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Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, August 6
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Mark 9:5–7
Just prior to the Transfiguration, Jesus began to reveal to His disciples that He would suffer greatly, be rejected by the elders, be killed and then rise on the third day. This caused much fear for the disciples as they grappled with this unsettling revelation from our Lord. And even though Jesus remained firm with them and even rebuked Peter for his fear, Jesus also gave three of His disciples a very precious gift.
After much traveling, preaching, miracle working and private conversations about His passion with the Twelve, Jesus invited Peter, James and John to go with Him up a high mountain to pray. These disciples most likely had no idea what they would soon encounter. As they made the difficult and arduous journey, their minds must have been pondering not only the mighty deeds done by Jesus in the previous months but also His words about the suffering to come. As they struggled with this, much to their amazement, Jesus “was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white.” Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared before them, representing the Law and the prophets. These two Old Testament figures appeared as a way of saying to these disciples that everything that Jesus was telling them was to take place to fulfill all that had been foretold about Him from of old. Perhaps Jesus thought that if His disciples would not fully listen to Him, then seeing Moses and Elijah would help. But Jesus went even further. The Voice of the Father Himself thundered and said, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Thus, if these disciples would not ultimately listen to Jesus alone, or if even Moses and Elijah failed to convince them, then the last hope was the Father Himself. And Jesus delivered such a grace.
The Transfiguration was a true mercy. These disciples had never seen anything like it before. But it was most likely this act of mercy that ultimately helped them to accept the hard truth that Jesus was trying to teach them about His coming suffering and death. If the Father in Heaven Personally gave witness to Jesus, then everything that Jesus had said was trustworthy.
As we read through the Gospels and the many teachings God has given us through the Church, think about whether there are some teachings with which you struggle? Or in your own life, on a personal level, are there some things you know God wants of you but you find it difficult to accept? When confusion sets in, that means we are not listening, are not fully hearing what God is saying to us or are not understanding. And though we will not see the Transfigured Lord with our eyes and hear the Voice of the Father with our ears as these three disciples did, we must choose to believe all that God has said as if it were the Transfigured Lord, with Moses and Elijah, and the Father Himself speaking clearly and directly to us. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Those words were not only spoken for the good of the disciples, they are also spoken to us.
Reflect, today, upon this powerful experience given to these disciples by our Lord. Try to place yourself in the scene so as to witness Jesus transfigured in the most glorious way, with Moses and Elijah and with the thundering Voice of the Father. Allow the Father to speak also to you, telling you that all He has spoken through the Scriptures, the Church and within your own conscience is true. Allow this revelation to convince you on the deepest level to acknowledge not only the divinity of Jesus but also to “Listen to Him” in every way.
My transfigured Lord, You are glorious beyond imagination, and You revealed a small glimpse of this glory to Your disciples to help them trust You more fully. May I also trust in You more completely, knowing that all You have spoken to me is true. Please remove any doubt and fear in my life so that nothing keeps me from embracing Your holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Loss of All and the Gain of More
Feast of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, August 10
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. John 12:25
This is one of the many powerful and even shocking statements of Jesus. A similar statement by Jesus is found in all four of the Gospels. In this, John’s version, the words “love” and “hate” are used. By loving our lives we lose them, but by hating our lives we preserve them. At first read, one may think that those words “love” and “hate” were accidentally reversed. One might conclude that what Jesus meant to say was, “Whoever hates his life loses it” and “whoever loves his life preserves it.” But that’s not what He said. He did in fact say the opposite.
It must be understood that the words “love” and “hate” here are not used in the way we normally use them. In this passage, Jesus is using the word “love” to refer to selfishness or self-centeredness. And He uses the word “hate” to refer to selflessness or sacrificial self-giving. In other words, whoever is selfish in life will lose everything in the end but the one who is truly selfless and self-giving in life will ultimately gain everything.
This profound teaching of our Lord is difficult to comprehend without the gift of grace. Our human reason alone may struggle with the idea that selfless living is good. It is easy to rationally conclude that it is far better to elevate ourselves before everyone. The rational mind might conclude that happiness and the “good life” is found in obtaining riches, status, power and the respect of all. But this form of selfish self-centered living, though tempting on a purely human level, is actually the path to losing everything that is truly good. On the contrary, it is only when we allow God’s grace to inform our human reason that we will arrive at the conclusion that being selfless rather than selfish is what’s best. To be selfless means our eyes are always turned to the good of the other. It means we do not sit and dwell on ourselves. It means we are fully committed to the service of God and our neighbor no matter the cost to us. We must give everything away in the service and love of God and that is the only way by which God gives back to us more than we could ever hope for.
Saint Lawrence, whom we honor today, was a deacon and martyr in the third century. This great saint literally gave up everything, including his very life, so as to say “Yes” to God. As a deacon in the Cathedral Church in Rome, he was entrusted with the task of distributing alms to the indigent people in need. In August of the year 258, the Emperor issued an edict stating that all clergy were to be put to death. After the pope was killed, they came for Lawrence and, before killing him, asked him to turn over all the riches of the Church. He asked for three days to gather those treasures, and, during those three days, he distributed all he could to the poor. Then, on the third day, he presented himself before the prefect and brought with him not the material wealth of the Church but the true wealth. He brought the poor, crippled, blind and suffering and declared that the Church was truly rich and that the people with him were the Church’s true treasures. The prefect, in anger, sentenced Lawrence to death by fire, to which Lawrence freely submitted.
Reflect, today, upon the high Christian calling you have been given to live a life that is completely selfless and self-giving in every way. If you find that you dwell on yourself most often, then try to change that habit. Turn your eyes to God and the service of others. Try to care more about the needs of those around you than your own concerns. Do so because this is what Jesus calls us to do, and, if He calls us to such a selfless life, then we must know and believe that it is worth it in the end.
My sacrificial Lord, You gave Your precious life away to all out of love. The total self-giving of Your life resulted in the salvation of those who will accept this glorious gift. Help me to not only open myself to this freely given gift of Yours but to also imitate Your selfless life by giving myself in service of You and others. Saint Lawrence, deacon and martyr, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Assumption of the Mother of God
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his Name.” Luke 1:46–49
Today we celebrate one of seventeen different memorials, feasts and solemnities in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary that are found on the Roman Liturgical Calendar. Today’s celebration is one of the four great Solemnities by which our Blessed Mother is honored. Obviously, no other person other than our Lord is honored and celebrated with as much solemnity as the Mother of God.
The Solemnity of the Assumption honors the fact that when the Blessed Virgin Mary completed her life on earth, she was taken body and soul into Heaven to be with her resurrected Son so as to adore the Most Holy Trinity forever. It’s an amazing fact to consider that she retains her body and soul, united as one in Heaven, in anticipation of that glorious day when the new Heavens and Earth will be created and when all the faithful will rise so as to live in a new bodily form forever with God.
Though this dogma of our faith had been held and believed by the faithful from the earliest times of our Church, especially since it was witnessed by those closest to our Blessed Mother at the time of her glorious Assumption, it wasn’t until November 1, 1950, that Pope Pius XII solemnly proclaimed it to be so, raising this teaching of our faith to the level of a dogma, meaning, it must be held and believed by all. In part, the Holy Father declared, “…we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
The Gospel passage quoted above comes from the beginning of Mary’s song of praise, her Magnificat, by which she not only gives the greatest glory to God but also reveals who she is. She is the one whom “all generations” will call “blessed.” She is the one for whom “the Almighty has done great things.” She is the one who will eternally proclaim “the greatness of the Lord” and whose spirit will forever rejoice in God her Savior. And she is that lowliest of servants whom God has raised up to the greatest glory.
Reflect, today, with the whole Church, upon the Most Glorious Ever-Virgin Mary who was conceived without sin, remained sinless throughout her life, and was taken body and soul into Heaven where she now adores the Most Holy Trinity and intercedes for you and for the whole Church. This is a Solemnity of great rejoicing! Share in this joy with the whole Church and with all the saints in Heaven!
Most glorious and Ever-Virgin Mary, I rejoice today with you and with the whole Church for the most glorious things that God has done for you. You are beauty beyond beauty, Immaculate in every way, and worthy of our deepest love. As you now share body and soul in the glories of Heaven, please pray for me and for all your dear children on earth. Cover us with your mantle of love and pour forth the mercy of God upon us always. Mother Mary, assumed into Heaven, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Faith of Bartholomew
Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle, August 24
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 1:45–46
Nathanael, who also goes by the name Bartholomew, reacted strongly to the news from his friend Philip that they had found the promised Messiah. Why did Nathanael react this way? Most likely because it was common knowledge among the Jews that the promised Messiah would come from Bethlehem, not from Nazareth. So Nathanael immediately raises this doubt because of Jesus’ supposed origin. Of course, Jesus actually was born in Bethlehem and only later moved to Nazareth, but Nathanael did not immediately realize this.
The first lesson to ponder today is that, just like Nathanael, we can easily doubt matters of faith because we do not fully understand. Perhaps if Philip had come and said that Jesus was born in Bethlehem but raised in Nazareth, then Nathanael may have been more immediately open. But this encounter most likely unfolded as it did, with Nathanael’s initial doubt, because the Holy Spirit, Who inspired these Scriptures, wanted us to learn an important lesson. The lesson we must learn is that we must not close the door on the Truth just because something doesn’t immediately make sense to us. Doubts are never from God. The good news in this Gospel passage is that, even though Nathanael did immediately express a certain doubt, he remained open to what Philip was saying. Philip, in answer to this doubt, said the best thing he could have said. He said, “Come and see.”
What is it in your life that seems confusing to you in regard to your life or in regard to the many truths of our faith? If there is something that you struggle with in this way, then listen to the words of Philip and allow them to be spoken to you: “Come and see.”
Once Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus, Nathanael quickly professed his full faith in Jesus as the “Son of God” and the “King of Israel.” Jesus said very little to Nathanael to convince him of these truths. Jesus simply told Nathanael that he had seen him sitting under the fig tree and that He knew that Nathanael was a man without guile. To be without guile means that you are not two-faced; rather, you are a very honest and straightforward person. Nathanael’s immediate realization of the greatness of Jesus could have only come by the gift of grace working in his soul. He came to see Jesus and believed through the interior gift of faith.
The lesson of Nathanael tells us that if we bring our confusion to our Lord in faith and openness, all will be made clear. We will have our temptations to doubt removed, and we will be able to have faith that goes far beyond human reason alone.
Reflect, today, upon the genuineness and openness of the heart of Nathanael. Bring to our Lord any and every question you have with the expectation that you will receive what you need. Faith does not usually come through convincing arguments or detailed deductive reasoning. It normally comes through a pure and simple openness to the Voice of God speaking within our soul. But when the gift of faith is given, it brings with it a holy certainty that cannot be doubted.
My loving Lord, You invite all of us to come to You, to see You and to have faith in You. You truly are the Son of God and the King of all. Please open my mind to all that You wish to say to me so that I may shed my doubts and come to a transforming faith in all things. Jesus, I trust in You.
Fidelity in Suffering
Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist, August 29
Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Mark 6:17–19
The suffering and death of Saint John the Baptist greatly parallels the suffering and death of Jesus. They were cousins. John was one of the first to acknowledge the divine presence of our Lord when he leaped for joy in the womb of his mother during the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. John lived a holy and simple life, embracing His mission to prepare the way for the Lord. He was the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets. Of him, Jesus said that there was no one born of woman who was greater than John. For these reasons, we should not be the least bit surprised that John’s suffering and death parallelled and prefigured the death of the Savior of the World.
Herod was fearful of John, believing him to be a holy man of God. He imprisoned him with a certain regret, knowing that he was innocent. Similarly, before Pilate condemned Jesus to death, he found Him not guilty of any crime. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent but allowed fear to direct his choice to condemn our Lord.
John was ultimately killed because of the hatred and plotting of Herodias, the unlawful wife of Herod. It was Herodias’ anger that became a weapon, forcing Herod to put John to death. Similarly, it was the jealousy and anger of the religious leaders at that time that instigated and drove the death of Jesus. Pilate, like Herod, was at first unwilling to condemn our Lord. But the relentless hatred of the scribes and Pharisees compelled Pilate to condemn Jesus, just as it was Herodias’ hatred that compelled Herod to kill John.
After John’s death, some of his disciples came to carry his body away for burial. This was permitted by Herod, perhaps because of his feelings of guilt. So also with our Lord, Pilate permitted some disciples and the holy women to carry Jesus’ dead body to the tomb for burial.
In the end, the good fruit of Jesus’ death infinitely overshadowed the crime that was committed against Him. So also with John. We can be certain that, as a martyr, the blood he shed as a witness to Christ bore spiritual fruit that surpassed all he had done in his public ministry.
Each of us is called to imitate our Lord and, therefore, should also take inspiration from Saint John the Baptist. They both were innocent but suffered greatly. They both spoke the truth, despite the hatred of some. They both gave their lives, in accord with the Father’s plan. Jesus was John’s Savior; John was but a precursor and servant of our Lord.
Reflect, today, upon the invitation God has given to you to imitate the life of John the Baptist by uniting yourself to his Lord. The first form of imitation will take place when you commit yourself to the proclamation of the truth in accord with your mission. What mission has God given to you? How is He calling you to proclaim the Gospel with courage, strength, determination and fidelity to the end? Reflect, also, upon the injustice inflicted first upon John and then upon our Lord. As you do, try to look at any injustice you have received in life in the light of John’s and Jesus’ lives. They did not run away from injustice. They embraced it as a sacrifice and offered it to the Father in Heaven. Jesus’ Sacrifice brought forth the Salvation of the World; John’s was but a sharing in that glorious offering. Make your offering with them, and do not hesitate to do so with deep love and trust in the Father’s plan.
Most glorious Lord, You invited Saint John the Baptist to prepare the way for Your coming and Your death. He gave his life as a martyr, and this sacrifice bore an abundance of good fruit. Please give me the grace to walk in his footsteps by faithfully fulfilling my mission in life with courage and strength. May I never waver in the face of injustice so that I can embrace it and make it my spiritual offering to You. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Birth of the Mother of God
Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, September 8
“Joseph, son of David, 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
Today we celebrate one of the most consequential birthdays in the history of the world! Certainly, the only birthday more important is that of our divine Lord Himself. But today we honor His mother, and our mother, too.
The Blessed Virgin Mary was born into our world without the stain of original sin. She was preserved from experiencing fallen human nature through the gift of her Immaculate Conception. Thus, she was the first to be born in the perfection of human nature after the fall, and she continued to experience this grace throughout her life, responding to God with her free will every step of the way.
All of us enjoy celebrating our birthdays. Children especially love it, but most everyone looks forward to that special day each year when family and friends honor them and celebrate them in a special way. For that reason, we can be assured that even our Blessed Mother loved her birthday while here on earth and continues to enjoy this special celebration in Heaven. Of course, she did not enjoy her birthday because she wanted to be pampered or given special attention. She, perhaps more than anyone other than her divine Son, rejoiced on her birthday because of the deep spiritual gratitude she had to God for all that He did in her life.
Try to ponder the heart and soul of our Blessed Mother from her perspective. She would have been intimately united to each person of the Most Holy Trinity throughout her life. She would have known God, living in her soul, and would have been in awe of what God had done to her. She would have pondered these graces with deep humility and exceptional gratitude. She would have seen her soul and mission from the perspective of God, keenly aware of all that He had done for her.
As we honor the birthday of our Blessed Mother, it’s also an important opportunity for each of us to ponder the incredible blessings that God has bestowed upon each one of us. No, we are not Immaculate as Mother Mary was. We were each born into original sin and have sinned throughout our lives. But the blessings of grace, given to each one of us, is exceptionally real. We only need to work to have the eyes to see these graces. Baptism, for example, bestows upon the soul an eternal transformation. Though our sin may cloud that transformation at times, the transformation is eternal. Our souls are changed. We are made new. Grace is poured into our hearts, and we become children of God. And for the soul who is able to perceive the countless other ways that God bestows blessings, gratitude is the only appropriate response.
Reflect, today, upon the glorious celebration of the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Begin by trying to rejoice in her life through her eyes. Try to imagine what she saw as she looked into her own graced soul. From there, try to rejoice, also, in your soul. Be grateful for all that God has done for you. Work to have eyes that see these countless graces and allow yourself to rejoice in God’s blessings with our Blessed Mother.
My dearest Mother, happy birthday! Today I rejoice in the incredible gift that God gave to you in your Immaculate Conception and birth into our world. I pray that I may honor you in a fitting way this day and to especially understand more clearly the beauty of your graced soul. Pray for me that I may also rejoice in the countless graces bestowed upon me by our merciful God. I love you, dear Mother. Precious Jesus, through the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I trust in You!
The Transforming Power of the Cross
Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16–17
If Jesus would never have given His life on a cross for the salvation of the world, then a cross would never have been seen in “exultation.” A cross, in and of itself, is an instrument of death, a horrific and violent death. It’s also an instrument of humiliation and torture. Yet, today, the Cross is seen as a holy and blessed object. We hang crosses in our homes, wear them around our neck, keep them in our pocket on the end of the rosary, and spend time in prayer before them. The Cross is now an exalted image by which we turn to God in prayer and surrender. But that is only the case because it was on a cross that we were saved and brought to eternal life.
If you step back and consider the amazing truth that one of the worst instruments of torture and death is now seen as one of the holiest of images on earth, it should be awe inspiring. Comprehending this fact should lead us to the realization that God can do anything and everything. God can use the worst and transform it into the best. He can use death to bring forth life.
Though our celebration today, the “Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross,” is first and foremost a feast by which we give glory to the Father for what He did in the Person of His divine Son, it is also a feast by which we must humbly understand that God can “exalt” every cross we endure in life and bring forth much grace through them.
What is your heaviest cross? What is the source of your greatest suffering? Most likely, as you call this to mind, it is painful to you. Most often, our crosses and sufferings are things we seek to rid ourselves of. We easily point to crosses in life and blame them for a lack of happiness. We can easily think that if only this or that were to change or be removed, then our life would be better. So what is that cross in your life?
The truth is that whatever your heaviest cross is, there is extraordinary potential for that cross to become an actual source of grace in your life and in the world. But this is only possible if you embrace that cross in faith and hope so that our Lord can unite it to His and so that your crosses can also share in the exaltation of Christ’s Cross. Though this is a profoundly deep mystery of faith, it is also a profoundly deep truth of our faith.
Reflect, today, upon your own crosses. As you do, try not to see them as a burden. Instead, realize the potential within those crosses. Prayerfully look at your crosses as invitations to share in Christ’s Cross. Say “Yes” to your crosses. Choose them freely. Unite them to Christ’s Cross. As you do, have hope that God’s glory will come forth in your life and in the world through your free embrace of them. Know that these “burdens” will be transformed and become a source of exaltation in your life by the transforming power of God.
My exalted Lord, I turn to You in my need and with the utmost faith in Your divine power to save. Please give me the grace I need to fully embrace every cross in my life with hope and faith in You. Please transform my crosses so that You will be exalted through them and so that they will become an instrument of Your glory and grace. Jesus, I trust in You.
Mother Mary’s Sorrowful Heart
Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. John 19:25
Our Blessed Mother, the Mother of the Son of God, loved her Son with a perfect love. She enfleshed every virtue to perfection. Her love for her Son was a love that was beyond what we could ever imagine. She conceived Him miraculously, bore Him in her womb, gave birth to Him, nursed Him, raised Him and loved Him throughout His life. It’s difficult to even imagine the depth and beauty of the love she had for Jesus. Generally speaking, a mother’s love is powerful, unwavering, deep and filled with tenderness. Try to imagine the Immaculate Heart of Mother Mary and the amazing depth of love alive in her heart.
Imagine also the scene depicted in the Gospel passage quoted above. This loving mother stood at the foot of the Cross, gazing upon her crucified Son, continuing to exude every motherly virtue. And because it’s hard to fathom the depth of her love for her Son, it’s also very hard to imagine the depth of sorrow and interior suffering she endured as she watched the cruelty toward Jesus unfold. All she could do in that moment was stand by Him and with Him in this moment of extreme agony. Her love was expressed, in that moment, by her fidelity to Him.
What’s beautiful to know is that love, sorrow, compassion and suffering were united as one within her Immaculate Heart. Within the beauty of her heart was every human emotion, fueled by God’s grace, enabling her to give to her Son the greatest gift she had: her motherhood. She was a true mother throughout her life, and, in this moment, as her Son hung on the Cross, her motherhood culminated in a perfect human expression.
We all long to be loved by another. To give and receive love is the greatest gift that we can give and receive. Love is what we were made for and is the source of our fulfillment in life. We can be certain that as Mother Mary stood at the foot of the Cross, her human heart experienced the greatest fulfillment ever known. Her heart was fulfilled because she exercised her motherly love to perfection.
Gaze upon the image of the Mother of God this day. Ponder, especially, all that she would have experienced within her human heart. Though theologians could write volumes on this meditation, the best way to understand her heart of love is through prayerful meditation. Ask our Blessed Mother to reveal her heart to you today. Find some time to sit in silent adoration of this holy image of perfect motherly love. As you do, know two things. First, know that Mother Mary has this same depth of love for you. Do not doubt it. Her heart burns with compassion as she gazes upon you, even in your sin. Second, know that our Blessed Mother’s love must also fill your heart and overflow into the lives of others. We all must allow her compassion, concern, fidelity and mercy to flow through our hearts. Who do you need to love with the heart of our Blessed Mother? Seek to receive the love in the heart of the Mother of God and seek to give that love. Receive it in and then allow it to flow forth. There is truly nothing in this world more beautiful and awe inspiring than the holy image of this love.
My Immaculate and Sorrowful Mother, you stood at the foot of the Cross of your Son with the perfection of a mother’s love. Your heart was filled with a sorrow that was mixed with every holy virtue. Pray for me that I may understand this love more fully, so that I may also open up my own heart to your love. As I do, I pray that I will become an instrument of the love in your heart toward those in my life who suffer and are in most need of tender compassion and mercy. Sorrowful Heart of Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
Seeking True Satisfaction
Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, September 21
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Matthew 9:11–13
Just prior to this passage quoted above, Jesus saw Matthew, a tax collector, sitting at his custom post collecting taxes. Jesus walked up to him and said two simple words: “Follow me.” What did Matthew do? He got up and followed Jesus and invited Him to his home for a meal. When the Pharisees saw this, they acted with judgment and cruelty. They said, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Their reaction and Jesus’ subsequent response to them says much about the goodness of our Lord.
When Jesus said that He “did not come to call the righteous but sinners,” He was not speaking of the truly righteous. For example, the most righteous person alive at that time, other than Jesus, was His dear mother. And we can be certain that not only did Jesus call her but that she always responded with her whole heart. However, Jesus was speaking of those who were “self-righteous.” A self-righteous person is one who thinks highly of themself, ignoring the truth of God but choosing, instead, to elevate their own image in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. Simply put, to be self-righteous is to believe a lie and, in fact, to believe the worst of lies. It’s the worst of lies because this sin has the effect of causing a person to remain obstinate and stuck in their sin. The self-righteous person does not see any need for repentance or change in their life. Therefore, they are not open to the Word of God and to allowing that Word to transform them.
Saint Matthew, whom we honor today, was different. He was a sinner indeed. Most likely he was greedy and overly attached to his money. Tax collectors were not highly regarded at that time because they were Jews who worked for the Romans and were, therefore, seen as traitors to their own people. Additionally, they were seen as thieves, because they often extorted more than they should receive so that they could pocket some of the money. For this reason, many Jews also feared the tax collectors because they knew the tax collectors had Rome’s support in this illicit activity.
What’s amazing is that Jesus approached Matthew, the sinner and tax collector, and confidently called him to be a follower. Most likely, Jesus could see into his heart. He knew Matthew was not happy with his life and was searching for more. Therefore, as soon as Jesus called him to follow Him, it is clear that something took place within Matthew’s soul. The fact that he got up and followed our Lord shows that the spiritual draw to Jesus was far more powerful than his desire for earthly wealth.
This same truth applies to each and every one of us. No matter what we find ourselves drawn to and no matter how we seek satisfaction in life, the supernatural truth is that there is only one thing that will satisfy. We could have all the money in the world, all earthly power and prestige, and still, in the depths of our souls, we will not find peace until we turn to Jesus and follow Him. Some people learn this truth early in life, some later in life, and some never discover it at all.
Reflect, today, upon how satisfied you are with your life. Is there something missing? If so, look at your goals and priorities in life. What do you spend most of your time thinking about, talking about and daydreaming about? If it is not our Lord Who occupies your mind, heart and every desire, then you can expect that you will experience discontentment in life. In that case, look to the witness of Saint Matthew. He is a saint today because he responded to Jesus’ invitation to abandon his life of sin and greed so as to follow Him in poverty. But in that worldly poverty and abandonment of earthly things, Saint Matthew became abundantly rich and will remain so forever in Heaven.
Lord of all satisfaction, You call all Your people to follow You. Please open my mind and heart to that call so that I can not only hear You but also respond with all my heart. Please help me to detach from the things of this world that keep me from You, so that I can follow You wherever You lead. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Celestial Hosts of Heaven
Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels, September 29
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:51
In Heaven, we will see all things as God sees them. That full perspective will be beyond glorious. And among the many things that will amaze us from the perspective of Heaven is the incredibly powerful ways that the celestial beings participate in the bringing forth of the Kingdom of God. The Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Guardian Angels all cooperate with God’s grace in ways similar to how every member of an orchestra works together to produce a single piece of beautiful music. God is the conductor, but these celestial beings participate in the grand fulfillment of the will of God, acting as living instruments of His divine grace.
Today’s feast honors three of the great archangels mentioned in Scripture: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. The Archangel Michael is described as a protector in the Old Testament Book of Daniel and as one who does battle with satan in the Books of Revelation and Jude. In Revelation, Michael casts satan out of Heaven along with the other fallen angels. The Archangel Gabriel is spoken of also in the Book of Daniel as one who interprets Daniel’s vision. In the New Testament, he is identified as the one who appears to the high priest Zechariah while Zechariah is offering sacrifice in the temple. In that appearance, Gabriel revealed to Zechariah that his wife would have a child, even though she was advanced in years. Gabriel is perhaps best known as the one sent to the Blessed Virgin Mary to reveal to her that she will become the mother of the Savior of the World. Lastly, the Archangel Raphael is referred to in the Old Testament Book of Tobit and is said to have been sent to bring healing to Tobit’s eyes.
As we honor these three archangels, we can be certain that they are three of a countless number of other angelic beings who cooperate with God, bringing forth His grace and His will into our world. Try to imagine that profound truth. Some angelic beings build up the Kingdom of God by devoting their existence to the perpetual worship of God before His throne. The highest of these are the Seraphim. Other angelic beings build up the Kingdom by bringing forth God’s grace and truth to us, intervening in our lives in accord with God’s will. These are especially the guardian angels. The archangels, three of whom we honor today, especially have the task of communicating to us the most important messages and graces from God.
Reflect, today, upon the glorious reality of the whole host of the celestial beings. Specifically call upon the mediation of these three celestial beings whose names we know, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, as well as upon the mediation of our guardian angels and all others celestial beings. By doing this, we not only entrust ourselves to their loving care, but we also make an act of faith in God by expressing our belief that God has chosen to use these celestial beings to bring forth His Kingdom. By themselves, angels are powerless to act. But since they act only in unison with the will of God, their mediation is as powerful as the grace of God, since it is God Who works through them. Acknowledge them today, call upon their mediation and profess your faith in the glorious work that they do to build up God’s Kingdom.
Most glorious Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, please do come to my aid. I entrust myself, my family, our Church and the entire world to your loving mediation. Please bring forth God’s grace into our lives, communicate God’s Word and His holy Will, protect us from all harm and bring healing to those in need. Angels of God, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
Your Protector and Guide
Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels, October 2
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” Matthew 18:10
The reality of angels is fascinating to most people, especially to children. The Guardian Angels, in particular, are often pictured in sacred art as walking hand-in-hand with children. And though this is true, they also walk hand-in-hand with each one of us throughout our lives. This is their sacred duty given to them by God. In quoting Saint Basil, the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the existence of Guardian Angels by saying: “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life’” (#336).
Imagine, in an earthly sense, that you had a personal bodyguard to look after you day and night throughout your life. Perhaps this evokes two different sentiments. First, it would most certainly comfort you when there is imminent danger around. You would know you are not alone and that you would be kept safe from physical harm. Another sentiment it may invoke is that of a loss of personal privacy. If someone were watching over you, day and night, you would always be aware of their watchful eye. Everything you said and did would be noticed. For some, this may not always be welcome. Why? Because this means they see all you do, including your sin. Fear of judgment, the loss of personal privacy and the like may be difficult to accept.
But now imagine that this “bodyguard” is one who offers no judgment, acts with perfect love for you, keeps confidentiality with perfection and cares only for your well-being. Though it may be hard to imagine that such a person could exist, that person does exist in the person of your guardian angel.
Your guardian angel is real, has a keen and powerful intellect, has a will perfectly united with the will of God, and was created for the single purpose of protecting you and leading you into the fulfillment of God’s will. When you sin and stray, your guardian angel’s only concern is to guide you back to God. When you are fearful or in trouble, your guardian angel’s only care is to protect you and fill you with God’s peace and courage. And though God could have provided you with all of these graces directly, without the mediation of an angel, He chose to do so through the mediation of your personal guardian angel. Only in Heaven will we fully understand the profound depth of love, protection, and care given to us by these angelic beings.
Reflect, today, upon the intimate knowledge that your guardian angel has of you. As you ponder this reality, rejoice that someone knows you so well and loves you with a perfect love. This angel of yours not only loves you perfectly but also has been entrusted with great power from God to protect you and shepherd you to the fulfillment of your life mission. Prayerfully acknowledge the great gift that your guardian angel is to you and entrust yourself more fully to this angelic mediation.
Evangelizing the World
Feast of Saint Luke, Evangelist, October 18
The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Luke 10:1–2
Saint Luke, whom we honor today, was a true evangelist. As an evangelist, he followed the inspiration from our Lord and was used to bring God’s saving message to the ends of the earth. And there is little doubt that his ministry will continue to have a transforming effect on the lives of many until the end of the world. Tradition states that Saint Luke became a martyr, being hanged on an olive tree. He is identified in the New Testament as a physician and as a disciple of Saint Paul. Both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are attributed to him.
Saint Luke is often spoken of as an evangelist to the gentiles. His Gospel was written in such a way that it didn’t presume a full understanding of the Jewish faith and customs. Therefore, it is believed to have been primarily written for those who are not of Jewish origin. Thus, the life and mission of Saint Luke must remind us that the Gospel needs to be shared with all people, especially with those who do not have a deep and sustaining relationship with God.
In today’s Gospel from Saint Luke, we read that Jesus sent seventy-two disciples “to every town and place he intended to visit.” Only Luke mentions the larger scale sending of seventy-two disciples. The other Gospels only mention the sending of the Twelve. Though many of these seventy-two disciples would have gone to Jewish territory, some would have unquestionably gone to non-Jewish territory. The mission of these seventy-two was to prepare everyone they encountered for the preaching of Jesus and for the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
As we honor Saint Luke today and read this passage from his Gospel, we are reminded that we are all sent by our Lord. We are sent to those who share our faith, such as family, friends and fellow parishioners. We are sent to love them and do all we can to help deepen their faith and love of God. But we are also called to share the Gospel with those who do not yet know Jesus as their Savior. There are so many people we encounter every day who have never truly met our Lord. Are there people in your life that God is calling you to reach out to? Who do you know that God may be calling you to share the Gospel with?
Reflect, today, upon the fact that the Gospel is meant for everyone. Speak to our Lord and tell Him that you are ready and willing to be used by Him to bring His saving message to others. As you do so, wait on the Lord, listen to His inspiration, and respond when He calls. If someone comes to mind whom you sense God is calling you to evangelize, begin to pray for that person. Pray for them every day and be attentive to any inspiration God gives you to share His love and saving message with them. Do not be afraid to be an evangelist like Saint Luke. Doing so might make an eternal difference in someone’s life.
My saving Lord, You sent Your disciples on a mission to share Your saving message with all. Today I especially thank You for the life and ministry of Saint Luke. Please use me, dear Lord, to imitate his wonderful example and to share Your glorious life with others. Please lead me and inspire me to especially reach out to those whom You have put into my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Sent Forth by Christ
Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles, October 28
Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles… Luke 6:12
Simon and Jude were among those very select few who were chosen by Jesus Himself to be His Apostles. Today’s Simon is not the same person as Simon Peter, and today’s Jude is not the same person as Judas Iscariot. Little is known about these two Apostles. Simon is referred to as a zealot in the Gospels, which could have meant he was a member of a more radical sect within Judaism. Jude is popularly known as the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes. Some suggest this is because he was often the last Apostle to be prayed to by the early Christian faithful on account of the fact that he shared a name with Judas Iscariot, and praying to Jude reminded people of that betrayer. If that was the case, then in God’s providence, since Jude became the last Apostle to be prayed to, he also became the last hope for many and, thus, the patron saint for those with truly hopeless causes.
One tradition states that Saints Simon and Jude are linked together in the Roman Canon and also share the same feast day because they were both martyred together on the same day, possibly in Syria, Lebanon, or Persia. However, the true details of their missionary journeys and martyrdom is unclear. The one thing that is certain about these Apostles, however, is that they were Apostles. They were chosen by our Lord and appointed by Him as two of the first bishops of our Church and were given a mandate to share the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
From our perspective today, being one of those chosen Twelve is an incredible privilege. The effect of their ministry in establishing the first Christian communities has resulted in our worldwide universal Catholic Church. These men most likely did not realize the impact that their faithful service would have upon the world.
As we honor these two Apostles, we are also reminded that each one of us is called to go forth to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. We each do so in a way specific to the calling and mission that Christ has entrusted to us. We are each called to make an eternal difference in the lives of those whom we serve. And if we are faithful to our mission, we can be certain that the effects of our apostolic service will be felt in the lives of countless others until the end of the world.
Reflect, today, upon Jesus choosing these two men and appointing them as Apostles. As you do, listen to God’s voice as He also speaks to you. Do not underestimate the importance of accepting the mission that Jesus gives to you. Say “Yes” to Him in imitation of these two Apostles and know that your choice to serve our Lord in this way will not only have a great effect in your life, it will also have an effect in the lives of many others for all eternity.
My glorious Lord, You called these two ordinary men, Simon and Jude, to be Your Apostles. You filled them with Your grace, taught them with Your Word, and sent them forth to preach to the ends of the earth. Please also send me, dear Lord, to whomever You choose. Use me as Your instrument and help me to always remain faithful and zealous, reaching out to those in need, especially to those who lack faith and hope in their lives. Saints Simon and Jude, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
Honoring All Saints
Solemnity of All Saints, November 1
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5: 1–3
Today we celebrate one of the most glorious solemnities within our Church! Every saint, canonized or not, is honored today. Our Gospel passage lays out the path by which these saints entered Heaven. While on earth, these great men and women lived lives that were poor in spirit, filled with a holy mourning, meekness, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, mercy, peace, purity of heart and even persecution. Each one of these Beatitudes concludes by stating the reward that those who lived these qualities obtains: Heaven, comfort, satisfaction, mercy, seeing God, being children of God and rewards beyond what we can imagine in God’s Kingdom.
The Beatitudes invite us to the heights of holiness. They are not for the faint of heart or for those living a lukewarm spiritual life. These Beatitudes present us with the pinnacle of holy living and challenge us to the core. But every effort put into living these Beatitudes are worth it here on earth and ultimately in Heaven. Let’s look briefly at two of these Beatitudes.
The second Beatitude states that those “who mourn…will be comforted.” This is an interesting Beatitude. Why is it holy to mourn? Simply put, this form of holy mourning means that you not only have a holy sorrow for your own sins but that you have this holy sorrow as you see the many evils within our world. This is crucial today. First, it should be quite obvious that we must have holy sorrow for our own sins. Doing so means your conscience is working. And when your conscience is working, you will be compelled, by this holy sorrow, to acknowledge your offenses against God and work diligently to change. But we must also have a holy sorrow as we see the many evils within our world. Too often today there is a tendency to undermine this Beatitude by presenting universal acceptance of all things as a good. We are told we must not judge, and though that is true when it comes to judging another’s heart, a worldly presentation of this secular “virtue” attempts to lead us to downplay the objective nature of sin. Our secular world tempts us to ignore many objective moral truths by which God guides us into all truth. But as Christians, our first approach must be to despise all that our Lord taught was objectively morally evil. And when we do come face-to-face with immoral lifestyles, the appropriate response must be holy sorrow, not acceptance of grave sin. To mourn over another’s poor choices is a true act of charity toward them.
The fourth Beatitude calls us to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” This means that we not only have a holy sorrow over our sins and the objective evils of our world, but that we also allow ourselves to be filled with a hunger and thirst for truth and holy living. This drive must become a burning motivation within us to do all we can to further the Kingdom of God everywhere. This Beatitude enables us to overcome indifference, inspiring us to bring about change in the face of all opposition. And this drive is fueled by charity and every other accompanying virtue.
Reflect, today, upon the beautiful truth that you are called to become a saint. And the surest path to sainthood is the Beatitudes. Read them carefully. Meditate upon them and know that they reveal to you how God is calling you to live. If one of these Beatitudes stands out to you, then spend time focusing upon it. Work to internalize these graces, and God will work wonders in your life, one day making this solemnity within our Church a true celebration of your life well lived.
My most holy Lord, You reign now in Heaven and desire that Your glorious Kingdom be firmly established upon earth. Give me the grace I need to seek holiness with all my heart and to especially use Your revelation of the Beatitudes as the path by which I travel. I pray that I will become a true saint in this world and that You will use me to further Your Kingdom now and for eternity. Jesus, I trust in You.
Commemorating All Souls
Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day), November 2
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” John 6:40
Yesterday’s Solemnity of All Saints gave us an opportunity to celebrate and rejoice in the fact that there are countless people who have gone before us who are now enjoying the glories of Heaven. These faithful souls lived lives that were grounded in God’s grace and have been fully purified of all sin. They now gaze at our good God face-to-face.
Today, we commemorate the fact that many who die in a state of grace are not immediately ready to stand before the glorious throne of God and see Him face-to-face. The only way this is possible is if every sin and every attachment to sin is purged from our souls. We must have nothing but pure charity alive within us if we are to enter the eternal glories of Heaven. But how many people die in such a state?
The Church, in her wisdom and holiness, has taught clearly through the centuries that when a person passes from this world to the next while still attached to less serious sin, they need to be fully purified in order to enter Heaven. This is Purgatory. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (#1030–31a).
For some, Purgatory can be a frightening and even confusing thought. Why doesn’t God, in His infinite mercy, simply take all our loved ones who followed Him straight to Heaven? The answer is simple. He does! And the path for them to Heaven is this incredible mercy of their final purification.
Purification of all attachment to sin within our soul is a mercy beyond what we can imagine. Through this final purification, God prepares the holy souls who have died for an eternity of joy. But this purification is necessary because God, in His love, does not want any soul to live eternally with even a minor attachment to sin. God wants us all free. The truth is that every sin on our soul, even the smallest one, is reason enough for us to be excluded from Heaven. So Purgatory must be seen as a final mercy from God by which He lifts every last burden that keeps us from perfect love, so that our eternity will be one of utmost freedom and ecstasy. God wants us to be filled only with the purity of love forever. Thus, upon our death, we are graced to enter into a final and intense purification of every minor sin, so that when we see God in all His glory, we will see Him with the perfection to which we are called. Purgatory is a gift, a grace, a mercy. It will be painful to go through in the same way that overcoming any sin is painful. But the good fruit of freedom from sin makes every final purification we must endure worth it a hundredfold and more.
Reflect, today, upon the spiritual truth that God wants you to be a saint. If you are among those few who die in a state in which you are purified from every sin, then be assured that you have already completed your purgatory on earth. But if you or your loved ones are among the many who still hold some minor attachment to sin at the time of death, then rejoice that God is not done with you yet. Anticipate with much gratitude the final purification that awaits and look forward to the freedom that ultimately comes from that purification.
My merciful Lord, You desire that my soul and the souls of all your faithful be purified of every sin, even the smallest imperfection. I thank You for the mercy of Purgatory and pray that I will continually work toward that purification here and now. I pray, also, for all those who have gone before me and are still in need of these purifying fires. Pour forth Your mercy upon them so that they may be counted among the saints in Heaven. Jesus, I trust in You.
Being Shocked by Our Lord
Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, November 9
Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his Body. John 2:19–21
We celebrate, today, the Lateran Basilica in Rome, the mother church of the entire Roman Catholic Church. It was given to the Bishop of Rome in the fourth century and remained the pope’s primary residence until the building of St. Peter’s Basilica, at a time when the Lateran Basilica was falling into ruins. However, the Lateran Basilica to this day remains the most important Church in the world, since it is officially the Cathedral Church of Rome.
As we honor this church, we honor more than a building. The Lateran Basilica is a symbol of the one true Church of Jesus Christ. Its interior is beautiful and awe-inspiring so as to point us to the unimaginable beauty of the Church Herself, which is the Mystical Body of Christ.
Today’s Gospel depicts Jesus entering the Temple and driving the money changers out with a whip and the animals they were selling for profit. As He did so, He cried out, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” Psalm 69 is then quoted: Zeal for your house will consume me.
Jesus loves His Church as His own Body—because that is what it is. As His Body, the members of His Church are called and sent to act as His instruments, members of His saving action. Much more than a church building, today we honor the Church Herself—which means we honor you, insofar as you are a member of the Body of Christ. And in light of this Gospel passage for today’s Feast, we are reminded of the zeal that our Lord has for the cleansing of His Church.
How is the Church purified? It is purified by the cleansing of Her members. That means that Jesus desires, with perfect zeal, to drive out every sin from your soul, cleansing the filth that keeps you from fulfilling your essential role as a member of His Body.
Sometimes we become slack in our own commitment to be purified. We can easily become comfortable with the sins we commit, and we can form habits that are hard to break. When this happens, it is useful to ponder this story of the cleansing of the Temple and see it as Jesus’ desire to cleanse our own soul. At times, we need to be shaken up, challenged, confronted and encouraged with the unwavering zeal in the heart of our Lord.
Reflect, today, upon this powerful image of Jesus cleansing the Temple. As you do, apply it to your own life. The people selling and buying in the Temple must have been shocked at Jesus’ zeal and actions. If you have become complacent with your sins, try to allow this holy shock to also wake you up. Allow our Lord’s zeal to affect you, and know that His purifying actions are acts of love by which He desires to free you to become a more fully functioning member of His holy Church.
My zealous Lord, Your heart burns with a deep desire to cleanse me and all Your children from sin. Your zeal reveals Your deep love and Your willingness to do all that You can to make me a fuller member of Your Body, the Church. Open my mind and will, dear Lord, to all that You wish to say to me and give me the grace to respond to Your purifying action in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Gratitude for Immeasurable Blessings
Thanksgiving Day, United States
“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” Luke 17:17–19
He was saved by faith through the expression of gratitude! What a wonderful story to ponder today as we celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving!
Though Thanksgiving Day is not specifically a Church holy day, gratitude is certainly central to our Christian faith, as is illustrated by today’s Gospel in which ten lepers were healed by Jesus. And their communal reaction is something of which to take note. Nine of them were healed and went about their business, not returning to the source of their healing to thank Him. But one did. This one leper, who was suddenly no longer a leper, returned to Jesus, glorified Him, fell at His feet and thanked Him. This one leper was a foreigner, a Samaritan, but he manifested a faith that we must all strive to imitate. The faith of this Samaritan was evident by the fact that he knew he needed to not only be grateful for the grace of healing but that he also needed to express it.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we are reminded that of all the things for which we must be grateful, nothing is more important than our gratitude to God for the immeasurable graces He has given us. But as the story goes, it is clearly very easy to overlook the importance of our response to God’s blessings. Only ten percent of the lepers responded with such an expression. Therefore, it is helpful today to examine the many reasons we should be thankful and should work to express that gratitude to God.
First, God created us out of love. This is no small gift. It is the first gift He has given us and one we often take for granted. God did not need to create us. He did not need to create you. But He did. And the gift of life, the gift of an immortal soul, is something that we must never overlook and always rejoice in.
Second, God entered our fallen state through the Incarnation within the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Doing so elevated our fallen human nature to a height never known before. Humanity and divinity were united in the Person of the Incarnate Son of God and Son of Man, and we must be grateful for this unmerited and awe-inspiring gift.
Third, we know the rest of the story. God, in the Person of the Incarnate Son, suffered, died and rose again. In so doing, He made it possible for every sin of ours to be wiped away. As we die with Him, we are invited to rise with Him. And as we rise with Him, we are invited to share in His glory in Heaven.
Lastly, in each and every life, there are countless graces given to us every day. But as spoiled children, we often overlook these blessings and take them for granted. Examples here do not suffice. It is essential that if you want to have a grateful heart that you learn to see these blessings in your own life. Too often we focus on our struggles and pain. But the blessings are abundant, and the more we turn to our Lord in total surrender, the more the blessings flow.
Reflect, today, upon the attitude that you have toward the many blessings God has bestowed upon you. Begin by considering the central blessings of God’s creation and His saving acts of love. From there, try to ponder the many small ways that God has been with you, guided you, strengthened you, and blessed you abundantly. If you do not see these clearly, then use this day to consciously listen so that God can reveal them to you. As you see your blessings, respond as this one leper. Turn to Jesus, glorify Him, fall at His feet in prayer and thank Him. Doing so will fill you with the same saving faith granted to this one leper.
My most generous Lord, You have bestowed upon me blessings beyond my imagination. I realize that I will never fully understand how good You have been to me and will never be able to express my gratitude adequately enough. Please do fill me with a grateful heart. Help me to see Your action in my life and to respond to You as this one leper. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Eyes of Our Lord
November 30, Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle
As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:18-19
Today, we honor one of the Apostles: Saint Andrew. Andrew and his brother Peter were fishermen who would soon take on a new form of fishing. They would soon become “fishers of men,” as Jesus said. But prior to being sent on this mission by our Lord, they had to become His followers. And this happened as our Lord was first the fisher of these men.
Notice that in this Gospel, Jesus was simply walking by and “saw” these two brothers working hard at their occupation. First, Jesus “saw” them, and then He called them. This gaze of our Lord is worth pondering.
Imagine the profound truth that our Lord is continually gazing at you with divine love, looking for the moment that you turn your attention to Him. His gaze is perpetual and deep. His gaze is one that yearns for you to follow Him, to abandon all else so as to hear His gentle invitation not only to follow Him, but to then go forth and invite others on the journey of faith.
As we begin this Advent season, we must allow the call of Andrew and Peter to also become our own calling. We must allow ourselves to notice Jesus as He looks at us, sees who we are, is aware of everything about us, and then speaks a word of invitation. He says to you, “Come after me…” This is an invitation that must permeate every aspect of your life. To “come after” Jesus is to leave all else behind and to make the act of following our Lord the single purpose of your life.
Sadly, many people pay little attention to this calling in their lives. Few people hear Him speak and fewer respond, and even fewer respond with complete abandonment of their lives. The beginning of Advent is an opportunity to evaluate your responsiveness to the call of our Lord once again.
Reflect, today, upon Jesus speaking these words to you. First, ponder the question of whether you have said “Yes” to Him with all the powers of your soul. Second, reflect upon those whom our Lord wants you to invite on the journey. To whom is Jesus sending you to invite? Who, in your life, is open to His call? Who does Jesus want to draw to Himself through you? Imitate these Apostles as they said “Yes” to our Lord, even though they did not immediately understand all that this would entail. Say “Yes” today and be ready and willing to do whatever comes next on this glorious journey of faith.
My dear Lord, I do say “Yes” to You this day. I hear You calling me, and I choose to respond with the utmost generosity and abandonment to Your holy and perfect will. Give me the courage and wisdom I need to hold nothing back from You and Your divine calling in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
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