Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

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The Torment of Unforgiveness

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

“‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:32–35

Love, kindness, gentleness, mercy…these and many like qualities are easy to think about. They inspire us to be holy by growing in virtue. But sometimes we need more. Sometimes pondering the beauty of the virtues and fruits of the Spirit do not suffice to help us embrace a life of holiness. This is one of the reasons for our parable today.

The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola present us with a structure by which a spiritual director may lead a retreatant through a thirty day private retreat. Ignatius outlines thirty days worth of meditations. Interestingly, Ignatius does not begin by inviting a person to ponder the beautiful virtues to which they are called. Instead, for the first week, he has the retreatant ponder the horror of sin and the devastating effects that sin has upon a soul. By doing this, the person’s eyes are more fully opened to their own sin so that, in the subsequent three weeks, they will be more properly disposed to reflect upon the inspiring life of Christ and His many virtues.

In a sense, our Gospel today is an ideal Gospel to ponder during that first week of an Ignatian retreat. And for that reason, it is an ideal Gospel to ponder anytime we want to get our spiritual lives in order. It is very easy to become complacent in our Christian walk. It is easy to become lukewarm in our prayer and even in our moral life. If that is you to any degree, then this Gospel is worth your careful and thorough attention.

The sin that Jesus addresses in this passage is the sin of unforgiveness. It clearly depicts the wrath of God that will be inflicted upon those who refuse to forgive others. The “wicked servant” to whom this is addressed was a man who was forgiven a “huge amount” by God. This is all of us. Every one of us has been forgiven by God an amount that cost Jesus His very life. The consequence of our sins was the death of the Son of God. Each of us deserves the penalty of death. But death has now been transformed into the very means of new life through the forgiveness of sins. And if we want to receive the forgiveness of sins and the new life that awaits us, we must fully share in God’s forgiveness. Not only must we receive His forgiveness, we must also forgive those who have sinned against us. Completely. Totally. Without reserve.

In this parable, the wicked servant failed to forgive his servant’s small debt. In fact, every sin committed against us, no matter how grave in the eyes of God, is a small debt compared to the debt we owe God. For that reason, we must never hesitate to forgive. Never. If this is difficult, and if reflecting upon God’s mercy, kindness, compassion and love do not compel you to completely forgive everyone to the fullest extent, then spend time with this parable. “You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?” These are words directed at us when we fail to forgive completely from the depths of our hearts. They are merciful words from Jesus to help us wake up to what we need to do.

In a commentary on this passage from St. Thomas Aquinas, the “torturers” spoken of, to whom we will be handed over if we do not forgive, are the demons. They will torment us when we lack forgiveness toward others. The torture, for now, will come in the form of obsessing over our wounds, dwelling upon thoughts of revenge, holding grudges, and lacking interior peace. This is the work of the demons, and they will torment us this way until we forgive.

Reflect, today, upon the absolute requirement of the Christian life to forgive. Mercy can seem unfair. From the perspective of strict justice, it is. But from the perspective of freedom and the virtues of Heaven, mercy makes perfect sense. Do not hesitate to forgive, for if you can do so from the bottom of your heart, God will lavish upon you the riches of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Most merciful Lord, You have forgiven me a huge debt. The cost of my sin was Your death on the Cross. Please fill my heart with such gratitude for this gift that I, in turn, offer the same depth of mercy to others. May I never waver in this depth of mercy so that I am freed from the torments that come from unforgiveness. Jesus, I trust in You.

A Spiritual U-Turn

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:34–35

Practically speaking, how do we follow Jesus and save our souls? Is it enough to profess that we believe in Jesus? If we were to arrive at the conclusion that Jesus is God and the Savior of the World, would we then be saved? Certainly not. Even the demons believe this truth. Jesus is quite clear that salvation requires action on our part. We must deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him. Furthermore, the road to salvation requires that we lose ourselves for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. What exactly does this mean, practically speaking?

To answer this question, let’s first consider the way that many people live. We tend to desire that which is the easiest in life, the most enjoyable, the greatest, and the most consoling. We often seek out those things that make us feel good and the path of least resistance. For example, if you could choose to fast on bread and water or feast on the most delicious foods, which would you choose? If you could choose between a vacation in the most exotic and luxurious location or a week of very difficult work, which would you choose? If you could choose to drive a brand new, high-end car or a very old beater, which one would you prefer? Most people would quickly pick the nice food, luxurious vacation and fancy new car.

In his spiritual classic, the Ascent to Mount Carmel, Saint John of the Cross outlines a very different path. He gives a series of spiritual maxims to use for prayer and meditation to help purify your soul of every unhealthy attachment so that you can become more fully attached to God and His holy will. St. John says, “Strive always to prefer, not that which is easiest, but that which is most difficult; Not that which is most attractive, but that which is most unpleasant; Not that which gives most pleasure, but rather that which gives least…” These spiritual maxims, when read in their entirety, challenge us to the core of our being. They quickly reveal to those who are honest that they often prefer the easiest, most pleasant and best that this world has to offer. But what is best for your eternal soul?

Jesus’ teaching, that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him, is the road map to saving your eternal soul and to discovering a spiritual fulfillment that far surpasses anything this world or our flesh have to offer. But in order to understand this road map and then to follow it, we often need to make a “spiritual U-turn” so to speak. This U-turn begins with us choosing the Cross on every level of our being and concludes with God stripping away all selfish desires and replacing them with a desire for sacrificial love.

If you were to carefully examine your thoughts throughout the day, you might find that you think about yourself a lot. “I like this, don’t want to do that, am angry about this, and am trying to avoid that…” Very often, our thoughts begin with “I” and end with “me.” Denying yourself, taking up your cross, and losing your life means that you no longer think about yourself. It means that the eyes of your soul have turned away from yourself and focus exclusively upon the will of God and the love of others. But this will never be possible until we are freed of the numerous selfish desires that often direct most of our actions day in and day out.

Reflect, today, upon that which you desire throughout your day. What occupies your thoughts the most? What are you drawn to the most? Do you spend most of your day thinking about how you can better serve God and His holy will? Or do you spend most of your day thinking about yourself? Do the eyes of your soul most often turn to the selfless service of others? Or do they more often think about what you want in a selfish way? Reflect upon these difficult questions and seek to eradicate everything within you that is selfish. Doing so will enable you to make a spiritual U-turn so that you can carry the glorious and transforming Cross of Christ.

My sacrificial Lord, You lived a selfless life in which Your only concerns were the glory of the Father in Heaven and the salvation of the world. Please free me from all selfishness so that I will be more able to deny myself in every way, run toward every cross in life, and follow You into the beautiful life of selfless and sacrificial love. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Mercy of the Father in Heaven

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.” Luke 15:11–13

We know the story. We have read of the prodigal son in this Gospel passage and have experienced his life in various ways. Some have lived similarly to the prodigal son, endlessly searching for happiness in a life of immoral living, squandering their gifts and money, seeking pleasure as their primary goal. Others have watched with sorrow as someone they love went astray. In various ways, the story of this son hits home for many.

One of the most touching aspects of this story is the disposition of the heart of the father. After the son abandoned his father, taking his inheritance before the father had died and squandering it foolishly, the father remained faithful to his son. Though his heart was deeply sorrowful, the father remained in hope that the son would return. After the son found himself destitute, he journeyed home, hoping his father would treat him as a hired hand. But when the son was almost home, the father saw him from a distance. About that moment, we read, “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”

Too often in life, especially after sinning, we look at God through our own human experience. We think of Him treating us in the way we would treat others. But God’s compassion is beyond any human compassion we could ever imagine. Nothing in our human experience could ever properly prepare us for the burning love in the Heart of the Father in Heaven.

The two most important lessons found in this parable are the sinfulness of the son and the forgiveness of the father. You are that son. You are a sinner. You have turned from God and have sought satisfaction in many things that will never satisfy. Therefore, the first step we must take in response to this parable is to admit that we will never find happiness away from the Father in Heaven. Though we might try, we will never succeed. This is because we were made for God, and we will only find fulfillment with Him.

The second more important lesson in the parable helps us with the first.  If we can prayerfully seek to comprehend the compassion and mercy of the Father in Heaven, we will more easily admit to our sin and return home without fear. We will allow God to lift the burden of shame and embrace us with His love.

Reflect, today, upon these two things. First, admit your sin without hesitation or fear. If we were able to see the sinfulness of our souls with God’s eyes, we’d be horrified. Pride blinds us and keeps us from seeing our sins clearly. Pray for the grace to see your soul as it is. Second, as you do so, have no fear of God’s judgment. Judgment is reserved only for those who refuse to repent. If you return to God every day, confessing your sins and seeking to understand them honestly, then turning to God without hesitation will relieve you of the burdens you carry as He forgives you. The Father is standing in the distance, waiting for you. Let Him run to you, embrace you and shower His mercy upon you.

Father of all mercies, You always stand and wait for us to return to You. Your Heart is filled with the deepest compassion. Please help me to see my sins as You see them and to trust fully in Your merciful Heart. Thank You for running to me and forgiving me for my sin so that You can lift these heavy burdens I carry. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Humility of Intercession

Monday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

“Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed.” Luke 7:6–7

What’s interesting is that these humble words, spoken by a Roman centurion, were not actually spoken by the centurion to Jesus. This is because the centurion did not believe he was even worthy of going to Jesus himself. Therefore, he sent some of his friends to speak these words to Jesus on his behalf. In a real way, the friends of this centurion acted as intercessors before Jesus. Jesus’ response was to express amazement at the centurion’s faith. Jesus said to the crowd who was with Him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And at that point, the servant was healed by Jesus from a distance.

Most of the time, if we have an important request to make of another, we do so in person. We go to the person and speak face-to-face. And though we certainly can go to our Lord in prayer, face-to-face, person to Person, there is something very humble about bringing our needs to our Lord through the intercession of another. Specifically, there is something very humble about asking for the intercession of the saints.

Seeking the intercession of the saints before our Lord is not done because we are afraid of our Lord or because He would be offended by us going directly to Him. It is ideally done as an act of the utmost humility. By entrusting our prayer to those who are in Heaven, gazing upon the face of God, we do entrust our prayer to God. But relying upon the intercession of the saints is also a way of acknowledging that we are not worthy, by our own merits, to stand before the Lord and bring Him our request. This humility can be difficult to understand at times, but it’s important to try.

What is it that you need to pray for in your life right now? As you call that to mind, pick a saint to act as your friend and intercessor before God. Turn to that saint in humility and say a prayer to that saint, admitting that you are not worthy of going to our Lord on your own. Then entrust your petition to that saint and ask him or her to present that prayer to our Lord on your behalf. Praying to our Lord, through the intercession of a saint, is a way of also saying that you know Jesus’ response to you is pure mercy on His part. And the good news is that Jesus deeply desires to shower His mercy when we humble ourselves before Him, especially by coming to Him through the mediation of the saints. 

Reflect, today, upon the humility of this well-respected Roman centurion. Try to understand the power of his humble approach by which he sent his friends to Jesus on his behalf. As you do, pick a saint in Heaven and ask them to go to our Lord on your behalf and request that our Lord grant you the same humility and faith as this centurion. Doing so will lead our Lord to be amazed at your faith and humility also.

Saints of God, please offer to Jesus my humble request that I grow more in humility and faith. My precious Lord, I do bring this and all my prayers to You. As I do, I acknowledge that I am not worthy of Your Divine Mercy. But through the mediation of the saints in Heaven, if it be Your will that You bestow Your mercy upon me, then I humbly make this request of You through them. Mother Mary, I especially entrust all my prayers to Your holy intercession. Jesus, I trust in You.

Compassion, Hope and Faith

Tuesday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. Luke 7:11–12

Try to imagine this mother. She had been married, she and her husband had a child, they raised their child, she and her son watched her husband die, and then she watched her son die and was participating in his funeral. Since he was her only son, she was now alone.

When we think about this woman, it is easy to feel compassion for her. Her heart would have been filled with a sorrow that is tangible to anyone with empathy. Her heart might also have been filled with fear. At that time, a widow would have had a very difficult time taking care of herself in a rural village. With her husband gone, she would have had to rely upon her son to provide for her as she aged. But now that he was gone, her heart would have not only felt the pain of his loss, but also fear for her future. What would become of her? Who would provide food for her year after year? Would she be reduced to begging and poverty?

It is in the context of this very real sorrow and fear that Jesus enters her life. We do not know if she knew anything about Jesus. It appears she was not one of His followers and might not have even heard about Jesus since He had not been ministering publicly for very long. Jesus’ encounter with her and her dead son appears to be unplanned and unexpected. What is it that moves Jesus to raise this man from the dead? It does not appear to be a response to anyone’s faith within the village. It is not even done at anyone’s request. Instead, it appears to be done purely out of Jesus’ compassion for this mother. At least that’s how it seems at first read. And though Jesus clearly acted out of compassion for her, if we consider the entire context, there might also be a secondary motive.

Jesus, his disciples and a large crowd were all walking together through this village. Since Jesus’ miracles were normally performed in response to people’s faith, it is most likely that faith was a contributing factor to this miracle. The faith that called forth this miracle, however, could only have come from the crowds of people who were walking with Jesus from Capernaum. The day prior, these same crowds witnessed Jesus heal the servant of a centurion. They clearly believed in Jesus. As they walked with Him and encountered this funeral procession, it was not only Jesus’ heart that was moved with compassion, it was also the hearts of His followers. Therefore, as Jesus’ followers witnessed this mother’s sorrow and then witnessed Jesus’ own human sorrow and compassion for her, they would have had hope that He would do something. Their hope would have been supernatural in origin, which means that it was also united with faith. By faith, they knew Jesus would act. Thus, in a very real way, the compassion, hope and faith of the people traveling with Jesus would have called forth His almighty power to heal, and Jesus responded.

There are many ways to act as mediators of God’s grace. One way to do so is by growing in compassion for others and hope in God. When we witness the sufferings of others, allow ourselves to feel compassion for them, manifest hope in the power of God to heal, and then stand there, in faith, waiting for God to act, God will be compelled to act. Our holy compassion, hope and faith act as a prayer to which God always responds. The crowds accompanying Jesus through the Village of Nain appear to have acted in this manner and, inspired by their witness, we, too, must act as intercessors for others in the same way.

Reflect, today, upon anyone in your life who resembles this widow of Nain. Who is it that God wants you to notice and to feel compassion for? As your empathetic heart notices those who need your compassion, open yourself, also, to the supernatural gift of hope. Have divine hope that God will heal them. As you do, allow that hope to manifest faith in God and offer that compassion, hope and faith to God as your prayer for those who are in need.

Most compassionate Lord, You are always attentive to our needs and our sorrows. Your Heart is filled with compassion for all. Please give me a truly empathetic heart so that I will see those in need. As I do, fill me with hope and faith that You will pour forth Your mercy upon them so that I will become an intercessor for all. Jesus, I trust in You.

A Well-Ordered Soul

Wednesday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

“‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’ John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” Luke 7:32–35

Ecclesiastes 3 is a very popular reading for funerals. It says, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant…A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” This reading is consoling to those who are mourning at a funeral because life is filled with many different emotions and experiences. When those at a funeral think about their loved one, they will recall both the good times and the bad, the sorrows and the joys. Doing so helps remind them that even though the funeral is a time of sorrow, joys will follow in the future. This is the natural rhythm of life.

In our Gospel today, Jesus challenged those who failed to have the proper human response at the right time. “We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.” The image of playing a flute and singing a dirge and the subsequent failure to dance and weep reveals a certain disconnect that many people had to John the Baptist and to Jesus Himself during their ministries. In commenting upon this passage, Saint Augustine says that John the Baptist’s preaching was like a dirge that called people to the “weeping” of repentance. However, when he preached, there were many who failed to respond with the appropriate repentance. When Jesus came, He preached and gave witness to the new life of grace that He came to bestow. Though some listened and responded to Him, there were many who did not. Jesus’ message was like the music of the flute that was to inspire people to “dance.” But many failed to respond with the joy that they were invited to experience and live through His transforming message and grace.

There is, indeed, an appointed time for everything and for every affair under Heaven. The mission we have been given is to be attentive to that which God is speaking to us at each and every moment of our lives. At times we must “weep” by looking at our sins honestly, experience the horror of those sins, and passionately reject them. At other times we will “dance” when God invites us into His consoling grace and asks us to see clearly His merciful love. At those moments we are invited to be deeply grateful and to express that gratitude with our whole souls.

Reflect, today, upon the calling you have been given to live in a well-ordered way. Do so by considering how attentive you are to the people around you. Does the attentiveness of your charity help you to see the hurt within the hearts of those who are suffering? Are you compelled to offer them a compassionate ear and merciful heart? When others are experiencing the joys of life, are you able to share that joy with them? Can you do so fully, without jealousy or envy of any kind? When God inspires you to some act of conversion and bestows some grace, do you listen and promptly obey, responding in the most appropriate way? Our souls must become sensitive to the promptings of grace and must respond accordingly. Seek to have a well-ordered soul so that you will live and experience the life that God places before you each day in accord with His perfect will.

Lord, Your soul was perfectly ordered, always responding to the will of the Father with perfection. You were firm when love demanded it, courageous in the face of hardship, merciful to the repentant sinner, and joyful at the conversion of all. Please help me to always be attentive to the promptings of Your grace and to always respond to You in the way I am called. Jesus, I trust in You.

Awe at the Forgiveness of Sins

Thursday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:48–50

These loving words from Jesus were spoken to a sinful woman who showed up unannounced at a dinner Jesus was having at the house of a Pharisee. The Pharisee looked down upon her in judgment, but she didn’t care. In sorrow for her sins, she anointed Jesus’ feet and humbled herself before Him, bathing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair.

The conversation ends with Jesus looking at her and telling her “Your sins are forgiven.” Note the reaction of those who were at the table. We are given an insight into their interior thoughts. They said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 

Those who have been born and raised within the faith have always understood that God forgives. We were taught this from an early age, learned much about it in preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and have heard this message throughout our lives in one form or another. But imagine never hearing about or experiencing the forgiveness of God throughout your life, and then suddenly one day you do. Imagine what these people must have been experiencing as they encountered the forgiveness of sins for the first time in the Person of Jesus as He forgave this sinful woman. They may have been a bit confused by this, but, perhaps more than anything else, they would have experienced a holy awe and amazement at what God had done. They saw this sinful woman come in, they sensed the judgment and demeaning attitude of the Pharisees, they saw her express sorrow and humiliation, and then they saw Jesus forgive her.

Are you amazed at the gift of the forgiveness of your sins and the sins of others? Or do you take forgiveness for granted? The wonder and awe that the people manifested at the forgiveness of the sins of this woman should help us to examine our own attitude toward God’s mercy and forgiveness. We need to continually foster within ourselves the same amazement at God’s mercy that these people had. We must work to never take forgiveness for granted or to see it as just one more normal part of life. Rather, we must see it as extraordinary, ever new, ever glorious and forever awe inspiring.

Reflect, today, upon the awe-inspired words of these first followers of Jesus: “Who is this who even forgives sins?” As you do, let God fill you with the deepest gratitude for the forgiveness He has offered you. Renew your appreciation for this unmerited gift from God and allow that gratitude to become the source of your ongoing amazement at the mercy of God.

My forgiving Lord, Your mercy and compassion for the sinner is truly awe-inspiring. Thank You for loving me and all Your followers with a love so deep. Please fill my heart with a holy awe at Your incredible mercy. May I always be amazed at Your forgiveness and always be filled with the deepest gratitude as I experience it in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

All In!

Friday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities… Luke 8:1–2

Our Lord was on a mission. He traveled on foot from one town to another, “preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.” His message truly was “good news.” He healed the sick, cast out demons and, most importantly, He forgave sins. As a result, many began to follow Him. Not only did His followers consist of the Twelve whom Jesus personally called and who He would eventually send forth as His Apostles, but others followed Him also. Today’s Gospel also mentions three women by name: Mary of Magdala, Joanna and Susanna. These are but a few of the people who were deeply touched by our Lord, who in turn left all to follow Him.

The choice of these first followers to abandon all and follow Jesus invites us to examine the extent to which we have committed our lives to following Him also. Among the many people who heard Jesus preach, there were undoubtedly various responses. Some rejected Him, others were intrigued by Him, others believed in Him but were not willing to become His disciple, and some did commit themselves wholeheartedly to Jesus and His mission of proclaiming good news. For the latter, the good news they heard changed their lives.

What is your response to our Lord? One good way to properly answer this question is to examine the amount of time and energy you have committed to our Lord and His message of good news. How much time have you spent reading His holy Word, praying to Him, speaking about Him and learning the faith that He has taught? How much does His message affect the decisions you make in life? Being a Christian is not something we can compartmentalize. We cannot have our “faith time” a few moments of each week and then spend the rest of our time on other activities. True, our days will be filled with many activities that are simply normal parts of our lives. We all have duties and responsibilities that occupy much of our days. But being “all in,” so to speak, means that Jesus and His message permeates everything we do. Even our ordinary daily activities such as work, chores, and the like must be done for God’s glory and in accord with His divine will. 

For Jesus’ first followers, though they traveled with Him from town to town and radically changed the course of their daily lives, they still would have engaged in many ordinary activities. But those ordinary activities were ultimately done so as to help them and others fulfill their ultimate mission of listening to and responding to the Word of God.

Reflect, today, upon the extent that you have consecrated every part of your life to our Lord and His mission. Doing so does not necessarily require that you become a public evangelist, spend all day at Church or the like. It simply means that Jesus and His mission are invited into everything you do every day all day. We can never serve our Lord fully enough. As you examine your daily activity, look for ways to bring our Lord into everything you do. Doing so will truly make you one of His faithful disciples who are all in with your life.

My divine Lord, You are on a mission to save souls and to build up Your glorious Kingdom. I thank You for inviting me to not only become transformed by Your holy Word but to help spread that Word to others. My life is Yours, dear Lord. Please enter into every part of my daily life and use me for Your glory. Jesus, I trust in You.

Bearing Abundant Good Fruit

Saturday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

“Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” Luke 8:8

This short line is, in a sense, a summary of the Parable of the Sower. This parable presents us with four different ways in which the Word of God is received. The seed that is sown is the Word of God. The four different categories of people are compared to seed sown on a path, rocky ground, among thorns and in good soil.

Jesus explains that the seed sown on the path are those “who have heard, but the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts.” The seed sown on rocky ground are those who “receive the word with joy, but they have no root; they believe only for a time and fall away in time of temptation.” The seed sown among thorns are those who have heard the Word and received it, but over time they are “choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they fail to produce mature fruit.” Finally, those who are like rich soil are those who heard the Word and “embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.”

As you look at those categories of people, where do you fall? Most likely, for those who pray daily and try to follow our Lord, one of the last two categories is where they fall. Note that for those who are like seed sown in the thorns and those sown in rich soil, fruit is born from the Word of God. In other words, their lives do change and they do make a difference in the world on account of God’s holy Word and presence in their lives. The difference, however, is that those who struggle with “the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life” will fail to produce “mature fruit.” This is a good teaching for faithful Christians to ponder.

When you look at your life, what sort of fruit do you see? The “fruit” of which our Lord speaks can be identified with the fruits of the Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, forbearance, gentleness, faith, modesty, self-control, and chastity. Thus, if you want to discern whether you are more like one who bears mature fruit vs. immature fruit, look at those holy qualities carefully. How “mature” are each of these fruits of the Spirit alive in your life? They make a wonderful examination of conscience for those looking to go deeper than just the Ten Commandments or Seven Capital Sins. If these good fruits are born from your life in a truly mature way, you should be able to see how they affect others through you. For example, how has your kindness, patience, faith and self-control helped others in their Christian walk?

Reflect, today, upon the fruits of the Spirit. Review them carefully and prayerfully as you examine your own life. Where you see them in abundance, rejoice and give thanks, and work to foster their growth. Where you see them lacking, rejoice also in that insight and consider the reason they are lacking. Are there worldly anxieties, desires for riches or pleasures that hinder their growth? Seek to be that truly rich soil, and our Lord will indeed bring forth much good fruit in you and through you.

My divine Sower, You sow the perfect seeds of Your Word in abundance. Please help me to open my heart to receive that Word so that an abundance of good fruit can be born. Please free me from the anxieties and deceptions of life so that I can hear clearly Your holy Word and nurture that Word in my heart. I rejoice, dear Lord, in all that You have and continue to do in and through me. Jesus, I trust in You.

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