Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Transformation

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.  They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full.  Matthew 14:19b-20

Do you ever feel as though you have little to offer?  Or that you cannot make an impact in this world?  At times, we may all dream of being someone “important” with great influence so as to do “great things.”  But the fact of the matter is that you can do great things with the “little” you have to offer.

Today’s Gospel passage reveals that God was able to take something very small, five loaves of bread and two fish, and transform them into enough food to feed tens of thousands of people (“Five thousand men, not counting women and children.” Matthew 14:21)

This story is not only a miracle for the purpose of providing the necessary food for the crowd who came to listen to Jesus in a deserted place, it’s also a sign to us of the power of God to transform our daily offerings into exponential blessings for the world.

Our goal must not be to determine what we want God to do with our offering; rather, our goal must be to make the offering of all we are and all we have and leave the transformation to God.  Sometimes our offering may seem small.  It may seem like what we offer will have no benefit.  For example, making an offering to God of our mundane daily chores or the like may seem unfruitful.  What can God do with this?  The same question could have been asked by those with the loaves and fishes.  But look what Jesus did with them!

We must daily trust that everything we offer to God, whether it appears to be great or small, will be used by God in an exponential way.  Though we may not see the good fruits like those in this story did, we can be certain that the good fruit will be abundant.

Reflect, today, upon every small offering you can make.  Small sacrifices, small acts of love, acts of forgiveness, small acts of service, etc., have immeasurable value.  Make the offering today and leave the rest to God.

Lord, I give to You my day and every small action of this day.  I give You my love, my service, my work, my thoughts, my frustrations and everything else I encounter.  Please take these small offerings and transform them into grace for Your glory.  Jesus, I trust in You.


The Most Holy Eucharist

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”  John 6:34-35

They were hungry and they wanted Jesus to perform a miracle like He had recently done.  They wanted Him to multiply loaves and fishes for the crowds.  Perhaps they were curious or perhaps they were hungry.  But Jesus directs them to so much more.

This passage begins Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life which will be read at Sunday Mass for the next few weeks.  We will see in this discourse Jesus giving His followers so much more than mere bread and fish.  We listen to Him speak of Himself as the true Bread from Heaven.  Sadly, many reject this precious teaching and gift and go their own way.

But what about you?  How often have you truly pondered these words of Jesus?  “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst!”  Do you believe this?

Deep within every human heart is a hunger and thirst that longs to be satisfied.  We all have this longing and desire.  We try to fill it with so many things, but in the end only one thing satisfies.  Jesus alone can satiate the deepest longings of our souls.

Again, do you believe this?  And if you do believe it in your head, do you believe it with your actions?  Do you turn to Him as the source of your daily fulfillment and satisfaction?  When you go to Mass do you long to receive Him and love Him and enter into Communion with Him?  Perhaps, but perhaps not.  Most likely we all need to redirect our desires toward our glorious Savior, especially as He comes to us in the Most Holy Eucharist.

Reflect, today, upon how deeply you believe in these words of Jesus.  Do you regularly meet Him in the Eucharist?  Do you allow His presence to consume you as you consume Him?  If you cannot say “Yes” to this in a complete and definitive way, resolve today to renew your love for our Lord in this glorious Sacrament.

Lord, I do love You and I desire You to come and consume me as I consume You in the Most Holy Eucharist.  Help me to believe in You and Your presence in this Most Holy Sacrament.  May Your divine presence meet my deepest need and fulfill my deepest longings in life.  Jesus, I trust in You.


A Life Without Possessions

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”  Luke 12:15

Imagine what your life would be like if you had no possessions.  Imagine that all you had was the clothing you wore and you went through life relying upon the generosity of others.  Though, at first, this may seem like an irresponsible way to live, there are some who are called to a form of this life for a sacred reason.  Those called to strict religious life are called to embrace the life of poverty, owning nothing themselves, for a reason.  The reason is highlighted in this Gospel.

Too often in life we become consumed with our possessions.  It’s true that material things can add “spice” to life.  They can be fun, entertaining, comforting, etc.  But the danger of becoming attached to the things of this world is that we begin to rely upon the pleasure they bring more than we rely upon the spiritual possessions which are of much greater value.  It’s not that material possessions are bad, in and of themselves; rather, it’s that the spiritual possessions God wants us to obtain are of infinitely greater value.

Most are not called to live lives of material poverty, but all are called to live lives of poverty in spirit.  This means that, though we live in the world, we are not to be of the world.  We are to keep our hearts attached only to the greatest treasures of life: faith, hope and charity.  When greed and love of material possessions draw us from these spiritual treasures, we must recommit ourselves to the discovery of their great value.

Reflect, today, upon any struggle you have with greed.  If that does not sit well with you and if you find yourself immediately trying to justify your attachment to material things, then you may need this reflection more than you know.  The Lord wants to give you so much more than this world can offer you.  Do not make the choice to become attached to that which is “cheap” from an eternal perspective.  Strive to embrace those true riches that will remain with you forever.

Lord, help me to always keep my heart set on the riches You bestow and to never settle for those things that can never fully satisfy me.  I desire the wealth of Heaven, dear Lord, not the riches of Earth.  Help me to live the spiritual poverty I am called to live so as to obtain all that You desire for me.  Free me from greed and selfishness and help me to find true joy in Your holy will.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Jesus is Always There

Monday of the Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.  Matthew 14:13-14

Humanly speaking, Jesus’ heart was grieved by the death of John the Baptist.  He loved John and was deeply saddened by his beheading.  So He withdrew in a boat to a deserted place alone.  But the crowds were hungry for more!  They wanted to see Jesus and listen to Him.  They knew many who were ill and wanted Jesus to heal them.  So they sought Him out despite the fact that He had withdrawn from the crowd to be alone.

What was Jesus’ reaction?  Did He look at them and sigh saying to Himself, “Why don’t they leave me alone.  Don’t they know I am grieving?”  No.  Instead, Jesus was filled with mercy and compassion for them and He went to them to heal many of their sick.

This gives us insight into the heart and compassion of our Lord.  Many times, we are afraid to go to God.  We are afraid to turn to Him because of our sin.  We are afraid of what He will think and say to us.  We feel guilty and ashamed and, as a result, fail to seek Him out.

But just as Jesus had compassion for those who sought Him out in this story, so also He will ALWAYS have the deepest of compassion for us every time we seek Him out.  If we find our lives steeped in sin, but run to Him anyway, He will look at us with compassion and mercy.  He never tires of us returning to Him, seeking His healing and mercy.  We should always have hope in Him and turn to Him with the greatest confidence.

Reflect, today, upon how comfortable you are in turning to Jesus just as you are.  Are you afraid or worried about what He thinks of you?  Are you ashamed of your sin or weakness?  Do you worry He will judge you and not care?  Have confidence in His abundance of mercy and run to Him without fear.

Lord, help me to trust in Your love and compassion.  Help me to know that You always long for me to come to You.  As You never tire of me coming to You, may I never tire of coming to You.  Jesus, I trust in You.


When Faith Falters

Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.”  Matthew 14:28-29a

What a wonderful expression of faith!  St. Peter, caught in stormy conditions on the sea, expressed his complete confidence that if Jesus were to call him out of the boat to walk on water, it would happen.  Jesus does call him to Himself and St. Peter begins to walk on water.  Of course we know what happened next.  Peter was filled with fear and began to sink.  Fortunately, Jesus caught him and all was well.

Interestingly, this story reveals much to us about our own lives of faith and much more about the goodness of Jesus.  So often we begin with a faith in our head and have every intention of living that faith.  Like Peter, we often make firm resolutions to trust in Jesus and to “walk on water” at His command.  However, all too often we experience the same thing Peter did.  We start to live the trust we express in Jesus, only to suddenly waver and give in to fear in the midst of our hardship.  We begin to sink and have to cry out for help. 

In some ways, the ideal would have been if Peter expressed his faith in Jesus and then walked to Him without faltering.  But, in other ways, this is the ideal story in that it reveals the depth of Jesus’ mercy and compassion.  It reveals that Jesus will catch us and draw us out of our doubts and fears when our faith gives way.  This story is much more about Jesus’ compassion and the extent of His help than it is about Peter’s lack of faith.

Reflect, today, upon any way that you have had great intentions of trusting Jesus, started down that path and then have fallen.  Know that Jesus is full of compassion and will reach out to you in your weakness just as He did to Peter.  Let Him grab your hand and strengthen your lack of faith out of His abundance of love and mercy.

Lord, I do believe.  Help me when I falter.  Help me to always turn to You when the storms and challenges of life seem to be too much.  May I trust that, in those moments more than any other, You are there reaching out Your hand of grace.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Humility + Faith = Mercy

Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”  Matthew 15:25-27

Did Jesus really imply that helping this woman was like throwing food to dogs?  Most of us would have taken great offense at what Jesus said as a result of our pride.  But what He said was true and was not rude in any way.  Jesus obviously cannot be rude.  Nonetheless, His statement has the superficial appearance of being rude. 

First, let’s look at how His statement is true.  Jesus was being asked by this woman to come heal her daughter.  Basically, Jesus tells her she is not deserving of this grace in anyway.  And that’s true.  No more than a dog deserves to be fed from the table do we deserve the grace of God.  Though this is a shocking way to say it, Jesus says it this way so as to first illustrate the truth of our sinful condition and unworthiness.  And this woman takes it.

Second, Jesus’ statement allows this woman to react with the utmost humility and faith.  Her humility is seen in the fact that she does not deny the parallel to a dog eating from the table.  Rather, she humbly points out that even dogs eat the scraps.  Wow, this is humility!  In fact, we can be certain that Jesus spoke to her in this somewhat humiliating way because He knew how humble she was and He knew that she would react by letting her humility shine forth so as to manifest her faith.  She was not offended by the humble truth of her unworthiness; rather, she embraced it and also sought out the abundant mercy of God despite her unworthiness. 

Humility has the potential to unleash faith, and faith unleashes the mercy and power of God.  In the end, Jesus speaks for all to hear, “Oh woman, great is your faith!”  Her faith was made manifest and Jesus seized the opportunity to honor her for that humble faith.

Reflect, today, upon your own humility before God.  How would you have reacted if Jesus spoke this way to you?  Would you have been humble enough to acknowledge your unworthiness?  If so, would you also have enough faith to cry out for God’s mercy despite your unworthiness?  These wonderful qualities go hand in hand (humility and faith) and unleash the mercy of God!

Lord, I am unworthy.  Help me to see that.  Help me to see that I do not deserve Your grace in my life.  But in that humble truth, may I also recognize Your abundance of mercy and never fear to call upon You for mercy.  Jesus, I trust in You.


The Keys of the Kingdom

Thursday of the Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time

“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

The following is an excerpt from My Catholic Faith!, Chapter 7:

So was Jesus just being complementary to Peter, trying to build up his ego?  Was He just thanking Peter for acknowledging who He really is?  Or was Jesus doing something more?  Was He making Peter a promise that would one day come to fulfillment?  Certainly it was the latter of these.  Jesus was telling Peter that he would become the rock foundation of the Church and that Peter would enjoy a unique spiritual power of the Keys of Heaven.  Whoa!  What an incredible gift that was!

Jesus says, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven…”  This is no small gift to have.  We should take this as a literal commitment from Jesus to Peter.  So, when Jesus did found His Church, when He did “breathe” on the Apostles after His Resurrection, He also bestowed this promised gift of supreme authority within His Church to Peter – the power to bind and loose.

I’m sure that at first Peter did not fully understand this unique gift.  Perhaps as the Church began, within the first few years, the other Apostles would have been reminded by the Holy Spirit that Jesus said this.  Perhaps Peter in his humility would have been reminded by the Holy Spirit that Jesus said this.  And as time went on there should be no doubt that Peter began to embrace and own this unique gift of supreme authority.  We see the first clear exercise of this authority in Acts 15, at the Council of Jerusalem, when there was a disagreement about circumcision.  After much debate, Peter stood up and spoke with authority.  From there, others followed and we see that the question they were debating was clarified and settled.

From that time on, the Apostles continued their work of teaching, shepherding and sanctifying.  Peter eventually went to Rome to preach and to become the first bishop there.  It is in Rome that he died and it was every successor of the Apostle Peter, in Rome, who took on this unique gift of the supreme authority within the Church.  Certainly Jesus did not intend this gift of supreme authority to last only as long as Peter lived.  That’s why we see this authority passed on to all his successors who are the bishops of Rome.  And that’s why we call our Church the Roman Catholic Church.  Interestingly, if Peter would have gone to Malta, or Jerusalem, or Asia we would today most likely have the Malta, or Jerusalem, or Asian Catholic Church instead.  So the Church is Roman primarily because that’s where Peter went and, therefore, that’s where the supreme authority lies.

Over the centuries we have come to understand this unique gift of supreme authority and have defined it more clearly.  It means that St. Peter, and all his successors, enjoy full and immediate authority to teach definitively on faith and morals and to govern, or shepherd, according to the mind and will of Christ.  So if the pope says something is true regarding faith or morals then, quite frankly, it is true.  And if he makes a decision on the governance of the Church then, quite simply, that’s what God wants done.  It’s as simple as that.

This gift of supreme authority, in regard to teaching on faith and morals, is called “infallibility.”  It’s used in various ways.  The most powerful way it’s used is when the pope speaks “ex cathedra” or, “from the chair.”  This means symbolically from the chair of Peter.  In this case he teaches what’s called a “dogma” of the faith.  Every dogma is true and certain and we are bound in faith to believe.  For example, in 1950 the pope spoke “ex cathedra” about the Assumption of Mary into Heaven.  With that declaration we are bound in conscience to believe.  Mary truly was taken body and soul into Heaven upon the completion of her earthly life.  Period!

Of course this power does not apply to those things that have nothing to do with faith and morals.  So if the pope says he believes that Argentina will win the next World Cup, then he is only hoping, and I wouldn’t go bet all your money on them.  He has no special grace to teach things of that nature.  But wouldn’t it be fun if he did!

Lord, I thank You for the gift of Your glorious Catholic Church!  I pray that I may always be faithful to all that You reveal through Your Church and I pray that the leaders of Your Church, especially the pope, will always seek to grow daily in holiness of life.  Jesus, I trust in You.


How Far Will You Go?

Friday of the Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

There is a very important word in this statement of Jesus.  It’s the word “must.”  Note that Jesus did not say that of you have to follow me by carrying your cross.  No, He said that whoever wishes to follow me

So the first question should be easy to answer.  Do you wish to follow Jesus?  In our heads that’s an easy question.  Yes, of course we do.  But this is not a question we can answer only with our heads.  It must be also answered by our choice to do what Jesus said was a necessity.  Namely, wishing to follow Jesus means denying yourself and taking up your cross.  Hmmm, so do you wish to follow Him?

Hopefully, the answer is “Yes.”  Hopefully, we resolved deeply to embrace all that is involved in following Jesus.  But that’s no small commitment.  Sometimes we fall into the foolish trap of thinking that we can “kinda” follow Him here and now and that all will be fine and we’ll certainly get into Heaven when we die.  Maybe that’s true to a certain extent, but if that’s our thinking then we’re missing out on what life is all about and all that God has in store for us.

Denying yourself and taking up your cross is actually a far more glorious life than we could ever come up with on our own.  It’s a blessed life of grace and the only path to ultimate fulfillment in life.  Nothing could be better than completely entering into a life of total self-sacrifice by dying to ourselves. 

Reflect, today, on whether or not you are willing to say “Yes” to this question not only with your head, but also with your whole life.  Are you willing to embrace the life of sacrifice to which Jesus is calling you?  What does that look like in your life?  Say “Yes,” today, tomorrow and every day through your actions and you’ll see glorious things take place in your life.

Lord, I do wish to follow You and I choose, today, to deny all my selfishness.  I choose to carry the cross of selfless living to which I am called.  May I embrace my cross with joy and be transformed by You through that choice.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Hope for Those in Need

Saturday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

A man came up to Jesus, knelt down before him, and said, “Lord, have pity on my son, who is a lunatic and suffers severely; often he falls into fire, and often into water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”  Matthew 17:14-16

OK, so perhaps this prayer is similar to the prayer of many parents.  Many young people may “fall into fire” or “into water” in the sense of falling into trouble and sin.  And many parents end up on their knees begging God for help.

This is a good prayer and it’s an honest one.  Though we do not commonly use the word “lunatic” today except as a derogatory comment, this word should be understood in this passage as the man acknowledging that his son is suffering from some form of psychological and spiritual illness.  In fact, the passage goes on to reveal that Jesus cast a demon out of him.  This demonic spiritual oppression also caused serious psychological issues. 

The first good news about this passage is that the father cared and did not give up on his son.  Perhaps it would have been easy for the father to simply disown his son out of anger, hurt or frustration.  It would have been easy for him to treat his son as someone who was no good and not worth his continued attention.  But that’s not what happened. 

The man not only came to Jesus, he also knelt down before Jesus begging for “pity.”  Pity is another word for mercy and compassion.  He knew there was hope for his son and that the hope resided in the mercy and compassion of Jesus.

This passage reveals to us the simple truth that we must pray for one another.  We must pray, especially, for those who are closest to us and in the greatest need.  No one is beyond hope.  All is possible through prayer and faith.

Reflect, today, upon whether there is someone in your life you have started to give up on.  Perhaps you’ve tried everything and the person continues to turn away from the path toward God.  In that case, you can be certain that your calling is to pray for that person.  You are called to pray not just in a casual and quick way; rather, you are called to deep and faith-filled prayer for them.  Know that Jesus is the answer to all things and can do all things.  Surrender that person to the mercy of God today, tomorrow and every day.  Do not give up, but retain hope that God can bring healing and transformation of life.

Lord, please have pity on me, my family and all those in need.  I especially pray for (_____) today.  Bring healing, holiness and transformation of life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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