A True Leader
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Jesus summoned the twelve and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” Mark 10:42–44
This is certainly easier said than done. This passage reveals one serious temptation that those “who are recognized as rulers” may fall into. This is the temptation of an abuse of power and a lack of humble leadership.
For example, tradition states that at the heart of the fall of lucifer and the demons was a desire for power. “I will not serve” are the words attributed to lucifer. In other words, the desire for power and to be served by others was real and very powerful for these fallen angels. So it is with each one of us.
Though we may not be in a position of great power over others, we will most likely all struggle with the desire for power. This can happen in just about any context. Take, for example, a friendship. Very often when there is the slightest disagreement on something, we want our own way. We want to be in charge. Or take the example of home life. How many enter into family life with a desire to serve the others and to humbly submit to the others’ wills? This is hard to do. It’s much easier to want to be the boss and to dictate to others what is to happen in this or that situation.
In the passage above, Jesus makes it clear to His Apostles that when they exercise their “authority” over others they are not to make it “felt” by others. In other words, Jesus was not calling His Apostles to be leaders by brute force, intimidation, manipulation or by any other severe exercise of their authority. The authority that Jesus wanted was much different.
Christian authority is centered in love and humility. It’s a “leadership” that is lived in true humility. This leadership wins over hearts, minds and wills of others and invites them to follow in charity and love. This must happen within the family, among friends, at church and within society.
Reflect, today, upon how you lead others. Do you expect to be the “boss” and expect others to follow you because of your authority? Or do you lead others by humility and love drawing them to Christ through your goodness? Commit yourself to Christian leadership as Jesus intended and you will be amazed at the effect it has within your family, among friends and within the larger community.
Lord, help me to be a humble leader. Help me to let Your heart of love and mercy shine forth and to lead by the goodness and kindness of Your merciful heart. Help me to set aside all pride and egotism and to become a servant of all. Jesus, I trust in You.
Monday, October 18, 2021
Evangelizing the World
Feast of Saint Luke, Evangelist, October 18
The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two 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.” Luke 10:1–2
Saint Luke, whom we honor today, was a true evangelist. As an evangelist, he followed the inspiration from our Lord and was used to bring God’s saving message to the ends of the earth. And there is little doubt that his ministry will continue to have a transforming effect on the lives of many until the end of the world. Tradition states that Saint Luke became a martyr, being hanged on an olive tree. He is identified in the New Testament as a physician and as a disciple of Saint Paul. Both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are attributed to him.
Saint Luke is often spoken of as an evangelist to the gentiles. His Gospel was written in such a way that it didn’t presume a full understanding of the Jewish faith and customs. Therefore, it is believed to have been primarily written for those who are not of Jewish origin. Thus, the life and mission of Saint Luke must remind us that the Gospel needs to be shared with all people, especially with those who do not have a deep and sustaining relationship with God.
In today’s Gospel from Saint Luke, we read that Jesus sent seventy-two disciples “to every town and place he intended to visit.” Only Luke mentions the larger scale sending of seventy-two disciples. The other Gospels only mention the sending of the Twelve. Though many of these seventy-two disciples would have gone to Jewish territory, some would have unquestionably gone to non-Jewish territory. The mission of these seventy-two was to prepare everyone they encountered for the preaching of Jesus and for the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
As we honor Saint Luke today and read this passage from his Gospel, we are reminded that we are all sent by our Lord. We are sent to those who share our faith, such as family, friends and fellow parishioners. We are sent to love them and do all we can to help deepen their faith and love of God. But we are also called to share the Gospel with those who do not yet know Jesus as their Savior. There are so many people we encounter every day who have never truly met our Lord. Are there people in your life that God is calling you to reach out to? Who do you know that God may be calling you to share the Gospel with?
Reflect, today, upon the fact that the Gospel is meant for everyone. Speak to our Lord and tell Him that you are ready and willing to be used by Him to bring His saving message to others. As you do so, wait on the Lord, listen to His inspiration, and respond when He calls. If someone comes to mind whom you sense God is calling you to evangelize, begin to pray for that person. Pray for them every day and be attentive to any inspiration God gives you to share His love and saving message with them. Do not be afraid to be an evangelist like Saint Luke. Doing so might make an eternal difference in someone’s life.
My saving Lord, You sent Your disciples on a mission to share Your saving message with all. Today I especially thank You for the life and ministry of Saint Luke. Please use me, dear Lord, to imitate his wonderful example and to share Your glorious life with others. Please lead me and inspire me to especially reach out to those whom You have put into my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Being Vigilant Throughout Life
Tuesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.” Luke 12:35–36
What does it mean to “Gird your loins?” This phrase, which is not commonly used today, literally means “tighten your belt.” It traditionally refers to one who is wearing a long robe that makes it difficult to move quickly and easily. Thus, to gird your loins means that you tuck in the long robe and tighten your belt so that you are prepared for some physical activity. It was also commonly used to exhort those preparing for battle to get ready. Symbolically, then, this phrase simply means to be ready for something difficult or challenging. It means to be vigilant and prepared. Spiritually speaking, Jesus is telling His disciples to be ready for the spiritual battle that awaits them.
Jesus then tells His disciples to light their lamps. That phrase could have a variety of meanings, such as “Do not remain in the darkness of sin or ignorance” or “Let the light of charity shine forth as you navigate through life” or “Allow the light of truth to shine within your mind.” Hence, by the light of faith, they are to be prepared and vigilant, ready to do all that the Lord sends them to do.
Today’s Gospel ends by Jesus saying that the disciples will be truly blessed if they remain vigilant even until the second or third watch of the night. Some Church Fathers see this as a reference to three periods in one’s life: childhood being the first watch, middle age being the second, and old age being the third watch.
With these meanings understood, one message we can take from this Gospel is that Jesus is calling us to be vigilant in our faith at every moment of our lives. For those who have lived many years, it may be useful to look back at how faithful you have been throughout every period of your life. God wants to use you in many ways during childhood, through your middle age, and even in old age. The journey of faith must never end. Instead, it must continually deepen as you age. But this will only be possible if you “gird your loins” and “light your lamps.” You must continually be vigilant, continually attentive to the light of faith, and continually be ready to act every time God inspires you to act.
Reflect, today, upon the lifelong journey of faith and service of God to which you are called. Being a Christian is not simply something you are born into. If you were born into the faith, then ponder especially what you have done throughout your life to daily deepen and strengthen that faith. Ponder whether or not you have diligently responded to the countless inspirations of the Holy Spirit to spread the light of faith to others. If you have been truly faithful throughout your life, then give thanks to God and recommit yourself to this fidelity for the rest of your life. If you have lacked faith and vigilant attentiveness to the will of God, then place that in the hands of God’s mercy and resolve from this day forward to do all you can to respond to the will of God the moment God calls.
My most merciful Lord, I thank You for the countless ways throughout my life that You have spoken to me, calling me to fulfill my mission of faith and love in this world. I commit to You, this day, to always remain vigilant and attentive to You everytime You call. Use me, dear Lord, so that I may bring the light of Your saving Gospel to a world in need. Jesus, I trust in You.
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
The Lord is Coming, Today
Wednesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Luke 12:39–40
These words from Jesus should cause us to sit up and take notice. This parable, followed by the rest of today’s Gospel, exhorts us to always be prepared for our particular judgment at the conclusion of our earthly life. There are various reasons these words should be heeded.
First of all, the obvious reason is that life for any of us could end at any time. We only need to recall various tragedies in which people have suddenly died from a car accident or from some other unexpected reason. Furthermore, there truly will be a specific moment in time when our Lord does return to earth for the Final Judgment. That moment will take place in an instant without any warning. It’s easy to presume that this end of the world when our Lord “comes to judge the living and the dead” will not happen for hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years. But the simple truth is that it could be at any time, when those who are alive least expect it.
With that said, there is another important reason to always be prepared and ready to meet our Lord for our particular judgment. Even though our particular judgment will take place in a definitive way at the end of our life when we see our Lord face-to-face, we also encounter Him every day, all day, receiving daily rewards for our fidelity or judgment for our sins. It is useful to see this “hour you do not expect” as every moment of every day. If you can live every day with this ongoing expectation that our Lord is coming to you, today, then every moment can be turned into a moment of much grace.
Think about your day today. Does God want to come to you, to inspire you and to lead you to fulfill His holy mission today? Indeed He does. He has a specific mission for you today that will not be there tomorrow. He wants you to be aware of His presence right now so that you can respond to Him with much generosity.
Reflect, today, upon the importance of always being vigilant and attentive to God’s presence in your life. He wishes to speak to you, day and night, so as to guide you into a life of true holiness. If you can build a habit of attentiveness to His continual comings, then you will truly be prepared for that final coming when you meet our Lord face-to-face.
My ever-present Lord, You do come to me day and night, speaking to me, inspiring me, and leading me. Please fill me with the gift of holy vigilance so that I will always be prepared to meet You and hear Your holy voice. May I learn to build a habit of responding to You always. And may I especially be prepared for that glorious moment when I am blessed to see You face-to-face. Jesus, I trust in You.
Thursday, October 21, 2021
A Blazing Fire of Mercy
Thursday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” Luke 12:49–50
There is much that we can take from these teachings of our Lord. Not only did Jesus say, “I have come to set the earth on fire…” He also said that it’s His desire that this fire be “blazing!”
Fire is powerful. A blazing fire, for example, can purify the precious metal gold. When heated to a liquid state, the impurities rise to the surface for easy removal. Fire can also consume. When a blazing fire completes its burning, what’s left are only ashes. Many great saints have reflected upon the image of fire as an image of the purification God wants to do within our souls. Saint John of the Cross, for example, reflected in depth upon this image. He explained that entering into divine union was similar to a log burning. At first, as the log begins to burn, it crackles and pops. This is because the impurities within the wood, such as moisture or sap, do not burn as the wood burns. But as a log continues to burn, as Saint John explains, eventually the log becomes one with the fire. At first, you can distinguish the log from the fire when only part of the log is burning. But once the entire log is engulfed in the flames and all the impurities are burnt out, you have a piece of wood that is one with the fire. It glows and emits light and heat.
When we ponder these words from Jesus regarding His desire to “set the earth on fire,” we must first see this as His desire to purify our souls. Within our souls, there are many impurities that need to be removed if we are to become one with God, emitting His radiance and glory. This purification involves a process of allowing God to bring our sins to the surface so that they are seen and can be removed. But this is only possible if we allow the blazing fire of God’s purifying love to consume us.
Oftentimes in life, we are content with simply being mediocre in our faith journey. We pray, go to Mass on Sunday, and try to be good. But this is not the life our Lord wants for us. He wants a life that is radically consumed with the blazing fire of His love. He wants us to become so purified from our sin that He is able to become one with us, sending forth the radiance of His glory through our lives.
Reflect, today, upon this image of a blazing and purifying fire. Use the image of gold melting to the point that all impurities rise to the surface. Or use the image that Saint John of the Cross uses with the log. God wants so much more from you. He wants to transform you and use you in ways beyond your imagination. Do not be afraid to make the radical decision to allow the blazing and purifying fire of our Lord’s mercy to transform you. And don’t wait for this to start tomorrow—kindle that flame today.
My purifying Lord, You deeply desire to set my heart and soul on fire with the transforming mercy of Your love. Please give me the grace I need to permit You to kindle this fire of love in my heart so that it will truly become blazing and all-consuming. May this blaze ignite me in the inner depths of my heart so that You will shine brightly in my life, bringing forth the warmth of Your love into our world. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday, October 22, 2021
The Convictions of Your Heart
Friday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” Luke 12:57–59
The Church Fathers offer many different interpretations of this passage. Among them, Saint Bede says that our “opponent” can be seen as the Word of God, in the sense that the Word of God makes war upon our weaknesses and sins. When we listen to the Word of God, our Lord will convict us of our faults so that we can reconcile our lives with the Truth of the Word of God Himself.
When you think about God’s holy Word, in its entirety, what most convicts you? Sometimes we try to downplay such personal convictions. We rationalize our actions and dismiss what God is saying to us. Are there any teachings of Jesus that you recall that have truly stung you to the heart? If so, this is a grace, and it’s an opportunity to fulfill the lesson from our Lord taught in the passage above. God does not convict our hearts so as to condemn us. Rather, He convicts us, as an opponent to our sin, so that we can “make an effort to settle the matter on the way.” The conscience is a wonderful gift from our Lord and can be likened to this passage above. It is a form of courtroom where our Lord desires not to have to issue punishment upon us. Instead, He desires that we engage His holy Word, listen to what He says, and settle our sin by repenting immediately.
Among the many lessons taught by our Lord, it is often the lesson that jumps out at us, even in a startling way, that we need to pay attention to the most. God often brings His most urgent teachings to us by causing us to feel a sense of guilt that cannot be denied. If we listen to these convictions, then we will not have any need to stand before the Judge. But if we do not, if we bury these convictions, downplay them and ignore them, then our Lord will find it necessary to keep at us. We will begin to experience His judgment, and we will see the effects of being out of His good graces. And in the end, if we fail to repent of the more serious sins in our lives, then we will even be held accountable for the smallest of sins. We will be required to “pay the last penny.”
Reflect, today, upon the idea that the Word of God, all that our Lord has taught us, is the opponent to the sin in your soul. This good and holy opponent wants only what is best for you. Commit yourself to an ongoing reading of God’s holy Word so that you will be continually disposed to hear all that God wants to say to you and so that you will be able to reconcile with our Lord before He is compelled to issue forth His judgments.
My most merciful Judge, You desire that I listen to Your holy Word, revealed through Scripture, so as to receive Your most merciful conviction of my sin. I pray that I will be open to always hear all that You desire to say to me so that I can respond with generosity and trust, reconciling with You and others continually through my journey in life. Enliven my conscience with Your holy Word, dear Lord. Jesus, I trust in You.
Saturday, October 23, 2021
Cultivating the Soil of Your Heart
Saturday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
“‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:7–9
How much good fruit is born from your life? This is an important question to answer honestly. One of the best ways to discern whether or not we are serving the will of God is to look at the fruit being born from our lives.
Good fruit is born in various ways and manifests itself in various forms. However, the fruit you must look for is twofold. First, it is the fruit found within your own soul resulting from a life of true prayer and union with God. Second, we must look for the fruit that is born of charity in our actions toward others.
When you look honestly at your own soul, what do you see? Often, you may see a sort of war within you in which your disordered passions and appetites fight against the Spirit of God. Good spiritual fruit will require interior purification. Through prayer, fasting, spiritual reading and the like, you must look for ways in which God’s Spirit takes control of your disordered human nature and reorders it in accord with His holy will. Though we are all sinners and will all fall at times, we must work diligently to overcome every action, desire and temptation that we can objectively discern to be contrary to the will of God. At times, your fallen human nature can so forcefully draw you into sin that it can confuse your intellect and lead you to rationalization of your sins. But if you want the fruit of God’s presence in your life, then you must continually choose to make your interior life a fruitful garden in which the virtues of God grow and are nourished in abundance. So, again, what do you honestly see as you look into your own soul?
As God nourishes the virtues within us, and our disordered passions and appetites fall under the control of the Spirit of God, then we will also discover a need to allow the interior fruits of God’s love to flow forth from our lives into the lives of others. We will begin to desire selfless and sacrificial living. We will begin to desire to put others first. We will consider others’ lives as precious and filled with dignity. And we will overcome judgment, harshness, anger, and the like. We will find ourselves desiring the good of others and will supernaturally be drawn to do many small acts of kindness toward all. But it all starts with one’s interior life which our Lord desires to cultivate and fertilize with His grace so that the interior fruits of His love will grow within and ultimately become very manifest in one’s daily exterior actions toward all.
Reflect, today, upon your soul being like this fig tree that has not been bearing fruit. See our Lord coming to you and asking you to allow Him to cultivate the ground and fertilize it. Know that this requires change on your part. If you are to bear good fruit, then you need this intervention by our Lord. Work with Him, be diligent, and do all you can to begin to bear an abundance of good fruit so that you are not among those who are ultimately cut down by God’s justice.
My laboring Lord, You never cease to work diligently to cultivate the soil of my soul so that the seeds of Your mercy will grow and produce the good fruit You desire to come forth from my life. Please give me the grace I need to be faithful to a daily life of prayer, a practice of penance and a search for Your holy Word. Transform me, dear Lord, and bring forth the good fruit of Your holy Kingdom in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.