Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

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Desiring the Fullness of Grace for All

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

“When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.” Matthew 20:8–10

Is life always fair? It would seem not. We have all experienced situations in life when we felt as though we were cheated. Children are especially sensitive to this and will often complain to a parent when they feel as though they have been treated unjustly. From an earthly perspective, it is true that life is not always fair. But we ought not live by an earthly perspective. We are called to live according to the divine perspective. From that perspective, everything is fair in the end, and true justice is meted out to everyone.

When we consider the question of whether or not life is fair, we should always begin with the Son of God. Jesus was certainly not treated fairly. In fact, it is hard to conclude that anyone who has ever lived received a more unjust treatment than Jesus, at least from an earthly perspective. He was perfect in every way. He treated everyone throughout His life with perfect virtue. He never lied, cheated, stole, etc. Yet we all know what happened to Him. He was falsely accused, dishonestly judged, brutally abused, and murdered on a cross. From an earthly perspective, it is clear that this was not fair.

Jesus’ life, along with ours, must not be evaluated from the perspective of earthly justice. It’s not that treating others unjustly is permissible by the will of God. Each of us has a moral responsibility to act in justice as a minimum requirement. But we are also called to exceed earthly justice and live by the new standard of supernatural grace. From that perspective, Jesus’ suffering and death was not tragic; it was glorious. His Cross was not an instrument of injustice, it was His throne upon which He established His new Kingdom. Once grace enters the picture, all apparent injustice is turned upside down and must be looked at from a different perspective.

The parable we read today presents to us the scenario in which God has chosen to bestow His grace and mercy in abundance to all who turn to Him. We can never earn the right to His mercy. Nothing we can do will ever give us the right to the gift of eternal salvation. Therefore, this parable especially challenges us to look at Heaven and the life of grace on earth from the perspective of “gift.” All is a gift from God. Whether we convert at the end of our lives, after living sinful lives, or whether we have spent our whole lives serving the will of God, all is a gift in the end, all is grace. 

Only when we comprehend God’s goodness and infinite generosity will we be able to overcome our temptations toward jealousy and selfishness. Those who have dedicated their entire lives to the love of God, if it is a genuine love and service of God, will, as a result, take on the perspective of the mind and heart of God. Part of that perspective is the burning desire to generously bestow God’s infinite grace and mercy upon everyone who turns to Him. Even the most hardened sinner who has been the source of much hurt in life is a candidate for the fullness of God’s grace if they repent. This must be our desire. We must be like the landowner in this parable who rejoices when laborers show up in the last hour and then lavishes a full day’s wages upon them. Not only is this fair from the divine perspective, it must become our personal desire as we labor through life.

Reflect, today, upon how deeply you desire to see those who have not yet given their lives to God to come to Him and receive the fullness of grace. Look at them within the context of this parable. Examine how you feel about those laborers who have not yet begun their service of God. Examine, also, your feelings toward those who seem undeserving of the fullness of God’s grace. If you find that you have jealousy, or judge others from the perspective of earthly justice, work to eliminate that perspective so that your heart’s deepest desire is to see God bestow the fullness of mercy upon everyone in this world when they turn to Him with a contrite heart.

Most merciful Lord, You are generous beyond comprehension. You bestow mercy upon those who turn to You from their sin and seek to serve Your holy will. May I be among those who labor in Your vineyard, and may I also be among those who desire to see everyone accept the invitation to receive the fullness of Your grace. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Greatness of Holiness

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Mark 9:33–34

One of the desires that we all have is for greatness. This is a good and natural desire. This desire is manifested in competitiveness in sports and games. It becomes a driving force in business and politics. It drives us to do better in life, such as in school, artistic endeavors, and hobbies, working hard to perfect various skills and talents so as to excel. The problem is that every good and natural desire we have is now disordered to a certain degree because of original sin. As a result, the desire we have for greatness can become an obsession, a cause of discouragement when we fail, a source of jealousy when others appear to do better, and can lead us to pursue empty and fleeting goals in life.

Even within the life of faith, we can be affected by both the natural desire for greatness and the fallenness of that desire. The natural desire for greatness, when mingled with faith, will lead us to the desire to be a saint and to do great things for the Kingdom of God. But as a fallen natural quality, we can also fall into the trap of seeing ourselves in competition with others within the Church, and we can become jealous of those who appear to be holy and who are recognized for their good work for Christ.

Just prior to the passage quoted above in which the disciples were discovered to have been arguing among themselves about who was the greatest, Jesus predicted to them, for the second time, that He would suffer and die. Recall that after the first prediction of His passion, Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain and was transfigured before them. Perhaps some of the other disciples became jealous of this apparent special treatment. Then, after Jesus predicted His passion to them for the second time, they might have wondered if some of them would likewise share in a similar experience as the Transfiguration.

Regardless of what motivated the disciples to argue among themselves about who was the greatest, the fact remains that they did so. This was not the result of a holy and purified desire. It was the result of a good desire for greatness that became distorted and turned into an unholy competition based on jealousy and selfishness.

In Heaven, we will all know who is the greatest. Interestingly, the Scriptures, the official Church teachings, and many of the saints reveal to us that there will be levels of glory in Heaven. This is why Jesus said elsewhere, “Store up treasure in Heaven” (Matthew 6:20). In Heaven, each of us will be perfectly happy. But each of us will also share in God’s glory in varying degrees, based upon the merit of our charity on earth. The classic example of this is that if every soul is like a glass of water in Heaven, then every glass will be full. But some glasses will be larger than others and will be able to contain more water (glory). For this reason, we must remember that the natural desire for greatness is good, but it must be properly ordered by grace. That desire must not become as it was among the disciples who saw each other as competitors. Instead, it must be directed to the deepest desire for holiness and charity. In Heaven, we will all be in awe of those holy souls who are filled with the greatest depths of glory forever. Most likely, they will be widely unknown on earth, but loved and admired in Heaven for the greatness of their holiness.

Reflect, today, upon the desire within your own soul for greatness. Pray that this desire will not fall into selfishness or lead you to see others as competitors. Instead, pray that your desire for greatness will lead you to holiness so that you will be able to store up for yourself the most abundant treasures in Heaven and radiate that glory forever.

Most glorious Lord, You are Greatness Itself. You are our eternal glory. I thank You for the natural desire for greatness that has been instilled within my soul. Please purify that desire, and help me to direct it toward holiness so that I will be able to store up in Heaven the many treasures You wish to bestow. Jesus, I trust in You.

Supernatural Prudence

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” Matthew 16:8

These lines conclude the Parable of the Dishonest Steward. At that time, there was a Palastinian custom in which agents acted on behalf of a wealthier master’s money, making loans and obtaining them back with interest. It is similar to our modern banking system. The problem presented in this parable was that the steward was dishonest, skimming some of the profits for himself. As a result, the master told the steward to get his financial affairs in order because he was going to fire him. The shrewd steward, acting on the authority he still had for the moment, then went forth and reduced the debt of each of his master’s debtors so as to win favor with each of them so that he could do business with them after he was fired by his master.

Obviously, Jesus does not tell this parable because He approves of dishonest and shrewd deception in business practices. Instead, He tells it to illustrate the fact that many people who are motivated by selfishness and worldly goals use the natural gift of prudence with much more zeal than many of the “children of light.”

Think about your goals in life. If you were to make a list of your goals, what would it look like? And if you were to order that list according to the importance of those goals, what would be first? Hopefully, on the top of that list, you would have as your primary goal the love, service and glory of God. In the end, that is all that matters in life. Every other goal in life will fall into place when that is our central goal. 

However, if you were to order your list according to how much time, energy and prudence you put into each endeavor, how would it look? Would it look different? Most likely. Many people go about their lives putting a tremendous amount of time and effort into the passing things of this world. Many make their financial advancement the goal with which they spend the most time and energy. Others devote countless hours to hobbies, entertainment, home improvements, sports, and even wasteful activities such as binging on television. When it comes to the practice of the faith, it is a rare person who devotes a significant amount of time and energy to daily prayer, studying the Scriptures, learning the Catechism, and studying the lives of the saints. Many experience Sunday Mass as a burden. Charitable service can become undesirable. Many rarely work at the proclamation of the Gospel.

Though it is true that much of your time might need to be devoted to the ordinary duties of life, such as making a living and caring for the home and family, it is also true that most people need to reorder their priorities by making sure that the will of God is the central mission of their lives. How is this best accomplished? It begins with the virtue of prudence. Prudence is both a natural virtue and a supernatural one. On a natural level, prudence is called the “mother of all virtues” because it is the quality by which every other virtue, all our time and energy, goals and ambitions are directed. Prudence is the act of vigorously using our minds to creatively and zealously work to achieve the most important goals in life. Supernatural prudence is a spiritual gift by which our natural abilities of prudence are infused with the grace of God, and we are better equipped to know how to accomplish God’s will for our lives.

Reflect, today, upon what your list would look like if you were to make it honestly. What do you spend the most time and energy doing? Even if you need to spend most of your time on the ordinary aspects of life, this becomes a holy endeavor when you do it because God is inspiring you to do so. In that case, even the ordinary becomes grace-filled and becomes a way by which you glorify God. The only way for you to know if you are using your time and energies properly is by being open to the gift of supernatural prudence. Pray for that gift today and ask our Lord to more directly order your life so that everything you do is for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

Lord, You are perfect Wisdom; You are Prudence Itself. Please flood my mind and will with Your divine presence and fill me with a desire to make Your perfect will the central mission of my life. Please help me to know how to order my days so that everything I do gives You glory and works toward the salvation of souls, beginning with my own. Jesus, I trust in You.

Growth in Understanding

Monday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

“Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” Luke 8:18

Do you have much? Or little? According to Jesus’ words, if you have much, then you will receive much more; but if you have little, then you will lose even what you have. Does this seem fair?

Of course, our Lord is not speaking in worldly terms. He’s not saying that if you have much money, then you will gain more, or if you are poor, then you will become poorer. Instead, Jesus is speaking about the grace that comes from understanding His holy Word. Notice that the passage above begins by saying, “Take care, then, how you hear.”

To “hear” the Word of God implies that you truly receive what Jesus teaches. Hearing is not just hearing the words spoken with your ears. One early Church Father, Saint Bede, explains that truly hearing the Word of God with our minds leads us to love that Word, and loving the Word leads to understanding. This is not accomplished by an intellectual exercise alone, as if our natural gifts are the primary means by which we comprehend all that Jesus teaches. Rather, it comes through spiritual insight gained by the supernatural gift of the Spirit Who teaches us all things.

If you want “more” understanding of the mysteries of God, then commit yourself to engaging the holy Scriptures with your mind. Read the Scriptures, ponder them and pray with them. It’s easy to forget that the Word of God is a Living Word. This means that when we prayerfully immerse ourselves in the Scriptures, we are prayerfully encountering God Himself. God is alive in His holy Word. We meet Him, personally, and this happens only by a special grace that we must be open to receive.

The beautiful aspect of this teaching of Jesus is that the more we understand His Word by this grace, the more we will immerse ourselves in it, and it will continue to grow within us. If, however, we devote little time to engaging the Word of God in prayer, we will begin to “forget,” so to speak, the spiritual depths of the wisdom of God. We will lose the little understanding we have and when this happens, we will be prone to engaging and accepting the many confusions and deceptions alive in our world.

Reflect, today, upon your practice of prayerfully meditating upon the Scriptures. If this is not your current practice, resolve to make it so. Perhaps start with one of the Gospels and commit yourself to prayerfully reading it little by little every day. The goal is not to get through the books of the Bible. The goal is to enter into each book. Every chapter and every line provides us with a depth of spiritual insight and understanding just waiting to be given and received. Commit yourself to this holy practice, and you will be amazed at the spiritual riches our Lord bestows upon you.

Living Word of God, my Lord and my King, I thank You for the way in which You come to me and all Your children through Your written Word. Fill me with a love for that Word so that I will daily engage my mind in the deep truths revealed within it. May I meet You, dear Lord, and grow in an understanding of Who You are and what You wish to reveal to me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Becoming Jesus’ Mother and Brothers

Tuesday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd. He was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.” He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” Luke 8:19–21

The term “brothers” in this passage is obviously not to be understood that Jesus had blood brothers. It is a dogma of our faith that Jesus was the only Child of Mary. At that time, it was common practice to refer to one’s extended family as “brothers.” This would have especially applied to Jesus’ cousins and perhaps even those who were unrelated by blood but were from the same village.

As these relatives of Jesus stood outside and announced their presence, what did they expect Jesus to do? His “brothers” might have been there to try to talk some sense into Him. We know from other passages in the Gospels that some of Jesus’ extended family thought He was out of His mind. Therefore, it is possible that these brothers were there to resolve an extended family conflict that was erupting as Jesus began His public ministry.

Jesus’ response was not a rude response. This is clear from the fact that Jesus lived the perfection of charity. But true charity is always grounded in the truth. Jesus spoke a truth that cut through the merely human ties and conflicts that were driving these brothers. By saying, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it,” Jesus was challenging His brothers to stop looking at Him only in an earthly way. Everyone, including His relatives, needed to learn to see Jesus as the Son of the Father in Heaven. It was the act of accepting Jesus’ divine identity and submitting in obedience to the will of the Father that established a much deeper bond with Him. That is the relationship that Jesus desired with His earthly brothers.

The mother of Jesus, on the other hand, was also perfect in every way. She was free from the disorder of sin and even her mind was clear, being filled with perfect wisdom and understanding. Therefore, when it was reported to her what Jesus said, she would have understood and believed.

Saint Bede says that when we hear the word of God and obey it, we become Jesus’ “mother” by bringing Him forth into the world through our words and actions. This also makes us Jesus’ “brothers” because our obedience makes us all children of the Father in Heaven.

By the gift of the fullness of grace, our Blessed Mother would have fully understood that her unity with her Son was primarily the result of their shared obedience to the Father’s will. She not only experienced the Son of God being conceived within her womb, she also had the profound experience of conceiving Him in her heart through her obedience to the will of the Father. That “conception” of Jesus within her Immaculate Heart would have been unmistakably clear to her and the cause of her greatest joy. For that reason, she would have treasured this spiritual motherhood of her Son as the greatest gift of all, even more than the gift of natural motherhood.

Reflect, today, upon the fact that you are also invited to be the “mother” and the “brother” of Jesus. You share in these holy callings through obedience to the will of the Father. The more clearly you hear God speak and the more fully you obey all that He says will determine the depth of spiritual union you have with Him. Our natural selves must give way to the supernatural life of grace. Make the choice, with our Blessed Mother, to pursue the glorious life of grace so that you will conceive the Son of God in your heart, become a true child of the Father in Heaven, and become a spiritual brother or sister of our Lord.

My divine Lord, Your love for Your earthly mother was perfect in every way. That earthly bond was transformed and elevated by Your spiritual union with her on account of Your mutual obedience to the will of the Father. Please draw me into Your divine Family by helping me to listen to and to obey all that the Father speaks. Jesus, I trust in You.

Authority Over demons

Wednesday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. Luke 9:1–2

This is the first time that Jesus sends His Apostles out on a mission. On this mission, He is preparing them for their ultimate mission, which will come at the time of Pentecost, after Jesus dies, rises and ascends to Heaven. But for now, Jesus commissions these Apostles to do three things: to cast out demons, heal the sick and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

Just like the Apostles, we are called to combat the devil and his demons. They are fallen angels who retain their natural powers, and they use those natural powers to try to deceive us, oppress us and, in some cases, even possess us. But demons are powerless in the face of God, and God gives us spiritual authority over them. And though there are some who are given the unique ministry of exorcism within the Church, all of us do have spiritual authority over demons, especially over their natural spiritual attacks of temptations.

We combat demons primarily by revealing their lies and bringing them to light. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in his spiritual classic The Spiritual Exercises, explains to us some of the ordinary tactics these demons use and how we overcome them. He says that for those steeped in a life of serious sin, the demons continually place before their mind the lie that their sins are enjoyable and rewarding, so that they will continue to choose them. And for those who are striving for holiness, these demons try to discourage them in their deepening conversion. They “bite, sadden and put obstacles, disquieting with false reasons, that one may not go on” (Rule 2). The way to overcome these temptations is by turning to the truth. First, by realizing that the false “pleasures” of sin are just that: false, fleeting and ultimately demeaning. Furthermore, we overcome these temptations by receiving from God “courage and strength, consolations, tears, inspirations and quiet, easing, and putting away all obstacles.” In other words, we overcome the demons by allowing God to strengthen us, clear our thinking, dispel all false obstacles on the road to holiness and by receiving the abundant consolations that God bestows as help on the journey.

Reflect, today, upon the fact that our Lord wants to minister to you in this threefold way. If you can work to overcome the obstacles put in your path by these demons, then you are in a good position to share in the other two missions given to the Apostles. You will be able to experience mental, emotional and spiritual healing in your life, and you will be able to allow the Kingdom of God to grow strong and powerful within your own soul. From there, you will be sent on a mission by our Lord to bring these graces to others in need.

My all-powerful Lord, You have authority over evil, the power to heal and offer all the gifts of eternal salvation. Help me to be open to the ways that You desire to come to me. Please free me from the attacks of the evil one, bring healing and hope, and bring forth the abundance of Your glorious Kingdom in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Courage to Change

Thursday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead”; others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.” Luke 9:7–8

Herod the tetrarch, also known as Herod Antipas, ruled the Jews of Galilee for some forty-two years. He began his reign in 2 BC and continued to reign until he was exiled by the Roman Emperor in 37 AD. During his reign, he spent much time in Tiberias, one of the main cities on the western edge of the Sea of Galilee. Most of Jesus’ ministry took place within the region of Herod’s domain, all of Galilee, so Herod was very aware of the many stories about Jesus.

Today’s Gospel concludes by saying that Herod kept trying to see Jesus. Of course, Herod, just like anyone living in that region, could have traveled to where Jesus was preaching so as to listen to Him at any time. But he didn’t do that. Instead, he continued to receive reports about Jesus and remained curious about Him, trying to find a way to figure out Who Jesus was.

Try to imagine what would have happened if Herod would have traveled to where Jesus was preaching so as to listen to Him with an open heart. If he would have done that, and truly listened, Herod would have received one of the greatest gifts imaginable. He would have received the gift of faith and conversion and would have begun down the road toward eternal salvation. But Herod was living an immoral life. He was known to be a cruel leader and also an unrepentant adulterer. He loved his power and was quite jealous of it. Herod most likely knew, at least in the back of his mind, that if he were to listen to Jesus, he would have to change. And he most likely didn’t want to change.

This presents us all with a powerful lesson. Each one of us can easily dismiss various communications and invitations from our Lord, because, deep down, we do not want to change. God is speaking to us all day long, every day of our lives. He is constantly offering us His message of the full Gospel. And though you may be open to much of what God says, there are most likely parts of His divine message that you either knowingly or unknowingly do not listen to. The key to being able to hear everything that God wants to speak to you is to be disposed to completely change in any and every way that God wants you to change.

Reflect, today, upon Herod. First, reflect upon his curiosity about Jesus. This is a good quality, in that it’s much better than being indifferent. From there, think also about the fact that Herod never went to Jesus to listen to Him. His first meeting with Jesus was on the night of His arrest, when he interrogated our Lord and made fun of Him. As you consider Herod’s obstinacy, use it as an examination of your own life. Where you see any small reflection of obstinacy, fear of change or a closed heart, seek to remedy that by turning to our Lord telling Him you are open to all He wishes to say and that you are ready and willing to change in any way He calls you to do so. Do not fear the change our Lord wants of you. Embracing that change will land you on the quick and narrow road toward true holiness of life.

My ever-present Lord, You call to me day and night, inviting me to change as I listen to Your holy Word. I thank You for these constant promptings of grace and commit myself to remain open to all that You ask of me. I choose You, my Lord. And as I turn to You, I pray that I will have the courage I need to respond wholeheartedly to Your call. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Deepest Human Satisfaction

Friday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Luke 9:18

It’s interesting that Jesus was both “praying in solitude” and that “the disciples were with him.” Saint Bede explains this apparent contradiction by stating that “the Son alone is able to penetrate the incomprehensible secrets of the Father’s will.” Therefore, our Lord was always alone with the Father in the sense that only Jesus knew the Father fully and intimately. This is because He is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Eternal Son of the Father.

With that fact clearly understood, it’s also important to understand that as Jesus prayed to the Father within His human nature, something new took place. Though Jesus was eternally with the Father, His human nature was not eternally with the Father. Therefore, as the Eternal Son of God communed with the Eternal Father while living in human flesh, human nature was suddenly elevated to a height that it had never been before. Not only was the Eternal Son living in perfect union with the Father, but now the Eternal Son, fully human, brought His human nature into this oneness.

Though this may seem a bit philosophical to some, it points to a very important reality that affects us all. Through our Lord’s human prayer to the Father, we are all invited to join with Jesus and share in this divine oneness. The Son of God, as a human being, made it possible for us as humans to share in the elevation of our very lives to oneness with God the Father. And though the Son of God will always retain a unique union with the Father, we are, nonetheless, by participation, invited to share in their life.

So why is this important? One reason is that there is no greater human fulfillment we could ever achieve than to share in the prayer of the Son to the Father. Throughout our lives, we are constantly looking for fulfillment in one form or another. We want to be happy. We want enjoyment in life. We have a natural desire for happiness that we are constantly seeking to fulfill. What’s important to understand is that the greatest happiness comes by sharing in the deep human prayer of the Son to the Father. Prayer, true prayer, is the answer to our deepest desire.

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you regularly engage in deep prayer. Can you point to times when you, like our Lord, were alone with God, communing with Him in the depths of your human soul, being drawn to Him through prayer? There are many levels of prayer, as is attested to by many saints. Make the choice to deepen your prayer. Go before our Lord today and pour out your heart to Him, asking Him to draw you into the holy solitude of His prayer to the Father. Doing so will bring forth in you the deepest human satisfaction possible in life. 

My praying Lord, as You spent time alone with the Father, You united Your human nature with Him, thus elevating our nature to a glorious degree. Please draw me to You, dear Lord, so that I may know You and the Father through true, deep and sustaining prayer. May this oneness with You be the cause of my deepest fulfillment in life. Jesus, I trust in You.

A Well-Ordered Soul

Saturday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

“Pay attention to what I am telling you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.” But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.  Luke 9:44–45

This is the second time that Jesus predicts His coming passion to His Apostles. After telling them that He will be handed over, the Gospel relates that “they did not understand this saying.” It also states that “they were afraid to ask him about this saying.” Why did they not understand, and why were they afraid to ask Jesus about His coming passion?

The Apostles were deeply attached to our Lord, both on a spiritual level and also through their affections. And this is good. But sometimes our affections can cloud our thinking and make it difficult to understand the deeper spiritual realities in life. Though our affections are natural, they must always be directed by the will of God. For example, if we were to try to understand Jesus’ affections, we’d have to conclude that He both spiritually and affectionately desired to lay down His life for the salvation of souls in accord with the will of the Father. He not only chose this with His will, but He also desired it in His affections, because His affections were perfectly ordered.

The Apostles, however, were unable to understand that Jesus had to lay down His life, be rejected, suffer and die, in part because they were very attached to Jesus in an emotional and affectionate way. So in this instance, their human love and attachment to Jesus hindered their ability to understand the greater spiritual good of Jesus laying down His life.

Consider, also, our Blessed Mother. How would she have reacted to Jesus saying that He had to be handed over, be rejected, suffer and die? Though this would have grieved her with a holy sorrow, the perfection of her human nature would have led her to not only understand and accept this deep spiritual truth, but she would have also desired this to happen within her affections because she perfectly desired the fulfillment of the will of the Father. There would have been no conflict within her between the will of the Father and what she desired.

In our own lives, we will often tend to struggle in the same way that the Apostles struggled. When faced with some challenging cross in life, a cross that the Father calls us to embrace freely, we will often find that our affections resist. When this happens, we become confused and even fearful of the future. Thus, the only way to conquer fear is to work to surrender every emotion, every affection and every human attachment over to the will of the Father so that His will is all we desire with every power of our soul.

Reflect, today, upon the interior struggle of these Apostles as they came face-to-face with this the second time Jesus began to prepare them to accept, understand, choose and desire His passion. Consider the interior struggle they went through at that time and even as they saw this unfold. Eventually they understood. Eventually all fear vanished. And eventually they affectionately rejoiced in Jesus’ sacrifice. But it took much time and much surrender. Reflect upon those ways our Lord is inviting you to choose His Cross in your life. Where you see your affections resisting, try to surrender, pray for understanding and seek the courage you need to desire His Cross with all your soul.

My revealing Lord, You opened Your divine heart to Your Apostles and invited them to understand and choose Your suffering and death. And though they hesitated and struggled, You continued to invite them to embrace the Father’s will. Give me the grace I need, dear Lord, to embrace every spiritual truth first and foremost and to allow that Truth to free me from fear and fill me with the gift of understanding. Jesus, I trust in You.

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