Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

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Overcoming the Impossible

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Matthew 14:22–23

Our Gospel today presents us with two different images to ponder. The first one is recorded above, and the second one is the story of Jesus walking on the water. In the second story, the disciples were rowing against the wind and waves in the early morning before the sun rose. Jesus appeared to them walking on the water, and they were frightened. Jesus confronts the fear they experience and calls Peter to walk on the water as a sign of his faith in Him. Peter begins to walk on water, and then in fear, he begins to sink. He cries out to Jesus Who catches Him and then gently rebukes Peter for his lack of faith.

It is helpful to understand the first image in this Gospel passage as the context for the second. In this first image, we see Jesus dismissing the crowds after feeding the five thousand and going up a mountain to pray all alone. Though Jesus was always in perfect union with the Father and, therefore, had no need for prayer, He prayed nonetheless because it was His human expression of the deep union He had with His Father. As He prayed, He also set forth an example to all who would follow Him, teaching them by His example about the importance of private prayer. The primary lesson He taught on this occasion was that prayer is the remote preparation we need so as to overcome all apparent obstacles in life and to confront fear with perfect faith.

First, the obvious “obstacle” Jesus overcame through His prayer was symbolized by His walking on the stormy sea. No one walks on water. It’s physically impossible. But that’s the point. When we make our life of personal prayer a priority, God will lead us to accomplish that which appears to us to be impossible. It might not be walking on water literally, but His walking on water after spending the night in prayer is symbolic of every apparent impossibility we face in life. The lesson is that if God wills it, nothing is impossible. We will know that if we make personal prayer our first priority.

A second obstacle that Jesus confronts is fear. Fear is paralyzing and results in us “sinking” when life becomes difficult. Again, personal prayer is the necessary preparation for overcoming fear. What’s interesting is that we have two witnesses of prayer. First is Jesus’ witness. He prayed because it was good and right to pray. The second is Peter. He prayed when he started to sink. He said, “Lord, save me!” This is the prayer of one who failed to have faith and prayed out of a present need rather than out of pure love of God. Too often, Peter exemplifies the prayer life that many Christians have. We often wait to pray until we need help and are sinking. But what if Peter had also spent the night in prayer simply out of love of God? What if he had just finished praying all night when he was invited to walk on water? Perhaps then he would have easily walked to Jesus and would not have given into fear.

Reflect, today, upon making your life of prayer the number-one priority in your life. Maybe you have many responsibilities in life. Nothing is more important than praying—and not only when you feel trapped or feel like you are sinking. Instead, we must all establish an unbreakable habit of prayer to God for the singular reason that it is good and right to do so. The fruit of such a life of prayer is that no matter what obstacle comes our way, we will have the faith we need to follow every command of our Lord, overcoming even that which appears to be impossible.

My prayerful Lord, You spent the night in prayer to Your Father not because You needed help, but because of Your love. Your prayer was an expression of that love and was a natural requirement of it. Please help me to also establish an unbreakable habit of prayer so that my love for You will remain strong and so that I can follow You through every apparent obstacle in life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Transforming Faith From Knowledge

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” John 6:48–51

We continue this Sunday with the beautiful “Bread of Life Discourse” from John’s Gospel. At the beginning of today’s passage, we read that the people listening to this discourse “murmured about Jesus.” They did so because He had been teaching them that He was the Bread of Life Who had come down from Heaven. For some of His listeners, this was too much to accept. It was especially difficult for those who knew Jesus and His family from Nazareth. When Jesus became aware of their murmurs, He confronted them straight on saying, “Stop murmuring among yourselves.” He then doubled down on His teaching, taking it even further, telling them that whoever eats His flesh will live forever.

In some ways, Jesus’ teaching could be said to defy human reason. Imagine hearing this teaching for the first time from someone who grew up in your hometown. Human reason alone is insufficient to comprehend and accept such teaching. But that is precisely the point. Human reason alone is insufficient. But when human reason is endowed with a special revelation from the Father in Heaven, then all becomes clear and all makes sense.

On that point, Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him” and that “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.” Therefore, even though it is beyond the ability of natural human reason alone to make sense of what Jesus was teaching, those who were drawn by the Father and listened to His voice were given a new form of knowledge that brought clarity to their human minds. This knowledge is essential if we are to know and understand the path to eternal life and if we are to understand and believe in the Most Holy Eucharist.

Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that faith is just believing in something that is beyond us. But faith is much more. It’s not just blindly believing. It’s not just wishful thinking that turns into a personal choice to believe. Faith is based on something absolutely real and unmistakable. It’s based on true spiritually revealed knowledge—a knowledge given to us by God. In fact, this form of knowledge, given by God, is far more certain than any other form of knowledge.

For example, you know that 2+2=4 because you can take two objects, add two more, and then count four. Or you know that music is playing because your ears perceive the sound. Thus, you rely upon your senses to produce knowledge to arrive at conclusions. Spiritually infused knowledge, however, is even more certain than that which we can obtain through our senses because it is God Who reveals the truth. Therefore, if God speaks to you and imparts to you a knowledge that His flesh is true food and His blood is true drink, and that if you eat His flesh and drink His blood then you will obtain eternal life, then this knowledge is certain, transforming, and becomes the basis of a life of pure faith. Though this may seem overly philosophical, it is true and necessary to understand.

Reflect, today, upon anything that you fail to have perfect faith in. Do you believe in the Most Holy Eucharist? Do you believe that it is the food for eternal life? Do you believe in everything Jesus taught? Examine your faith and where it is lacking; seek the voice of the Father. Only God can impart the deepest spiritual knowledge to you. For your part, you must listen, comprehend, accept and believe. Doing so will produce the gift of faith within your human reason, and that faith will be your guide to the life of the fullness of grace.

Lord, You have revealed to us the deepest mysteries of life. You have revealed Your love and compassion, and You have revealed the way to eternal life. Please give me the gift of faith so that I will believe all that You have revealed. Please especially deepen my faith in the Gift of the Most Holy Eucharist. Jesus, I trust in You.

Vigilance, Attentiveness, Action

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have the servants recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.” Luke 12:35–37

Vigilance, hard work, determination, attentiveness, fidelity—these are some of the qualities that Jesus is speaking about. To “gird your loins” means that you are immediately prepared for some challenging task. You are ready for the hard work ahead and are committed to it. To “light your lamps” implies that you are not in the dark but that your mind is enlightened in such a way that you are able to see that which is the will of God.

As we go through life, it is easy to become complacent in the things of faith. It is easy to become lazy, disinterested, distracted, and unfocused. This parable goes on to speak of a thief who tries to break into a house in the middle of the night. This is Jesus’ way of saying that the evil one, with his lies and attacks, is constant, vicious, forceful, and unpredictable. For that reason, we must never grow tired of being vigilant in the spiritual life and must always be attentive to the light of God’s voice.

How attentive are you to the mission of Christ on a daily basis? This is an essential question to answer honestly. Most people will find that they become distracted from the mission God has given to them. We experience countless things every day that compete for our attention. Many of those competing voices might not appear to be sinful. For example, perhaps a certain hobby has become the dominant focus of your free time. Or perhaps responsibilities at work have spilled over into your family time. Or perhaps some painful or even enjoyable experience has had your full attention for some time. Though it is obvious that sinful distractions in life are evil, it might not always be as obvious that there are many other neutral distractions that are a real problem. The problems they can produce are a lack of attentiveness to the will of God and a lack of readiness to engage the will of God the moment He calls.

Imagine, for example, that a very important person calls you to ask for a favor. Most likely you would drop all you were doing and respond immediately. But, sadly, when the King of the Universe attempts to speak to us and inspire us to some mission, we can be too distracted to even listen, let alone respond with immediacy and zeal. This is a problem. If, however, a person is continually attentive to the voice of God and responds to His interior promptings as soon as they are received, then Jesus says that this person is truly blessed and that He will “have the servants recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.” In other words, the result of being vigilant in our attentiveness to the inspirations of God is that God Himself will reward us with His service. He will invite us to the table of spiritual rest, peace, joy, and fulfillment. He will serve us His mercy, which will be more than we could ever imagine.

Reflect, today, upon the call from God to always be attentive to His voice the instant He speaks. Reflect upon how aware you are of His constant presence in your life and His ongoing communication. Know that if you can form a habit of always listening, then you will never miss out on the grace-filled mission given to you by our Lord. Always listen to Him, seek out His still and gentle voice, and be ready to respond to Him every time He calls.

My ever-speaking Lord, You have so much to say and so much to reveal. Please enlighten my mind and strengthen my resolve to always listen to you and respond with all my heart. Your will is perfect and will lead me to a life of the deepest joy and fulfillment. May I believe this with all my heart and act accordingly. Jesus, I trust in You.

Miracles of Hope

Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax? From their subjects or from foreigners?” When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him, “Then the subjects are exempt. But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you.” Matthew 17:25–27

Prior to this minor miracle, Jesus had just told His disciples for the second time about His coming passion. Again, this was difficult for them to hear. Recall that after the first prediction of Jesus’ coming passion and death, Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain and was Transfigured before them. The Transfiguration was meant, in part, to dispel the fear of the disciples and to give them hope for that which was to come. And now, after Jesus’ second prediction of His passion, another miracle was performed for Peter, personally, to help encourage him and give him hope.

Imagine if you were Peter. Imagine following through with Jesus’ instructions by going to the sea, dropping in a hook, pulling out a fish and then opening its mouth. Peter must have been filled with hope and excitement as he pulled this fish in, wondering if Jesus’ words would come true. And as soon as Peter saw the coin, just as Jesus said, he must have been in awe. Slowly, the fear and anxiety he was experiencing at this second prediction of Jesus’ passion and death would have begun to subside as Peter witnessed yet another incredible sign from his Lord.

God performs miracles in our lives every day. The problem is that we often fail to discern them. Any time His glorious power works within us to strengthen us or fills us with courage, hope, charity and every other virtue, this is a miracle of transforming grace. God always knows what we need in life. He knows our struggles and doubts. At times, He is silent so as to draw us deeper through intentional prayer and acts of faith. And at times, we suddenly find that we receive a new clarity in life that is the result of His grace at work.

Jesus knew that Peter needed this extra grace of this personal miracle so that he could move beyond his fears and struggles and place all of his trust in Jesus. Jesus was trustworthy. This is the conclusion Peter would have arrived at. He was trustworthy. Therefore, everything He said should be believed. What a wonderful conclusion for us all to arrive at.

Reflect, today, upon the ways that God has assured you of His divine presence and action in your life. Though the assuring miracles God has performed in your life may not be physical in their manifestation, God’s workings can be just as convincing if we clearly perceive them. What does God want to assure you of in your life? What struggle or doubt do you struggle with? If you struggle, turn your mind to the ways that God has been present and active in your life. Ponder His intervention and the ways He has cared for you and led you. Be grateful and allow the memory of what God has done to be your strength today and the source of hope when you need it the most.

My miraculous Lord, Your action in my life is truly glorious and amazing. You never fail to provide for me when I am in need. Help me to turn to You whenever I struggle so as to be filled with new hope in You. You are always faithful, dear Lord. I do place all my hope in You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Carrying You Home

Tuesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

“What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” Matthew 18:12–14

It is so easy to go astray. There are many wandering souls who are lost, confused, and in need of the Shepherd. Perhaps there are many reasons for this straying, including the lure of fleshly indulgence, the lure of money, temptations toward pride, anger, and selfishness, confusion, and much more. Today’s Gospel passage is not so much about the fact that people do stray; rather, it’s about God’s desire to win them back.

When a person strays from God, they are left empty. That is the reality of our human condition. The only way to be satisfied in life is to give yourself to God out of love. God and God alone fulfills us. God and God alone can bestow joy and happiness upon us. So when a person is straying and is left empty inside, they have to make a choice. Will they repent of their sins and turn back to God? Or will they continue to seek satisfaction elsewhere?

One of the greatest obstacles to repenting of one’s sins and turning back to God is our pride. It is hard to admit to sin. It is hard to admit we went astray. It is hard to take ownership of what we have done and turn to God for His mercy and compassion.

Today’s Gospel is especially for the sinner who has strayed. It presents us with an image of God that is exceptionally inviting. It’s the image of a God Who goes forth searching for the stray sheep. But the most important image in today’s Gospel is that of the rejoicing of the Shepherd. We must come to realize that when God seeks us out and gets through to us, we should have no shame anymore. God does not condemn the person who has sorrow. Instead, He rejoices and carries that soul back home. Whenever we start to stray in life and give into a life of sin, we must understand this image of God and know that it applies to us.

The truth is that sin is humiliating. And facing humiliation is difficult. But it’s also purifying. And if you are willing to embrace the humiliation experienced by confessing your sin, an endless amount of freedom awaits. Freedom comes especially in the form of God rejoicing and carrying you home.

Reflect, today, upon the holy image of the Good Shepherd diligently searching for you. See His loving desire to get through to you, to reunite with you, to forgive you, and to lovingly carry you home. Allow fear of judgment to disperse. Humble yourself and acknowledge your sin. Admit that you are incapable of overcoming it by yourself. If you do, the heart of the Good Shepherd will rejoice as He lifts you up and carries you to freedom.

Jesus, my Good Shepherd, Your love and compassion are incredible. You are a God of the utmost mercy. Please open my eyes to see You as You are, and dispel all fear from my heart. Please forgive me of my sin, lift me up, and carry me back to Your fold. Jesus, I trust in You.

Praying Together with the Son

Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

“Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:19–20

This is a bold and awe-inspiring promise from our Lord. This passage reveals Jesus’ desire that we pray with others, uniting our prayer as one and offering it to the Father. Jesus says that when we do this in union with His prayer, our prayer will be answered.

The first thing to note is that this passage could easily be misunderstood. For example, is Jesus telling us that if two or more people get together and pray that it rains, then it will happen? Certainly not. The key to understanding this passage is found in the last line: “…there am I in the midst of them.” This means that the goal of gathering together with two or more people in prayer is to unite our unified prayer to the prayer of Jesus. The Father always hears and answers the prayer of the Son. No matter what the Son asks the Father, it is granted. Thus, this passage tells us that the goal of gathering together in prayer with others, that is, with the Church, is to unite ourselves with the one and eternal prayer of God the Son. This is first and foremost fulfilled within the Sacred Liturgy. 

When we come together in the Liturgy, our prayer is always heard. Why? Because the Liturgy is first an action of God the Son in which He invites us, the Church, to share. And the prayer that is offered is the one and eternal prayer by which God the Son asks the Father to bring salvation to all those who accept the saving action of His sacrifice on the Cross. When we join in this prayer, it is granted.

What type of prayer is not answered? First, God does not grant that which fails to serve His mission. Second, if we pray for God’s will but fail to do our part, then our prayer cannot be answered. For example, if you pray that you overcome a particular sin but then fail to respond to the grace God gives, then this is not the fault of God. Third, praying for vengeance on those who have hurt us is ineffective. And fourth, praying for the conversion of one who refuses to repent will also be unable to be fulfilled, unless they ultimately repent. These are but a few examples.

What type of prayer is effective? As already mentioned, the prayer of the Liturgy as the one Sacrifice of Christ is always heard when we participate in it. But there are other ways that our united prayer will be fulfilled with certainty. For example, if you gather with others and together pray for the grace of deeper conversion, you can be certain that the grace will be offered. It is then up to you to open your heart to that grace so that it is effective. Or if you pray that God offers His mercy to someone caught in sin, you can be certain that that grace will be offered, even if the person refuses to accept it. And the list could go on. Simply put, if we gather with others and seek to unite our prayer to the one and perfect prayer of God the Son as it is offered to the Father in Heaven, then that prayer of the Son in which we share will be answered. Perhaps the best way to pray together in this way is to pray the “Our Father” prayer with another. This prayer is always heard and answered by the Father since it is the prayer given to us by the Son.

Reflect, today, upon God the Son praying to the Father. What is His perfect prayer? What does He ask the Father? Look for ways in which you can join with others to unite your own prayer to this prayer of the Son of God. Do this first and foremost in the Sacred Liturgy, but look for other ways in which you can practice this form of prayer. Praying together with others in union with the one prayer of Jesus will always be answered by the Father in Heaven. 

My perfect Lord, all that You ask of the Father is granted to You. Please draw me and all the members of Your Church into Your perfect prayer to the Father. May we participate in this prayer especially through the Sacred Liturgy, and also as we gather as two or more. May we pray only with You and in accord with Your perfect will. Jesus, I trust in You.

Always and Forever Forgiving

Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21–22

Saint John Chrysostom, in commenting upon this passage, explains that “seventy-seven times” was a way of saying “always.” In other words, Jesus was not giving a specific number to the times we must forgive, He was saying that forgiveness must be offered forever and always, without limit. This is the depth of forgiveness offered to us.

This passage also shows the contrast between the human tendency towards forgiveness and God’s. Peter, no doubt, must have thought that he was being generous by asking if he should forgive his brother as many as seven times. Perhaps he thought Jesus would be impressed by this apparently generous suggestion. But the infinite mercy of God can never be outdone. There is simply no limit to the mercy of God, and, therefore, there must be no limit to the mercy we offer others.

What is your personal practice when it comes to seeking the forgiveness of God in your life? And what is your practice in regard to offering forgiveness to another? This line quoted above introduces the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. In that parable, the servant owed his king a “huge amount.” In mercy, the king forgave the debt just as God is willing to forgive us no matter what. But forgiveness does have one price. The price is that we must also forgive others to the same extent. Thus, when the servant who was forgiven a huge amount later sees one of his servants who owed him a much smaller amount, he demands the debt be paid in full. The result is that the king hears of this and withdraws his mercy, requiring the servant to pay him back in full.

This tells us that forgiveness is not an option unless we are perfect and owe no debt to God. Of course, if anyone thinks that, then they are not living in reality. As we read in the letter to the Romans, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). As a result, it is essential that we offer forgiveness always and everywhere, without condition, without limit and without hesitation. How easily do you do this? How fully do you forgive?

One of the hardest persons to forgive is the one who has no sorrow for their sin. When this happens, it is easy to justify our condemnation of them. One thing that might be helpful to reflect upon if you are currently withholding forgiveness from another and remain angry, bitter or hurt, is that your lack of forgiveness does more damage to your own soul than to theirs. By refusing to forgive, you do immeasurable damage to your soul and to your relationship with God. Remaining angry and hurt only leads to more anger and hurt. It leads to vengeful thinking and even acting. And that is a sin for which you will be held accountable.

Reflect, today, upon the infinite depth of mercy and forgiveness you are called to offer to each and every person who has or will hurt you. To forgive is certainly not to excuse. On the contrary, the act of forgiveness acknowledges the sin. But mercy must be offered no matter what. Always, everywhere, unending and without any conditions, it must be offered. If this is difficult to do, do it anyway and do not stop. Doing so will not only help the sinner, it will also open the gates of mercy from God in your life.

My forgiving Lord, Your mercy is infinite and unfathomable. You desire to forgive every sin in my life and to restore me completely to a life of perfect union with You. I accept this gift of forgiveness in my life, dear Lord, and I freely choose to offer this same depth of mercy to everyone who ever has or ever will sin against me. I forgive as completely as I can. Please help me to imitate Your unending mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Love for Holy Living

Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

He answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted.” Matthew 19:11

This was Jesus’ response to a lengthy discussion about the indissolubility of marriage. One of the reasons that “Not all can accept this word…” is because marriage, and every other vocation, requires wholehearted sacrifice and selflessness. When this is not present, and when the selfless living that is required of us turns to selfishness, then every conflict becomes a heavy burden. A burden that is unbearable without grace.

What is love? What form of love is required in marriage and every other vocation? What love is required of parents and grandparents? The answer is the same to all of these questions. We must love with complete selflessness and in a sacrificial way. Love, in its truest form, always looks to the good of the other and never focuses upon oneself.

Only grace can enable us to live a life based on true love. Our fallen human nature tends to “navel gaze,” meaning, we tend to go through life thinking about ourselves—“What will make my life better? How will this affect me? This person has hurt me. I don’t want to do this or that, etc.” It is very difficult in life to turn our eyes from ourselves to the love of others. This is why Jesus said that this form of love can only be embraced by “those to whom that is granted.” And those to whom this depth of love is granted are those who are open to God’s transforming grace in their lives.

One reason that it is very difficult to love in a completely selfless way is because it requires us to live by grace. Our feeble human minds cannot arrive at the high calling of charity by itself. It is only by grace that we will understand that selfless living is not only best for those whom we are called to love, but it is also best for us. And in the context of married life, parenting, other vocations and every other situation in life, if our love is always focused upon the good of the other, and if our lives imitate the total sacrifice of Christ, then we will see God do great things through us. As He does, we will also see God do great things in us. The bottom line is that we only become who we were made to be when we live like Christ. And He lived a life that was unconditionally sacrificial and selfless.

Reflect, today, upon the high calling of love that you have been given. Can you accept this teaching of our Lord? Has an understanding of the nature of true love been granted to you by grace? And if so, are you doing all you can to live a life of selfless sacrificial love in union with Christ Jesus? As you examine your life and your relationships, especially with those closest to you, consider how well you act as Christ to them. Consider whether you forgive, turn the other cheek, seek mercy, compassion, understanding, gentleness and every other virtue and fruit of the Holy Spirit. Where you are lacking and find selfishness, do not hesitate to beg our Lord to grant you the grace to not only understand your high calling of love, but to also embrace it in your actions to the fullest degree. Then, and only then, will you be able to live the vocation to which you have been called.

My loving Lord, Your love is beyond all comprehension. It is a love that can only be understood by the gift of Your grace. Please do grant me the grace I need to not only understand and to receive Your love in my life but to also offer Your love to all. May my life become an ongoing instrument of the perfection of love that You lived. Jesus, I trust in You.

All Are Welcome

Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Children were brought to Jesus that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them…” Matthew 19:13–14

In the Catechism of the Council of Trent, which was promulgated by Pope Saint Pius V, this passage is linked with infant baptism. It states, “Besides, it is not to be supposed that Christ the Lord would have withheld the Sacrament and grace of Baptism from children, of whom He said: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me…” (II, 2, 32). This teaching clearly indicates one of the best ways that this passage is fulfilled today. Inviting even infants before they reach the age of reason to receive the Sacrament of Baptism fulfills this loving command of Jesus to “Let the children come to me…”

Young children do not have the ability to rationally understand love in its purest form. That comes with the age of reason, which has traditionally been understood to be around the age of seven. But children, and even infants, are capable of receiving our love and are capable of receiving the love of God, even if they do not yet fully comprehend this gift.

As a child grows, they learn what love means as they witness it and experience it, especially through the mediation of their parents. This helps form their consciences in such a way that they become capable of making their own free choice to love as they mature in age. But if a child is to grow into a loving adult, they need more than just a good example, they need grace. The grace of Baptism is the primary source of that grace in their lives.

It’s easy for many to see Baptism only as a nice ceremony to welcome the newly born child into God’s family. And though that is true, it is so much more. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Baptism bestows an indelible mark which “remains for ever in the Christian as a positive disposition for grace, a promise and guarantee of divine protection, and as a vocation to divine worship and to the service of the Church” (CCC #1121). In other words, Baptism bestows upon one’s soul a gift that can never be removed and becomes an ongoing source of grace. And when an infant is baptized, it’s as if this Scripture passage above is perpetuated throughout that person’s life. Because of this sacramental grace, Jesus continually says to this baptized soul, “Come to Me.”

In addition to the grace of Baptism, we must all imitate Jesus’ action of welcome and acceptance of not only children but of every child of God. Though the disciples initially tried to prevent the children from coming to our Lord, we must not. We must understand that there is a real temptation within our fallen human nature to both withhold the love of God from others and to even prevent others from coming to God. Anger, pride, envy, jealousy and the like can cause us to object to the conversion of others and to God welcoming them to Himself. When that temptation sets in, we must hear Jesus say to us, “Let the children come to me” and “do not prevent them.”

Reflect, today, upon these gentle and inviting words of Jesus. As you do, try to call to mind anyone who you might try to prevent from coming to our Lord. Do you desire the holiness of all people? Is there anyone in your life whom you find it difficult to encourage to come to Jesus to be embraced and blessed? Take on the heart of Jesus and see it as your duty to embrace others as He embraced these children. The more you become an instrument of the love of Christ, the more you will daily rejoice in God’s blessings as they are bestowed on others.

My tender Lord, You welcome all people to share in Your grace. You welcome every child and every child of God to share in Your loving embrace. Please extend that welcome to me and help me to accept this gift of Your infinite love. And help me to become a better instrument of Your love toward others, never interfering or preventing them from turning to You. Jesus, I trust in You.

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