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Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Year A)
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.
Reconciled & Filled by the Holy Spirit
Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Year B)
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” John 20:21–23
Happy Pentecost! Today, throughout the world, our Church celebrates the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ first followers and upon all of us. Why do we need the Holy Spirit in our lives? This is an important question to ponder. Today, as always, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit work as One God. It is the Father Who wills that we be reconciled to Him; it was the Son Who made this reconciliation possible; and it is the Holy Spirit Who now accomplishes the completion of this act in our lives. At the heart of that gift of salvation is the remission of our sins. The passage above clearly reveals to us that Jesus bestowed a unique gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, His first bishops, entrusting them with the ability to forgive sins in His name and by His power.
As we celebrate Pentecost, it is a good opportunity to prayerfully consider the action of the Holy Spirit in your life. One of the greatest ways that the Holy Spirit is potentially active in your life is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Through that Sacrament, the Holy Spirit draws you to the Father and enables you to see and understand His perfect will, living more fully in union with the Son as a member of His Body.
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are some of the other ways that the Holy Spirit helps us in our Christian walk. However, these gifts would be ineffective in our lives if we did not first receive the gift of forgiveness given through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That is the first and most foundational action of the Holy Spirit and opens the door to every other gift. Perhaps that is why Jesus’ first bestowal of the Holy Spirit focused upon the power given to His Apostles to forgive sins in His name.
Once we are reconciled to the Father and begin to live in a state of grace, the Holy Spirit will continue to deepen His relationship with us and bestow His help upon us for our Christian journey. This especially happens through the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts most affecting our intellect are the Gifts of Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge. Wisdom helps us to understand the inner life of the Trinity more clearly. Understanding helps us to make sense of our lives and mission in the light of the Gospel. Knowledge helps us make practical decisions in accord with God’s will.
The gifts of Fear of the Lord and Piety assist us in our love of God. Fear of the Lord helps us to see how our actions help or hinder our relationship with God, helping to motivate us to avoid all that harms this relationship and choose all that strengthens it. Piety helps us to see the great dignity and beauty of God and enables us to have a deep reverence for Him and for all of His people.
Counsel and Fortitude are also given by the Holy Spirit and help us to firmly move forward in faith and love. Counsel especially helps us with love of neighbor, and Fortitude adds the strength we need to do all that we are called to do in love with unwavering commitment.
As we celebrate the great Solemnity of Pentecost, reflect, today, upon the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. If you want to be open to the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit in your life and receive the many gifts you need for your journey of faith, then begin with the most fundamental gift. Begin with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Ponder the words Jesus spoke in our Gospel today and know that by entrusting the grace to forgive sins in His name to His first priests, Jesus was also calling you to embrace that gift. The Holy Spirit wants you to be cleansed of all sin. Allow Him to do so and you will be amazed at all the grace that follows.
My glorious Lord, You promised to send the Holy Spirit upon us to lead us into all Truth and to reconcile us to the Father. You were faithful to that promise at Pentecost and now continuously bestow the Holy Spirit upon all who believe. Holy Spirit, please come upon me, especially by forgiving my sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and by filling me with Your sevenfold Gifts. Jesus, I trust in You.
Come to Us Holy Spirit!
Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Year C)
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
Happy birthday! Today, as we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we also celebrate the birth of the Church. Thus, today is a celebration of your membership in the life of the Church. As a human institution, the Church has always suffered on account of the sins of Her members. This sad truth is something that we are increasingly aware of today. But the Church itself is the Spotless Bride of Christ. It is the Body of Christ on earth, in Heaven and in Purgatory. Those of us on earth are members of the Church Militant. Those in Heaven are members of the Church Triumphant. And those in Purgatory are members of the Church Suffering. But all of us are united under Christ our Head as members of His holy Body, the Church.
We profess our faith in the Church every Sunday. We profess that we believe in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” What exactly does this mean? First, it means that by the power and working of the Holy Spirit, those who profess faith in Christ are united as “one.” This oneness is a spiritual union that will endure for eternity. It is unbreakable and restores us to the life we were created to live. That is, a life of union with God and others, a communion of humanity with God.
As one family, the Church is also “holy.” Holiness is another way of saying that we are made whole by the blood of Christ, sharing in His redemption. By His mercy, our sins are forgiven and we become children of the Father in Heaven, sharing the eternal life of the Son.
The word “catholic” refers to the truth that the offer of salvation is given to all. It is a universal calling given to all people who will accept this gift. God did not come to save only a few but all, and many will accept this gift of salvation.
We are “apostolic,” in that God chose to establish His Church through the mediation of His Apostles. They were uniquely called to become instruments by which the saving Truth is proclaimed and the grace won by the Cross is distributed. The work of the Apostles continues today through their successors, the bishops, and those who are co-workers with the bishops, the priests. Sinful though they may be, God uses them, nonetheless, to bestow His grace and truth upon the world.
As a member of the one Body of Christ, you are also invited by God to enlarge His family through the sharing of the Gospel and by your life of deep prayer. You are called and sent, and this takes place by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we especially celebrate today.
Reflect, today, upon the incredible privilege it is to be invited to be a member of the Family of God, the Church. And reflect, also, upon the important duty you have to extend that invitation to others. Pray to the Holy Spirit, asking for an increase in His seven-fold gifts in your life so that You can help share the saving message of the Gospel to those whom God wants to reach through you.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, Who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ our Lord. Amen. Jesus, I trust in You.
Your Heavenly Mother
Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church—Monday after Pentecost
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.
The Church Shall Always Prevail
Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, February 22
“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18–19
There are several foundational truths taught to us by this passage above. One of those truths is that “the gates of the netherworld” shall never prevail against the Church. That truth gives us much reason to rejoice.
Think of the many human institutions that have existed throughout the centuries. The most powerful governments have come and gone. Various movements have come and gone. Countless organizations have come and gone. But the Catholic Church still remains and will remain until the end of time. That is one of the promises of our Lord that we celebrate today.
The Church has not remained simply because of good leadership all of these years. In fact, corruption and serious internal conflict have been evident within the Church from the beginning. Popes have lived immoral lives. Cardinals and bishops have lived as princes. Some priests have gravely sinned. And many religious orders have struggled with serious internal divisions. But the Church itself, this shining Bride of Christ, this infallible institution still remains and will continue to remain because Jesus guaranteed it.
With today’s modern media by which every sin of every member of the Church is able to be instantly and universally broadcast to the world, there can be a temptation to look down on the Church. Scandal, division, controversy and the like can shake us to the core, at times, and cause some to question their ongoing participation in the Roman Catholic Church. But the truth is that every weakness within Her members should actually be cause for us to renew and deepen our faith in the Church itself. Jesus did not promise that every Church leader would be a saint, but He did promise that “the gates of the netherworld” would not prevail against Her.
Reflect, today, upon your own view of the Church today. If scandals and divisions have weakened your faith, then turn your eyes to our Lord and to His holy and divine promise. The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against the Church. That is a fact promised by our Lord Himself. Believe it and rejoice in that glorious truth.
My glorious Bridegroom, You have instituted the Church upon the rock foundation of Peter’s faith. Peter and all of his successors are Your precious gift to us all. Help me to see beyond the sins of others, the scandals and divisions, and to see You, my Lord, leading all people to salvation through Your bride, the Church. I renew my faith, this day, in the gift of this One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Greatness of Saint Joseph
Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary, March 19
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. Matthew 1:24
What is it that made Saint Joseph so great? He wasn’t immaculately conceived as our Blessed Mother was. He was not divine like Jesus. But he was the head of the Holy Family, its guardian and its provider. He became the legal father of the Savior of the World and the spouse of the Mother of God. But Joseph is not great only because he was given such incredible privileges. First and foremost, he was great because of the choices he made in life. Today’s Gospel refers to him as a “righteous man” and as a man who “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” Thus, his greatness is primarily on account of his moral righteousness and obedience to the will of God.
Joseph’s obedience is especially seen in the fact that he obeyed the voice of God given to him in the four dreams recorded in Scripture. In his first dream, Joseph is told “do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20–21). In his second dream, Joseph is told, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him” (Matthew 2:13). In his third dream, Joseph is told, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead” (Matthew 2:20). And in his fourth dream, Joseph is warned to go instead to Galilee rather than Judea (Matthew 2:22).
When these dreams are read in succession, it is clear that Saint Joseph was attentive to the voice of God. We all have dreams, but Joseph’s dreams were different. They were clear communications from God, and they required a willing recipient. Joseph was open to the voice of God and listened in faith as that willing recipient.
Joseph also responded with complete submission and full determination. The commands Joseph received were not insignificant. His obedience required that he and his family travel great distances, take up residence in strange lands and do so all in faith.
It’s also clear that Joseph took his vocation seriously. Pope Saint John Paul II gave him the title “Guardian of the Redeemer.” Over and over, he showed his unwavering commitment to his role as the guardian of his legal Son, Jesus, and of his wife, Mary. His life was spent providing for them, protecting them and offering them a father’s heart.
Reflect, today, upon the unique vocation of Saint Joseph. Ponder, especially, the early years of his marriage and the raising of Jesus. Consider his fatherly commitment to care for, provide for and protect his Son. We all must seek to imitate Saint Joseph’s virtues by protecting the presence of Christ within our own hearts, the hearts of our family and friends and in the world as a whole. Pray to Saint Joseph, asking him to help you follow his example so that the hidden presence of our Lord in our lives will grow and come to full maturation.
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust; with you Christ became man. Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen. (Prayer from Patris Corde)
Let it Be
Solemnity of the Annunciation, March 25
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:26–28
Imagine if the Angel Gabriel, the glorious Archangel who stands before the Most Holy Trinity, were to come to you and announce to you that you were “full of grace” and that “The Lord is with you.” What an indescribable and awe-inspiring experience that would be! And yet this is exactly what happened to this young teenager, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
We celebrate today this amazing event that took place, marking the moment when God took on human flesh within her blessed womb. Note that today is nine months before Christmas. The Church gives us this Solemnity today to invite us to walk with Mary over these coming nine months so as to join her in her rejoicing over the birth of her divine Son.
Much could be said about this glorious Solemnity. We could ponder Mother Mary and her Immaculate Conception. We could ponder the very words spoken by the Archangel. We could ponder the mystery surrounding her pregnancy and the way in which God chose to set this gift into motion. And we could ponder so much more. Though all of these aspects are worth fully pondering and praying over, let’s focus upon the reaction of this young woman to the angelic announcement.
First, we read that Mary was “greatly troubled” and “pondered” these words spoken by the Archangel. Being troubled reveals that Mary did not have full knowledge of what the Archangel was revealing. But the fact that she pondered the words also reveals her openness to a fuller understanding. She then seeks a deeper gift of knowledge by asking, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” This response is first an assent of belief in faith followed by a request for a deeper understanding of this revelation. Faith is the ability to assent to that which we do not fully understand, but true faith always seeks a deeper understanding—and this is what Mary did.
After being given some further revelation by the Archangel, Mary fully accepts what was revealed and trusts that what she was told was all she needed to know at that time. And then she offers what has come to be known as her “fiat.” She says, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” This fiat of Mary is her perfect prayer of surrender to the will of God, and it is also the perfect model for how we all must respond to the will of God. We must see ourselves as true servants of His will, and we must fully embrace whatsoever God asks of us, completely uniting our wills to His.
Reflect, today, upon these words of our Blessed Mother: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” How is God asking you to make this your prayer also? How is God calling you to serve His most holy will? Are you willing to fully assent to anything and everything God asks of you? As you prayerfully reflect upon this fiat of our Blessed Mother, seek to unite her response to yours so that you, too, will be a servant of the most high God.
Father in Heaven, You sent Your Son to become incarnate in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Your glorious Archangel Gabriel brought forth this Good News. May I always be attentive to the messages You send forth to me as You invite me to join in Your divine mission of bringing Your Son into the world. I say “Yes” this day, dear Lord, to serve Your most holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.
Continuing the Mission
Feast of Saint Mark, April 25
Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:15–16
Saint Mark, whom we honor today, certainly fulfilled this mission that was given to the Apostles. Though Mark was not one of the Twelve and might not have even known Jesus while He walked the earth, he certainly fulfilled the mission of proclaiming the Gospel to the whole world by writing his Gospel account.
Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the Gospels, but it is packed with detail. It recounts the life of Jesus vividly and in an almost breathless way. His Gospel presents the central messages of fulfillment found in Christ, the nearness of His Kingdom and the need to repent and believe.
Though not much is known about Mark, our first reading from the Letter of Saint Peter written to the Christian communities in Asia Minor reveals that Mark was a follower of Peter who refers to Mark with affection as his “son.” It is also likely that Mark was a co-worker of Saint Paul (Philemon 1:24).
As we honor this great evangelist, the most notable testament to His work of evangelizing is the Gospel attributed to him. Though he most certainly made a difference in the lives of those with whom he worked, preached to in person and witnessed to by his charity, it’s amazing to ponder the ongoing effect that his Gospel has had upon the world. As you think about his life, try to imagine him sitting and writing out the Gospel account we now have. As he did so, he could never have imagined that the words he wrote would be read by countless millions until the end of the age. For him, he was fulfilling but one small service to the people of his time. He was motivated by a desire to make Jesus known to them, and the best way he knew how to do this was to write down Jesus’ story.
As Mark wrote his Gospel, we can be certain that he did so not only out of his own desire to share the life of Christ with others, but primarily because he was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Mark’s gift of the writing of the Gospel was a response to grace. God gave him this mission, and he listened and obeyed. As a result, his short telling of the life of Christ has become part of the most widely read story in all of human history. And not only that, it is also among the most transformative stories ever written.
Though God will not call you to write a Gospel account, He is calling you to a particular mission. What is that mission? Sometimes we can easily think that what we do is insignificant. But if what we do in life is done through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, then we can be certain that God will use our small effort in great ways. Like Saint Mark, we might never see how God uses us until we enter the glories of Heaven. But make no mistake, if you, like Saint Mark, listen to the will of God and act in obedience to Him, then the little you offer will have eternal and transformative consequences for the good of others.
Reflect, today, upon this simple and humble servant of God. Consider Mark’s limited knowledge about the extent that his contribution would end up making for the entire world. As you reflect upon him writing his Gospel account, ponder your own calling from God to do your small part. Know that you, too, can become an instrument of the gift of salvation for many. The key is to seek out the will of God for your life and commit yourself to the fulfillment of that will with passion and drive. Do not be deterred by any apparent lack of immediate results. Stay faithful to your mission and, from Heaven, you will eternally rejoice as you see the unexpected ways that God used you.
Glorious Lord Jesus, You gave Your followers the great mission to preach Your Gospel to the ends of the world. I thank You for the ways that Saint Mark responded to Your inspiration and was used in such a powerful way. Please use me, dear Lord, as an instrument of Your grace so that I can share in the mission You have given to the Church. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Ordinary Path to the Extraordinary
Optional Memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker, May 1
Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son?” Matthew 13:54–55
On December 8, 2020, Pope Francis announced the beginning of the universal celebration of the “Year of Saint Joseph.” He introduced this year with an Apostolic Letter entitled “With a Father’s Heart.” In the introduction to that letter, the Holy Father said, “Each of us can discover in Joseph—the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence—an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble.”
The Gospel above, taken from the readings for this memorial, point to the fact that Jesus was “the carpenter’s son.” Joseph was a worker. He worked with his hands as a carpenter so as to provide for the daily needs of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Son of God. He provided them with a home, with food and with the other daily necessities of life. Joseph also protected them both by following the various messages of the angel of God who spoke to him in his dreams. Joseph fulfilled his duties in life in a quiet and hidden way, serving in his role as father, spouse and worker.
Though Joseph is universally recognized and honored today within our Church and even as a prominent historical world figure, during his lifetime he would have been a man who was largely unnoticed. He would have been seen as an ordinary man doing his ordinary duty. But in many ways, that is what makes Saint Joseph an ideal man to imitate and a source of inspiration. Very few people are called to serve others in the spotlight. Very few people are publicly praised for their day-to-day duties. Parents, especially, are often greatly unappreciated. For that reason, the life of Saint Joseph, this humble and hidden life lived out in Nazareth, provides most people with inspiration for their own daily lives.
If your life is somewhat monotonous, hidden, unappreciated by the masses, tedious and even boring at times, then look to Saint Joseph for inspiration. Today’s memorial especially honors Joseph as a man who worked. And his work was quite ordinary. But holiness is especially found in the ordinary parts of our daily lives. Choosing to serve, day in and day out, with little or no earthly accolades, is a service of love, an imitation of the life of Saint Joseph and a source of your own holiness in life. Do not underestimate the importance of serving in these and other ordinary and hidden ways.
Reflect, today, upon the ordinary and “unremarkable” daily life of Saint Joseph. If you find that your life is similar to what he would have experienced as a worker, a spouse and a father, then rejoice in that fact. Rejoice in the fact that you are also called to a life of extraordinary holiness through the ordinary duties of daily life. Do them well. Do them with love. And do them by the inspiration of Saint Joseph and his spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary who would have shared in this ordinary day-to-day life. Know that what you do each and every day, when it is done out of love and service of others, is the surest path to holiness of life for you.
My Jesus, Son of the carpenter, I thank You for the gift and inspiration of Your earthly father, Saint Joseph. I thank You for his ordinary life lived with great love and responsibility. Help me to imitate his life by fulfilling my daily duties of work and service well. May I recognize in the life of Saint Joseph, an ideal model for my own holiness of life. Saint Joseph the Worker, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
Do You Not Know Me?
Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles, May 3
Philip said to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “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. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” John 14:8–9
Today’s liturgical feast is in honor of two of the Apostles, Philip and James the Lesser. Little is known about James other than that he was chosen by our Lord for the apostolic ministry and that we have one of his letters, which is contained in the New Testament. James eventually went to Jerusalem and led the Church for a few decades until he was stoned to death as a martyr. Philip preached in Greece, Phrygia and Syria. He and Saint Bartholomew were thought to have been crucified upside down. Philip preached upside down from the cross until his death.
In the Gospel for today’s Mass, we are presented with an encounter that Philip had with Jesus. Though this encounter appears to be a rebuke of Philip by Jesus, it’s a rebuke that is quite heartfelt. Jesus says, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?” Jesus did, indeed, spend much time with His disciples. They stayed together, ate together, traveled together and spent much time talking with each other. Therefore, Jesus’ comments to Philip emanated from His real and lived personal relationship with Philip.
Take the first part of that statement to begin with. “Have I been with you so long…” Imagine Jesus saying this to you. Is this something He would be able to say to you? Is it true that you do spend much time with Him? Do you spend time reading the Gospels, speaking to Him from the depths of your heart, conversing with Him, praying to Him and listening to His gentle voice?
But Jesus goes on: “…and you still do not know me…?” This is a humble truth that is important to admit. It is true that even those who have a very deep and transforming life of prayer do not know our Lord deeply enough. There is no limit to the transformation that can take place in our lives when we know Jesus personally.
Jesus’ statement goes on: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” So the next question is this: “Do you know the Father?” Do you know the Father’s love, His care for you, His perfect will? Though the Father and the Son are united as one God, They are still distinct Persons, and we must, therefore, work to establish a relationship of love with each one of them.
As initially mentioned, the comments from Jesus are a gentle rebuke of love to Philip, and He wants to speak this same gentle rebuke to you. But it’s a rebuke of love meant to encourage you to get to know Him better. It’s an invitation to personalize your relationship with Jesus and the Father in a real and concrete way. Do you know Him? Do you know the Son of God? Do you know the Father in Heaven?
Reflect, today, upon these loving questions of our Lord as if they were spoken to you. Let His words encourage you to get to know Him more deeply. Pray for your relationship to become more personal and transforming. And as you get to know our Lord more intimately, know that it is also the Father in Heaven Whom you are getting to know.
My divine and personal Lord, it is the deepest desire of Your Sacred Heart to know me and to love me. Fill my heart with this same desire so that I will not only know You, dear Lord, but also the Father in Heaven. Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your perfect love and pray that I may open myself to that love more fully each and every day. Saints Philip and James, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Bearing Fruit for the Kingdom
Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle, May 14
“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.” John 15:16
After Judas betrayed our Lord, the Apostles gathered together to pick someone to succeed him. They decided it should be someone who had been with them from the beginning. They prayed for guidance and cast lots “and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles” (Acts 1:26).
Little is known about the ministry of Saint Matthias. Being chosen as one of the Twelve makes him a bishop of the early Church. Various traditions state that he preached in the territory of either modern-day Ethiopia, Turkey or Georgia—perhaps all of these territories. He is thought to have been killed for his faith, either by stoning or by beheading or both, which is why he is today honored as a martyr.
As we honor Saint Matthias, we honor more than just a man who became an Apostle and preached the Gospel with His life, we also honor the divine plan by which God has chosen to use weak and humble instruments to further His Kingdom. The Gospel passage above certainly applies to Saint Matthias, as well as to all of us to one extent or another. It was God who “chose” Saint Matthias, as well as each and every one of us, for the purpose of going forth to “bear fruit that will remain.” But this form of good fruit, the fruit that has eternal consequences, can only be produced when we ask for it from the Father in the name of His Son Jesus.
Asking the Father to produce good fruit through us in the name of Jesus His Son does not mean that we get to choose what we ask of the Father. Rather, asking “in Jesus’ name” must be understood to mean that we ask the Father only what the Son has asked. We choose to share in the one eternal prayer of the Son that the will of the Father be fulfilled. And in praying this way, we commit ourselves to unity with His holy will.
Sometimes we can all find ourselves asking God for this favor or that. We can place before Him our preference and our will. But if we want to be used by God, to become an instrument of His grace so as to bear an abundance of good fruit, then we must humbly set aside our own will and allow God to be the one Who chooses our mission and appoints us to His holy task. Detachment from our own will and humble submission to the will of God is the only way to bring forth God’s Kingdom.
Reflect, today, upon God’s choice to call you to share in His divine mission. How He calls is up to God, but you can be certain that He does call you and invites you to share in His mission. Be open to any way that God appoints you to bear good fruit and humbly seek to conform your will to the Father’s plan as you pray in Jesus’ holy name.
Lord Jesus, You have perfectly fulfilled the will of the Father in all things, and You have chosen me and appointed me to share in Your divine mission. Help me to open my mind and will to all that You call me to do, so that I, too, may be an instrument of the Kingdom of Your Father in Heaven. I make this prayer in Your most holy name. Jesus, I trust in You.
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