Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

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Reconciling With Another

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.” Matthew 18:15

It takes much humility and a pure heart to confront another person with their sin in such a way that they listen and repent. Normally, confronting another with their sin is done more out of anger than it is out of love. We ought not confront another with their sin out of our woundedness and a desire to inflict guilt as retribution. We ought not confront another to humiliate them or harm them. We should only bring up another’s sin because we love them and have already forgiven them and now want them free of their sin for their own good. When this happens and when this is our sole motivation, another might more easily receive correction.

This teaching, however, should not only be looked at from the point of view of us confronting others with their sins. It must also be looked at from the perspective of others confronting us with our sins. We sin every day. We sin against those whom we love every day. Therefore, try to think about someone close to you bringing your sin to your attention. How do you react when this happens? Perhaps if they did so with the most pure motivation and compassion, you would listen. But what if they did so because they were angry? Though this is not the ideal way for someone to confront you, it doesn’t give you the right to reject what they say. Therefore, it is a good spiritual practice to listen to anyone’s concern they bring to you regarding your sin, no matter how they bring it. If, after listening and evaluating their concern with humility you see they are right, even to some degree, then the loving response is to express sorrow, apologize and commit yourself to change. If, however, after humbly evaluating their concern you do not believe that you have sinned, then it is time for you to gently and compassionately try to confront that person with their rash and false judgment.

This passage gives three successive levels of confronting a person. First, it must be done one-on-one. Second, it is done with two or three others. Third, it is done in the presence of the Church. Try, at first, to set aside the second and third approach and only look at the first one. The goal of this one-on-one confrontation is reconciliation. It is good to put much energy into reflecting upon how well you do with this sort of situation because if you can do it well, there will be no need for the second or third form of confrontation.

The number one enemy of reconciliation is pride. Pride is a habit by which we think about ourselves first and foremost, or even exclusively in the most serious cases. Pride makes self-evaluation impossible. We become blind to our sin and are agitated the moment it is identified or causes problems. Of course, the opposite of pride is humility. This is the virtue that enables us to forget about ourselves and have concern only for others. When a person grows in humility, the evil one will always tempt them with thoughts such as: What about you? You are right and they are wrong! This is unfair! You shouldn’t be treated this way! These tempting thoughts must always be rejected. Humility only makes sense when we are humble. To the person who has pride, humility will seem foolish. But humility is true wisdom.

Reflect, today, upon how humble you are when someone expresses concern to you about your sin. How do you react? Do you find yourself getting angry and defensive when this happens? If so, be honest and admit to yourself that this is pride; this is your sin. Spend time trying to reflect upon the ideal and humble way you should respond when confronted by another. If reconciliation is your number-one priority in any relationship that has experienced hurt, then that holy and humble desire will become your guide to being able to reconcile with everyone in your life.

Most merciful Lord, You came to earth to reconcile us to You and to one another. Please show me my sin and give me the humility I need to see it so that I can repent and turn back to You. Help me to also be open to the many ways that You reveal my sin to me, especially through the mediation of others in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Humble Instruments of Grace

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!”—that is, “Be opened!”—And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. Mark 7:33–35

One interesting point in this story is that the people who brought this deaf and mute man to Jesus begged Him to “lay his hand on him” so as to heal him. But what did Jesus do? Instead, He took the man away from the crowd, put His divine finger into the man’s ears, touched the man’s tongue with His own sacred saliva and the man was cured. At first, the act of putting your finger into someone else’s ear and touching their tongue with your own saliva may seem repulsive. Normally it would be. To understand these two actions, we must understand the symbolism.

The image of a finger is used a number of times in the Scriptures to refer to God’s power. In the Book of Exodus after the plague of the gnats, Pharaoh’s magicians said that this was clearly done “by the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19). On the mountain when Moses received the Ten Commandments we know that it was also God’s finger that wrote them (Exodus 31:18). In the book of Daniel, a finger appeared and wrote a prophetic message on a wall (Daniel 5:5). In the New Testament, Jesus cast out a demon “by the finger of God” (Luke 11:20) and in today’s Gospel He healed this man’s hearing with His finger. The “finger of God” is understood as the power of God and an action of the Holy Spirit. Thus, by using His sacred finger to heal, Jesus was symbolically revealing that He fully exercised the power of God and acted in perfect union with the Holy Spirit and the Father.

The image of saliva is also interesting. Perhaps you have noticed that when an animal has a wound it often licks that wound. This is a natural instinct but also one that makes sense. Saliva has a certain medicinal power of healing. It contains antibacterial agents. Therefore, since normal saliva can help heal a wound, Jesus’s saliva is able to heal in a supernatural way. Recall, also, that Jesus healed a blind man by spitting on the ground and then smearing the mud on his eyes (John 9:6).

Did Jesus need to use His finger and His saliva to heal this man? Certainly not. He could have done it with a mere thought. But He chose to use His body as an instrument of His healing power. Doing so reveals to us that Jesus’ humanity became the source of unity between God and man. Even His finger and His saliva unite us to God. Everything about the Son of God in His human form dispensed grace, healing and mercy. Even that which may, at first, seem most repulsive.

Though there is much we can take from this passage, one thing that should not be missed is that if Jesus chose to use His finger and even his saliva to dispense His power, so, also, He desires to continue using the members of His Body to distribute His grace. By Baptism, you are a member of Christ’s Body, the Church. You are His hands and feet, His eyes and voice, His heart and finger, and even His saliva. That last thought is very humbling. But if Jesus can use His saliva for healing, He can use you. If we can humbly understand that, then we will be better disposed to become an instrument of His divine mercy to those who need it. God is able to use us NOT because we are worthy of being used. Rather, He can use us because He has chosen to do so, even in our most humble state.

Reflect, today, upon the image of Jesus healing this deaf and mute man. If you ever feel as though God cannot use you, call to mind the way in which our Lord worked this miracle. If God can use His finger and His saliva, He certainly can use you, no matter how unworthy or sinful you may be. This miracle shows us that God can use all things for His glory for the simple reason that He is God. Humble yourself and offer yourself to God to use you as He wills. Doing so will give God the opportunity to manifest His almighty power through you.

My healing Lord, when You took on human form, You united divinity with humanity. Through Your sacred humanity, You poured forth Your grace and mercy and continue to do so today. Please use me, dear Lord, as an instrument of Your grace. May I always humbly see myself as Your unworthy instrument, whom You choose to use despite my unworthiness. Jesus, I trust in You.

“Hating” So As To Love

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:25–26

Why would Jesus exhort the “great crowds” to hate their families? In fact, Jesus went even further than that. He said they must also hate their own lives. If they do not, then they cannot be His disciples. One thing that this shocking teaching did was to shake people out of their lukewarm faith. Sometimes we think of Jesus only as a kind and gentle soul Who always brightens people’s days. We see images painted of the smiling Jesus Who always made people feel welcomed and loved. And though these images have truth, it is also true that one way He brightened their days was by challenging them to the core of their being to convert. And that is what Jesus does today in our Gospel.

To hate your father, mother, children, siblings and even your very self is obviously not a reference to the sin of hate that flows from anger. In this case, the word “hate” refers to the best way to love others and to love even your own self. To begin, let’s look at the conclusion. Jesus said that this form of hate is a requirement of being His disciple. This is the key. Unless we are first and foremost a disciple of Christ, we cannot love others and we will not even love ourselves in the proper way. “Hate” in this context refers to selfish attachments. This means that people and things can easily get in the way of our love of God. When they do, we must see them as an obstacle to both the love of God, as well as to the authentic love of others and even ourselves. For example, if a family member were to demand in some way that you love them more than you love God, then this must be rejected with passion. This could be referred to as holy hatred of the temptation, not the person. Say a spouse criticizes you for attending Mass and tries to stop you from doing so. If you listen to them, then you are placing them before God. Or say someone hurts you and you choose to forgive them, only to have a family member challenge you and try to stir up anger in you toward that person. If you listen to them, then you are not listening to God. In these cases, we must “hate” in the sense that we reject the temptation.

What about yourself? How do you hate yourself? This is a reference to the many ways that our disordered appetites are drawn to sin. If we indulge in the disordered desires, or even worse, if we treat those disordered desires as normal and good for us, then we have chosen the disordered desire over God. In that case, we must learn to hate and reject the selfish and disordered desire, choosing God and His will alone.

When we are able to choose the love of God first and foremost in our lives, rejecting the temptations that come through others and even the temptations within our disordered desires, then, and only then, are we in a position to love others and ourselves, in the right way. Jesus obviously wants us to love others and ourselves. But this is only possible when our love is pure and holy and flows from the love of God. Any other form of “love” is not love at all. It is a selfish attachment that hinders our true mission as lovers of God and instruments of that love to others.

Reflect, today, upon the passion that you must have to reject all forms of sin. This includes sin that  tempts you through the mediation of your family and friends. It also includes every form of temptation that arises within you on account of your disordered human nature. This holy hatred is an act of love in that it seeks to eliminate everything that keeps you from true love. Choose, today, to be a faithful disciple of Jesus and commit yourself to reject all that seeks to interfere with this choice. Doing so will not only increase your love for God, it will also increase your love for others, and even your love for your own soul.

My passionate Lord, You exhorted the crowds to reject every form of temptation that interfered with their love of You. Please fill my soul with a holy hatred for sin and all temptation so that I can reject them with passion. May I love You above all things and from that love, love others and even my own soul with Your Sacred Heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

Perceiving the Intentions of Others

Monday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions… Luke 6:6–8

Jesus had a gift. Of course, He had every good gift to perfection. But in today’s Gospel, we see one of  Jesus’ gifts made manifest. Namely, Jesus was able to realize the intentions of those He daily encountered.

Normally, we can only know another’s intentions if they were to tell us their intentions. We cannot read minds and hearts. But our Lord could. He had the divine ability to read every soul and know every heart. For that reason, when someone came to Him with great faith, He knew it. And when someone came to Him with evil intent, He knew it.

When Jesus perceived the ill intentions of the scribes and Pharisees, He used that knowledge to manifest their intentions. They intended to find a reason to accuse Jesus, so He gave them one. Jesus cured a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, and the scribes and Pharisees “became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.” They thought miracles were violations of the law of Sabbath rest.  Jesus knew they would apply their twisted logic to this miraculous healing, and He knew they would become enraged at Him on account of their envy. So, in a sense, Jesus provoked them so that that which was in their hearts would come forth for them to see.

All of our interior intentions and thoughts are known by God and must become manifest to us in the presence of God. By provoking the scribes and Pharisees in charity, Jesus forces them to face that which was within them. They had to choose to either continue down the path of envy or to realize the foolishness of their interior thoughts. Sadly, for the scribes and Pharisees, it appears that many of them became more hardened in their sin. But this was a choice only they could make.

Reflect, today, upon your own interior intentions and thoughts. Why do you do the things you do? What hidden motivations are in your heart? Is there some person, or a certain situation you find yourself in that causes you to obsess in anger interiorly? Or is it true charity that resides within you and is the source of your actions? Is there a profound faith? A supernatural hope? Or is it primarily some sin with which you struggle? Know that Jesus knows your heart, and He wants you also to see clearly those things hidden in your heart. He wants you to see your intentions as clearly as He sees them. Allow Him to reveal the depths of your heart to you so that you can turn away from the sins you find and rejoice in the virtues by which you live.

My glorious Lord, you know all thoughts and probe the depths of every heart. You know me, Lord, through and through. Please open my eyes to see that which is within me so that I can discern the ill intentions I have and rejoice in the virtues given to me by You. May I always be attentive to You, dear Lord, so that I become aware of all that You wish to reveal to me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Hearing and Healing

Tuesday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

And he came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground. A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured. Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all. Luke 6:17–19

The Gospel of Luke presents us with what is traditionally known as the “Sermon on the Plain.” Almost everything Luke includes in this sermon is also found in Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount.” Matthew, however, adds some teachings not found in Luke. Matthew’s sermon has three chapters while Luke’s has only one.

In this, the introduction to this “Sermon on the Plain,” from which we will be reading all week, Luke points out that large numbers of people came from far and wide to listen to Jesus. This crowd included many Jews but also included many people from the pagan territory of Tyre and Sidon. And what was it that drew so many of them? They came to “hear” Jesus preach and “to be healed.” They wanted to hear the words of Jesus since He spoke with great authority and in a way that was changing lives. And they were especially amazed by the healing power that Jesus manifested. The last line of the passage above gives great emphasis to this desire for healing. “Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all.”

It’s interesting that Jesus performed so many powerful miracles as He went about His public ministry. This was especially the case as He began His ministry. He became a sort of instant celebrity to many and was the talk of the many surrounding towns. But it’s also interesting to note that, as time went on, Jesus gave more emphasis to His teaching than He did to the miracles.

What is it that draws you to our Lord? Perhaps if there were numerous manifest miracles performed today by God, many people would be amazed. But physical miracles are not the greatest work of our Lord and, therefore, should not be the primary focus of our relationship with Him. The primary reason we should be drawn to our Lord is because His holy Word sinks in deeply, changes us and draws us into communion with Him. This is clearly seen by the fact that now that the Gospel message has been deeply established and the Church formed, physical miracles are rare. They do happen, but not in the same way that they did as Jesus first established His public ministry.

Reflect, today, upon the primary reason you find yourself drawn to our Lord. Seek out His living Word, spoken within the depths of your heart. The most important miracle that takes place today is that of interior transformation. When a person hears God speak, responds to that Word, and allows Him to change their life, this is among the most important miracles of grace that we could ever encounter. And this is the central reason we should be drawn to Him, seek Him out and follow Him wherever He leads.

My miraculous Lord, please draw me to Yourself, teaching in the wilderness of my interior life of silence and solitude. Help me to seek You out so that I can hear Your Word, spoken to me to give me new life. May I always listen to You so that Your holy Word will transform me more fully, making me into the new creation You desire me to be. Jesus, I trust in You.

A Double Blessing

Wednesday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.” Luke 6:24–26

Is it dangerous to be rich, to be filled, to laugh, and to have all speak well of you? According to Jesus, it appears so. Why would Jesus warn against these things? And before that, why would He pronounce it blessed to be poor, hungry, weeping and insulted? Essentially, Jesus was condemning four common sins—greed, gluttony, intemperance, and vainglory—and promoting their opposite virtues.

Poverty, in and of itself, is not sufficient for holiness. But in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus declares it blessed to be poor, literally. This goes further than Matthew’s Gospel which says it is blessed to be “poor in spirit.” To be poor in spirit is to be spiritually detached from the material things of this world so that you can be fully open to the riches of God. One common tendency among those with material wealth is to rationalize that even though they have many things, they are detached from them. Hopefully that is the case. However, in Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, Jesus directly says, “Blessed are you who are poor” and “woe to you who are rich.” In this teaching, we discover a second blessing not found in Matthew’s version. In addition to spiritual detachment (poverty of spirit) being identified as a blessing, literal poverty is proclaimed as the easier way to achieve this spiritual detachment. Material wealth, though not a sin in and of itself, brings with it many temptations toward attachment, self-reliance, and self-indulgence. Thus, spiritually speaking, it is easier to be detached when one is poor, rather than when one is rich. This is a hard truth for both the poor and the rich to accept. The poor often want to be rich, thinking that if they were, they would share their wealth with others and remain detached. The rich often enjoy being rich and believe that they are more spiritually detached than they actually are.

Being “hungry” is also identified as a blessed state, whereas being “filled” is a dangerous state. When you are literally hungry, either from fasting or from lack of an abundance of food, it is easier to turn your hunger and thirst toward God so as to be filled by Him and to more easily trust in His providence. An abundance of food, especially fine food, tempts you with a gluttonous satisfaction that makes it difficult to hunger and thirst for God and His holy will in a complete way. Therefore, if you refrain from indulgence and experience hunger, you will be blessed to be free from gluttony and even the temptation toward it.

“Laughing” and “weeping” in this case are not referring to joy and despair. Rather, they are referring to those who are always seeking fun and an indulgent life. Many people live for fun, entertainment, and momentary pleasures. Weeping refers to those who have discovered that the fleeting pleasures of the world can never satisfy. Constant entertainment, therefore, brings with it a real temptation, whereas the loss of that form of fleeting pleasure helps eliminate that temptation.

Finally, Jesus declares it blessed to be hated, excluded, insulted, and denounced as evil on account of Him rather than being spoken well of by all. In this case, Jesus is referring to the praise that comes from things that mean nothing from an eternal perspective. When all speak well of us, praising qualities and accomplishments that are not true Christian virtues, we will be tempted to rely upon that praise for our satisfaction. But this form of satisfaction is nothing other than vainglory and never truly satisfies in the end. However, when one sees and praises the virtues of God within us, God is praised first and foremost, and we are blessed to share in God’s glory.

Reflect, today, upon whether you prefer to be rich, to indulge in the best of foods, to be constantly entertained and to be the envy of others, or whether you see the temptations this type of life brings. Reflect also upon the concrete spiritual blessings that come to those who are literally poor, hungry, temperate and humble. This is a very demanding teaching from Jesus. If it doesn’t sit well with you, then know that it is a sign that you still have various attachments in life. Reflect, especially, upon the beatitude that is most difficult to embrace, and make that beatitude the source of reflection and prayer. Doing so with honesty and openness will result in you being among those who are truly blessed in the eyes of God.

My blessed Lord, You were poor, hungry, temperate and humble to the perfect degree. For these reasons, You were filled with perfect virtue and were satisfied to the greatest degree. Please open my eyes to the deceptions of this world so that I can live with You a life of true holiness, experiencing the riches of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus, I trust in You!

The Most Important Thing in Life

Thursday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Luke 6:29–30

This must have been shocking to Jesus’ first disciples. First of all, recall that Jesus taught these words with a spiritual authority that left those with an open heart with a conviction that what Jesus taught was truth. Also recall that Jesus taught these deep spiritual lessons within the context of performing numerous miracles. So, for these reasons, His new followers would have known that what Jesus taught was true. But how could they fully accept such teachings?

Though many commentators will try to point to the deeper spiritual principles that Jesus was teaching, try to first take His words on face value. He really said that you must offer the other cheek to someone who strikes you, to give your tunic to one who steals your cloak, and to give to everyone who asks of you, never demanding back that which someone takes from you. These are not easy lessons to accept!

One thing that these powerful lessons teach us is that there is something far more important in life than the humiliation of being struck on the cheek and having your possessions stolen. What is that more important thing? It’s the salvation of souls.

If we were to go through life demanding earthly justice and retribution for wrongs received, we would not be able to focus upon that which is most important. We would not be able to focus upon the salvation of those who have wronged us. It’s easy to love those who are kind to us. But our love must extend to everyone, and sometimes the form of love we must offer another is the free acceptance of injustices they commit against us. There is great power in this act of love. But we will only be able to love another this way if our deep desire is for their eternal salvation. If all we want is earthly justice and satisfaction for wrongs committed, we may achieve that. But it may come at the expense of their salvation.

Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that every wrong must be righted here and now. But that’s clearly not what Jesus taught. His wisdom is so much deeper. He knew that a profound act of mercy and forgiveness to another, especially when they have hurt us deeply, is one of the greatest gifts we can give. And it’s one of the most transformative actions we can also do for our own souls. When love hurts, in the sense that it costs us our earthly pride, especially by completely letting go of injustice, then our act of love for that person has great power to change them. And if that act changes them, then this will be the cause of your joy for eternity.

Reflect, today, upon any way that this hard teaching of Jesus is difficult for you. Who comes to mind as you ponder this teaching? Do your passions revolt against this command of love from Jesus? If so, then you have discovered the specific area where God wants you to grow. Think about anyone with whom you have a grievance and ponder whether you desire their eternal salvation. Know that God can use you for this mission of love if you will love in the way our Lord commands.

My merciful Lord, Your love is beyond my own ability to comprehend. Your love is absolute and always seeks the good of the other. Give me grace, dear Lord, to love with Your heart and to forgive to the extent that You have forgiven. Use me, especially, to be an instrument of salvation and mercy to those who need it most in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Seeing Through the Eyes of God 

Friday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”  Luke 6:41

Saint Teresa of Ávila, one of the greatest spiritual writers and doctors of the Church, explains in her spiritual masterpiece “Interior Castles,” that one of the first steps on the path to holiness is self-knowledge. Self-knowledge produces humility, because humility is simply having a true opinion about yourself. When a person fails to know themself from the true perspective of the mind of God, then they open themselves up to many errors of judgment. One such error is that they can easily become fixated upon their perceived sins of others.

The Gospel passage quoted above depicts a person who gravely lacks self-knowledge. Why? Because they “do not perceive the wooden beam” in their own eye, meaning, they do not see their own sin. As a result, Jesus explains that this person also becomes fixated upon the “splinter” in their brother’s eye.

When you consider your own thoughts, what do you dwell upon the most all day long? Do you honestly look inward, seeking to know yourself as God knows you? Or do you spend excessive time thinking about others, analyzing and judging their actions? This is an important question to ask yourself and to answer with honesty.

The best way to know yourself is to gaze upon Jesus. When He becomes the focus of your attention throughout the day, you will not only come to know Him, but you will also come to know yourself more honestly. Gazing at the beauty and perfection of our Lord will have the double effect of knowing Him and knowing yourself through His eyes. It will also help you to know others as He sees them.

How does Jesus look at those around you? He looks at them with perpetual mercy. True, at the end of every life, when we pass from this world to the next, we will encounter our particular judgment from our Lord. But while here on earth, God continually gazes upon us with mercy. For that reason, mercy must become our daily mission, and we must build a habit of gazing upon everyone in our life with the eyes of mercy.

Reflect, today, upon our Lord. Look at Him, gaze upon Him, seek to know Him and make Him the focus of your attention. As you do, try to dismiss from your thinking process your own perceived judgments of others. Allow your gaze upon our Lord to help you to not only see Him but to also see others through His eyes. Build this habit and you will be on the fast track to the path to holiness.

My merciful Jesus, may I build a humble and true habit of gazing upon You in Your splendor and beauty. As I see You, day in and day out, please also help me to see myself through Your eyes of mercy so that I will also grow in humility. Please remove all judgment from my heart so that I will be free to know and love all people as You know and love them. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Path You are On

Saturday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus said to his disciples: “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles.” Luke 6:43–44

What a great way to examine the direction of your life! This Gospel passage gets to the heart of how we can best discern whether or not we are truly fulfilling the will of God. Oftentimes we may struggle with knowing clearly if we are doing that which God wants of us. There are many directions in life that we can be pulled toward and many goals we can come up with on our own. For that reason, it is useful from time to time to stop and do an honest inventory of our lives.

When you look at the past year of your life, what do you see? Specifically, do you see good fruit being born? Such an examination is helpful to do from time to time. It is useful to make such an examination not only for the past year but for different time periods. Perhaps start by looking at the big picture by looking at all the times in your life that were most fruitful for the glory of God. From there, try to look at your life decade by decade, year by year and then even month by month over this past year. Look for the most blessed moments in your life as well as the most challenging moments.

When we examine our lives in this way, it’s important to understand what to look for. For example, there may be moments when all went well in one way or another and then other times that were painful and very difficult. What’s important to know, from a divine perspective, is that just because something “went well” at one point, or just because something was “painful and very difficult” at another point in our lives, this doesn’t mean that the former was the most fruitful for the Kingdom of God or the latter the least fruitful. In fact, heavy crosses and difficulties in life can often be the most fruitful times for us, spiritually speaking. Just look at Jesus’ life. Of course, everything He did was fruitful for the glory of the Father in Heaven, but we can easily point to the most painful moment of His life as the most fruitful. His Crucifixion brought forth the greatest good ever known.

So it is with our lives. The fruitfulness of our lives is not best discerned by looking at those moments when all was easy, fun, memorable and the like. Though those may also be graced moments, we need to look at spiritual fruitfulness from the divine perspective. We need to look for the moments in our lives, be they easy or difficult, when God was clearly present and when we made choices that gave Him the greatest glory.

Reflect, today, upon your life being like a tree that bears spiritual fruit. What times of your life, decisions you made, or activities that you were engaged in produced the most virtue in your life? When was your prayer life the deepest? When was your charity the strongest? When was your faith and hope the most evident? Return to those moments, savor them, learn from them and use them as the best building blocks for the glorious future our Lord desires for you.

My glorious Lord, Your life bore fruit of infinite value. You continually chose to fulfill the will of the Father in Heaven, and, as a result, You lived every virtue to perfection. Help me to regularly pause in life so as to examine the direction in which I am going. May I learn from my errors and rejoice in those moments that were most fruitful for Your Kingdom. I love You, Lord. Help me to bear the greatest fruit for Your glory. Jesus, I trust in You.

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