Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, February 22
“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19
This passage should give us great comfort. Why? Because in this passage Jesus lays the foundation of His Church. He gives to Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. And, in so doing, He establishes what has come to be known as the gift of “infallibility.”
Think about it. What does it mean to be given “the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven?” This is quite a statement. But by speaking it clearly and definitively, Jesus entrusted an incredible spiritual power to Peter. He may not have understood what this exactly meant at the time, but he would have been changed as he was entrusted with such authority.
By “infallibility” we mean that Peter was guaranteed to teach only that which was true in the areas of faith and morality. Faith and morality are what live on forever in the Kingdom of Heaven and so it is with authority in these areas that Peter is entrusted.
Furthermore, we know that the Apostles had successors. Peter went to Rome and became the Bishop of Rome. He was succeeded by Linus, then Cletus, then Clement, and so forth until the Bishop of Rome today. In 2013, Pope Francis became the 265 successor of St. Peter. This is important to note because this spiritual authority that Jesus gave to Peter did not end with his death. Rather, it continued with his successors and will continue on until the end of the world.
Today, in celebrating the great Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, we not only honor the Pope, we also rejoice in the spiritual authority that the Holy Father has been entrusted with. And knowing that Jesus is alive in such a way, through the certain teaching authority of the Keys of Heaven, we should be comforted and at peace knowing that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church. Popes are sinners, but they are also visible and infallible instruments of Christ Himself every time they exercise their sacred role.
Reflect, today, upon your faith in the Church. We do not put our faith in persons, we put our faith in Christ, His Church and in the spiritual authority entrusted to the Church. Reflect upon your own faith in this regard and if it is lacking in any way, renew it in honor of this great Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.
Lord Jesus, You entrusted Your power and authority to St. Peter and to all of his successors. I thank You for the gift of our pope. I pray for him and offer him to You for Your guidance and protection. I renew my faith in the gift of the Holy Father and in Your promise to lead us always through him. May my faith in Your Church bring me consolation and hope as we all move forward to the goal of our salvation, the glorious Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus, I trust in You.
Unwavering Faith in the Face of Confusion
Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary, March 19
Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:20
What a blessed man St. Joseph was. He was called to be the earthly father of the Son of God and the husband of the Mother of God! He must have been in awe of this responsibility and he must have, at times, trembled with a holy fear in the face of so great a calling.
What’s interesting to note, however, is that the beginning of this call seemed to be marked with an apparent scandal. Mary was pregnant and it was not from Joseph. How could this be? The only earthly explanation was infidelity on Mary’s part. But this was so contrary to whom Joseph perceived her to be. He certainly would have been quite shocked and quite confused as he faced this apparent dilemma. What should he do?
We know what he decided to do at first. He decided to divorce her quietly. But then the angel spoke to him in a dream. And, after he awoke from his sleep, “he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”
One aspect of this situation to ponder is the fact that Joseph had to embrace his wife and her Son in faith. This new family of his was beyond human reason alone. There was no way to make sense of it simply by trying to figure it out. He had to approach it with faith.
Faith means he had to rely upon the voice of God speaking to him in his conscience. Yes, he relied on what the angel spoke to him in the dream, but that was a dream! People can have all sorts of strange dreams! His human tendency would be to question this dream and wonder if this was real. Was this really from God? Is this Child truly from the Holy Spirit? How could this be?
All of these questions, and every other question that would have arisen in St. Joseph’s mind, could only be answered by faith. But the good news is that faith does give answers. Faith enables a person to face the confusions of life with strength, conviction and certitude. Faith opens up the door to peace in the midst of uncertainty. It eliminates fear and replaces it with the joy of knowing you are following God’s will. Faith works and faith is what we all need in life to survive.
Reflect, today, upon the depth of your faith in the face of apparent difficulties. If you feel God calling you to enter into some challenge in your life right now, follow the example of St. Joseph. Let God say to you, “Do not be afraid!” He spoke this to St. Joseph and He speaks it to you. God’s ways are far above our ways, His thoughts far above our thoughts, His wisdom far above our wisdom. God had a perfect plan for St. Joseph’s life, and He does for you too. Walk by faith each and every day and you will see that glorious plan unfold.
Lord, enable me to walk by faith each and every day. Allow my mind to rise above human wisdom alone and to see Your divine plan in all things. St. Joseph, pray for me that I may imitate the faith you lived in your own life. St. Joseph, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You!
God Becomes Man – Nine Months Before Christmas
Solemnity of the Annunciation, March 25
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:30-33
Happy Solemnity! We celebrate today one of the most glorious feast days of the year. Today is nine months before Christmas and is the day we celebrate the fact that God the Son took on our human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. It’s the celebration of the Incarnation of our Lord.
There are many things to celebrate today and many things for which we should be eternally grateful. First and foremost we celebrate the profound fact that God loves us so much that He became one of us. The fact that God took on our human nature is worthy of unlimited rejoicing and celebration! If we only understood what this meant. If we could only understand the effects of this incredible event in history. The fact that God became a human being in the womb of the Blessed Virgin is a gift beyond our comprehension. It’s a gift that elevates humanity to the realm of the divine. God and man are united in this glorious event and we should be forever grateful.
We also see in this event the glorious act of perfect submission to the will of God. We see this in the Blessed Mother herself. It’s interesting to note that our Blessed Mother was told that “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son…” She wasn’t asked by the angel if she was willing, rather, she was told what was to happen. Why is that the case?
It happened this way because the Blessed Virgin said yes to God throughout her life. Never was there a moment that she said no to God. Therefore, her perpetual yes to God enabled the angel Gabriel to tell her that she “will conceive.” In other words, the angel was able to tell her what she had already said yes to in her life.
What a glorious example this is. Our Blessed Mother’s “Yes” is an incredible witness to us. We are called to daily say yes to God. And we are called to say yes to Him even before we know what He asks of us. This solemnity affords us the opportunity to once again say “Yes” to the will of God. No matter what He is asking of you, the right answer is “Yes.”
Reflect, today, upon your own invitation from God to say “Yes” to Him in all things. You, like our Blessed Mother, are invited to bring our Lord into the world. Not in the literal way she did, but you are called to be an instrument of His continual Incarnation in our world. Reflect upon how fully you answer this call and get on your knees today and say “Yes” to the plan our Lord has for your life.
Lord, the answer is “Yes!” Yes, I choose your divine will. Yes, You may do with me whatever You will. May my “Yes” be as pure and holy as our Blessed Mother’s. Let it be done to me according to Your will. Jesus, I trust in You.
Being an Evangelist
Feast of Saint Mark, April 25
“These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18
Did Jesus mean this literally? Yes. He certainly did. And throughout the history of the Church we have seen great miracles and mighty deeds performed by His followers in His name as God willed it in various times and places. So, yes, He meant what He said.
But there is also another level of meaning we should not miss. Though this is not literally going to be lived out by everyone who believes, it will be lived out according to a deeper and spiritual meaning.
There are four basic things Jesus promises will happen here. He promises that those who have faith will 1) be victorious over the evil one, 2) communicate in a new way, 3) face worldly dangers and be protected, and 4) be a source of healing for others.
First, the evil one is real and is constantly trying to frighten us and overwhelm us. But, by analogy, the evil one is like a 3 pound dog who has a vicious and obnoxious bark, and little bite. The “barking” may be frightening at times, but the power of Christ is like a steel-toed boot that can easily handle this menace.
Second, we are called to “speak new languages” in that we are called to communicate the words and truth of God in a way that is beyond our natural abilities. We are called to speak and communicate in the language of God and to become His mouth for a world in need.
Third, there will be many struggles we face in this life. Not only from the evil one, but also from the world and from our own distorted struggles. Again, Jesus promises the grace to overcome the many dangers and struggles we will face in life if we but let Him.
Lastly, Jesus came to heal, especially our souls, and he wants us to be instruments of healing for those whom we encounter every day.
St. Mark, whom we honor today, was a great evangelist for Christ. Reflect, today, upon the fact that we are all called to share in the mission of evangelization. Ponder these callings in life as outlined above and if one stands out and speaks to you in a unique way, listen to it carefully. It may be God calling you to share more fully in His divine mission.
Jesus Calls the Weak
Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles, May 3
Philip said to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?” John 14:8-9
We honor two of the Apostles today, Philip and James the Lesser. We know very little about James other than that he was chosen by our Lord for the apostolic ministry. We also have one of his letters which is contained in the New Testament. After the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to James who eventually went to Jerusalem and led the Church for a few decades, eventually being stoned as a martyr.
Philip is known from some of his comments that appear to reveal a weakness of faith. In addition to the comment above, recall when Jesus was preparing to multiply the fish and loaves and asked Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” (John 6:5). Philip’s response was, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit]” (John 6:7). But Jesus was testing Philip and, unfortunately, he failed the test.
But Philip did not continue to fail in his faith. Recall, also, that Philip is the one who was inspired to baptize the Ethiopian eunuch in the Acts of the Apostles. Eventually, tradition states that Philip preached in Greece, Phrygia, and Syria. He and Saint Bartholomew were said to have been crucified upside down. Tradition holds that Philip preached upside down from the cross until his death.
In the end, James and Philip gave their lives for Christ, holding nothing back. But it took time for them to grow in faith and confidence in Jesus. This is a significant witness for our lives.
Ideally, our response to Jesus every day will be that of a complete submission to Him and perfect trust in His divine will. Ideally, we will not lack faith.
However, it’s most likely the case that all of us can look back at many moments in our lives and point to ways in which we have failed in our faith and trust in our Lord. Though this is sin, it’s good to look at these moments of weakness in the light of the mercy of God. Jesus saw the weakness of Philip, addressed it, but continued to love him and continued to call him down the path chosen for him. Jesus does the same with each one of us.
Reflect, today, upon any ways that you can identify with the doubts and weaknesses of the Apostle Philip. See those weaknesses for what they are: your sin. But allow yourself to grow in hope today as we honor Philip and James. The Lord never gave up on them and He will not give up on you. He continued to call them to a holy and sacred ministry, and He will continue to do the same for you.
Lord, I thank You for never giving up on me, even when I sin and turn away from You. Help me to persevere in my faith in You and to answer the call to radically follow You wherever You lead. Sts. James and Philip, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Apostolic Ministry
Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle, May 14
Peter said… “Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.” So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles. Acts 1:21-26
And with that we have the first new bishop!
The Feast of St. Matthias is a celebration of the continuation of the apostolic ministry. By honoring St. Matthias we honor the fact that Jesus enabled His first Apostles to pass on the sacred power of their ordination to others as their successors. St. Matthias took the place of Judas. And as the Church continued to grow, there were others picked and given the grace of ordination as bishops. Today, every one of our bishops has a direct line of succession to one or more of the Apostles. This unbroken succession is our direct connection to the priestly ministry of Jesus as it is passed on to the Church.
What a gift this is! It’s true that not every bishop or priest is a saint. We are all quite aware of that. But it is also true that every bishop and priest shares in the wonderful gift of Christ’s priestly ministry. And this ministry is not for them, it’s for you.
Jesus desired that He continue His ministry in a concrete, personal and human way. He desired that He would be present at every Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion. He desired to personally be there administering these graces to His people. And He is there, through the ministry of the bishop or priest.
The key is to see Christ in that ministry. Every priest or bishop is a unique representation of Christ in his own way. They each reflect Christ in their human personality and holiness. But, more importantly, they represent Christ by acting in His very person. Jesus speaks His words of absolution and consecration through them. So we need to see beyond the surface and see Christ Jesus. This is entirely possible if we approach God’s ministers in faith.
Reflect, today, upon the way you approach God’s priests and bishops. How do you speak about them? Do you seek Christ in them? Are you open to Christ ministering through them? The apostolic ministry in which they share is a true gift from Christ and must be loved and accepted as if we were accepting Christ Himself…because that’s exactly what we are doing.
Lord, thank You for the gift of your ordained ministers. Thank you for the bishop and for all the priests who have ministered Your Word and Sacraments to me. I pray for them today that they may continue to be holy instruments of Your love. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Acts 2:2-4
Do you think there was really a “noise like a strong driving wind” at this first outpouring of the Holy Spirit? And do you think there really were “tongues as of fire” that came and rested on everyone? Well, there most likely was! Why else would have it been recorded that way in the Scriptures?
These physical manifestations of the coming of the Holy Spirit were made present fornumerous reasons. One reason was so that these first recipients of the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit would have concretely understood that something amazing was happening. By seeing and hearing these physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit they were more properly disposed to understand that God was doing something awesome. And then, upon seeing and hearing these manifestations, they were touched by the Holy Spirit, consumed, filled and set on fire. They suddenly discovered within themselves the promise Jesus made and they finally began to understand. Pentecost changed their lives!
We most likely have not seen and heard these physical manifestations of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but we should rely upon the witness of those in the Scriptures to allow ourselves to arrive at a deep and transforming faith that the Holy Spirit is real and wants to enter our lives in the same way. God wants to set our hearts on fire with His love, strength and grace so as to effectively live lives that effect change in the world. Pentecost is not only about us becoming holy, it’s also about us being given all we need to go forth and bring the holiness of God to all those we encounter. Pentecost enables us to be powerful instruments of the transforming grace of God. And there is no doubt that the world around us needs this grace.
As we celebrate Pentecost it would be helpful to ponder the primary effects of the Holy Spirit in a prayerful way. Below are the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. These Gifts are the primary effects of Pentecost for each and every one of us. Use them as an examination of your life and let God show you where you need to grow more deeply in the strength of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, send forth Your Spirit in my life and set me on fire with the Gifts of Your Spirit. Holy Spirit, I invite You to take possession of my soul. Come Holy Spirit, come and transform my life. Holy Spirit, I trust in You.
Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Fear of the Lord: With this gift the Christian becomes keenly aware of anything that may hurt his/her relationship with God. There is a holy “fear” of hurting this relationship and grace is given to avoid these things at all cost.
Wisdom: With this gift the Christian is given a special grace to “ponder divine realities” in his/her speculative reason. We are able to see the big picture and know how best to be an instrument of peace and harmony in our world.
Understanding: This is the ability to have a supernatural assurance of the matters of faith. Life makes sense. We can make sense of the deeper parts of revelation, make sense of suffering and understand those things that tempt us to doubt. With this gift we come to see how everything in life can work for good in accordance with God’s plan.
Knowledge: With this gift the Christian knows, more in the practical intellect, what God’s will is in this or that situation. We know how to live, how to discern God’s will and what decision to make in our daily life. It also enables us to learn from our past mistakes.
Counsel: With this gift the Christian sees him/herself as a link in a chain which makes up the entire Church. God uses each one of us to help and support one another on our journey. We know what to say and how to act so as to do our part to build up one another.
Fortitude: Simply put, it is a firmness of mind and spirit to do good and avoid evil. It’s a sort of Christian courage. The Gospel will call all of us to a radical life of love. Fortitude gives us the strength we need to follow through.
Piety: This gift enables us to first reverence and love God, but also to see the dignity of one another and reverence each other as children of God.
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