Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

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Giving What You Receive

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full. Matthew 14:19–20

An important aspect of this miracle that is easy to miss is that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes through His disciples’ instrumentality. He did this by inviting them to assist in the distribution of the loaves and in the gathering of the fragments left over. This reveals that God often uses us as mediators of His superabundant graces given to others. Though God could pour forth His mercy directly, most often He does so through others.

As you ponder this miracle, try to see yourself as one of the disciples who was invited to distribute the bread to the people. If you were there and were hungry and then were given bread, you would be tempted to eat the bread yourself before giving any away. But Jesus gave the bread to His hungry disciples with the instruction to first give it to others.

Sometimes, when God calls us to give His mercy to others, we become selfish. It’s easy to think that we must first take care of ourselves and our own needs. We erroneously believe that we can only offer mercy to others after our needs are met. Imagine, for example, if upon receiving the bread from Jesus the disciples would have decided that they should eat of it first. Then, if there was anything extra, they could give it to others. Had they done this, the superabundance of the multiplication of the loaves would not have happened. In the end, the disciples themselves received a superabundance of food—precisely because they first gave away what they had received.

Spiritually speaking, the same is true with us. When we receive spiritual nourishment from our Lord, our first thought must be to give it away. We must first see all that we receive from God as an opportunity to bestow those blessings upon others. This is the nature of grace. For example, if we are given a sense of peace or joy within our hearts, we must realize that this peace or joy we receive is a gift that must be immediately offered to others. If we are given a spiritual insight into the Scriptures, this is given to us first and foremost to share with others. Every gift we receive from God must be understood as a gift given to us so that we can immediately share it with others. The good news is that when we seek to give away that which we have received, more is given to us and, in the end, we will be far richer.

Reflect, today, upon the action of the disciples receiving this food from our Lord and immediately giving it away. See yourself in this miracle, and see the bread as a symbol of every grace you receive from God. What have you received that God wants you to distribute to others? Are there graces you have received that you selfishly try to hold onto? The nature of grace is that it is given to give it to others. Seek to do this with every spiritual gift you receive, and you will find that the graces multiply to the point that you receive more than you could ever imagine.

Most generous Lord, You pour forth Your grace and mercy in superabundance. As I receive all that You bestow, please fill my heart with generosity so that I will never hesitate to offer Your mercy to others. Please use me as Your instrument, dear Lord, so that, through me, You may abundantly feed others. Jesus, I trust in You.


Hunger for God

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

“Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” John 6:25–27

The day before, Jesus fed the crowds at the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. The next day, the people were hungry again, so they went looking for Jesus thinking that He might miraculously feed them again. In the passage above, Jesus uses their physical hunger to point them to a deeper spiritual reality.

Each one of us is hungry. We continually have cravings that we want satiated. Certainly, food and drink are among our cravings, but the deepest craving we each have is a spiritual one. The problem is that we often try to satiate ourselves in ways that will never satisfy us. Therefore, we each need to hear Jesus say, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” What is that food that the Son of Man will give to us? Of course, it is His very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. It is the Most Holy Eucharist.

This passage begins the lengthy “Bread of Life Discourse” from which we will read over the next three Sundays. Throughout this discourse, Jesus makes it clear that His flesh is true food and His blood is true drink. Eating Jesus’ flesh and blood is the only way to eternal life. Some who listen to this teaching find that it is too difficult to accept and, as a result, reject Jesus and His teaching. The discourse ends with Jesus asking the Twelve if they want to leave too. Peter gives the perfect response by saying, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

As we ponder this teaching of Jesus over the next few weekends, it is important to start with the foundation. The foundation is our spiritual hunger. We each experience it. We each are aware of it. We cannot escape it. For that reason, look into your own soul. What do you see? Do you see a certain restlessness and unfulfilled desire? Do you sense the cravings within your own soul? When you see this, know that you have discovered the starting point of the life of fulfillment. Unless you can see that hunger within, you cannot turn to the source of satiation.

The Eucharist is the source of all that we long for in life; however, too often we fail to see that. We can easily fall into the trap of seeing the Eucharist as an obligation we must meet each week. Sometimes Mass can even be seen as an inconvenience. If this is your struggle, try to use the next few Sundays to reexamine your understanding of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Sunday Mass, more than anything else in life, must be understood as the source of our deepest satisfaction in life. It must be seen as the answer to every interior longing and restlessness we have. It is not money, recognition, status, power, or anything else in life that fulfills us. It is God. And God comes to us first and foremost in the celebration of the Mass. Do you believe this? Do you understand?

Reflect, today, and for the next few weeks, upon the Gift of the Most Holy Eucharist. As you do, try to see it as the answer to every interior longing and hunger that you have in life. Try to make an act of faith in this spiritual truth. If you do not regularly experience the satiation offered by consuming the Eucharist, ask yourself why not. Believe in everything that Jesus teaches in this holy discourse of the Bread of Life. If you do, you will also begin to receive the nourishment that our Lord promises.

My Eucharistic Lord, You are the Bread of Life and the source of all satisfaction in life. Your Body and Blood, given to me through my participation in the Holy Mass, is the greatest Gift I could ever receive. Please renew and deepen my love for You in this Gift so that I will find full satisfaction and fulfillment in You alone. Jesus, I trust in You.


Being Cheated

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Luke 12:13–14

Many things in life are not fair. Children are keenly aware of this any time they sense they have been cheated by a sibling. They complain to their parents, just as the person in the crowd quoted above complained to Jesus about his brother. We want justice and can become quite upset when we feel that we have been dealt an injustice.

The passage above is interesting because Jesus gently but clearly refuses to be the arbiter of justice for this man. It may indeed be the case that he was cheated out of his inheritance by his brother. But it’s interesting that Jesus not only refuses to resolve the dispute, He then goes on to teach about greed, suggesting that the cheated man was acting out of greed.

If you were cheated out of your inheritance by a sibling, how would you react? If a sibling were to do this, it would clearly be a sin and an injustice. But the question at hand is your reaction to being cheated. Being cheated by another might result in one of two responses. The most common response is to immediately seek justice, to fight back. But this is not always what God will inspire us to do. Instead, when we experience injustice, we are given an opportunity to love on a very deep level. And this must be our response. This is why Jesus said we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. In the big picture of eternity, earthly injustices are always an opportunity for grace. This is evident by simply looking at the gravest injustice of the suffering and death of the Son of God. Jesus did not complain about being so cruelly treated. He did not call on the angels of Heaven to destroy the Pharisees and Romans who attacked Him. Instead, Jesus used the injustice inflicted upon Him as a foundation for His gift of salvation.

As we journey through this life, we need to decide whether we are going to live for this life or for eternity. We cannot have both. However, by choosing to live for eternity, we also enhance our lives here on earth in ways that nothing in this world can match. For example, say you experienced the unfortunate situation of extreme poverty. Say you were cheated out of your home and possessions and were left with nothing. Would this make you miserable? It might, but it doesn’t have to. Instead, such an unfortunate circumstance has the potential for you to live day-by-day, trusting in God’s providential care and to offer mercy in the face of injustice. And that is good. It is good for your eternal soul. It is good because it will motivate you to trust God on a very deep level and to become a beacon of God’s mercy. By contrast, if you had everything you could ever want in this world, it would be seriously tempting to rely less upon God and more upon the things you possess in this world. But the things of this world cannot save your eternal soul. In fact, they are a serious hindrance to your ability to trust in God alone. So, truth be told, poverty and injustice actually open the door to an opportunity for much more grace in our lives than material wealth does. But so often we still long to have more and more of the things of this world.

Reflect, today, upon the spiritual and eternal blessings that come from relying solely upon God and not upon material wealth. This is a hard lesson for most people to learn. If this is your struggle, then try to take on the eternal perspective. Try to look beyond the temporary stability and pleasures that come from accumulating earthly wealth, so that you will see the eternal riches that come from seeking God alone. Everything in this world will one day pass away. In the light of that fact, recommit yourself to the embrace of God’s riches by loving others through every injustice you encounter in life.

Most merciful Lord, You endured the greatest injustice ever known. But in the face of that injustice, You offered mercy and the gift of salvation, transforming that injustice into the greatest act of love ever offered. Help me to imitate Your merciful heart and to see injustice, poverty, and every difficulty I encounter as an opportunity to turn more fully to You. Jesus, I trust in You.


Come With Your Fears

Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time (Year A)

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.”  Matthew 14:27–29

Peter and the other disciples were frightened. They were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, the wind was strong, and the waves were crashing. This scene took place “during the fourth watch of the night,” which meant the time was early in the morning, between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m., when it was still dark. Jesus had been alone on a mountain praying during that night and now came walking on the water toward the disciples. When they saw our Lord, they cried out, “It is a ghost!” But then Jesus spoke the words quoted above to them, calming them and calling them to courage and trust.

Imagine yourself being with the disciples as Jesus approached. How would you react? Would you, too, be filled with fear? Perhaps it is best to answer that question from two perspectives. One is from the perspective of our fallen human nature. The other comes from the perspective of Truth. First, from the perspective of our fallen human nature, there are many things in this life that tempt us to fear. Therefore, this Gospel passage should be seen as a prophetic action of our Lord by which He tells you that He wants to come to you and meet you in your fears. What is it that gives you the most fear in your life right now? Oftentimes fear has to do with the future and the unknown. What if this or that were to happen? Fear ultimately results from a lack of faith in God and His protective care.

The second perspective from which we might see this passage is that of the full Truth. The truth is that the disciples not only had no need to fear, they actually had every reason to rejoice and be at peace. While on that boat, in the middle of the sea, in the middle of the night, during strong winds, it was God Himself, the Great I AM, Who was coming to protect them, care for them, and lead them safely to shore. Jesus’ “it is I” could actually be translated more literally “I AM” in reference to Jesus’ divinity.

The last word in the passage quoted above is what Jesus speaks to all of us when we fall into fear and worry. Jesus says, “Come.” This word is a command and is a word spoken to you. It’s a good word to prayerfully meditate upon and hear spoken to you during every struggle and fear you endure.

Reflect, today, upon this Gospel passage and try to insert yourself into it. See the waves, wind, and darkness as symbols of whatever it is that troubles you the most. As you do, close your eyes and see Jesus, the Great I AM, coming to you. Gaze at Him and hear Him tell you to trust Him. Hear Him say to you, “Come.” Peter initially trusted and began to walk on water when he came to Jesus, but he quickly allowed his fear to set in and took his eyes off Jesus. As soon as he did, he began to sink. Turn your eyes to Jesus, keep them firmly fixed on Him, ignore the temptations in life that lead you to fear, and trust in God. He commands you to do so out of love.

My saving Lord, You are God, the Great I AM, the Creator, Ruler and King of all. You and You alone are worthy of all my trust, dear Lord. When I struggle in life and allow fear to overwhelm me, please call to me and give me the wisdom and courage I need to fix my eyes firmly upon You and to come to You without faltering. Jesus, I trust in You.


Giving What You Receive

Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time (Years B&C)

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full. Matthew 14:19–20

An important aspect of this miracle that is easy to miss is that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes through His disciples’ instrumentality. He did this by inviting them to assist in the distribution of the loaves and in the gathering of the fragments left over. This reveals that God often uses us as mediators of His superabundant graces given to others. Though God could pour forth His mercy directly, most often He does so through others.

As you ponder this miracle, try to see yourself as one of the disciples who was invited to distribute the bread to the people. If you were there and were hungry and then were given bread, you would be tempted to eat the bread yourself before giving any away. But Jesus gave the bread to His hungry disciples with the instruction to first give it to others.

Sometimes, when God calls us to give His mercy to others, we become selfish. It’s easy to think that we must first take care of ourselves and our own needs. We erroneously believe that we can only offer mercy to others after our needs are met. Imagine, for example, if upon receiving the bread from Jesus the disciples would have decided that they should eat of it first. Then, if there was anything extra, they could give it to others. Had they done this, the superabundance of the multiplication of the loaves would not have happened. In the end, the disciples themselves received a superabundance of food—precisely because they first gave away what they had received.

Spiritually speaking, the same is true with us. When we receive spiritual nourishment from our Lord, our first thought must be to give it away. We must first see all that we receive from God as an opportunity to bestow those blessings upon others. This is the nature of grace. For example, if we are given a sense of peace or joy within our hearts, we must realize that this peace or joy we receive is a gift that must be immediately offered to others. If we are given a spiritual insight into the Scriptures, this is given to us first and foremost to share with others. Every gift we receive from God must be understood as a gift given to us so that we can immediately share it with others. The good news is that when we seek to give away that which we have received, more is given to us and, in the end, we will be far richer.

Reflect, today, upon the action of the disciples receiving this food from our Lord and immediately giving it away. See yourself in this miracle, and see the bread as a symbol of every grace you receive from God. What have you received that God wants you to distribute to others? Are there graces you have received that you selfishly try to hold onto? The nature of grace is that it is given to give it to others. Seek to do this with every spiritual gift you receive, and you will find that the graces multiply to the point that you receive more than you could ever imagine.

Most generous Lord, You pour forth Your grace and mercy in superabundance. As I receive all that You bestow, please fill my heart with generosity so that I will never hesitate to offer Your mercy to others. Please use me as Your instrument, dear Lord, so that, through me, You may abundantly feed others. Jesus, I trust in You.


Hear and Understand!

Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They do not wash their hands when they eat a meal.” He summoned the crowd and said to them, “Hear and understand…”  Matthew 15:1–2, 10

This passage from the Lectionary omits verses 3–9, in which Jesus first addresses the Pharisees. Instead, today’s Gospel is arranged in such a way as to present the criticism of the Pharisees and then turn to Jesus’ response to the crowds. In a very real way, Jesus’ response to the Pharisees was not nearly as important as was His response to the crowds. This is because the Pharisees were hard of heart and sought only to condemn Jesus. The crowds, however, were very interested in the truth.

Jesus’ initial direction to the crowds is very useful for us to ponder. “Hear and understand,” He said. It was clear that the Pharisees heard Jesus, but it was also clear that they did not understand. Of course, this was not because they lacked the intelligence to understand. It was because the spiritual Gift of Understanding was not something that could be received by human intelligence alone. Understanding comes only by the grace of God, revealing the Truth to our minds and enabling us to comprehend His holy will.

In our lives, we should each humbly acknowledge that we often are more like the Pharisees than we want to admit. We might listen to sermons at Mass, read the Gospels, and even pray aloud to God, but at the same time fail to allow what we have heard to penetrate our understanding by divine grace.

When a person is truly open to all that God wants to speak to them, and therefore, when they are given the spiritual gift of Understanding, there is another gift that accompanies that understanding: the gift of Fortitude. Understanding works on the mind while Fortitude works on the will, giving us courage to act on what God has spoken. Therefore, Jesus’ statement, “Hear and understand,” not only implies that we must open ourselves to this spiritual gift within our minds, but that we must also courageously act on what God speaks to us.

Reflect, today, on whether you tend to be like the Pharisees. Perhaps you are not angry and hostile like they were, but if you honestly look within your own soul, you might find that you lack the spiritual gift of Understanding, just as they did. As you ponder this question, consider it from the perspective of your courage and your actions. Do you firmly follow the will of God in all things? Are you zealous about discovering God’s will and courageous enough to act upon it with quickness and determination? Listen to those words spoken by our Lord as if He were speaking them only to you: “Hear and understand.” Give Him your full attention and be ready to act on whatever He chooses to say to you this day.

My commanding Lord, You and You alone are worthy of my complete attention in life. You and You alone have the words of eternal life. This day, I choose You and Your will, dear Lord. Please speak to me Your holy will, open my mind to understand, and give me the courage I need to quickly and completely respond to all that You say. Jesus, I trust in You.


Come With Your Fears

Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time (Years B&C)

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.”  Matthew 14:27–29

Peter and the other disciples were frightened. They were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, the wind was strong, and the waves were crashing. This scene took place “during the fourth watch of the night,” which meant the time was early in the morning, between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m., when it was still dark. Jesus had been alone on a mountain praying during that night and now came walking on the water toward the disciples. When they saw our Lord, they cried out, “It is a ghost!” But then Jesus spoke the words quoted above to them, calming them and calling them to courage and trust.

Imagine yourself being with the disciples as Jesus approached. How would you react? Would you, too, be filled with fear? Perhaps it is best to answer that question from two perspectives. One is from the perspective of our fallen human nature. The other comes from the perspective of Truth. First, from the perspective of our fallen human nature, there are many things in this life that tempt us to fear. Therefore, this Gospel passage should be seen as a prophetic action of our Lord by which He tells you that He wants to come to you and meet you in your fears. What is it that gives you the most fear in your life right now? Oftentimes fear has to do with the future and the unknown. What if this or that were to happen? Fear ultimately results from a lack of faith in God and His protective care.

The second perspective from which we might see this passage is that of the full Truth. The truth is that the disciples not only had no need to fear, they actually had every reason to rejoice and be at peace. While on that boat, in the middle of the sea, in the middle of the night, during strong winds, it was God Himself, the Great I AM, Who was coming to protect them, care for them, and lead them safely to shore. Jesus’ “it is I” could actually be translated more literally “I AM” in reference to Jesus’ divinity.

The last word in the passage quoted above is what Jesus speaks to all of us when we fall into fear and worry. Jesus says, “Come.” This word is a command and is a word spoken to you. It’s a good word to prayerfully meditate upon and hear spoken to you during every struggle and fear you endure.

Reflect, today, upon this Gospel passage and try to insert yourself into it. See the waves, wind, and darkness as symbols of whatever it is that troubles you the most. As you do, close your eyes and see Jesus, the Great I AM, coming to you. Gaze at Him and hear Him tell you to trust Him. Hear Him say to you, “Come.” Peter initially trusted and began to walk on water when he came to Jesus, but he quickly allowed his fear to set in and took his eyes off Jesus. As soon as he did, he began to sink. Turn your eyes to Jesus, keep them firmly fixed on Him, ignore the temptations in life that lead you to fear, and trust in God. He commands you to do so out of love.

My saving Lord, You are God, the Great I AM, the Creator, Ruler and King of all. You and You alone are worthy of all my trust, dear Lord. When I struggle in life and allow fear to overwhelm me, please call to me and give me the wisdom and courage I need to fix my eyes firmly upon You and to come to You without faltering. Jesus, I trust in You.


Perseverance in Humble Faith

Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. Matthew 15:21–23

The district of Tyre and Sidon was non-Jewish territory. The people there were said to have been descendants of Cain, the son of Adam and Eve who killed his brother, Abel, and was banished. He and his descendants settled in the area of Tyre and Sidon and were not heirs to the faith given through Abraham, Moses and the prophets, making them Gentiles. Jesus and His disciples traveled about 40 miles by foot to this district from Galilee to flee Herod and the Pharisees who were seeking to kill Him. While there, Jesus intended to keep a low profile, but word of His presence spread, and this Canaanite woman came to Him to beg that He heal her daughter.

At first, it is surprising that Jesus remained silent. She came to Him with deep faith and trust, and He did not answer her at first. His disciples wanted her to stop bothering them, and Jesus Himself eventually responded to her stating that His mission during His public ministry was to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” meaning, to the Jews. Of course, later Jesus would expand His mission entrusted to the Apostles to include the Gentiles. But at first, Jesus’ mission was to the descendants of Abraham.

As we read this story today, it is clear that it was by God’s providence that this woman came to Jesus as she did. The Father drew her to Him, and Jesus participated in this discourse, not to be rude or dismissive but to allow her to manifest a faith that was clearly lacking in the lives of many.

In our lives, at times God seems silent. But if He is silent, we must know that it is for good reason. God never ignores us; rather, His silence is a way of drawing us even closer to Himself than if He were to be immediately “loud and clear,” so to speak. Silence from God is not necessarily a sign of His disfavor. It’s often a sign of His purifying action drawing us to a much fuller manifestation of our faith.

As for the Gentile woman, unlike many of the Jews, she manifested a faith in the fact that Jesus was the Messiah. This is evident by her calling Him “Son of David.” Her trust in Jesus’ ability to heal her daughter was expressed in very simple and clear words. She didn’t need to present herself as worthy of His help, because her trust in Him was all that was needed. Furthermore, she persevered in her prayer. First, Jesus is silent. Then, His disciples try to dismiss her. And then, Jesus gives the appearance of refusing her request. All of this results not in her discouragement but in perseverance and hope. And that hope was also extraordinarily humble. Jesus’ goal of allowing her to deepen her faith and manifesting it for all to see was accomplished.

Reflect, today, upon the qualities of this woman’s prayer. Try to imitate her by first acknowledging the truth of Who Jesus is. He is the Messiah, the Son of David, the Savior of the World, God Incarnate and so much more. Calling Jesus’ true identity to mind is a wonderful way to begin to pray. From there, make your prayer simple, clear and humble. Don’t present your wants, present your needs. What do you need from the Savior of the World? Of course God knows what we need more than we do, but asking is an act of trust, so do so. Lastly, persevere. Do not get discouraged in prayer. Be fervent, relentless and unwavering. Humble yourself before the almighty power and mercy of God and do so without ceasing and God will always answer your prayer in accord with His holy will.

My Saving Lord, You are truly the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of God. You and You alone deserve all honor, glory and praise. As I come to know You as You are, please fill me with a deep trust and unwavering faith in You. May I persevere through all things and never cease to put all my hope in You. Jesus, I trust in You.


Facing Fear with Hope

Thursday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord!  No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Matthew 16:22–23

What a shocking statement this must have been that was spoken by Jesus to Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus said. In the paragraph before this, Peter professed that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus in turn told Peter that he was Petros and on this petra He would build His Church. Petros is the Greek word for a movable rock and petra was an immovable solid rock foundation. Thus, Peter was told that he would be the stone, set upon a solid foundation, by which Jesus would build His Church. Jesus even went on to promise Peter that he would receive the keys to the Kingdom and that whatever he bound on earth would be bound in Heaven. And then, one paragraph later, Jesus rebukes Peter for thinking “not as God” but as a human being.

Jesus rebuked Peter because Peter could not accept Jesus’ teaching about His coming passion and death. Jesus told Peter and the other disciples that He would soon suffer greatly, be rejected by the chief priest, the scribes and the elders, be killed and then rise on the third day. So Peter went from a profound proclamation of faith, to fear and a rejection of the divine plan of salvation. And for that reason, Jesus went from entrusting much authority to Peter to rebuking him for his weakness and fear.

Fear is often a paralyzing passion. Saint Thomas Aquinas explains that the passion of fear comes from a perceived future evil. Sorrow is the normal reaction to a present suffering such as the death of a loved one. But when the perceived suffering, or apparent evil, is something that has not yet come, then we often react with fear. When that fear is caused by something exterior and out of our control, it tempts us to feel shock, a sense of being overwhelmed and anxiety. In the case of Peter, the thought of Jesus suffering greatly, and being killed, was more than he was able to accept. So Peter says, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”

Jesus’ rebuke of Peter was an act of true love. It was a way of shaking him free from the paralysis of fear. Jesus wanted Peter to think clearly and to face this future suffering with courage, acceptance, hope and faith. Courage provides strength. Acceptance cures anxiety. Hope produces joy. And faith is the remedy for all fear. These and other similar virtues were necessary if Peter and the other disciples were going to be able to endure the suffering and passion of Jesus. They needed to know that this perceived evil was going to be transformed by the Father in Heaven and used for the greatest good the world had ever known. They needed to know that Jesus “must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly…” It was the Father’s will. And because it was the Father’s will, the greatest good would come from the greatest evil because of God’s almighty power.

Reflect, today, upon that which causes you the most fear and anxiety in your life. When you look to the future, what is it that paralyzes you or at least tempts you to fear and worry? The truth is that any evil or suffering that you foresee has the potential to bring forth the greatest good in your life. Your natural human mind cannot discern this. We must strive to think as God, not as humans, as Jesus says. Try to look at anything that causes you anxiety through the eyes of God alone. Trust that, in faith, all can be used by God for good. Do not doubt but believe and God will begin to bestow upon you the many virtues you need to move forward with peace, courage and confidence.

My suffering Lord, You faced the evil You endured with the utmost courage and love. You never gave in to fear but pressed on, fulfilling the Father’s will. Give me the grace I need to share in Your strength so as to overcome all that tempts me to fear. I love You, my Lord. May I rely upon You for all things. Jesus, I trust in You.


Purifying Worldly Desires

Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

“What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?” Matthew 16:26

Would you like to “gain the whole world?” Many people daydream about becoming exceptionally rich and being able to purchase everything they ever wanted. Others dream of doing heroic acts that thrust them into the public spotlight and lead to public admiration. Still, others dream of having great power in this world and being a person of great importance. Though none of these are bad in and of themselves, the inordinate desire for them will damage your relationship with God. And when one of these desires becomes the dominant and all-consuming desire within, the result is that you forfeit your eternal soul.

When we speak of the “world,” we can understand different things. First, this is a reference to all the material things of this world—for example, the best of food and drink, self-indulgence, fleshly pleasures, material wealth, and all that is temporary and passing in this life. Second, the “world” can refer to pride and desire for attention and praise. This is when we become consumed with concern about what others think and say about us. Third, the “world” can refer to the desire for power so as to insert our own will. At a very high level, this is often the cause of wars among countries. One leader has a desire for domination and control. This desire for power and control can also affect each person within any part of that person’s life, including family, friends, work, social circles, etc.

The common thread among all three of these examples of worldly desires is the deception that obtaining more of them will satisfy you. Though they may satisfy you in a temporal and passing way, these desires will also have the effect of destroying your soul. This is because we have to choose. Either we seek to satiate the spiritual yearning of our souls, or we will seek to satiate ourselves with the passing promises of the world. We cannot have both.

It should be noted that obtaining wealth, being publicly praised, or being put in a position of power is not evil in and of itself. In fact, any one of these offers potential for good. The problem arises when a person seeks one of these worldly desires for selfish reasons and under the delusion that it will provide fulfillment. Truth be told, any one of those situations imposes a true cross on the person who is seeking to serve God alone. The responsibility that comes with wealth, prestige, or power is real. Therefore, when one or more of these are obtained, they must be handled with detachment and humility.

For example, if one becomes quite wealthy, the precept to live spiritually detached from material things still remains. Thus, in this case, material wealth poses a certain burden in the form of temptation. While this temptation certainly can be overcome and wealth can be used for good, the danger is real and must be regularly acknowledged. Or, if you are praised by many for something you did, or if you are given much responsibility and authority over others, humility and detachment must also increase so that God and God alone remains the single object of your desire.

Reflect, today, upon your desires. What do you want in life? Do you want to “gain the whole world?” Do you desire to gain even some of the worldly ambitions? If so, be careful. Reflect honestly upon your interior desires and work to purify them so that you desire God’s will alone. Once that happens, it will not matter to you if you are rich or poor, publicly praised or criticized, entrusted with earthly power or not. All that will matter is that you use all for the glory of God, in accord with His perfect and fulfilling will.

Most glorious God, Your will is perfect and is the one and only source of fulfillment in life. Please purify my soul of all desires pertaining only to this world. May my one and only desire in life be the fulfillment of Your holy will so that all I have will only be used for Your glory. Jesus, I trust in You.


Doing the Unimaginable

Saturday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:19–20

A man came up to Jesus, fell on his knees before Him and begged Jesus to cure his son who was possessed by a demon. The man explained that Jesus’ disciples had tried to cast the demon out, but they could not do so. Jesus’ initial response to the man was, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?” But then Jesus had the boy brought to Him, and He cast the demon out.

The line quoted above reveals the conversation that immediately followed between Jesus and His disciples who failed to cast out the demon. It was because of their lack of faith that they were not able to do so. It should be noted that Jesus reacts firmly with a rebuke to this lack of faith as a way of emphasizing the importance of having a more pure faith.

Is it true that if you were to have “faith the size of a mustard seed” that you would be able to move a mountain? Yes, most certainly. But this statement must be carefully understood. First of all, we can only have “faith” in that which is in the mind and will of God. Faith is a response to that which God speaks to us. We listen, understand and believe. This is faith. Faith is not just believing in something so strongly that we try to will it to happen. Thus, if God truly wanted a mountain to be uprooted and moved, and He spoke this to you asking you to do it, then if you listened to His Voice and responded with complete trust, then it would happen. But, of course, the glory of God is not fulfilled by moving a literal mountain, so it is very unlikely that this would ever be done through the gift of faith.

But Jesus speaks this to His disciples and to us to assure us that we must listen, understand and believe all that He says. In the case of the curing of the boy with the demon, it is clear that it was the will of God that the disciples cast the demon out. But they failed to believe and, therefore, were unable to bring forth God’s will through their faith.

As for moving mountains, this happens on a figurative and spiritual level all the time. Any time God works in our lives in a supernatural way, or any time God uses us to work in another’s life in a supernatural way, much more than a “mountain” is moved. From an eternal perspective, what is more glorious and what gives God greater glory? To literally move a mountain? Or to be changed by grace and to be interiorly transformed by God so as to give Him eternal glory? And what is more impressive? To be able to defy the laws of physics in a way that comes and goes in an instant, or to be used to change someone’s soul for eternity? Without question, being used by God to bring transformation to another’s soul for eternity is of infinitely greater magnitude.

Reflect, today, upon the importance of listening to the Voice of God and responding with complete obedience and love. This is faith. What “mountain” does God want to move in your life? What transformation does He want to perform? Listen to Him and believe with every fiber of your being. As you do, God will not only do unimaginable things in your life, but through you, He will do unimaginable things in the lives of others.

My saving Lord, You have done incredible things in the lives of so many. You have transformed souls and recreated them in Your mercy. Please bestow upon me the gift of faith so that I will hear Your Voice and respond with the utmost generosity and belief. Use me, dear Lord, to also become an instrument of Your unimaginable grace in the lives of others. Jesus, I trust in You.

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