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A Life of Ongoing Conversion
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.” Matthew 21:28–30
This parable presents a message of great hope to those who find it difficult to follow the will of God. The first son, the one who said he would not obey the father but then changed his mind, refers to those who have initially rejected the will of God but then repented and turned back to Him. The second son represents those who claim to be faithful followers of the will of God, but are not. This second son presents us with a very dangerous trap we can fall into. He represents the interior disposition of the chief priests and elders of the people. They said one thing but did another. They acted as if they were righteous but were not. They might have even been fooling themselves.
Of course, there is another possible scenario Jesus doesn’t present. Ideally, when the father asked his son to work in the vineyard he would have said “yes” and then followed through with his commitment. But this is not mentioned because no one falls into that category, except for our Blessed Mother. All people have sinned, and everyone needs to repent.
When we look at these two sons, we must humbly strive to be like the first one. We must begin by acknowledging that we have refused to obey the will of God in many ways throughout our lives. God has invited us to serve Him, and we have said “no.” Acknowledging this is an essential starting point for a life of true conversion and service of God. When we fail to humbly admit that we have sinned, we are acting like the second son. We are living a lie and are trying to convince ourselves that we are faithful to the will of God when we are not. This second son represents a very dangerous interior disposition that we must avoid with all of our might. It is the sin of impenitence, a sin against the Holy Spirit. It is dangerous because this type of self-righteousness keeps a person from truly serving the will of God. They believe their own lie and see no need to repent.
Which of these two sons are you most like? Are you keenly aware of your weaknesses and sins? Can you humbly admit them to yourself and to God? Or do you tend to present yourself as one who is holy and does not need to repent? Never be afraid to admit your sin. Never pretend to be someone you are not. Never allow yourself to be drawn into self-righteousness. We are all called to a life of ongoing conversion. Seeing that fact, admitting to it and striving for that conversion will win for us the glorious Kingdom of Heaven.
Reflect, today, upon the many ways that you have initially said “no” to the will of God. Sometimes we do so in grave matters, and sometimes we do so in less serious ways. The humble truth is that we all refuse to fully embrace the will of God every day. The invitation we have been given to obey Him is much more than a black-and-white, yes-or-no answer. God’s call to obedience goes deep and is a call on a continuously deepening level. Keep looking into your soul and confess the ways you reject the will of God. The more clearly you see your sins and confess them, the more fully you will be in a position to say “yes” to the will of God with all your heart.
Most merciful Lord, You continuously call us to repentance. We have all sinned against You and do so every day. Please give me the gifts of humility and honesty so that I will be aware of the ways in which I refuse to say yes to Your perfect will and so that I can repent of those sins and daily turn back to You. Jesus, I trust in You.
Eliminating Occasions of Sin
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out…” Mark 9:43–47
Sometimes we need to wake up to the horror of sin. Sin and sin alone is capable of sending you to hell. Hell is real, and going there for eternity is a real possibility. Therefore, we must do whatever it takes to avoid that frightful possibility. This teaching from Jesus might not, at first, be thought of as one of His most inspiring teachings, but it should be. It’s not inspiring in the sense that it is quite graphic. But it is very inspiring in the sense that it has the potential to motivate us to action.
Are you motivated to do all that you can to avoid sin? Would you even go so far as to cut off your hand or foot, and to pluck out your eye so as to avoid sin? First of all, this should not be seen as a literal command in which Jesus is telling us to mutilate ourselves. But He is the one Who chose such graphic language. Therefore, we should not shy away from pondering these images in a prayerful way so as to more clearly see those things that lead us into sin. When we see them, we must take the radical step of completely eliminating them from our lives.
Many of the Church Fathers say that the hand, foot and eye in this teaching refer to our friends. Just as a hand, foot and eye are good in and of themselves, so also are friends. We are made for friendship with God and with others. However, not every friendship helps us grow closer to God. Therefore, when an earthly friend becomes a source of sin, we must eliminate that friendship.
Friendship is different from charity. We owe charity to all people, even those who are the most sinful. But acting with charity toward others is different from being friends with them. To be a friend implies mutual giving and receiving. And though we must always give of ourselves to others, we ought not always receive from them when what they have to offer is an invitation to sin. This is how we “cut it off” and “pluck it out.” When another person tries to relate to us in such a way that they lead us into sin, we must take that temptation very seriously and reject it with much vigor.
The hand, foot and eye in this teaching also represent every situation in life that tempts us to sin. For example, consider material possessions. If buying a very expensive car, house, or electronic gadget tempts you to become more materialistic, then you must avoid buying it. People are drawn to nice things. But does possessing nice things help your soul to become holy? One could argue that they can have nice things, while at the same time remain spiritually detached from them. But this is difficult to live. The more luxurious our material possessions, the more tempted we will be to rely upon them for our happiness. Therefore, choosing to live simply is almost always better for your soul than choosing to live in luxury. This teaching also applies to anything else that could become a source of temptation.
Reflect, today, upon those things or persons in your life that have become an occasion of sin for you. Do not fool yourself into believing that you can handle the temptation. If you have some source of ongoing temptation in your life, you need to eliminate it. Ponder this very graphic teaching from Jesus and try to apply it to your life. Identify those things that lead you into sin and eliminate them with much determination.
My radical Lord, You call all of Your children to a life of holiness and perfection. Please help me to take Your teachings seriously so as to eliminate all occasions of sin from my life. May I have the eyes to see these temptations and the courage to reject them with all my might. Jesus, I trust in You.
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.” Luke 16:19–22
No rational person would want to go to hell. The rich man in this parable certainly did not desire hell, but his actions led him there. Most people, however, do want to be rich in this world. In fact, many people would think it irrational not to desire wealth. It is very rare to find a person who chooses to live in simplicity as a means to deeper spiritual fulfillment and as a preparation for the riches of Heaven. But one clear message from our Gospel story today is that the life that Lazarus lived on earth was far better than that of the rich man. So which life do you prefer here and now? While it is true that the rich man’s riches were not the exclusive cause of his eternal damnation, it is also true that his riches imposed upon him a temptation toward selfishness and indifference to the needs of others, which ended in his eternal demise.
Imagine that you won many millions of dollars. What would you do with it? As a good Christian, you might immediately profess that you would use that money for good, to help the poor and make a difference in the lives of others. What would the ideal response be to winning many millions of dollars? Would it suffice to give away ten percent and then use the rest for yourself? Probably not.
One thing that this parable teaches is that material wealth not only adds nothing of value to our eternal reward, it also adds much temptation to our lives. True, if you received a lot of money and then used that money exclusively for good in accord with God’s will, that would be a holy act of charity on your part and good for your eternal soul. But doing so would be very difficult. It would be very difficult to resist the temptations that come from material wealth.
Is it good to be rich? It is certainly good to be able to take care of your basic needs in life and those of your family. Having money helps you do that. But once our basic needs have been met, the money left over is far more of a temptation than it is a blessing. We have to believe that. And if you are among those who want to become rich so that you can help others, consider this scenario. If that is your motivation, and if you did win a large amount of money, would it be possible for you to continue living the way you are living now? Imagine staying in the same home, driving the same car, having the same lifestyle, and using all the money you obtained 100% for the glory of God and the good of others. That would be hard to do. But if you could do it, not only would it be good for others, it would be exceptionally good for your own soul. Though this Gospel story has many valuable lessons in it, one of the clearest messages is that earthly poverty benefits a soul far more than earthly wealth. Many people will find that hard to accept.
Reflect, today, upon the stark contrast between Lazarus and the rich man. One dined sumptuously every day, was clothed in fine linen and purple garments and then spent eternity in the netherworld where he was tormented. The other longed to eat the scraps from another’s table, had no home, was covered in sores, but spent eternity in Heaven after being carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. Choose to imitate Lazarus rather than the rich man. If you have many material possessions, work hard at being detached from them. Live simply, be generous, and never neglect those in need. If you have very little, do not covet more. Eliminate envy, don’t despair, trust in the providence of God, and rejoice that, like Lazarus, you are able to build up eternal riches within your soul that will remain with you forever.
Lord of true riches, the spiritual wealth of true virtue, charity, faith and hope are all that matters in life. Material possessions mean little in this life and are a source of many temptations. Please free me from the desire for wealth. Free me from greed, selfishness and envy. Fill me with a spirit of detachment and generosity, and help me to build up true treasure in Heaven. Jesus, I trust in You.
Attentive to the Details of Grace
Monday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” Luke 9:48
This conversation between Jesus and His disciples took place shortly after three events. First, it took place after the disciples returned from the first mission on which Jesus had sent them. Second, it was after Peter made his profession of faith stating that Jesus was “The Messiah of God.” Third, it occurred after the Transfiguration in which Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain to reveal His glory. After these three events, it appears that a certain rivalry began to manifest itself among the disciples. Perhaps there was jealousy of Peter’s profession of faith, or perhaps the disciples who were not taken up the mountain of the Transfiguration were a bit envious. But whatever the cause, Jesus addresses what is the beginning of a desire for vainglory among the disciples.
In commenting on this passage, Saint Cyril of Alexandria notes that in the spiritual battle, the devil’s first tactic is to stir up fleshly desires within our souls to keep us bound by the desire for those pleasures. However, when a person is able to escape these more base and fleshly desires, then the devil stirs up a spiritual sin; namely, a selfishness and vainglory. It is this desire for vainglory, the desire to be perceived as the greatest, with which the disciples were struggling.
Our Lord addresses the disciples after He “realized the intention of their hearts.” This is a very important line. Essentially, Jesus noticed that the desire for vainglory was just beginning. By analogy, when a weed begins to grow, it is easily pulled up by the roots. But if it is left to grow for a while, then the roots are more difficult to pull up, and doing so often affects the other plants and ground around the weed. So it is with sin. By gently bringing a child into their midst and stating that “the one who is least among you is the one who is the greatest,” Jesus was helping them to remove this “weed” of the sin of vainglory before it took deep root in their lives. As Jesus continues His conversation with the disciples, He continues to act with gentleness, addressing their slight error in their reasoning.
This is important to understand, because our Lord always desires to address our sin the very moment it begins. If we are open to His subtle promptings of grace, gently redirecting our actions the moment we begin to go astray, then our attentiveness to His loving rebuke will help keep us from becoming more deeply rooted in our error, whatever it may be. Establishing a practice of constant self-reflection greatly helps with this. Establishing this habit means we do not see our Lord as a harsh and critical Judge; rather, we see Him in His gentleness and care. This image of Jesus gently bringing a child before the disciples so as to teach them about true greatness should help us to realize that we should never fear these gentle promptings of grace.
Reflect, today, upon our Lord appearing before you, gently addressing the small sins with which you are struggling. Of course, all serious sins must be firmly dealt with first. But once all serious sin is rooted out of your life, be attentive to the gentle and merciful promptings of grace by which Jesus wants to root out every small sin at its beginning and even every spiritual imperfection. Attentiveness to these graces is the surest way to grow in holiness and to allow our Lord to lead you into His glorious will, making you truly great within His Kingdom.
My most merciful and gentle Jesus, I thank You for the many ways in which You come to me, revealing Your love and grace. Please help me to see clearly the ways that I must change, so that even the beginnings of the smallest sin in my life may be rooted out. I love You, my Lord. Help me to love You with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.
Courage to Conquer Fear
Tuesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. Luke 9:51–52
Shortly after Jesus spoke to His disciples about His pending suffering, death and resurrection, we read that Jesus “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” There is much to reflect upon in that short statement.
First of all, Jerusalem was the place of the Temple where the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament took place as a prefiguration of the one and ultimate sacrifice to come. Jesus came into this world as the Lamb of God, the Sacrificial Victim Who would die for our sins. He knew His ultimate end in this world, and He knew it would require much suffering. This knowledge of His future suffering is the foundational context of this passage today.
As Jesus’ suffering and death drew close, He became more and more determined in His human will to fulfill the will of the Father by laying down His life. Of course, Jesus always fulfilled the will of the Father, but little by little the human manifestation of Jesus’s determination became more and more pronounced. The specific human virtue that slowly became manifest was courage. Spiritual courage is the supernatural ability to embrace the will of the Father when His will leads a person into a life of sacrifice. Within our fallen human nature, we tend to avoid sacrifice. We often work to avoid conflict and suffering and to embrace the easy way in life. Therefore, to come face-to-face with some future suffering brings forth a temptation to fear—and that fear requires courage to overcome it. As His suffering drew closer, the temptation to fear grew stronger and, as a result, His perfect virtue of courage became more manifest. Note that Jesus not only decided to go to Jerusalem to offer His life sacrificially, He “resolutely determined” to do so. There was no wavering, no doubting the Father’s will, no hesitancy, no fear. His perfect sacrificial love slowly became manifest for all to see.
Another reason Jesus became resolute in His determination to travel to Jerusalem was to witness His love to His disciples. They needed courage themselves. So, as they listened to Jesus speak about what was coming in Jerusalem and as they witnessed His unwavering determination, they were also encouraged and were strengthened to overcome the temptations to fear. Of course, they only perfected that virtue later in their lives when they also followed in the footsteps of our Lord, laying down their own lives as martyrs.
Reflect, today, upon that which causes fear and anxiety in your own life. If that suffering is of your own making, then seek to rectify it. But if that suffering is a cross that our Lord is calling you to embrace with love, then do so sacrificially and with much determination. Do not be cowed by the heaviness of the cross you are given in life. The crosses we are called to embrace are always able to be transformed into grace. Allow courage to grow within you and allow the witness of our Lord to encourage you as you seek to imitate His sacrificial love.
My courageous Lord, You faced Your suffering with much courage, strength, surrender and hope. You saw the value of Your free embrace of Your suffering and chose it with all the power of your soul. Give me the grace I need, dear Lord, to also resolutely determine to journey toward the cross I am called to embrace in life, so that my free embrace of my cross will unite me more fully with You. Jesus, I trust in You.
All In, Never Waver
Wednesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding on their journey, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Luke 9:57–58
At first, this appears to be an unusual response from our Lord. This person appeared to be committing himself to follow Jesus wherever Jesus led. But rather than complimenting the would-be follower, Jesus indicates that there is nowhere for this man to follow Him. Instead, he would have to follow Him into the unknown. Why would Jesus say this? Did He not want the man to follow Him?
One thing that this passage teaches us is that Jesus was able to read the souls and the intentions of those whom He encountered. Apparently, what the man said was not exactly his true intention. In commenting upon this passage, several Church Fathers point out that the man said what he said not out of a deep desire to follow Christ, but so that he would look good in the eyes of those around Jesus. Jesus knew his true intention, and therefore told the man that if he wanted to follow Him, he would have to follow Him into the unknown. Jesus then spoke to two others about following Him, and each time He challenged them to follow Him without reservation.
The call to follow our Lord is absolute. We cannot halfheartedly follow Him. We cannot follow Him for selfish reasons. The choice to follow our Lord begins with Him calling to us interiorly. We must hear His clear voice and invitation. The invitation we will receive will be one that asks everything of us. Jesus will never call us to give half of our lives to Him, or even most of our lives to Him. His call is one that demands everything. By demanding everything from us, our Lord is actually giving everything to us. We are only made whole when we give everything to Him and follow Him without reserve. This is the starting point.
The choice to follow Jesus will also be done in a certain secrecy. It’s not that we try to hide our choice to follow Him; rather, we must follow Him with the right intentions. We do not do so because we want others to praise us, admire us, or look up to us. We do not do so to boost our spiritual ego. We follow Him because we have heard Him call and have chosen to respond to that call in the way we are called. Therefore, every choice to follow Jesus must begin in the secrecy of our interior life of prayer. Once our commitment is firmly established, it will often become visible to others, but that must never be a motivating factor.
Once we are firmly committed to follow Christ, there must be no turning back. Jesus concludes today’s Gospel by saying, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.” The choice to follow Christ requires a death to certain things in our lives. As our journey moves forward, there will be temptations to return to our old ways. We will remember the delights of past sins, feel the draw to other paths, and might even experience the demand of absolute fidelity to be too much. These experiences must be continuously rejected as temptations and lies. We must never look back to what we gave up and must always look forward to that which our Lord is calling us. Second-guessing our choice to follow Jesus will be a very real temptation at times; therefore, our resolve must never waver.
Reflect, today, upon the depth of your own decision to follow Jesus. First, consider whether or not you have heard this radical and absolute call echo within the depths of your soul. Only there, in the secrecy of your interior life, will you hear God speak. Second, consider your motivations for following Jesus. Do you do so to look good in the eyes of others? Or do you do so out of love of God? Third, consider whether your commitment is total. It is not enough to give most of your life to Christ; He demands everything. Finally, ponder also the fact that there will be many temptations along the way to return to your former sinful way of life. Allow your resolve to eliminate those temptations and continuously recommit yourself to the journey to which you have been called.
My demanding Lord, You have called me to a radical commitment of my entire life to follow You. I hear Your voice and choose to say “yes” to Your invitation. Please free me from all selfish motives in life, and give me the resolve I need to follow You wherever You lead. Jesus, I trust in You.
Protected by the Good Shepherd
Thursday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” Luke 10:1–3
Why would our Lord send His disciples out like lambs among wolves? At first, this might be concerning and cause us to wonder if our Lord were sending them into a situation in which they would encounter harm. Saint Ambrose, in commenting on this, explains that there is no reason for these disciples to fear, since Jesus is the Good Shepherd Who always protects His sheep. It’s helpful to reflect upon what sort of danger these disciples would encounter on this mission and all future missions and to contrast that danger with the only form of danger we should fear.
The “wolves” in this situation are especially some of the cruel religious and civil leaders of that time, as well as those who would reject the disciples and their teaching. When looking at the worldly danger that our Lord encountered, as well as His disciples, we see that it was a danger of persecution. But is that a “danger” that one should fear? Clearly not, since Jesus never cowered in the face of it. In the Acts of the Apostles, we see how this same fate of persecution befell Jesus’ followers. But in the divine perspective, true “danger” is only that which has the potential to do eternal damage to one’s soul: sin.
Sin and sin alone has the potential to do true damage, not persecution or even death. So when Jesus sent His disciples out “like lambs among wolves,” He was fully aware of the persecution they would receive in this world. But He exhorted them and sent them, because He knew that even if they were to eventually suffer persecution and death, their faith and courage in the midst of it would gain them merit in eternal life and would become an instrument of grace for others in their life of faith. As was commonly said in the early Church, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.” For that reason, as Jesus sent these sheep out among wolves, He also accompanied their souls as the Good Shepherd, protecting their virtue, strengthening them in their witness to the faith, and keeping them from fear and from sin. He did not want them to fear the death of their body or their worldly reputation—rather, only the death of their souls which He, as the Good Shepherd, vigorously defended.
Reflect, today, upon the glorious truth that our Lord also sends you forth to be like a lamb among wolves. The fulfillment of the will of God in your life will take fortitude and courage as you trust that our Lord will keep you free from the countless temptations of sin. As you go forth, do not be surprised if you encounter harshness from others in the world, judgment and even persecution in various forms. When you do, respond with virtue. Keep faith, hope and charity alive in your life and do not fear those who can harm you in ways that are not eternal. Instead, stay firmly grounded in your mission to love and to share the mercy and truth of God in our world, no matter the consequences. Doing so will bring with it countless interior blessings of grace and will enable God to use you as an instrument of His grace in ways beyond that which you can ever conceive.
My courageous Lord, You came face-to-face with a harshness and cruelty in this world that ultimately enabled You to give witness to Your divine love by freely laying down Your life. Please send me forth on Your mission and strengthen me with every divine virtue so that I will not fear any form of persecution but always remain steadfast in my love of You, overcoming all fear through the gift of faith. My life is Yours, dear Lord. Do with me as You will. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to them, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.” Luke 10:13
Have you ever sat in sackcloth and ashes? In the Gospel passage above, Jesus gives clear indication that doing so is a holy sign of responding to His preaching. He states that the pagan towns of Tyre and Sidon would have certainly sat in sackcloth and ashes if they would have been privileged to witness the mighty deeds done in the Jewish towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida.
“Sackcloth and ashes” were a common sign used to indicate interior repentance and sorrow for sin. There are many times throughout the Old Testament when this happened. Recall, for example, that when Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh, everyone from the king down to the common citizen responded by expressing their repentance in this way (Jonah 3:5–7). Sackcloth was a rough and uncomfortable material usually made out of black goats hair, symbolizing the rejection of the false consolation of sin. Ashes symbolized desolation and destruction resulting from purifying fire. Of course, all of us do sit in ashes every Ash Wednesday as an external manifestation of our desire to repent. And though putting on actual sackcloth for clothing today may not be our literal practice, it is good to see the spiritual fruitfulness of these actions and to consider ways in which these actions can still be performed in our day and age. How might you sit in sackcloth and ashes today? What practical action can you take to publicly manifest your desire to turn from sin and toward the Gospel?
First of all, to properly answer this question, it’s important to recognize the fact that turning from sin should not only be a personal and interior act, it must also be exterior and manifest for others to see. Sin not only does harm to us individually, but it also damages others in varying degrees. Therefore, if your sin has done clear harm to others, it’s important to realize that you not only need to repent to God but that you must also repent in such a way that others see your repentance and sorrow.
So how might you repent in sackcloth and ashes today? There are many ways to do this. The essential quality present in such an act will be that it is clear to others that you are sorry for your sin and that you are attempting to change. If the sin you have committed toward another is grave, then your interior repentance must match the seriousness of your sin, and the exterior manifestation of that repentance must also measure up.
Reflect, today, upon some practical ways in which God is calling you to publicly manifest your “sitting in sackcloth and ashes” as a sign of your sorrow toward those against whom you have sinned. For example, if your sin is that of anger and you have regularly harmed another by that sin, then don’t only repent to God, look also for external ways to manifest your sorrow to them. Perhaps do some form of manifest service for them. Or engage in a public act of penance, such as fasting, as a way of showing them you are sorry. Manifest charitable good works, service, prayer, public penance and the like are all ways that you can spiritually and practically sit “in sackcloth and ashes” today.
My merciful Lord, You call me to daily repent of my sin and to do so through the manifest signs of sitting “in sackcloth and ashes.” Give me the grace of true sorrow for my sins and help me to sincerely repent as I trust in Your mercy. As I do, please also guide me so that I may humble myself and express my sorrow in manifest ways toward those against whom I have sinned. May this humble act bring healing and unity in You. Jesus, I trust in You.
Perceiving the Presence of God
Saturday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Turning to the disciples in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” Luke 10:23–24
Imagine seeing Jesus in person. What would that have been like? What would it have been like to see Him, listen to Him preach, witness His miracles and spend time sitting with Him quietly? The experience of being with Him as He walked the earth would have been determined by the depth of interior sight you had. There were many who saw Jesus but rejected Him, and even killed Him. Clearly, they did not have the interior eyes of faith to see Him for Who He was. Others left everything behind to follow Him. Clearly, they perceived Who He was in His divine soul through the gift of faith.
As Jesus states above, the disciples were blessed to see Him. Many prophets and kings of old desired to see the Messiah. Century after century, the prophecies about the coming of the Messiah would have left many with much anticipation and hope that they would be among those blessed to see Him. Recall, for example, Simeon the prophet who waited his whole life to see the Christ Child. Then, when Mary and Joseph brought the Child Jesus into the Temple to present Him to the Lord, Simeon took the Child into his hands and proclaimed, “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2:29–32). Indeed, Simeon, the disciples, and all who encountered Jesus as He walked the earth were truly blessed. They were blessed to see the Son of God with their own eyes.
Jesus proclaimed the eyes of the disciples to be blessed for seeing Him. However, if He were to speak to us today, He would proclaim us doubly blessed. We do not see Him in physical form, walking the earth. But we are able to perceive Him in a way that even Simeon did not experience in His life. Simeon saw the Savior of the World with his eyes, present in human form. But today, we are able to see Him in an even more profound way. By the gift of grace and the indwelling of God, we are able to look within our own souls and discover the true presence of God living within us.
One might argue that seeing Jesus with your eyes is preferable to seeing His divine presence within your soul. But is it? Certainly not. Again, recall that there were many who saw Jesus with their eyes but did not recognize Him as God. Today, we are privileged to perceive the presence of Christ in our world in the deepest way possible. He came to live within us. He came to possess us. He came to unite Himself with us in a union so deep that it transforms us completely, making us into His very body.
If it took faith to see the divinity of Jesus when He walked the earth, it will also take faith to see His true presence within us. Our sins cloud His presence. Our lack of faith makes it hard to see Him there. But God is alive within every soul that is in a state of grace, and it must be our ongoing duty to discover His indwelling presence and to be with Him within. In her spiritual masterpiece, “Interior Castles,” Saint Teresa of Ávila explains that the infinite God does dwell within us. It is our duty to enter into the most secret core of our being, the most interior castle, navigating through our many sins, so that we will enter the deepest center where the fullness of the great King dwells.
Reflect, today, upon Jesus’ words spoken to the disciples: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.” Know that this statement applies even more to you. Seek to have the eyes of faith so that you can perceive the true presence of the Savior of the World living within your own soul. Seek Him out, gaze at Him with love, bask in His divine presence and allow that presence to overshadow you, transforming you into the person God wants you to be.
My indwelling Lord, I am blessed beyond belief by Your divine presence dwelling within me. Please open my eyes to see You and my ears to hear You so that I will be able to dwell with You Who have come to dwell in me. Jesus, I trust in You.
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