1). In the Gospel, Jesus says, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).

Petition: Dear Lord, help me to love you above all things. I realize that I am attached to things that sometimes lead me to forget you. And yet, I can’t avoid hearing in the depths of my soul your words: “You cannot serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Help me understand that it is not worthwhile to have many things, but not have you.

Resolution: I will examine myself to see what commandments I am not living fully and detach myself from some concrete thing that prevents me from doing so.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time "Inquisition of the In-Laws"

Jesus said to his disciples: "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."

Introductory Prayer: I believe in you my God. You called me into existence from nothingness and carefully watch over me. You have even numbered the hairs of my head. I trust in your infinite goodness, and I abandon into your loving hands my fears, my hopes, my needs, my desires, everything. I love you Lord, and I wish to love you with all my mind, heart, soul and strength.

Petition: Jesus, use me to set the earth ablaze with your love.

1. Set the Earth on Fire: When Jesus talks about setting the earth on fire, he is referring to the fire of his love. You could even say that he is thinking about the Holy Spirit. When you read these words of Scripture and listen to them with the ear of your heart, you cannot help but be impressed with the passion of Christ’s love, the desire he has to possess our hearts and be united to each and every one of us. Notice that he does not have a narrow focus when it comes to sharing his gift of love. He came to give his life as a ransom for us men and for our salvation. He shed his blood for all so that sins would be forgiven.

2. Jesus Is Dying to Die for Us: Jesus knows that he is going to die for our sins on the altar of the cross. He knows he is going to shed his blood for us and be plunged into the depths of the dead in order to restore life to the righteous and to open the gates of heaven to all those who believe in him. He knows that his death and resurrection will bring salvation and eternal life to the whole world. He cannot wait to bring about this miraculous reconciliation between the human race and his heavenly Father. He yearns and is anxious to fulfill his mission as savior of souls and glorifier of the Father.

3. Jesus Can Be a Source of Division: What Jesus is driving at here is that his message and mission are more important than any family tie. Sometimes our relationship with Jesus will be disquieting for our family members, especially if they are living in sin or being especially selfish or unjust in any way. Moreover, when children get married or answer their call to religious life, parents and in-laws can become envious of the new spouse or angry at the religious community. But Christ wishes us to answer his call, which he has prepared for us from all eternity. It’s good to keep in mind that when we opt for the path Our Lord has in mind for us, we’re choosing a good, not the division that may result for a time from that choice. We need to rely on Christ’s grace to maintain kindness, humility and joy at all times with everyone. These are sure signs of being blessed by God.

Petition: Jesus, set my heart on fire with love for you. You have given me everything that I have. Everything I have is yours. Take it and use it for the glory of your name, the salvation of souls, and the establishment of your Kingdom.

Resolution: I will reach out and invite somebody back to Church this week. 


Friday, August 16, 2013

Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time "The Parental Vocation"

Children were brought to Jesus that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." After he placed his hands on them, he went away. (Matthew 19: 13-15)

Introductory Prayer: Lord God, I believe in your presence here with me as I begin this moment of prayer. I hope in you. I know that you will always take care of me. I want this time with you to be a sign of my love for you. I seek only to please you, without desiring any spiritual consolation for myself.

Petition: Lord, help me to be faithful in carrying out the commitments of my state of life.

1. Bringing the Children to Jesus: Being a parent is a lofty vocation. To be entrusted with the integral formation and eternal salvation of another human being is a task that is enough to make one dissolve into fear and trembling. Above all, parents have to show the good spiritual instincts of the people in today’s Gospel: They have to bring their children to Jesus. They need to teach them to pray, to go to Mass and above all, to learn that Jesus truly is their best friend with whom they can share everything. What a gift to give to children!

2. “Do Not Prevent Them”: There are many ways to hinder a child’s path to Christ. Our bad example is one of the main ones. Children pick up on the incoherence between our admonitions and our actual behavior. It’s particularly unnerving when a parent begins to see his own defects mirrored in his children. That can serve as a warning call that we need to be living the Christian life with more authenticity. Our example needs to be a catalyst towards the good.

3. The Kingdom of Heaven Belongs to Such as These: A good Catholic parent has only one true bottom-line aspiration for his kids: that they get to heaven! This is worth all the prayers, sacrifices and late nights. Precisely because the Kingdom is where they belong, parents should have immense confidence that the Lord will send them the graces they need to persevere and carry out their mission effectively. Christ is the parent’s biggest cheerleader! He wants nothing more than that happy reunion in heaven, where the parent will hear those wonderful words from his child, “Thanks for helping me to get here.”

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, thank you for my parents, and all they did to help me grow in the faith. I am sorry for the times I judged them harshly. Grant them your abundant blessing.

Resolution: I will say a special prayer for my parents (especially if deceased) and give them a call to thank them.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time "From the Beginning It Was Not So…"

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 Creatormade 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."

Introductory Prayer: Lord God, I believe in your presence here with me as I begin this moment of prayer. I hope in you. I know that you will always take care of me. I want this time with you to be a sign of my love for you. I seek only to please you, without desiring any spiritual consolation for myself.

Petition: Lord God, fill me with your grace so I can meet your lofty expectations.

1. Hardness of Their Hearts: 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. He knows that they were looking to get around the will of God and carve exceptions. Jesus felt no need to pander to the crowd or offer an easier way out when challenged. His focus was on what God intended. Even today he challenges everyone to respond.

2. A New Law: Jesus’ teaching seems so counter-cultural, no less today than in his own time. How can he be so bold and ask for so much, since we still labor under the same sin, imperfection and hardness of heart as the people of Moses’ time and his time? The key is that Jesus does not simply add new laws; he brings the grace to be able to live as God intended “from the beginning,” that is, before sin entered the world. Christ can ask more of us because he himself brings the grace for us to live our lives before God in a new way. By grace we are made “new men (and women) in Christ” and transformed into children of God who are empowered to live in holiness and the full truth.

3. Never Give Up: 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.

Conversation with Christ: Jesus, give me the faith and confidence to believe with all my heart that your grace is enough for me. Teach me to believe that your commands are always supported by your grace and that I can live as a new man in you.

Resolution: I will ask for an unbreakable hope in the power of God’s grace acting in me.