Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

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Resolving Conflict

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech.  They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status.  Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Matthew 22:15-17

It has been said that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” In other words, two people who are enemies with each other will often join together if they see an opportunity to jointly attack an even greater enemy. This is what was happening in today’s Gospel. Jesus was considered the greatest enemy of the Pharisees and the Herodians, and both of these groups joined together in a plot to trap Jesus even though they greatly disliked each other.

The Pharisees were very nationalistic and were strict observers of the Law of Moses. It was their view that the people should not have to pay taxes to the Romans, and many of the people agreed. The Herodians supported the Romans and, therefore, were supporters of Herod, the Jewish ruler appointed by the Roman Emperor. One of Herod’s responsibilities was to obtain taxes from the Jews for use by the Roman government. Those who opposed the paying of taxes to the Romans could even be put to death.

This joint questioning of Jesus had one goal: to get Him in trouble. If Jesus said it was unlawful to pay taxes to Caesar, Herod’s soldiers could arrest Him. If Jesus said that the people should pay taxes to Caesar, the Pharisees could turn the people against Him. It appeared to be a lose-lose question posed to Jesus. Of course, Jesus’ answer was perfect. Without violating the Law of God, He also refrained from violating the civil law. Upon hearing His answer, all who heard Him “were amazed, and leaving him they went away.”

The lesson learned from this passage is an especially important lesson to apply to family life. It is very common for conflicts to arise from time to time among those who are close to each other. When that happens, we can often take the approach of trying to trap the other person and trip them up with our deceptive reasoning. When this happens between two people, the conversation often turns into a shouting match with each party seeking only to find fault with the other. The solution to such situations is simple. Every conflict must be resolved by the truth. Jesus did this perfectly. He did not attack when He was attacked. He did not defend Himself irrationally. He did not shy away from the confrontation. He did not manipulate the truth to His own advantage. Instead, He spoke openly and honestly the full truth and refused to engage his opponents in their trickery.

Consider this question. What if you were in Jesus’ position and the Pharisees came to you, asking you this question? What would you be tempted to answer? Most likely, you would try to answer them in such a way that appeased them. You might whisper, “We shouldn’t pay the taxes but don’t tell that to the Herodians.” And if the Herodians were to ask you that question, you might be tempted to give a different answer that appeased them.

Oftentimes, when we feel as though another person is trying to trap us, condemn us, or challenge us, we become more concerned about our defense than with the honest truth. We can become afraid to say anything that will give them reason to attack us. We will be tempted to twist our answers rather than speak forthrightly with sincerity and honesty. This will never resolve a conflict. The only way to resolve anything is with the truth.

Reflect, today, upon how you work to resolve conflict when it arises. Are you more like the Pharisees and Herodians whose only goal was to trick, trap and win? Do you see the other as an enemy in those moments? Or do you strive to be like Jesus who didn’t shy away from the conversation, answering honestly and directly? Of course, the truth was easy for Jesus since He was without any fault. In our lives, the truth may require that we admit our sin and apologize when confronted. However, if the truth, the full truth and nothing but the truth is our goal, then our conversations will imitate Jesus and, most often, a peaceful resolution will ensue.

My truthful Lord, Your wisdom is perfect and Your words are truth. Please give me the gifts of wisdom and all truth, especially when conflicts arise. In those moments, please keep me from reacting in an angry and defensive way so that I can always be an instrument of the unity You desire. Jesus, I trust in You.

Jesus’ Gentle Truth

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Mark 10:35–37

What a bold statement from James and John. But notice the gentleness in Jesus’ response. The other apostles, however, were not as gentle. We read that when they heard about this request from James and John they “became indignant” about it. In response, Jesus explains to them all that “whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”

Our fallen human nature is regularly tempted to desire worldly greatness, prestige, honors and admiration. We want others to think well of us and even to envy us. But this is a sin. Recall that this was one of the temptations that Jesus overcame in the desert. The devil tempted our Lord by promising Him earthly rule over all the nations. Jesus rejected this temptation and, by doing so, provides all the grace we need to do the same. 

One thing this passage reveals is that our Lord is patient with us as we work through our sin. He was patient and gentle with James and John while they attempted to gain places of honor next to Him. He was patient with the indignation of the other apostles when they struggled with envy and jealousy. And Jesus will be patient with us as we work through the sins that most tempt us.

In addition to His patience, Jesus also provides us with the tools we need to overcome our own temptations. One tool Jesus provides us with is truth itself. Jesus’ truth, found in His many teachings and in the example He set, is often contrary to the wisdom of our age and the tendencies we experience within our fallen human nature. In fact, we can be certain that almost every tendency and desire we will experience in life will be disordered to a certain extent. This is because our human nature itself is disordered on account of original sin. The only way to reorder our desires and tendencies is to turn to the clear and profound truths our Lord has given us.

Regarding the desire for worldly honors and greatness, Jesus provides the truth spoken above: “whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” Do you desire to be a servant? And to go even further, do you desire to be the slave of all? Hopefully you do, but most likely you do not.

The reordering of our desires and tendencies begins by gently confronting them with the truth Jesus spoke. It is helpful to see Jesus speak these words to us with all gentleness and love, just as He did to the apostles. Facing the truth within our fallen human nature does not have to be difficult. We only make it difficult when we refuse to admit our disorders. In reality, conversion of our hearts and the reordering of our desires can be a gentle, peaceful and even joyful process if we allow our Lord to speak to us in the way He spoke to the apostles. Of course, when we become obstinate, self-righteous, or remain in denial, our Lord will become more severe and we will experience the pain of our sin. But when we face the truth with openness and with a willingness to let grace change us, we will convert more quickly and will experience the joy and freedom that the embrace of the truth bestows.

Reflect, today, upon the disordered desires of these apostles. Reflect, also, upon Jesus’ gentle correction of them. As you do, look into your own soul and seek to discover the disordered desires and tendencies that Jesus wants to reorder within you. Do not be afraid to face the gentle and freeing truths that our Lord wants to speak to you. Listen to Him, be open, and wisely accept what He says to you so that you will be free and will experience the joys that await.

My freeing Lord, You speak all Truth clearly and gently. You desire to enter my life, reveal my sin, and help me to overcome it. Please give me the grace I need to always listen to You and to allow Your words to change my life. Please free me from every disordered desire and tendency in my life, dear Lord, so that I can experience the joy of true freedom. Jesus, I trust in You.

Justice Through Mercy

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. Luke 18:1

In our parable for today, we have the witness of a widow who came to a dishonest judge and continuously begged him for a just judgment. Though the judge did not care about the woman, he eventually rendered a just decision for her because she was so persistent. It’s interesting that Jesus used the image of a “dishonest judge” to teach us about persistent prayers being answered. He does so because He wants us to understand that if even those who are dishonest respond to persistence, then so much more will the Just Judge of Heaven respond to persistence.

Will God answer any prayer you pray if you offer that prayer day and night, day after day without fail? Does God eventually give into our requests as a parent might give into a child who keeps begging for something? Not exactly. One of the most important qualifiers mentioned in this parable is the word “just.” We read that the woman’s plea before the judge was, “render a just decision for me…” At the conclusion of the parable, Jesus gives this interpretation: “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?” When we pray, we ought not pray for whatever we want. We ought not pray for our preference, selfish desires, or our own ideas. We must pray only for the justice of God. When we do so with unwavering perseverance, God will secure our rights and bring forth His justice.

Justice, in the mind of God, is not only about righting certain wrongs. The prime example of this is the death of our Lord Himself. Clearly, Jesus was purely innocent and yet He suffered greatly. For that reason, would we conclude that the suffering and death of the Son of God was an injustice? Not really. The reason for this is that justice can be achieved best by mercy. Because Jesus embraced the injustice of His suffering and death and turned it into a free embrace out of love, this “injustice” became a sacrifice of love by which an abundance of mercy was bestowed. Jesus had every right to call down fire from Heaven and to destroy those who sinned against Him. But He had a far better plan. Instead, by choosing to accept the injustice of the Cross, and by freely embracing it with His own will, the injustice was transformed and a far greater good came forth.

In our own lives, whenever we are wronged by another, we are often tempted to anger and to desire revenge in the name of justice. We want them to pay for what they did. If you ever feel that way, know that the greatest form of justice is mercy. Know that your free embrace of injustice brings forth the transforming power of God in a way that punishment or retribution could never accomplish. This is the form of justice we must pray for night and day. We must beg God for the ability to accept all sufferings with love, to offer those sufferings as a sacrifice, and to allow them to be transformed into mercy. If this is our persistent prayer, we can be certain that our prayer will be answered.

Reflect, today, upon anything for which you desire justice. Is there anything that has been unfair in your life? Do you dwell upon any hurt inflicted upon you by another? As you call those things to mind, know that the power of your persistent prayer has the potential to transform those sufferings into God’s mercy. Beg for this gift and know that God will always answer those prayers.

Most just Judge, You desire to transform every injustice into mercy by calling us to freely embrace those injustices out of love. This is a high calling, dear Lord, but it is also a glorious one. Please give me the grace I need to follow Your example and to persevere in this form of prayer always. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Reality of Greed

Monday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Luke 12:13–15

What’s interesting in Jesus’ statement is that of all the people who ever walked the earth, no one is more worthy to be a “judge and arbitrator” of an injustice than Jesus Himself. Yet He refuses to intervene. Why is that? It appears to be a just request from the person, but instead of intervening Jesus tells a parable about greed.

Material possessions can be very seductive. That’s a fact. Yet many people have a very hard time admitting their attachment to possessions and money. They rationalize that they have worked hard, have earned what they have and should be able to indulge a bit. Some good-minded people who have many possessions appease their consciences by giving a small portion of what they have to charitable causes and then conclude that they can keep the rest for themselves. But what does Jesus think about that?

In and of themselves, material possessions are neither good nor bad. The problem is the sin of greed. Greed is an interior disposition by which a person becomes more attached to the passing things of this world than they are to God and His holy will. Though it might be possible to have many possessions and still remain interiorly detached from them, this is quite difficult. But having possessions is not the ultimate problem. Desiring possessions is the real problem. Therefore, even those with very little can fall into the same trap by becoming attached to what they do not have and by believing that the attainment of more will satisfy.

Jesus refused to act as “judge and arbitrator” in this case because it was clear to Him that the person making the request was struggling with greed. Jesus was far more concerned about this person’s interior attachments than He was about the inheritance being properly shared. Earthly justice means very little from the perspective of eternity. This may be hard for many to understand and accept. Doesn’t justice demand fairness? Not if the desire to be treated fairly is based on some sin such as greed. In that case, it is far better for the soul to be cheated out of their inheritance than it is to receive their fair share. In fact, if a person does struggle with greed, one of the best things for their soul might be to be cheated out of their own possessions. This will only be understood when we see that spiritual riches are infinitely greater than material riches.

Reflect, today, upon your interior desires. Look at them honestly. What do you desire the most in life? Do you dream of becoming rich? If so, does that desire consume much of your thinking? Reflect upon the scenario in which you were supposed to receive a very large inheritance but were cheated out of it. How would you react? The right reaction would be to care more for the soul of the person who cheated you than to care about actually being cheated. A person who is fully detached from material possessions will care little about losing such an inheritance or gaining one. It will truly matter not. If that is hard to accept, know that this is a sign that your soul is too attached to the things of this world. Pray for freedom from all greed. That is the only way to obtain the true riches of God.

Most generous Lord, You bestow mercy in superabundance. Your grace and love are all I need in life. By obtaining You and Your mercy, I obtain the one and only source of fulfillment in life. Please free me from earthly greed, and help me to see the things of this world as You see them. Jesus, I trust in You.

Being Vigilant Throughout Life

Tuesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

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.”  Luke 12:35–36

What does it mean to “Gird your loins?” This phrase, which is not commonly used today, literally means “tighten your belt.” It traditionally refers to one who is wearing a long robe that makes it difficult to move quickly and easily. Thus, to gird your loins means that you tuck in the long robe and tighten your belt so that you are prepared for some physical activity. It was also commonly used to exhort those preparing for battle to get ready. Symbolically, then, this phrase simply means to be ready for something difficult or challenging. It means to be vigilant and prepared. Spiritually speaking, Jesus is telling His disciples to be ready for the spiritual battle that awaits them.

Jesus then tells His disciples to light their lamps. That phrase could have a variety of meanings, such as “Do not remain in the darkness of sin or ignorance” or “Let the light of charity shine forth as you navigate through life” or “Allow the light of truth to shine within your mind.” Hence, by the light of faith, they are to be prepared and vigilant, ready to do all that the Lord sends them to do.

Today’s Gospel ends by Jesus saying that the disciples will be truly blessed if they remain vigilant even until the second or third watch of the night. Some Church Fathers see this as a reference to three periods in one’s life: childhood being the first watch, middle age being the second, and old age being the third watch.

With these meanings understood, one message we can take from this Gospel is that Jesus is calling us to be vigilant in our faith at every moment of our lives. For those who have lived many years, it may be useful to look back at how faithful you have been throughout every period of your life. God wants to use you in many ways during childhood, through your middle age, and even in old age. The journey of faith must never end. Instead, it must continually deepen as you age. But this will only be possible if you “gird your loins” and “light your lamps.” You must continually be vigilant, continually attentive to the light of faith, and continually be ready to act every time God inspires you to act.

Reflect, today, upon the lifelong journey of faith and service of God to which you are called. Being a Christian is not simply something you are born into. If you were born into the faith, then ponder especially what you have done throughout your life to daily deepen and strengthen that faith. Ponder whether or not you have diligently responded to the countless inspirations of the Holy Spirit to spread the light of faith to others. If you have been truly faithful throughout your life, then give thanks to God and recommit yourself to this fidelity for the rest of your life. If you have lacked faith and vigilant attentiveness to the will of God, then place that in the hands of God’s mercy and resolve from this day forward to do all you can to respond to the will of God the moment God calls. 

My most merciful Lord, I thank You for the countless ways throughout my life that You have spoken to me, calling me to fulfill my mission of faith and love in this world. I commit to You, this day, to always remain vigilant and attentive to You every time You call. Use me, dear Lord, so that I may bring the light of Your saving Gospel to a world in need. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Lord is Coming, Today

Wednesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Luke 12:39–40

These words from Jesus should cause us to sit up and take notice. This parable, followed by the rest of today’s Gospel, exhorts us to always be prepared for our particular judgment at the conclusion of our earthly life. There are various reasons these words should be heeded.

First of all, the obvious reason is that life for any of us could end at any time. We only need to recall various tragedies in which people have suddenly died from a car accident or from some other unexpected reason. Furthermore, there truly will be a specific moment in time when our Lord does return to earth for the Final Judgment. That moment will take place in an instant without any warning. It’s easy to presume that this end of the world when our Lord “comes to judge the living and the dead” will not happen for hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years. But the simple truth is that it could be at any time, when those who are alive least expect it.

With that said, there is another important reason to always be prepared and ready to meet our Lord for our particular judgment. Even though our particular judgment will take place in a definitive way at the end of our life when we see our Lord face-to-face, we also encounter Him every day, all day, receiving daily rewards for our fidelity or judgment for our sins. It is useful to see this “hour you do not expect” as every moment of every day. If you can live every day with this ongoing expectation that our Lord is coming to you, today, then every moment can be turned into a moment of much grace.

Think about your day today. Does God want to come to you, to inspire you and to lead you to fulfill His holy mission today? Indeed He does. He has a specific mission for you today that will not be there tomorrow. He wants you to be aware of His presence right now so that you can respond to Him with much generosity.

Reflect, today, upon the importance of always being vigilant and attentive to God’s presence in your life. He wishes to speak to you, day and night, so as to guide you into a life of true holiness. If you can build a habit of attentiveness to His continual comings, then you will truly be prepared for that final coming when you meet our Lord face-to-face.

My ever-present Lord, You do come to me day and night, speaking to me, inspiring me, and leading me. Please fill me with the gift of holy vigilance so that I will always be prepared to meet You and hear Your holy voice. May I learn to build a habit of responding to You always. And may I especially be prepared for that glorious moment when I am blessed to see You face-to-face.  Jesus, I trust in You.

A Blazing Fire of Mercy

Thursday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” Luke 12:49–50

There is much that we can take from these teachings of our Lord. Not only did Jesus say, “I have come to set the earth on fire…” He also said that it’s His desire that this fire be “blazing!”

Fire is powerful. A blazing fire, for example, can purify the precious metal gold. When heated to a liquid state, the impurities rise to the surface for easy removal. Fire can also consume. When a blazing fire completes its burning, what’s left are only ashes. Many great saints have reflected upon the image of fire as an image of the purification God wants to do within our souls. Saint John of the Cross, for example, reflected in depth upon this image. He explained that entering into divine union was similar to a log burning. At first, as the log begins to burn, it crackles and pops. This is because the impurities within the wood, such as moisture or sap, do not burn as the wood burns. But as a log continues to burn, as Saint John explains, eventually the log becomes one with the fire. At first, you can distinguish the log from the fire when only part of the log is burning. But once the entire log is engulfed in the flames and all the impurities are burnt out, you have a piece of wood that is one with the fire. It glows and emits light and heat.

When we ponder these words from Jesus regarding His desire to “set the earth on fire,” we must first see this as His desire to purify our souls. Within our souls, there are many impurities that need to be removed if we are to become one with God, emitting His radiance and glory.  This purification involves a process of allowing God to bring our sins to the surface so that they are seen and can be removed. But this is only possible if we allow the blazing fire of God’s purifying love to consume us.

Oftentimes in life, we are content with simply being mediocre in our faith journey. We pray, go to Mass on Sunday, and try to be good. But this is not the life our Lord wants for us. He wants a life that is radically consumed with the blazing fire of His love. He wants us to become so purified from our sin that He is able to become one with us, sending forth the radiance of His glory through our lives. 

Reflect, today, upon this image of a blazing and purifying fire. Use the image of gold melting to the point that all impurities rise to the surface. Or use the image that Saint John of the Cross uses with the log. God wants so much more from you. He wants to transform you and use you in ways beyond your imagination. Do not be afraid to make the radical decision to allow the blazing and purifying fire of our Lord’s mercy to transform you. And don’t wait for this to start tomorrow—kindle that flame today.

My purifying Lord, You deeply desire to set my heart and soul on fire with the transforming mercy of Your love. Please give me the grace I need to permit You to kindle this fire of love in my heart so that it will truly become blazing and all-consuming. May this blaze ignite me in the inner depths of my heart so that You will shine brightly in my life, bringing forth the warmth of Your love into our world. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Convictions of Your Heart

Friday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” Luke 12:57–59

The Church Fathers offer many different interpretations of this passage. Among them, Saint Bede says that our “opponent” can be seen as the Word of God, in the sense that the Word of God makes war upon our weaknesses and sins. When we listen to the Word of God, our Lord will convict us of our faults so that we can reconcile our lives with the Truth of the Word of God Himself.

When you think about God’s holy Word, in its entirety, what most convicts you? Sometimes we try to downplay such personal convictions. We rationalize our actions and dismiss what God is saying to us. Are there any teachings of Jesus that you recall that have truly stung you to the heart? If so, this is a grace, and it’s an opportunity to fulfill the lesson from our Lord taught in the passage above. God does not convict our hearts so as to condemn us. Rather, He convicts us, as an opponent to our sin, so that we can “make an effort to settle the matter on the way.” The conscience is a wonderful gift from our Lord and can be likened to this passage above. It is a form of courtroom where our Lord desires not to have to issue punishment upon us. Instead, He desires that we engage His holy Word, listen to what He says, and settle our sin by repenting immediately.

Among the many lessons taught by our Lord, it is often the lesson that jumps out at us, even in a startling way, that we need to pay attention to the most. God often brings His most urgent teachings to us by causing us to feel a sense of guilt that cannot be denied. If we listen to these convictions, then we will not have any need to stand before the Judge. But if we do not, if we bury these convictions, downplay them and ignore them, then our Lord will find it necessary to keep at us. We will begin to experience His judgment, and we will see the effects of being out of His good graces. And in the end, if we fail to repent of the more serious sins in our lives, then we will even be held accountable for the smallest of sins. We will be required to “pay the last penny.”

Reflect, today, upon the idea that the Word of God, all that our Lord has taught us, is the opponent to the sin in your soul. This good and holy opponent wants only what is best for you. Commit yourself to an ongoing reading of God’s holy Word so that you will be continually disposed to hear all that God wants to say to you and so that you will be able to reconcile with our Lord before He is compelled to issue forth His judgments. 

My most merciful Judge, You desire that I listen to Your holy Word, revealed through Scripture, so as to receive Your most merciful conviction of my sin. I pray that I will be open to always hear all that You desire to say to me so that I can respond with generosity and trust, reconciling with You and others continually through my journey in life. Enliven my conscience with Your holy Word, dear Lord. Jesus, I trust in You.

Cultivating the Soil of Your Heart

Saturday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

“‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”  Luke 13:7–9

How much good fruit is born from your life? This is an important question to answer honestly. One of the best ways to discern whether or not we are serving the will of God is to look at the fruit being born from our lives.

Good fruit is born in various ways and manifests itself in various forms. However, the fruit you must look for is twofold. First, it is the fruit found within your own soul resulting from a life of true prayer and union with God. Second, we must look for the fruit that is born of charity in our actions toward others.

When you look honestly at your own soul, what do you see? Often, you may see a sort of war within you in which your disordered passions and appetites fight against the Spirit of God. Good spiritual fruit will require interior purification. Through prayer, fasting, spiritual reading and the like, you must look for ways in which God’s Spirit takes control of your disordered human nature and reorders it in accord with His holy will. Though we are all sinners and will all fall at times, we must work diligently to overcome every action, desire and temptation that we can objectively discern to be contrary to the will of God. At times, your fallen human nature can so forcefully draw you into sin that it can confuse your intellect and lead you to rationalization of your sins. But if you want the fruit of God’s presence in your life, then you must continually choose to make your interior life a fruitful garden in which the virtues of God grow and are nourished in abundance. So, again, what do you honestly see as you look into your own soul?

As God nourishes the virtues within us, and our disordered passions and appetites fall under the control of the Spirit of God, then we will also discover a need to allow the interior fruits of God’s love to flow forth from our lives into the lives of others. We will begin to desire selfless and sacrificial living. We will begin to desire to put others first. We will consider others’ lives as precious and filled with dignity. And we will overcome judgment, harshness, anger, and the like. We will find ourselves desiring the good of others and will supernaturally be drawn to do many small acts of kindness toward all. But it all starts with one’s interior life which our Lord desires to cultivate and fertilize with His grace so that the interior fruits of His love will grow within and ultimately become very manifest in one’s daily exterior actions toward all.

Reflect, today, upon your soul being like this fig tree that has not been bearing fruit. See our Lord coming to you and asking you to allow Him to cultivate the ground and fertilize it. Know that this requires change on your part. If you are to bear good fruit, then you need this intervention by our Lord. Work with Him, be diligent, and do all you can to begin to bear an abundance of good fruit so that you are not among those who are ultimately cut down by God’s justice.

My laboring Lord, You never cease to work diligently to cultivate the soil of my soul so that the seeds of Your mercy will grow and produce the good fruit You desire to come forth from my life. Please give me the grace I need to be faithful to a daily life of prayer, a practice of penance and a search for Your holy Word. Transform me, dear Lord, and bring forth the good fruit of Your holy Kingdom in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

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