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|Religion / Feast Of Saint James, Apostle - Tuesday, July 25, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 10:25am On Jul 25, 2023
The Path to the Kingdom
“You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” Matthew 20:22–23
Saint James was the brother of the beloved disciple John and the son of Zebedee and Salome. Jesus called both James and John while they were working with their father, mending their fishing nets in their boat. Their response to Jesus’ call was immediate: “…they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:20). James was present at the raising of Jarius’ daughter, the Transfiguration, and is mentioned a few other times in the Gospels. In the Acts of the Apostles, James is identified as the first of the Apostles to give his life as a martyr, being beheaded by Herod in Jerusalem in the year 44 AD (See Acts 12:2).
Among the other references to Saint James in the Gospels is the passage quoted above in which Salome, the mother of James and John, asks Jesus for the unique favor of allowing her two sons to sit at His left and right in His Kingdom. Upon her request on behalf of her two sons, Jesus turns to them and asks if they can drink the chalice that He is going to drink, to which they respond, “We can.” And though this is a bold request on their parts and that of their mother, there is also something courageous and holy about their request.
Just prior to this passage, as Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem with the Twelve, He explained to them the fate that awaited Him. “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day” (Matthew 20:18–19). This was the third time that Jesus explained this to the Twelve and, therefore, it must have started to truly sink in. It is within this context that James and John ask to remain close to Jesus in His mission of establishing His Kingdom, even though Jesus explained that the path to that Kingdom was His suffering and death.
Each of us should learn from James and John. Though their request might have had some selfishness mixed in with it, it was also courageous. It showed they did not fear Jesus’ prediction of His passion. Instead, they wanted to be part of it and were willing to endure whatever was necessary so as to share in the glory of the Kingdom to come.
Reflect, today, upon making a similar request to our Lord. Say to Him that you desire to be close to Him in His Kingdom, and do so with the full knowledge that the path to this glory is by drinking the chalice of selfless sacrifice that Christ drank. It is obtained by courageously following Him, no matter what that requires of you. If that means suffering and persecution, so be it. If that means great sacrifice, so be it. If that means abandoning certain hopes and dreams, so be it. See yourself walking with these disciples and Jesus on the road to Jerusalem where our Lord would offer His life in sacrifice. Saint James would soon follow, dying by the sword of Herod. Say “Yes” to whatever our Lord asks of you and commit yourself to the drinking of the chalice of selfless sacrificial love. Doing so will enable you to share in the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven.
My glorious King, You invite all people to share in Your glorious Kingdom to come. May I enter that Kingdom with all the saints and fully share in its glory. I choose that path that leads to that Kingdom and willingly offer my life in sacrifice to You and for others. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Feast Of Saint Mary Magdalene - Saturday, July 22, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 12:00pm On Jul 22, 2023
Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. John 20:11–12
Early in His ministry, Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary of Magdala. As a result, she became an exceptionally faithful follower of Jesus. She was most likely one of His followers who provided for Jesus and the disciples out of her own resources as they traveled. She listened to His teachings, witnessed His miracles, was present when He was condemned, stood at the foot of the Cross with Jesus’ mother, helped to prepare His body for burial and was the first person recorded in Scripture to whom Jesus appeared after His Resurrection.
The Gospel for today’s Mass tells the story of Mary going to the tomb early Sunday morning to complete the anointing of Jesus’ dead body as He laid in the tomb. But much to her surprise, the tomb was empty. Therefore, she ran to tell the Apostles, which makes Mary Magdalene the first of His followers to witness to the Resurrection. After telling the Apostles, she returned to the tomb with Peter and John; and, after Peter and John left, she remained outside the tomb weeping, as is mentioned in the Gospel passage quoted above.
Mary’s tears are beautiful. They are an expression of her deep devotion to her Lord. She did not yet understand that He had risen, but her fidelity to Jesus is a testimony to her love. Jesus had restored her dignity. He freed her from the seven demons who tormented her. She most likely had been a sinful woman in the past, but now she was singly devoted to the Savior of the World.
The witness of Mary of Magdala is one that should inspire us all. Though few people are possessed by seven demons, we are all tormented in one way or another. We all sin. We all are weak. We all have a past we regret. And we all are invited to do better. Mary’s “better” was a life that was given to Jesus with the utmost fidelity. She didn’t care if the authorities saw her at the foot of the Cross. If they were to persecute her as a result, it did not matter. She was faithful. She didn’t care if the soldiers would have harassed her when she went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus—she only thought of that last act of love she could offer Him. And when she saw Jesus risen and thought He was the gardener, she didn’t care if He saw her heartbroken and in tears—she only wanted to see the body of her Lord.
As a result of her unwavering fidelity, Jesus gave her a gift beyond imagination. He appeared to her, after being resurrected from the dead, and sent her to be an apostle to the Apostles. He sent her to go to the Apostles to tell them that Jesus had risen and that He was preparing to go to His Father in Heaven.
Reflect, today, upon the holy soul of this woman. She was a repentant sinner who turned her whole life around. She devoted everything to Jesus and, in return, received even more. In Heaven, Mary Magdalene will forever cling to Jesus and adore His Sacred Heart. May we all strive to imitate her by turning from our own life of sin and becoming unwaveringly faithful to our Lord.
My resurrected Lord, You appeared first to Mary of Magdala after Your Resurrection. You now invite her to share in Your glorious life in Heaven. Help me to learn from her by turning away from all sin and becoming deeply devoted to You. May my fidelity to You, dear Lord, be absolute and unwavering, so that I, too, will one day share in the glory of Your Resurrection. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Friday Of The Fifteenth Week In Ordinary Time - July 21, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 10:15am On Jul 21, 2023
Freedom From Condemnation
Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.” Matthew 12:1–2
When Moses gave the Ten Commandments to the people, there was a prohibition against working on the Sabbath. The Third Commandment said, in part, that “you shall not do any work” on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10). By the time of Jesus, the Pharisees had added much commentary to this law and expanded it to include as many as 39 different forms of work that they believed was forbidden. Included in their list were the practices of harvesting and milling of grain. For that reason, when the Pharisees saw that the disciples were picking heads of grain and rubbing the grain off the husks so that they could eat it, the Pharisees condemned them for violating what they interpreted to be an offense against the Third Commandment.
The first thing we can note from this passage is that the disciples were hungry. They were exceptionally devoted to Jesus and had been traveling with Him from town to town so that He could preach the Gospel. They had given up occupation, home, family and income so as to be singly devoted to Jesus and His mission. And as a result of this, they were living in poverty and relying upon the generosity of others. It is in this context that they chose to eat the most humble of foods: grain that they picked as they walked. They didn’t complain that there wasn’t a hot meal waiting for them at their destination. They were accepting of the many long journeys by foot that they made. They were okay with the fact that they did not get to sleep in their own bed every night. But they did have the basic human need for food, so they picked this grain as they walked to fulfill this basic need of hunger.
Though there are many lessons we can learn from this passage, one clear lesson is that of the temptation to judge and condemn others. When we fall into the trap of judging others, there are a few things that are common. First, judging and condemning often is based on perceived wrongs that are inflated and exaggerated. The Pharisees clearly inflated and exaggerated this “sin” of the disciples. In our lives, judgmentalness almost always makes the perceived sin of another far more serious than it is, if it is sin at all.
Another common temptation that flows from a judgmental and condemning heart is the failure to even understand the condemned party. In this case above, the Pharisees did not even inquire into the reason the disciples were picking and eating grain. They didn’t ask if they had been without food for some time or how long they had been traveling. It didn’t matter to them that they were hungry, and most likely, very hungry. So also with us, it is common that when we judge and condemn another, we arrive at our verdict without even seeking to understand the situation.
Lastly, it needs to be said that judging others is not our right. Doing so is usually reckless and caused by our own self-centeredness. God did not give the Pharisees the authority to expand the Third Commandment into 39 forbidden practices, nor did He give them the authority to apply those interpretations to the perceived actions of the disciples. And God does not give us the authority to judge others either. If another is clearly caught in a cycle of objectively grave sin, we must do all we can to help draw them out of that sin. But even in that case, we have no right to judge or condemn.
Reflect, today, upon any tendency you have toward being judgmental and condemning of others. If you see this tendency within yourself, spend time thinking about the Pharisees. Their self-righteousness was ugly and damaging. The negative example they set should inspire us to turn away from such acts of condemnation and to reject those temptations the moment they come.
My divine Judge of All, You and You alone know the heart, and You and You alone are capable of acting as Judge. Please exercise Your authority in my life so that I can perceive my own sin. As You do, please also free me from the tendency to judge and condemn. Fill me, instead, with a heart full of mercy and truth toward all. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Wednesday Of The Fourteenth Week In Ordinary Time - July 12, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 9:05pm On Jul 11, 2023
Proclaiming the Kingdom
Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 10:5–7
The very last words of Jesus, just prior to His Ascension into Heaven, expands the mandate we read above that Jesus gave to His Apostles. He later says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19). Eventually, Jesus sends the Twelve and all of His disciples to the ends of the earth to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. But here, prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit, and prior to the completion of Jesus’ earthly mission, He instructs the Twelve to go only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Thus, Jesus gives a sort of priority to the preaching of the Gospel to those who have already been entrusted with the revelations of the Old Testament—that is, the teachings of the Law of Moses and the prophets.
Though, today, we must all hear the call from our Lord to “make disciples of all nations,” we must also hear this unique commission to first preach to those who are already members of the family of God. And though, today, the Holy Spirit has already come and the Gospel has already gone forth far and wide, there is still an important spiritual lesson to be learned by Jesus’ progressive commission from those of the family of God to those who do not yet know the Gospel.
Start with yourself. By hearing Jesus give special emphasis to His Twelve to go first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, you should hear our Lord speaking especially about you. You, who were baptized, have been confirmed and have received Holy Communion, now have a special obligation to listen to and respond to the Gospel of Christ. From there, God entrusts you with the sharing of the Gospel in a special way to those who also share your faith. For that reason, parents are uniquely obliged to share the Gospel with their children. Friends within the same faith community are uniquely obliged to reach out to others who share their faith. And pastors of the Church must do the same. The Gospel is now universal and must be proclaimed to all people, but this passage appears to highlight the importance of sharing the Gospel with fellow disciples of Christ.
We know from our daily life that there are many who profess faith in Christ who still are not fully evangelized. There are many who have received the Sacraments but lack the deep faith to which they are called. It can appear that most fail to worship our Lord every day, and many fail in their prayerful worship each and every week. Therefore, it is useful to place yourself into this Gospel passage and to hear our Lord call you to especially devote yourself to the sharing of the Gospel with those who have already become members of His Church, even if it is only in name.
If we begin with ourselves, seeking to daily grow deeper in our life of faith, praying and seeking out the will of God, then God will more easily be able to use us as He wills to share the faith with those who belong to God’s family but whose faith may be weak. And for those who are “all in” and have truly given themselves over to Christ, God will certainly also use you for the proclamation of the Gospel to those who have not yet come to know Christ through the gift of faith.
Reflect, today, upon the invitation Jesus gives to you to be His evangelist. First, look at your own life and do all you can to allow the Gospel to transform you into a fervent follower of Christ. From there, be open to the many ways that God wants to use you every day to inspire others to become followers of our Lord. Start with your family. Pray for them. Be attentive to the promptings of grace God gives to reach out to them. Then turn your eyes, also, to the wider community. Allow the Lord to lead, follow His voice, and He will use you in many ways to help others come to know His burning love for them.
My universal King, You came to establish Your Kingdom in the lives of all people. You call all Your creatures to faith in You. Help me to be among the first who turn to You with my whole heart. Please also use me to become an instrument of Your saving grace to those whom You’ve put into my life. My life is Yours, dear Lord. Use me as You will. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Fourteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (year A) - July 9, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 9:51pm On Jul 08, 2023
The Light Burden of Grace
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Matthew 11:28–30
Around the year 167 BC, two new groups of religious leaders emerged within Judaism: the scribes and Pharisees. By the time that Jesus walked the earth, these religious leaders had developed many customs, false doctrines and religious practices that they claimed were derived from the Law of Moses. However, Jesus condemned their teachings as scrupulous, self-centered, and hypocritical. What they taught was often a distortion of the Law. Recall, for example, that the Pharisees condemned the disciples for picking heads of wheat and eating them on the Sabbath, claiming that this violated the Third Commandment. Clearly, Jesus taught that it didn’t.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to those “who labor and are burdened” and invites them to carry the light and easy yoke that He will give them. In other words, Jesus is identifying the fact that the scribes and Pharisees had so distorted the Law of Moses that the practice of the Jewish faith had become a burden that was too difficult to carry. In contrast, Jesus’ New Law of grace was freeing, light, and easy.
When you consider Jesus’ many teachings, do you see them as easy to follow? Or do they seem to be too much at times? For example, Jesus said to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). This was not only an invitation, it was also a command and a requirement. So are Jesus’ teachings easy? Or are they overwhelming?
Of course, since Jesus Himself says that “my yoke is easy, and my burden light,” then we can be certain that they are. Jesus not only calls us to moral perfection, He also gives us the means by which we can obtain it. By analogy, say someone told you to move a boulder that weighed 2,000 pounds. Could you do that? You could if the person also gave you a large tractor to use for the task. In that case, it would be as easy as using the machine correctly. So it is with all that our Lord asks of us. When we find some moral obligation to be difficult or even overwhelming, then we are not relying upon the grace that God has given us to fulfill His command.
Reflect, today, upon Jesus’ gentle invitation to you to embrace the “yoke” of perfection. Do not see it as too much. Rather, see it as a joyous invitation from our Lord. Ponder the fact that God not only calls you to the heights of holiness, He also provides you with the means to obtain it. Have faith in His almighty power and open yourself to it more fully so that You will be able to do anything and everything our Lord asks of you with ease and joy.
My gentle Lord, You place upon my shoulders Your own yoke to carry. I say “Yes” to all that You ask of me, and I thank You for bestowing Your mercy upon me. Please remove every yoke from me that is not from You, so that I can follow You with the joy of the light burden of Your grace. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Feast Of Saint Thomas The Apostle - Monday, July 3, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 9:25pm On Jul 02, 2023
Rejoicing in the Blessings Given to Others
“Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:27–29
Thomas the Apostle, in many ways, represents each and every one of us in this exchange with Jesus. We’d like to believe that we always believe and are not unbelieving. But it’s important to admit the humble truth that we may not believe as deeply as we should. And it’s important to reflect upon our own reaction to the blessings that others receive that we do not.
Recall that Thomas was not among the other Apostles when Jesus first appeared to them. Therefore, when Thomas returned and heard that Jesus had appeared and that he missed His appearance, he clearly felt bad. Unfortunately, the sorrow Thomas felt at not being present when the Lord appeared to the others left him with a certain bitterness rather than joy. This is the sin of envy. Envy is a certain sorrow over the blessings others receive that we do not. Ideally, Thomas would have rejoiced at the blessing that the other Apostles received by encountering the risen Lord. But, instead, his sorrow at missing this even left him sad. He said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Why was Thomas absent from this encounter with our Lord? Perhaps it was by divine providence, in that God wanted Thomas to set an example for us. If so, then one example Thomas set was that we must humbly rejoice in the blessings others receive when we are not also the recipient. Of course, if Thomas were there, then it would have been easier for him to share in the joy. But, in many ways, Thomas’ absence provided him an even greater opportunity. An opportunity that he failed to embrace.
When you see others receive blessings from God, how do you respond? Many people respond by immediately looking at themselves, wishing they were blessed in the same way. They struggle with envy. They think, “I wish I had received that blessing.” This form of envy is not always easy to see. For that reason, Thomas is given to us as a witness of what not to do in this situation.
Of course, Thomas is not a horrible person, which is why Jesus does later appear to him. That time, Thomas spoke words that are traditionally spoken as a devotion by the faithful at Mass when the Consecration occurs. He said, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus then gently rebukes Thomas by saying, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” But this gentle rebuke was an act of love, in that Jesus wanted Thomas to ponder the reason for his unbelief. Jesus clearly wanted Thomas to examine the unbelief caused by envy, which appears to have led to an intentional lack of faith.
Reflect, today, upon this holy Apostle. Today, Saint Thomas the Apostle is among the great saints in the Kingdom of Heaven. God used him to teach us these important lessons about envy, humility and faith. Let his weakness, from which he fully recovered, help you examine your own struggle with envy over the blessings that others receive that you do not. Learn to rejoice always in the ways that God is at work in our world and learn to grow in humility, so that when others are blessed in ways that you are not, you react as Saint Thomas ultimately did: “My Lord and my God!”
My most generous Lord, You pour forth Your blessings upon others, day and night. As I see those blessings, help me to overcome all temptations toward envy so that I may rejoice in Your grace given to all. You are my Lord and my God, and I thank You for every way that You bless my life and the lives of those around me. Fill me with a deeper gratitude, dear Lord, for every grace and blessing I see every day, especially those graces not given directly to me. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious—memorial by MyCatholicLife: 12:15am On Jun 21, 2023
Transformed by Silent Sacrifices
“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” Matthew 6:16–18
Many today have abandoned the holy practice of fasting. Fasting is a powerful penitential practice that bestows great benefits upon the soul. The act of self-denial from certain food and drink, choosing instead simple nourishment from time to time, such as bread and water, or a reduced amount of food, greatly strengthens the soul and disposes a person to many spiritual blessings. Too often, we live for fleshly satisfactions and fall into the trap of trying to indulge our appetites on a regular basis. But doing so has the negative effect of tempting us to neglect the more important spiritual desires for holiness. By depriving ourselves of sensory delights from time to time, we become more disposed to seek the true and lasting delights that come only from God’s grace. Therefore, this passage above presumes that we do regularly fast and engage in other forms of self-denial.
Do you fast? Do you engage in other forms of self-denial on a regular basis? Daily prayer, reading the Scriptures, learning about the lives of the saints, and regular participation in the Sacraments all lead us closer to God and make us holy. But fasting and self-denial are also very important, so it is essential that we strive to embrace them as a part of our spiritual growth.
In this passage, Jesus specifically calls us to seek the interior rewards that come from fasting and self-denial. He points out that if we use fasting as a way of gaining praise from others, then we lose the spiritual benefits of our fasting. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving must all be done in a way that they are as hidden as possible so that our acts are truly sincere and not done so as to receive the earthly rewards of the admiration of others.
Additionally, the lesson taught in this Gospel can also be applied to other areas of our lives. For example, if you are suffering from some illness or some form of bodily pain or discomfort, then of course you should seek the necessary medical attention. But these physical ailments also offer us another opportunity for spiritual growth when they are embraced in a silent and interior way. Even our pain or discomfort can be transformed into grace if we choose to embrace it with joy, offer it to God as a sacrifice, and keep it to ourselves as a silent gift given to God.
Reflect, today, upon your practice of fasting, as well as every other opportunity you have each day to make silent and interior sacrifices to God. If you do suffer from some daily cross that is beyond your control, then try to turn it into a spiritual offering to our Lord. And if you are able to freely embrace fasting on a regular basis, then try to prayerfully commit to this practice. Try to do it every week, especially on Friday in honor of the Good Friday sacrifice made by our Lord. Don’t underestimate the value of these hidden sacrifices. Make them a regular part of your spiritual life and God will bestow upon you many spiritual riches from Heaven.
My sacrificial Lord, You denied Yourself of many earthly delights, especially when You fasted for forty days in the desert. Help me to take seriously this obligation to fast and to mortify my appetites. And help me to do so in a hidden way. May my life continually imitate Your perfect sacrifice so that I may become more like You every day. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Monday Of The Eleventh Week In Ordinary Time - June 19, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 7:06pm On Jun 19, 2023
A New Depth of Mercy
Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.” Matthew 5:41–42
As the faith of Israel developed over the centuries, prior to the coming of Christ, there were various stages of advancement in morality. Prior to the establishment of moral laws in the Old Testament, it was common for families to inflict severe vengeance upon other families when harm was done to them. This caused ongoing violence and feuds. But advancements were made when the law of retaliation was established which said, “When a man causes a disfigurement in his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has disfigured a man, he shall be disfigured” (Leviticus 24:19–20). This was a new form of justice that forbade the vengeance from being more severe than the crime that was retaliated against. At the time, this helped end ongoing family feuds that continually escalated.
It is this law of retaliation that Jesus addresses in our Gospel today. The new and much higher form of morality that Jesus taught called His disciples to “offer no resistance to one who is evil” and to turn the other cheek when evil was done to them. Though strict justice requires satisfaction for sin, Jesus’ new teaching was that mercy pays every debt. First, His mercy bestowed upon us, for the forgiveness of our sins, pays the debt of our sins when we truly repent and change. But if we desire our debts to God for our sins to be forgiven and repaid, then we must do the same to others, holding nothing against them.
But Jesus goes even further. In the passage quoted above, Jesus exhorts His disciples to a new and radical form of charity and generosity. This new moral code was how the children of the Kingdom of God were now called to act. It was not enough to only forgive and to forget the debt one owes you because of their sin. Mercy now requires us to “Give to the one who asks” and to walk “two miles” with one who only asks you to walk one mile with them. In other words, Christian charity far exceeds every concept of strict justice and even goes beyond basic forgiveness. This was certainly a new and radical teaching from our Lord.
Think about this new moral law in your own life. What level of “justice” do you most commonly live by? When someone wrongs you, do you live like those prior to the Old Testament laws by seeking to get back at them to an even greater degree than the harm done to you? Do you live by the law that seeks the equal justice of an eye for an eye? Do you seek to forgive and offer mercy as a payment for the debt another has incurred by the sin they have committed against you? Or, ideally, do you strive to go even beyond the act of forgiveness and bestow mercy in a new and generous, superabundant way? This last level of love is difficult to obtain and live, but it is the way our Lord treats us and it is the way that He calls us to treat others.
Reflect, today, upon any hurt you may currently be struggling with. And consider the way in which you have been dealing with that hurt. As you seek to understand this new law of love and mercy given by our Lord, pray to Him that He will give you the grace you need to give to others the same level of mercy that God gives to you.
My generous Lord, You offer Your mercy in superabundance. You not only forgive when we repent, You also restore us to far greater heights of holiness than we could ever deserve. Give me the grace I need, dear Lord, to offer this same level of mercy and love to those who have sinned against me. I forgive all who have hurt me. Please help me to also love them with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Eleventh Sunday In Ordinary Time (year A) - June 18, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 12:49pm On Jun 18, 2023
Sent by the Power of God
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Matthew 9:36–38
This passage from today’s Gospel begins by revealing to us the Heart of Jesus. His Heart is one that is “moved with pity.” As Jesus looked at the crowds before Him, He could see that they were “troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” The sight of them evoked compassion, concern and mercy from within Him. This is a beautiful image to prayerfully ponder.
As Jesus looks at you, He gazes at you as He gazed at the crowds long ago. As He does, the same depths of mercy and compassion are evoked within His Sacred Heart. Sometimes, when we think of God, we allow ourselves to have inaccurate perceptions of Who He is and how He sees us. If you do not regularly see the compassionate Heart of Jesus, then ponder this passage and know that His Heart of love for you is the same as it was for the crowds.
The second part of the passage above reveals to us one of the ways that Jesus reaches out to us. He is the “master of the harvest” Who has called others to Himself and then sent them forth to minister in His name and with His authority. The lines that follow the Gospel quoted above tell us that Jesus immediately “summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.”
As you look at your own life, your struggles, your spiritual needs and your desire to grow in faith, how has God fed you? Through whom has He spoken to you? This shepherding will take place by your participation in the Mass, through the Sacrament of Confession, through holy preaching, through the written word, through the inspired witness of another, and in many other ways. What’s helpful to ponder is that any time you have encountered the grace of God through another, it happened because the Master of the Harvest chose to send a laborer to you. When good fruit is borne in your life, it was God Who initiated that good work through another, out of the mercy and compassion of His Sacred Heart.
Reflect, today, upon the image of Jesus gazing at you with love and choosing to send His ministers to you in His name and with His authority. Pay special attention to how God has been speaking to you recently. If it is through a particular book, keep reading it. If it is through a certain preacher of the Gospel, keep listening. If it is through a certain conversation with a friend, spouse or loved one, keep talking. God loves you, has a Heart full of compassion for you, and will continue to reach out to you in many different ways, especially by sending others to you in His name.
My Lord and Master, You seek to bring forth an abundant harvest of grace in my life. You continuously inspire others to act as instruments of Your love and speak to me through them, calling me to Yourself. May I always be open to the many ways that You come to me, and may I always receive Your holy Word through the ministers You send to me. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Memorial Of The Immaculate Heart Of Mary - Saturday, June 17, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 5:15pm On Jun 17, 2023
The Heart of Perfect Love
He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. Luke 2:51
Over and over, the Scriptures reveal to us that the Blessed Virgin Mary “kept all these things in her heart.” What things? She continually pondered the great mystery of the life of her Son as His sacred life unfolded before her eyes.
A mother’s love is strong. Many times, a mother is more aware of the details of her child’s life than even the child itself. She is attentive, consoling, present, tender and loving. This was who Mary was to her divine Son, Jesus.
Mother Mary did not have full knowledge of every divine reality. She did not gaze upon the Most Holy Trinity with her eyes as she walked the earth. She did not have the full knowledge of the plan of the Father. But she did walk through life with the perfection of faith. She also knew the many truths of Heaven and earth through her Immaculate Heart. Her heart was a heart filled with every virtue. She loved with a love that was indescribable. And what she especially pondered in her Immaculate Heart, over and over throughout life, was the pure and perfect love she had for her Son. To her, this love left her in amazement. She was continually in a state of holy awe as she interacted with her Son, gazed upon His sacred life, and watched Him advance in “wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (John 2:52). The love in her heart was a lesson to herself. She continually deepened her knowledge of God through the pondering of the perfect love placed in her heart by her God. And this God, her Savior, was her Son.
We celebrate today the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Though there are many feasts throughout the year in which we honor this holy daughter of God, this celebration is an opportunity for us all to ponder her pondering heart.
A human heart is not just physical, it is also spiritual. It is the spiritual source of our love of God and others. From our heart flows either virtue or vice, love or hate, generosity or selfishness. As we honor the Immaculate Heart today, we are called to look at the ideal of what should live within our own hearts and what should flow forth from them. The perfection of all virtue is what must ideally flow from every human heart throughout time. And it is the heart of our Blessed Mother that will teach us how to internalize those virtues so as to become an instrument of the love of God to others.
Reflect, today, upon the spiritual perfection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Perfection is difficult to comprehend in our fallen state. But the more we look to the ideal, the more we will desire that ideal. And the more we desire that ideal, the more we will obtain it. Allow yourself today to ponder the ideal heart as it resided in the Mother of God and ask for her to intercede for you so that you will more fully imitate her.
Most Immaculate Heart of Mother Mary, you reveal to us the perfect way to love your Son and to be devoted to Him. Fill me with the love you had for your Son by interceding for me. Thank you for the witness you gave to us all and help us to imitate the countless virtues that flowed from your heart. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Solemnity Of The Most Sacred Heart Of Jesus - Friday, June 16, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 11:12am On Jun 16, 2023
The Font of Mercy
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. John 19:33–34
John’s Gospel is filled with deep spiritual imagery and symbolism. It is clear that this imagery and symbolism was divinely inspired so as to give us spiritual food for reflection and meditation. One such image is given to us today as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
As Jesus and the two criminals on either side of Him hung upon their crosses, the soldiers came to hasten their deaths by breaking their legs to cause them to more quickly suffocate. But when they came to Jesus, He had already died. So one of the soldiers, traditionally known as Longinus, thrust his spear into Jesus’ side, and blood and water flowed forth. Some traditions identify Longinus with the centurion who cried out after Jesus’ death, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (See Matthew 27:54.) Other traditions state that he converted at that moment, making him the first convert to Christianity. And still other traditions state that Longinus could not see well, and the blood and water from Jesus’ side poured upon his eyes, healing him. Regardless of whether these traditions are true, we know that Jesus’ side was pierced and blood and water flowed forth.
The symbolism of this act was more than a mere human symbol. It was an instrument of the profound spiritual reality that was taking place at that moment. As Jesus’ Sacred Heart was pierced, the blood and water that poured forth was the new sacramental life of the Church. The Blood was the Most Holy Eucharist and the Water was the gift of Baptism. And when Jesus had previously “breathed His last” and “handed over His Spirit,” the Sacrament of Confirmation was bestowed.
When we celebrate those Sacraments today, it is easy to see them as mere symbols of what we partake in. But in our Christian Tradition, the Sacraments are so much more. The symbol is also the reality. It is the instrument of what it symbolizes. Therefore, every time we witness a Baptism or partake in the Holy Eucharist, we are mystically present with Longinus, receiving the grace and mercy of our redemption, pouring forth from Jesus’ wounded side, so as to heal us and make us whole.
The human heart is, physically speaking, a bodily organ responsible for pumping blood throughout. But from a spiritual perspective, given that we are both body and soul, the human heart is also the source of our life. Without it, we physically and spiritually die. So it is with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was not only a physical heart that was physically pierced by the lance long ago. It is now also the source of our ongoing spiritual life, and, without Jesus’ Sacred Heart of Mercy, we will die in our sins.
Reflect, today, upon the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. See His Heart as the ongoing source of your new life in grace. Understand that His Heart is more than a symbol of His grace and mercy, it is the spiritual source and the font of that mercy. Prayerfully place yourself before His Cross, this day, and allow the blood and water, flowing from His wounded side, to cover you so that you, too, may believe.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, You poured out upon the world the love and mercy of Your transforming grace through the instrument of the blood and water pouring forth from Your wounded side. Help me to gaze upon this font of mercy and to be covered with it through the gift of the Sacraments. May I always be open to all that You wish to bestow upon me by these precious and transforming instruments of Your love. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Thursday Of The Tenth Week In Ordinary Time - June 15, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 11:37am On Jun 15, 2023
The Burden of Anger
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” Matthew 5:21–22
The passage quoted above gives us three deepening levels of sin that we commit against another. These sins were new teachings not contained in the Old Testament. By this teaching, Jesus’ call to radical holiness and love of neighbor is made very clear.
The first level of sin is simply to be “angry” interiorly. The sin of anger is an interior attitude of disgust toward another. Jesus says that the consequence of having anger toward another is that you will be “liable to judgment.” The second level of sin is when you say to another “Raqa.” This Aramaic word is difficult to translate but would include some form of expression of one’s anger toward another. It would be a derogatory way of saying to another that they are unintelligent or inferior. The third level of sin Jesus identifies is when you call another “fool.” This word is an even stronger expression of Raqa and would be a verbal criticism of them, indicating that the person is a lost soul in a moral sense. It’s a strong moral condemnation of another that is expressed.
So, do you struggle with anger? Jesus’ calling to freedom from all levels of this sin is a high one. There are many times in life when our passion of anger is stirred up for one reason or another, and that passion leads to one of these levels of sin. It’s a common temptation to want to condemn another with whom you are angry in the strongest way possible.
It’s important to understand that this new teaching of Jesus is truly not a burden when understood and embraced. At first, it can seem that these laws of our Lord against anger are negative. That’s because lashing out at another gives a false sense of satisfaction, and these commands of our Lord, in a sense, “rob” us of that satisfaction. It can be a depressing thought to think about the moral obligation to forgive to the point that disordered anger disappears. But is it depressing? Is this law of our Lord a burden?
The deep truth is that what Jesus teaches us in this passage is, in many ways, more for our own good than that of others. Our anger toward another, be it interior, verbally critical or all-out condemning, can be hurtful toward the person with whom we are angry, but the damage these forms of anger do is far worse for us than them. Being angry, even interiorly, even if we put on a happy face, does great damage to our soul and our ability to be united to God. For that reason, it is not this new law of our Lord regarding anger that is the burden, it is the anger itself that is a heavy burden and a burden from which Jesus wants you free.
Reflect, today, upon the sin of anger. As you do, try to see your disordered anger as the real enemy rather than the person with whom you are angry. Pray to our Lord to free you from this enemy of the soul and seek the freedom that He wants to bestow.
My merciful Lord, You call us to perfect freedom from all that burdens us. Anger burdens us. Help me to see the burden that my anger imposes upon me and help me to seek true freedom through the act of forgiveness and reconciliation. Please forgive me, dear Lord, as I forgive all who have hurt me. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Wednesday Of The Tenth Week In Ordinary Time - June 14, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 9:31am On Jun 14, 2023
The New Law of Grace
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” Matthew 5:17–18
The law and the prophets, as found in the Old Testament, consists of three types. First, there are the moral laws, such as the Ten Commandments, that are primarily based on the natural law of God. By “natural law,” we mean that our human reason can understand their truthfulness, such as with “Thou shall not kill, steal, etc.” Second, there were many liturgical precepts that were laid down and practiced as a preparation for and prefiguration of their ultimate liturgical fulfillment. The fulfillment is now found in the sacramental life of the Church. Third, there were various legal precepts that gave specific directions on daily living. These laws include instructions on food, relations with others, how to treat foreigners, cleansings, purifications of utensils, tithing, and much more.
In our Gospel today, Jesus essentially says two things. First, regarding the legal and liturgical precepts, He says that He came to “fulfill” them. Thus, Christians are no longer bound by these Old Testament legal and liturgical laws, in that we are now called to a much higher fulfillment of them all. But as for the moral laws, especially those found in the Ten Commandments, not a single precept taught is abolished. Instead, these Commandments are deepened, and the call to moral perfection is now much clearer. It is for this reason that Jesus goes on to say, “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
It’s important to understand that those who lived before the time of Christ were not held to the same standard as we are today. That’s because they did not enjoy the gift of grace that was won by the Cross and is bestowed by the Holy Spirit. Today, we have so much more and, for that reason, are called to a much greater life of holiness. For example, we no longer celebrate the Passover as a mere remembrance of what God did by setting the Israelites free from slavery to the Egyptians. Today, we celebrate the New Passover through our participation in the Holy Eucharist, and our “remembrance” goes beyond the simple recalling of a memory of old. Our remembrance is one that enables us to actually participate in the saving sacrifice of Christ. We share in the actual event and are partakers of the grace won on the Cross each time we celebrate the Holy Mass. And as for the moral laws of the Old Testament, they become the bottom line of morality. The upper limit is now much higher. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We are to lay down our lives for others and take up our crosses daily to follow Jesus. We are called to the perfection of sacrificial love, and that is only possible by our sharing in the very life, death and resurrection of Christ our Lord.
Reflect, today, upon the very high calling you have been given by our Lord. It’s not enough to simply do the bare minimum in our worship and moral life. Doing so may permit you to be “least in the Kingdom of heaven,” but God wants you to share in His greatness. He calls you to be among the “greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” Do you understand your high calling? Do you have the perfection of holiness as your goal? Commit yourself to the full participation in the New Law of Christ and you will be eternally grateful that you did.
My most glorious Lord, You came to bring our lives to the fullness of grace and holiness. You call us to the heights of Heaven. Help me to see my high calling, dear Lord, and to work diligently to embrace all that You now command by Your New Law of grace and mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Solemnity Of The Most Holy Body And Blood Of Christ - Sunday, June 11, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 4:26pm On Jun 11, 2023
Wonder and Awe Before the Eucharist
While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” Mark 14:22–24 (Year B Gospel)
At the holy Mass, as soon as the priest pronounces the words of the consecration, transforming the bread and wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ our Lord, he genuflects, rises, and then says, “The mystery of faith.” What is “the mystery of faith?” Oftentimes, when we say that something is a mystery, we mean that the conclusion is hidden but that there are certain clues to help solve the mystery. And once the mystery is solved, everything is clear and it is no longer a mystery.
“The mystery of faith” is much different. Those words are spoken at Mass immediately after the consecration as a way of drawing the faithful into a holy awe and amazement of what just took place. But this mystery can only produce wonder and awe if the reality of what just took place is understood through the gift of faith. Faith is knowing and believing without perceiving the reality before us with our five senses or through logical deduction. In other words, faith produces true knowledge of a spiritual reality that can only be known, understood and believed through spiritual insight. Therefore, if we attend the Mass and have been gifted with the knowledge of faith, then as soon as the consecration of the bread and wine takes place, we will cry out interiorly, “My Lord and my God!” We will know that God the Son is present before us in a veiled way. Our eyes do not perceive, nor do any of our senses reveal to us the great reality before us. We cannot rationally deduce what just took place. Instead, we come to know and believe that the Son of God, the Savior of the World, is now present before us in His fullness, under the veil of mere bread and wine.
In addition to the divine presence of our Lord and our God, the entire Mystery of our Redemption is made present. Saint Pope John Paul II tells us that in this moment there is a “oneness in time” that links the Paschal Mystery, that is, the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, to every moment that the Eucharist is celebrated and made present through the words of consecration. And that unity between each Mass and the Paschal Mystery “leads us to profound amazement and gratitude” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, #5). Do you sense and experience this profound amazement and gratitude each time you attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? Do you realize as you attend the Mass and as the words of consecration are spoken that the entire Mystery of your redemption is made present before you, hidden from your eyes but visible to your soul by faith? Do you understand that it is God the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity Who descends to us to dwell with us in that moment of time in this glorious Sacrament?
Reflect, today, upon the hidden but real Mystery of Faith. Allow yourself to be drawn into a wonder and awe at what you are privileged to attend. Let your faith in the Most Holy Eucharist grow by being open to a deepening of this gift of faith through spiritual insight and belief. Behold this great Gift of the Eucharist with the eyes of faith and you will be drawn into the wonder and awe that God wants to bestow upon you.
My ever-glorious Eucharistic Lord, I do believe that You are here, made present in our world under the form of bread and wine, every time the Holy Mass is celebrated. Fill me with a deeper faith in this Holy Gift, dear Lord, so that I may be drawn into wonder and awe every time I witness this holy Consecration. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / June 10, 2023 - Saturday Of The Ninth Week In Ordinary Time by MyCatholicLife: 1:18pm On Jun 10, 2023
The Freedom to Give All
Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Mark 12:41–42
As soon as Jesus saw this widow contribute her “few cents” worth of coins, Jesus was moved with love. He immediately used this as an opportunity to teach a lesson to His disciples. He called them over and explained that this poor widow had contributed more than anyone because “she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
Our Lord judges generosity far differently than the world. What does it mean to be generous? Generosity certainly applies to how you use your money. But it also applies to your time, energy, commitment, and every other aspect of your life. To be generous, according to Jesus, is to give all you have, your “whole livelihood.”
You accomplish this goal when you make God and His holy will the central and most important part of your life. You can hold nothing back from Him! Does this mean that if you want to strive for perfection, then you must give away all you own? Perhaps the best answer is both “Yes” and “No.” The answer is “Yes” in the sense that we must become completely detached, on an interior and spiritual level, from everything that is not part of God’s perfect will. The answer is “No” in the sense that, for most people, it is part of His holy will that you own a house, a car, other possessions, and do enjoy other material comforts with your family and friends. The key is the interior detachment and the central focus upon the glory of God and the total service of His holy will. Love of God and neighbor, and freedom from selfishness, will be the guiding factors in these decisions.
With that said, there are certainly some who live in excess and indulgence in our world and, as a result, are deeply attached to their extravagant lifestyle. And there are some who are physically poorer who are just as attached, interiorly, to that which they do not have. For example, what if this poor widow, instead of giving her last few cents, sat in the Temple area watching as the wealthy put in large sums of money and allowed herself to grow in jealousy and greed. This interior attitude would have been in stark contradiction to the generous and trusting spirit she acquired through her total generosity. True generosity is a fundamental disposition of our lives. It means that we have chosen to imitate our Lord through a total self-giving of ourselves to His holy will. And that does include seeing all that we possess as belonging to Christ for the service of His holy will.
Reflect, today, upon whether material possessions and wealth possess you more than you possess them. Are you controlled by desires for more and struggle with disordered attachments to the things you do have? Are you able to make love of God and love of neighbor the central focus of your life and use all that you have, in accord with God’s will, for those purposes? Reflect upon the generosity in the heart of this humble and poor widow and allow our Lord to teach you how to be generous through her holy witness.
My generous Lord, You bestow upon us all good things. You enrich our lives with Your love and mercy which are the true treasures we must seek. Fill my heart with the same generosity exemplified by this poor widow so that I, too, will imitate the total self-giving that she lived in imitation of You. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Solemnity Of The Most Holy Trinity - Sunday, June 4, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 2:49pm On Jun 04, 2023
The Essence of the Most Holy Trinity
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19–20 (Year B Gospel)
Of all the great feasts we celebrate within the Church throughout the year, today’s Solemnity presents us with a Mystery that is so deep and transcendent that our eternity will be spent in perpetual contemplation. The Trinity, the life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will never get old, never be fully understood, and will be the cause of our everlasting adoration and joy. Though the Church has used philosophical concepts to explain the Trinity, no human concept or description will ever fully explain Who God is. Though we can point to some general truths about God, we will never be able to fully depict the inner essence, depth, beauty and omnipotence of the Trinity.
As we consider that fact, it’s important to understand that the Trinity is not first a theological mystery we try to define. Rather, the Trinity is first a communion of Persons we are invited to know. We do not primarily come to know God through intellectual deduction. We come to know God through prayerful union with Him. Though theology is exceptionally useful and important, the essence of God is beyond any and every philosophical concept we can define.
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are Persons. And as Persons, they want to be known. And they want to be known primarily through a life of deep and intimate prayer. Praying to One Person, of course, is praying to all, since they are One God. But we are, nonetheless, called to a relationship of love with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And though our feeble minds may not be able to fully comprehend the essence of God, He will draw us deeper and deeper into a knowledge of Him if we let Him.
Prayer often begins by saying prayers, by meditating upon Scripture, and by listening. But true prayer is something much deeper. True prayer is contemplative prayer that ultimately leads to divine union. Only God can initiate this form of prayer in our lives, and only God, through this deep form of prayer, can communicate Himself to us as He is. Some of the greatest mystics of our Church, such as Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Ávila, explain in their mystical theology that the deepest knowledge of God does not come through concepts or images. In fact, if we wish to obtain a knowledge of God in His essence, we must allow Him to purge every concept of Who He is so that the pure light of His essence can be poured forth upon our minds. This knowledge, they say, is beyond knowing “about” God. It’s the beginning of a knowledge “of” God.
Reflect, today, upon the Most Holy Trinity. As you do, say a prayer to God asking for a deeper and more intimate knowledge of Him. Ask Him to communicate to you His divine love and to open your mind and heart to a deeper understanding of Who He is. Try to humble yourself before the great Mystery of the inner life of God. Humility before the Mystery of God means that we know how little we know about Him and how little we know of Him. But that humble truth will help you move closer to the deeper relationship of love to which you are called.
Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, please draw me into a relationship of love with You Who are one God and three divine Persons. May the mystery and beauty of Your life become more known and loved by me each day through the gift of transforming mystical prayer. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Friday Of The Eighth Week In Ordinary Time - June 2, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 11:27pm On Jun 01, 2023
A Rebuke by Jesus
The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry. Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went over to see if he could find anything on it. When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs. And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!” And his disciples heard it. Mark 11:12–14
This is a very unique and interesting story. The first thing this tells us is that Jesus was fully human. As a man, He was hungry. But this story tells us much more than the simple fact that Jesus was hungry. He would have known that it was not the season for figs to grow, but He decided to look for a fig anyway. And when He found none, He cursed the fig tree and, as we read later in this chapter, the tree withered and died. This was a symbolic action for the sake of His disciples, in that His disciples heard Him curse the tree and later saw that the tree had withered.
Saint Bede, an early Church Father, tells us that this action of Jesus had an allegorical purpose. The tree is symbolic of the many people Jesus encountered, and continues to encounter today, who failed to bear good fruit in their lives. They were the Pharisees and others who practiced their faith only in an external way. The leaves, Saint Bede tells us, were symbolic of the externals of the faith, and the lack of fruit was a symbol of the missing interior fruit of holiness and good works. This lesson tells us that Jesus is very demanding. He is determined to discover good fruit in our lives. He wants us to become authentically holy. And when He finds only the externals, He will rebuke us in love, taking even the externals away.
What good fruit does our Lord want to find in your life? How does He want you to manifestly grow in holiness? Do you go through the motions, attend Mass, say some prayers, but fail to produce an abundance of virtue, compassion, mercy and goodness? Do you say you believe in our Lord but then fail to preach the holy Gospel with both your words and your actions? If our Lord were to come to you, as He came to this fig tree, what would He find?
Being a Christian is not something that is exclusively between you and God. Being a Christian requires that you be so given over to the service of God and others that God is able to do incredible things through you. The Christian faith must produce good fruit in your life and through you in the lives of others. And it must do so in an abundant way.
Reflect, today, upon the holy image of Jesus walking over to this fig tree, inspecting it for a fig. See this tree as an image of your soul and see the hunger in the heart of our Lord. As He looks at you and your life, will He be satiated? Will He find holiness and manifest good works? Or will He find little to nothing other than external claims that you are a Christian? Commit yourself to an abundance of authentic and manifest holiness and our Lord’s hunger will be satiated.
My demanding Lord, You call all Your followers to a holiness that is lived, transforming, manifest and fruitful for Your Kingdom. Help me to be a Christian not only in name but especially in action. May my life truly bear the good fruit of holiness and may that holiness become a means by which You feed the spiritual hunger of Your people. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Thursday Of The Eighth Week In Ordinary Time - June 1, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 8:55am On Jun 01, 2023
Crying Out to Jesus
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” Mark 10:46–47
How do you pray? Do you ever “cry out” to Jesus with deep conviction and intensity? This blind man, Bartimaeus, sets for us a wonderful example of how we should pray to our Lord. First of all, the blind man was in a state of need. His blindness symbolizes every weakness and need you have in life. So what is it that you struggle with the most in life? What is your greatest habitual sin? Or what causes you the most grief?
Seeing our weakness is the first step. Once we are aware of our greatest needs, we must also “cry out” to our Lord just as Bartimaeus did. Upon hearing that it was Jesus, Bartimaeus somehow sensed within his soul that Jesus wanted to cure him. How did he sense this? He listened to the voice of God within. Yes, he heard the commotion of many speaking about Jesus as He walked by. But this alone could not have compelled him to cry out and to know that Jesus was the source of the mercy he needed. That which compelled him was the clear voice of God, a prompting from the Holy Spirit, within his soul, revealing to him that he needed Jesus and that Jesus wanted to cure him.
At first, those around him rebuked Bartimaeus and told him to be quiet. And if Bartimaeus would have been weak in faith, he may have listened to the crowd and, in despair, remained silent. But it is quite clear that he not only ignored the rebukes of others, he “kept calling out all the more.”
Bartimaeus gives us here a double witness of how we must turn to our Lord. First, we must sense His gentle but clear presence within our soul. We must recognize His voice and His promptings of grace. He wants to heal us, and His presence in our lives must be sensed within. Secondly, we must become intensely fixed upon that voice within. The crowds who rebuked Bartimaeus are symbolic of the many “voices” and temptations we experience in life that try to keep us from faithfully and fervently crying out to the God who speaks to us. Nothing should deter us from our wholehearted determination to call to Jesus with our need.
Reflect, today, upon Bartimaeus being an image of yourself. See yourself in desperate need of our Lord and listen for His clear voice. Do you hear Him? Do you sense Him walking by? As you do, cry out to Him with fervor, intensity, and conviction. And if you find that there are temptations that try to silence your prayer and faith, increase your intensity and cry out “all the more” to our Lord. He will hear you, call you to Himself and give you that grace which He desires to bestow.
My merciful Jesus, You are constantly passing by, drawing me to Yourself by Your divine presence. Give me the grace I need in order to see my need and to call out to You with all my heart. May I never be deterred from this fervent prayer, dear Lord, and when temptation sets in, may I call out all the more. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Feast Of The Visitation Of The Blessed Virgin Mary - Wednesday, May 31, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 10:04pm On May 31, 2023
Joy at the Presence of the Lord
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Luke 1:39–42
The beautiful feast we celebrate today depicts two miraculous pregnancies. One came about by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. The other was the miraculous conception in the womb of a woman who was advanced in years. The Scripture passage quoted above presents us with the initial encounter of Mary and Elizabeth as they greeted each other upon Mary’s arrival. Mary had traveled a long distance to be with her cousin for the last few months of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. And upon greeting Elizabeth, another miraculous event occurred. The baby in the womb of Elizabeth, Saint John the Baptist, “leaped for joy.” Thus, even prior to his birth, John began to fulfill his unique mission of preparing the way for the Lord. He did so at that moment by inspiring his own mother, Elizabeth, with a knowledge of the divine presence of the Savior within the womb of Mary.
Consider, especially, the conversations that these two holy women would have shared during their months together. Though we are given only a small insight into their initial conversation from the Scriptures, we can be certain that this was but a small sampling of what they would have discussed in much prayerful detail. In particular, their conversations would have contained a mutual sharing of the spiritual gift of joy.
Joy is much more than an emotion. It is spiritual in nature. It is not only an experience of something fun, it’s the experience of realizing the action of God in your life. Seeing God at work in wonderful ways leads to gratitude and rejoicing. This joy produces a strength and energy that is contagious and uplifting.
We must all strive to see the hand of God at work in our own lives so that our focus upon His divine actions will produce joy also. We need joy. We need to be strengthened by this gift so that we will be encouraged and strengthened as we daily strive to fulfill His will.
Reflect, today, upon the witness of joy that these two holy women give us. Know that you are called to share in the same joy as you humbly turn your attention to the ways in which God has blessed you. If you find that you lack joy in life, then consider where you allow your mind to wander throughout the day. Do you dwell on the past, on hurts, on problems and the like? If so, these thoughts will undoubtedly lead to depression and possibly even despair. Try to turn your mind to the action of God in your life. See the many blessings you have been given and savor those divine actions. Doing so will lead you to rejoice with Saint Elizabeth and our Blessed Mother.
My holy infant Jesus, as You dwelt in the sacred womb of Your own dear mother, Your presence caused much rejoicing in her heart and in the hearts of Elizabeth and John. Help me to see Your presence in our world and in my life, so that I, too, will be filled with the joy of You constantly coming to me. Jesus, I trust in You.
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|Religion / Tuesday Of The Eighth Week In Ordinary Time - May 30, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 9:29pm On May 29, 2023
An Exchange of Gifts
Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more…” Mark 10:29–30
Jesus’ statement above is in response to Peter who said to Him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” It was as if Peter were patting himself on the back, attempting to highlight just how much he and the other disciples had sacrificed to follow Jesus. And it was true, they did give up everything of their former life. They left home, their occupation, their relationships and everything that had been part of their daily established life in response to the call of Jesus. They were truly all in.
In hearing this statement from Peter, Jesus does not give the expected response. He doesn’t say to Peter, “Yes, you have, that’s very impressive Peter. Good job and thank you!” Instead, Jesus immediately explains to Peter that the sacrifice he and the others have made is worth it. Their unwavering commitment to follow Jesus would be repaid with gifts beyond their imagination. Thus, Jesus was saying that the gifts that He would bestow upon them would be exponentially greater than every sacrifice they made.
This was not a belittling of Peter’s self-sacrifice; rather, it was a form of encouragement by Jesus. He was encouraging Peter, and the other disciples, to have full confidence in their decision to follow Him. Their sacrifice would yield a hundredfold return. That is truly a good investment.
It can be tempting for us all, at times, to feel as though God asks too much of us. It’s true that God asks much of us. He asks everything from us. He asks for the complete and total gift of our lives to Him. He calls us to abandon all selfishness and to dedicate ourselves to His holy will without exception. But if we understand the reward of our self-giving, then the sacrifices we make will pale in comparison to the reward.
Reflect, today, upon whether or not you can say those words with the Apostle, Saint Peter: “Lord, I have given up everything to follow You.” Have you truly given your life completely to Christ Jesus? Are there things that you still hold back, not wanting to “sacrifice” for our Lord? Ponder those words of Peter and allow yourself to see the areas of your life you still need to surrender over to Jesus. And as you do so, allow the reward promised by our Lord to motivate you to the point that you truly hold nothing back and truly have given up everything to follow His holy will.
My generous Lord, You ask everything of me. You ask me to abandon everything in my pursuit of Your perfect will. Give me the grace I need to answer Your call and to live sacrificially for You without counting the cost. You are generous beyond description, dear Lord, and I trust that following You will produce an abundance of good fruit. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Memorial Of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother Of The Church - Monday, May 29, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 9:35pm On May 28, 2023
Your Heavenly Mother
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. John 19:25–27
The memorial we celebrate today, which was added to the Roman Liturgical Calendar in 2018 by Pope Francis, highlights the truth that the Blessed Virgin Mary is not only the Mother of the Person of Christ, and, therefore, the Mother of God, she is also the Mother of the Church, that is, the Mother of all the faithful. The Blessed Virgin Mary is your mother. And as your mother, she is truly tender, compassionate, caring and merciful, bestowing upon you everything that a perfect mother desires to bestow. She is the fiercest of mothers who will stop at nothing to protect her children. She is a mother wholly devoted to you, her dear child.
The Gospel passage chosen for this memorial depicts our Blessed Mother standing at the foot of the Cross. She would have been no other place than directly beneath her Son as He endured His last agony. She did not flee in fear. She was not overwhelmed by grief. She did not sulk in self-pity. No, she stood by her Son with the perfect love and strength of a devoted, caring, compassionate and faithful mother.
As she stood by her Son in His hour of suffering and death, Jesus turned to her and entrusted the Apostle John to her maternal care. From the early Church Fathers until the most recent teachings of the Church today, this act of entrusting John to Mary and Mary to John by Jesus has been understood as an entrustment of all the faithful to the maternal care of Mother Mary. Mother Mary is, therefore, not only the Mother of the Redeemer, Christ Himself, she also becomes the Mother of all the redeemed, the mother of us all, the Mother of the Church.
Consider the spiritual mother you have in Heaven. A mother is one who gives life. Your mother in Heaven is entrusted with the task of bestowing upon you the new life of grace won by the Cross. And as your mother, she will not withhold anything from you that is to your benefit. A mother is also one who is tender with her children. The Immaculate Heart of our mother in Heaven is one that is filled with the greatest tenderness toward you. Though her caresses are not physical, they are much deeper. She caresses with the tenderness of grace which she imparts to you as you pray and turn to her in your need. She gives you the grace of her Son, poured out upon the Cross as the blood and water sprung forth as a font of mercy. Mother Mary pours that mercy upon you as a tender and devoted mother would. She holds nothing back.
If you are unaware of the love in the heart of our Blessed Mother for you, use this memorial as an opportunity to deepen your understanding of her role in your life. Many children take their mothers for granted, not fully understanding the depth of their love. So it is with our Mother in Heaven. We will never fully comprehend her love and her constant motherly workings in our life until we join her in Heaven face to face.
Reflect, today, upon Mother Mary standing by you in every moment of your life. See her there in your joys and in your sorrows, during your moments of temptation and struggles, in your moments of confusion and clarity. See her there by your side, bestowing every good spiritual gift upon you when you need it the most. She is a true mother, and she is worthy of your love and gratitude.
My dearest Mother, you stood by your Son with unwavering fidelity and love. You cared for Him, nurtured Him and never left His side. I also am your dear child. I thank you for your loving fidelity toward me and open my heart to the grace of your Son that you bestow upon me throughout life. Help me to be more attentive to your motherly care and to daily grow in gratitude for your presence in my life. Mother Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Solemnity Of Pentecost Sunday (year A) - May 28, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 1:02am On May 28, 2023
The Age of the Holy Spirit
And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Acts 2:2–4
And with that, the Church was born. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost which, in many ways, was the culmination of the mission of Christ. The pinnacle of His mission will come at the end of time when He returns in all His glory to judge the living and the dead and to establish His permanent Kingdom. But for now, we live under the rule of the Holy Spirit Who has descended upon us in full form, transforming us and making it possible to prepare for Jesus’ final and glorious coming.
The Trinity is truly a Mystery of Faith. In our limited way, we understand that God is Three in One. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each a distinct Person. Each fully sharing in the one divine nature. Though They act in perfect unison, They each fulfill Their unique mission. The Father is the one Who sent the Son into the world and willed that He give His life for the salvation of all. The Son was sent and perfectly fulfilled the will of the Father, uniting humanity with divinity. The Holy Spirit is the Promise of Father and Son Who proceeds from Them and descends upon us, animating us and making it possible for us to share in the life of the Most Holy Trinity.
If that is hard to comprehend, it should be. Our limited intellects can only grasp a shadow of the reality of God. That fact, however, should not discourage us. On the contrary, it should inspire us to anticipate that day when we will see God face to face and enter more deeply into the mystery of His divine life.
Today we especially focus upon the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity: The Holy Spirit. It is an incredible gift we have been given to live in this age of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you have thought to yourself that it would have been nice to live during the time that Jesus walked the earth. But Jesus Himself said that it was good that He go. Why? Because then He would send His Advocate, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, Who will lead you into all Truth. Thus, the age in which we now live, the age of the Holy Spirit, is the most blessed age the world has ever seen. This is because we are now able to receive the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity by the power of the Holy Spirit. God is no longer spoken only through the prophets. He is no longer revealed only through the Person of the Son in Jesus Christ. He is now also able to live within us, making our very souls His dwelling place. Heaven and earth unite within our souls. There could be nothing greater than this.
As the Holy Spirit descends upon you, He brings the presence of the Father and the Son. They are inseparable. Therefore, as we prayerfully look within ourselves, we discover the Voice of the Father, leading us into His holy will. We discover the Person of the Son to Whom we are called to be conformed in every way, living as members of His very body on earth. This is made possible because the Holy Spirit descends upon us in a way similar to the way the Holy Spirit overshadowed our Blessed Mother, conceiving within her the Son of God. As the Holy Spirit overshadows us, God is conceived within our souls, and we begin to share in the very life of God here and now.
Reflect, today, upon these holy mysteries of our faith. See the actions of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as a true mystery. The only way we will be able to begin to probe these mysteries is through prayerful pondering. We must look for the workings of God within, see Him at work within our souls, savor His presence, rejoice in it and keep our eyes firmly fixed on Him. We must see the fruit of God’s presence in our lives, such as the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Below is a full list of these Gifts. Ponder them today. As you do, and as you see these Gifts within you, you will be seeing God Himself, the Holy Spirit, alive and living within the depths of your soul.
Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I worship You and adore You with all my Heart. Thank You, Father, for sending Your Son into the world. Thank You Father and Son for sending the Holy Spirit into my life. May I open my soul more fully to You today and every day so as to prepare for Your glorious return at the end of the ages. Jesus, I trust in You.
Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Fear of the Lord: With this gift, the Christian becomes keenly aware of anything that may hurt his/her relationship with God. There is a holy “fear” of hurting this relationship, and grace is given to avoid these things at all cost.
Wisdom: With this gift, the Christian is given a special grace to “ponder divine realities” in his/her speculative reason. We are able to see the big picture and know how best to be an instrument of peace and harmony in our world.
Understanding: This is the ability to have a supernatural assurance of the matters of faith. Life makes sense. We can make sense of the deeper parts of revelation, make sense of suffering and understand those things that tempt us to doubt. With this gift, we come to see how everything in life can work for good in accordance with God’s plan.
Knowledge: With this gift, the Christian knows, more in the practical intellect, what God’s will is in this or that situation. We know how to live, how to discern God’s will and what decision to make in our daily lives. It also enables us to learn from our past mistakes.
Counsel: With this gift, the Christian sees him/herself as a link in a chain which makes up the entire Church. God uses each one of us to help and support one another on our journeys. We know what to say and how to act so as to do our part to build up one another.
Fortitude: Simply put, it is a firmness of mind and spirit to do good and avoid evil. It’s a sort of Christian courage. The Gospel will call all of us to a radical life of love. Fortitude gives us the strength we need to follow through.
Piety: This gift enables us to first reverence and love God, but also to see the dignity of one another and reverence each other as children of God.
|Religion / Friday Of The Seventh Week Of Easter - May 26, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 9:00am On May 26, 2023
“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.” John 21:18–19
On this, the third time that Jesus appeared to His disciples, Jesus enters into a threefold discourse with Peter. Each time that Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, Peter responds that he does. And Jesus responds back each time, “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep.” The passage quoted above concludes Jesus’ discourse with Peter using very powerful language. Jesus tells Peter that when he grows old, “someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” This was Jesus’ way of saying to Peter that he would ultimately express his love of Jesus by dying for Him. As we know, tradition states that Peter was ultimately crucified. And at Peter’s request, he was crucified upside down because he felt unworthy of dying in the exact same way Jesus died.
As we consider this conversation between Jesus and Peter, it is clear that Jesus’ understanding of love is very different from the way many others understand it today. Jesus was not only telling Peter that he would die for Jesus, but Jesus was clearly offering His approval of this act of love Peter would one day offer. Most often when we love someone, we would do all we can to keep them from any such fate. In fact, when a loved one suffers, we often will do all we can to look for a way to relieve them of that suffering. So which approach is most loving?
Clearly, Jesus sees suffering differently than most of us. For Jesus, suffering is not opposed to love when the suffering is freely embraced for a higher purpose. Suffering in and of itself is of no value. But when suffering is embraced sacrificially out of love for another, it is able to take on tremendous power. And when Jesus offered His clear support to Peter who would one day die out of love for Jesus, Jesus was focusing upon the eternal merit that would be won by Peter’s cross. The fact that Jesus did not shy away from Peter’s future sacrificial suffering is one of the clearest signs of Jesus’ more perfect love for Peter.
Reflect, today, upon your attitude toward the sufferings that your loved ones endure. Do you find that your primary goal is to rid them of their sufferings? Or do you understand that even their sufferings have the potential to become a source of their own holiness and the source of grace for others? Strive to see suffering as Jesus sees it. Look at the sacrificial love that is made possible when your loved ones unite their sufferings to the Cross of Christ and try to commit yourself to the mission of helping them embrace that sacred gift of love.
My most compassionate Jesus, in Your great love for us all, You desire that we unite our sufferings to Your Cross so that all suffering shares in Your redemptive love. Give me the grace I need to not only embrace my own sufferings in life out of love for You but to also help those whom I love to live sacrificially by embracing the crosses they carry out of love. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Thursday Of The Seventh Week Of Easter - May 25, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 8:30pm On May 24, 2023
Gestures of Love
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” John 17:20–21
Over the past couple of weeks, we have been continually reading from Chapter 14–17 of John’s Gospel. These chapters contain Jesus’ Last Supper Discourses and provide us with Jesus’ last sermon, so to speak. Chapter 17, which we have been reading this past week, presents us with Jesus’ final prayer for His disciples and for all of us “who will believe” in Him through the preaching of the disciples. Each time we read from Chapter 17, the Lectionary begins the reading with the phrase “Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying…” That line is an adaptation of Chapter 17:1 but is used to introduce the various parts of the prayer of Jesus each time it is read at Mass.
It’s interesting that Jesus would look up to Heaven when He prayed. Of course, Heaven is not physically in the sky, because Heaven is a spiritual reality. The Father is not located in some place in the sky but is omnipresent, meaning, present all places and all times. And yet, Jesus raises His eyes upward when He prays to the Father. There is a great lesson in this.
Our physical disposition is important, at times. For example, when someone we owe respect to enters a room, we usually rise and greet them. It would be disrespectful to remain lounging on a bed or sofa in that case. And at Mass, we do not sit back with legs crossed during the Consecration; rather, we kneel in adoration. And when we greet someone for the first time, we do not look at the floor; rather, we look them in the eyes.
Jesus’ act of “Lifting his eyes to heaven” was not done because He thought He might see the Father in the sky; rather, it was done out of respect and love and as a way of acknowledging the dignity of the Father. This should teach us about our own bodily disposition and the message we communicate to others, especially to God in prayer.
When you pray, what do you do? Though you can pray at any time and while in any disposition, it is an excellent practice to speak to God not only by your words but also by the disposition you take. Kneeling, raising hands in prayer, falling prostrate before your Lord, sitting upright with attentiveness, etc., are all ways in which you communicate to God your love.
Reflect, today, upon this image of Jesus praying. Gaze at how attentive He would have been as He lifted His sacred eyes upward as a physical gesture honoring the glorious, all-powerful Father in Heaven. Try to imagine Jesus’ devotion, intensity, respect and burning love. Imitate this holy gesture of prayer and attentiveness to the Father and remind yourself of the importance of expressing your love in bodily form.
My most holy Father in Heaven, I do join Your Son, Jesus, in lifting my eyes, my heart and my whole life to You in honor, love and respect. May I always be attentive to You and always show You the devotion due Your greatness. My dear Jesus, thank You for Your love of the Father in Heaven. Give me the grace I need to imitate You and Your perfect love in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Friday Of The Fifth Week Of Easter - May 12, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 7:28pm On May 11, 2023
“You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” John 15:14–15
To some, Jesus’ definition of friendship may, at first glance, seem odd. He says that we are His friends only when we do what He commands us to do. Imagine saying that to one of your best friends. Such a statement would most likely be met with a laugh and dismissal as foolishness. So is true friendship always based on obedience?
Obviously, the expectation that your friends obey you so as to win your friendship is not the basis of any authentic friendship. Jesus is the only one Who can base your friendship upon obedience to His holy will. Why? Because of the nature of what He commands you to do.
Jesus is pure Truth. What He wills is the perfection of love. Therefore, His statement that you are only His friend if you do what He commands you to do teaches that friendship is based on the truth. It’s based on love, goodness, kindness, selfless sacrifice and self-giving. And it is all of these truths that Jesus commands us to do. Therefore, Jesus is essentially telling us that His will alone provides the pathway to the friendship we desire to have with Him.
In regard to your friendship with others, each true friendship can only be based on that which God wills for friends. And, in that sense, you can “command” the will of God for your friendships. This means you are only willing to establish a friendship upon the truth. It means you are only willing to share a relationship based upon selfless, sacrificial, self-giving mercy, compassion, honesty and love.
Reflect, today, upon your understanding of friendship. Begin with your friendship with God, but then also ponder your friendship with others. Do you love our Lord in the way that He commands? And as you ponder your friendship with others, examine whether or not each friendship also conforms to obedience to the will of God. If you can love God and others in conformity with the dictates of true love, then your friendships will produce an eternity of deep fulfillment.
My divine Lord, You call me to a friendship with You based only on the dictates of pure and holy love. I thank You for this command of love and accept this invitation. Help me, Lord, to continually deepen my friendship with You in accord with the truths of love and help me to base all my friendships only on the commands of this holy love. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Tuesday Of The Fifth Week Of Easter - May 9, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 6:00pm On May 08, 2023
The Peace of Christ
Jesus said to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” John 14:27
So how does the peace that Jesus gives you differ from the apparent peace that the world gives? We all want peace in life. The desire for interior peace is written upon our very nature. And though many people make choices that lead to interior disorder and even chaos, those choices are often made out of a confused sense of what actually provides fulfillment.
For example, those who choose to feed an addiction to drugs or alcohol often began that addiction out of a misguided desire for happiness. The temporary fix experienced gives the temporary sense of well-being. But objectively speaking, it is very clear that the temporary “peace” one receives from these actions leads ultimately to a loss of the very thing they desire. And when these choices become addictions, the person often finds themself trapped in a downward spiral.
There are also countless other ways in which people find themselves seeking satisfaction and fulfillment in life. Money, promiscuity, cheating, selfishness, anger, deception, and the like are all actions that are done with the intent of some satisfaction. Our daily goal must be to unmask those deceptive actions so that we can see them for what they are and for the fruit that they produce. These are clearly among the many ways that the “world” offers us peace.
When it comes to true happiness in life, the gift of true interior peace is one of the clearest signs that we are on the right track and are making the right decisions. When we choose the will of God each and every day, those choices may be difficult and require much initial sacrifice. Love can be hard. Faithfulness to the moral law of God can be challenging. And refusing to sin is difficult. But choosing the will of God throughout our day, every day, will begin to produce within us the consoling and sustaining gift of the peace of Christ.
True peace produces strength. It leads to interior integrity and wholeness. It produces clarity of thought and certitude in convictions. God’s peace leads to more peace. It leads to choices based on well-thought-out actions of love. Peace leads us to the will of God, and the will of God leads to peace. The cyclical effect is exponential and is one of the clearest guides to happiness in life.
Reflect, today, upon whether you truly have peace in your heart. Do you recognize the still, strong and sustaining presence of God within your soul? Do your daily choices produce greater integrity of heart and clarity of mind? Do you find that you have joy and calm, even in the midst of life’s greatest challenges? Seek out this peace, for if you do, you will be seeking out the good God Who produces this glorious gift within your heart.
My Lord of true peace, You and Your holy will are the only path to the deepest fulfillment of all of my desires in life. When I make poor choices that lead to disorder and confusion, help me to turn to You with all my heart. Please unmask any deception I struggle with and give me the strength I need to seek You and Your peace alone. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Monday Of The Fifth Week Of Easter - May 8, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 5:10pm On May 07, 2023
Remembering God’s Revelations
“I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” John 14:25–26
Sometimes we forget all that God has spoken to us. For example, we may have some clear experience of God’s presence in our lives, such as a powerful spiritual insight gained through prayer, a deep conviction of His voice spoken through a sermon, the transforming freedom encountered through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or some form of unmistakable clarity imparted through the reading of the holy Scriptures. When God speaks to us, imparting His Truth, strength, forgiveness and every other form of grace, we are spiritually consoled as we sense His closeness. But when trouble comes our way, those moments of clarity can be easily lost.
The disciples would have had many clarifying experiences during the three years of Jesus’ public ministry. They marveled at the spiritual authority they encountered in His sermons, witnessed countless miracles, looked on as sinners were set free, saw Jesus transfigured in glory, and watched our Lord enter deeply into prayer with the Father. Each time they encountered the power of God at work, they would have grown in their conviction that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the World. But Jesus also knew that these disciples would soon have their faith in Him shaken. He knew that as they looked on from a distance in fear as Jesus was arrested, beaten and killed, they would start to forget all that they previously experienced. Fear can cause confusion, and Jesus knew that His disciples would soon fall into that trap. For this reason, Jesus spoke the words above to His disciples. He promised them that the Holy Spirit would soon come upon them to teach them everything and to remind them all that He told them.
How nice it would be if every lesson we ever learned from God remained front and center in our lives. How nice it would be if we never allowed fear to confuse us and cause us to forget all that God has spoken to us in varied ways. Just as Jesus knew the disciples would need the help of the Holy Spirit to remember, He also knows that we need the same help from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the words spoken to the disciples above are also spoken to us. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
What lessons of faith have you learned in the past that you need to be reminded of? It is the role of the Holy Spirit to bring those lessons to mind every time we need them. Therefore, as we move closer to the glorious celebration of the Solemnity of Pentecost, it is a good time to pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for the gift of remembering the many ways that God has revealed Himself to us. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit work in perfect harmony with each other, but each has a distinct role in our lives. The Holy Spirit’s role is especially to lead us day-by-day into the fulfillment of the Father’s will of becoming perfectly conformed to the Person of Christ Jesus.
Reflect, today, upon this powerful promise that our Lord gave to His disciples and to us. Pray to the Holy Spirit. Open yourself to the Spirit’s ongoing direction in your life and never allow fear to lead to confusion. Instead, allow God to dispel all confusion and to remind you of all that He has spoken to you throughout your life.
Most glorious Lord Jesus, You promised the disciples and all Your people that the Holy Spirit would be sent to us to remind us of all that You have revealed. Holy Spirit, please continuously descend upon me, teach me and guide me. Help me to never forget the many lessons I have been taught so that I will never let fear lead to confusion. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Fifth Sunday Of Easter (year A) - May 7, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 5:32pm On May 06, 2023
A Troubled Heart
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” John 14:1–2
These consoling and encouraging words, spoken by Jesus to the Apostles at the Last Supper, come immediately after Judas left to betray Jesus and after Jesus told Peter, in the presence of the others, that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the cock crowed. As a result, the Twelve (now Eleven) would have been discouraged, especially Peter. Jesus senses this and says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…”
Peter was told that he would soon commit a grave sin against Jesus. As we are later told, as soon as Peter committed these sins, he went out and wept bitterly. Perhaps, as he did, he would have recalled Jesus’ words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled…”
Being tempted toward sin can be discouraging. But that can turn into a good thing. If we are not affected by our temptations, then we lack love for God. And if we give into those temptations and fail to experience sorrow, this is even worse. However, discouragement over our sins cannot remain; it must turn into its opposite, the virtue of hope. Hope will result from sin only when we hear and understand Jesus’ promise, seen above.
Jesus not only tells the disciples not to be troubled, He also tells them why. Jesus promises them He will prepare a place for them in Heaven and will come to take them to that place in His Father’s House, despite their failings. By believing, Peter and the other apostles will be able to dispel the initial discouragement they feel over their failings and turn back to God with the anticipation of Heaven.
Do you get discouraged by your sin? Begin by calling to mind any sin that you regularly struggle with. Habitual sin, especially, will lead to either sorrow, repentance and hope, or to a discouragement that ends in despair and the abandonment of virtue. Like Saint Peter, we must strive to weep bitterly over our sins. We must let our sins, and the temptation toward despair, become a motivation to regain hope, courage, and determination. This will only be possible if we always hear Jesus say to us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…” We must sense His compassion and tenderness and allow that love to fill us with confidence that we will one day overcome all sin and be welcomed into the Father’s House.
Reflect, today, upon any sin with which you regularly struggle. As you do, consider whether your discouragement leads to despair or hope. Hope does not come from your ability to overcome sin on your own. It comes from the compassion of our Lord and His promise to redeem you. If you do have a troubled heart, that is good. It is the starting point for hope. Allow Jesus to lift your troubled heart and to point your eyes to Heaven.
Most compassionate Lord, though I am a sinner, You speak to me with tenderness and call me to repent so that I will always have hope in Heaven. Please give me a true and holy sorrow for my sins and help me to always turn back to You so that You will one day lead me to the fullness of the Father’s House. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Saturday Of The Fourth Week Of Easter - May 6, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 8:00pm On May 05, 2023
Doing the Greatest Work on Earth
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.” John 14:12–14
How is it that we are called to do greater works than the works that Jesus Himself did? Of course, it’s true. This is our calling. We know that, because this is what our Lord promised us. This truth should fill us with gratitude for being used so powerfully by God.
Among the “greater” works of which Jesus speaks is, first and foremost, the sharing of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. As Jesus walked the earth, His mission was primarily to the people of Israel. But when He ascended to Heaven and sent the Holy Spirit upon the Church, He also empowered all who would receive the Holy Spirit to share the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Thus, the conversion of hearts is the greatest work that we can cooperate with.
Do you want to do great things? Most children dream of doing so because this desire is written upon our human nature. We want to make a difference. We want to be great. But too often we become confused about true greatness. We attempt to fulfill that innate desire through acts of worldly and passing greatness. We seek recognition, wealth, and other passing rewards that stem from selfish ambitions. None of these ultimately fulfill us, even if we were to achieve them to the greatest extent. For example, imagine if you won the Nobel Peace Prize, or became the leader of a nation, or became the wealthiest person alive. Would the attainment of one of these goals fulfill you? Only if it were the will of God. If not, it would be an empty and meaningless act.
Begin by looking within. Do you see the desire within you to do great things? Hopefully you do. From there, remind yourself that the greatest thing you can do, so as to fulfill the desire within you, is to do that which is the will of God for your life. Jesus says, “If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.” Asking in Jesus’ name means asking for the fulfillment of His will. It means asking that God use you to bring His saving grace to others any way He chooses. If you ask our Lord for this grace, He will grant it.
This form of prayer requires humility and a complete detachment from our own will. It requires that we ask the Father only for that which the Son asks the Father for us. But the reward of such a humble prayer is that God will bestow His grace and mercy on others through us. This is His perfect will.
Reflect, today, upon this high calling. Do so by looking at the desire within your own soul for greatness and then unite that desire with God’s will as the only thing that can fulfill you. Pray for this gift every day with humility and detachment and you will become an instrument of acts that give eternal glory to God. In Heaven, this will be your eternal joy.
Providential Lord, Your will is perfect and glorious. Please help me to humble myself before You, every day, so that I will understand Your will for my life and choose it always. May I be an instrument of Your saving grace to all whom You wish to touch through me. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / Thursday Of The Fourth Week Of Easter - May 4, 2023 by MyCatholicLife: 3:23pm On May 04, 2023
Are You Blessed?
When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.” John 13:16–17
During this, the Fourth Week of Easter, we return to the Last Supper and will spend a few weeks considering the discourse Jesus gave that Holy Thursday evening to His disciples. The question to ask yourself today is this: “Are you blessed?” Jesus says that you are blessed if you “understand” and “do” what He teaches His disciples. So what did He teach them?
Jesus offers this prophetic action by which He took on the role of a slave by washing the disciples’ feet. His action was much louder than words, as the saying goes. The disciples were humbled by this act, and Peter, at first, refused it. There is little doubt that this humble act of service, by which Jesus lowered Himself before His disciples, made a strong impression upon them.
The worldly view of greatness is much different than the one Jesus taught. Worldly greatness is a process of elevating yourself in the eyes of others, striving to let them know just how good you are. Worldly greatness is often driven by a fear of what others may think of you, and a desire to be honored by all. But Jesus wants to be clear that we will only be great if we serve. We must humble ourselves before others, holding them and their goodness up, honoring them and showing them the deepest love and respect. By washing their feet, Jesus completely abandoned the worldly view of greatness and called His disciples to do the same.
Humility is difficult to understand at times. This is why Jesus said, “If you understand this…” He realized that the disciples, as well as all of us, will struggle with understanding the importance of humbling ourselves before others and serving them. But if you do understand humility, you will be “blessed” when you live it. You will not be blessed in the eyes of the world, but you will be truly blessed in the eyes of God.
Humility is especially accomplished when we purify our desire for honor and prestige, when we overcome all fear of being mistreated, and when, in place of this desire and fear, we desire abundant blessings upon others, even before ourselves. This love and humility is the only way to this mysterious and profound depth of love.
Reflect, today, upon this humble act of the Son of God, the Savior of the World, lowering Himself before His disciples, serving them as if He were a slave. Try to imagine yourself doing this for others. Think about various ways that you can more readily go out of your way to put others and their needs before your own. Seek to eliminate every selfish desire you struggle with and identify any fear that keeps you from humility. Understand this gift of humility and live it. Only then will you be truly blessed.
My humble Lord, You set for us the perfect example of love when You chose to serve Your disciples with great humility. Help me to understand this beautiful virtue and to live it. Free me from all selfishness and fear so that I may love others as You have loved us all. Jesus, I trust in You.
|Religion / May 3: Saints Philip And James, Apostles—feast by MyCatholicLife: 2:18pm On May 03, 2023
Saints Philip and James
Saint Philip: c. 4–c. 80
Patron Saint of hatmakers and pastry chefs
Saint James: First century B.C.–c. 62
Patron Saint of pharmacists and the dying
Liturgical Color: Red
The next day he decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter. 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.” ~John 1:43–46
In the sixth century, Pope Pelagius I traveled to Constantinople and brought the relics of the Apostles Philip and James back to Rome, placing them in what is today called the Church of the Holy Apostles. It is for this reason that we honor these two Apostles together with one feast.
Saint Philip was one of the Twelve Apostles. He was most likely a follower of Saint John the Baptist and was aware of John pointing to Jesus as the Messiah. Philip might have been a brother to Simon Peter and Andrew, making him a fisherman by trade. The day after Simon and Andrew were invited to follow Jesus, Jesus encountered Philip and said, “Follow me” (John 1:43). Philip obeyed. He was from the town of Bethsaida, just north of the Sea of Galilee. Philip’s first act of evangelization was to tell his friend, Nathanael, that they had found the Messiah. Nathanael was reluctant at first, stating to Philip, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip’s response was ideal. He said to his friend, “Come and see” (John 1: 46). When Nathanael came and saw, he immediately professed his faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. Early Church theologians believe that Philip followed our Lord from that time forward, witnessing Jesus’ first miracle at Cana.
When Jesus established the Twelve, Philip was among them. He is mentioned in John’s Gospel during the feeding of the 5,000 when Jesus sees the large crowd and then turns to Philip and says, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” (John 6:6). Philip is also mentioned in connection with Greek-speaking Gentiles who want to see Jesus (see John 12:21), possibly indicating that Philip could speak Greek and was known to the Greek community. At the Last Supper, as Jesus was speaking about the Father, Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us”, to which Jesus gently responded, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8–14).
After Pentecost, little is known about Philip’s missionary activity. Ancient traditions state he preached in Greece, Phrygia, and Syria, being martyred at an old age in Hierapolis, Phrygia, modern-day southwest Turkey, not far from Ephesus where Saint Paul established a church. Philip is believed to have died either by being crucified upside down or by beheading.
Saint James is also one of the Twelve. The traditional view, from as early as the second century, is that there are only two disciples of Christ in the New Testament with the name James. Some modern scholars identify three or more. If we stick with the traditional view, which was also held by Saint Jerome in the fourth century, then the two Jameses are James the Son of Zebedee and James the Less (also referred to as James the brother of the Lord, and James the Son of Alphaeus). Later authors call him James the Just. If James the Less is also the James who is the Lord’s brother, then James’ father was Alphaeus and his mother was Mary of Clopas, the sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This would make James the nephew of the Blessed Virgin and a first cousin to Jesus. He is referred to as Jesus’ “brother” because it was common at that time to refer to cousins and other relatives as brothers and sisters. In Mark’s Gospel, Levi (better known as Matthew) is also referred to as the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14) which could make James and Matthew brothers.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul relates that the Lord appeared to James after His Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7). After Pentecost, James became the first bishop of the Church in Jerusalem. The Acts of the Apostles relates that it was James, as the head of the Jerusalem Church, who oversaw the First Council of Jerusalem and declared the final judgment on behalf of Peter (see Acts 15). Eusebius, a fourth-century bishop, writes that James spent long hours in the Temple of Jerusalem: “…he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel.” Eusebius also wrote about James’ martyrdom, “…he was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club.” Traditionally, the New Testament letter of James is believed to have been written by James the Less, although modern scholars question this fact. That letter was a general letter, most likely sent to all of the Jewish Christian communities. It begins, “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, greetings” (James 1:1). The letter then goes on to give encouragement in trials and persecutions, exhortations and warnings, and concludes by speaking of the power of prayer.
What we know for certain about these two disciples is that they were among the Twelve Apostles. They were uniquely chosen by the Savior to continue His divine mission of evangelizing the world. They embraced their ministry heroically, establishing communities of believers, preaching the Gospel, offering the sacraments, performing miracles, and governing the early Church. Allow the apostolic zeal and the courageous martyrdom of these apostles to inspire you today with the same zeal and courage, so that God can also send you forth on mission.
Saints Philip and James, you were both highly blessed to be companions of the Lord Jesus, listening to Him preach, witnessing His miracles, and receiving from Him a commission to continue His work. Please pray for me, that I will also come to know our Lord and Savior through prayer and the Holy Scriptures, so that I will be prepared for the mission that God has for me. Saints Philip and James, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
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