Laying the Foundation
Wednesday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her. He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them. Luke 4:38–39
If you wanted to share some important message with a group of people, you would first need to get their attention. This could be done through a variety of means, such as through a charismatic personality, a powerfully moving story, a heroic act of virtue, or anything else that leaves people impressed or even amazed. Once you have their complete attention, you can share the message you want to share. This is what Jesus did in today’s Gospel.
Jesus began His public ministry in Nazareth, but the people of his hometown rejected Him from their Synagogue. Therefore, He immediately traveled some 20 miles on foot to Capernaum, a town just north of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus would spend much of His time. In this first visit to Capernaum, at the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus taught in their Synagogue, cast out a demon, and then went to the home of Simon (who eventually was given the name Peter) to perform His first recorded physical healing in Luke’s Gospel. He cured Simon’s mother-in-law, who suffered from a severe fever. Then, later that evening, many people brought to Jesus the sick and possessed, and Jesus “Laid his hands on each of them and cured them.” He certainly got their attention. And the next morning, as Jesus was preparing to leave Capernaum after this first visit during His public ministry, the people tried to convince Jesus to stay. However, Jesus said to them, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.”
Has Jesus ever gotten your complete attention? Though you most likely have never witnessed a miraculous healing first hand or seen a demon being cast out of one who was possessed, Jesus still wants your full attention. He wants you to be so amazed at Him and so impressed by Him that you find yourself seeking Him out so as to be more fully fed by His divine teaching.
Some people give their full attention to our Lord after a powerful experience on a retreat. Others are struck by a powerful sermon. And there will be countless other ways by which Jesus has gotten your attention so as to fill you with a desire to listen to Him and be with Him. Such experiences lay a wonderful foundation by which we are continually invited to turn to our Lord. If this is not an experience to which you can relate, then ask yourself the question “Why?” Why haven’t you been amazed by our Lord to the point that you fervently seek Him out so as to listen to His nourishing Word?
Reflect, today, upon this initial way by which our Lord got the attention of the people of Capernaum. Though some would eventually turn from Him, many did become faithful followers on account of these personal experiences. Reflect upon any way that you have encountered our Lord powerfully in the past. Have you allowed that experience to become an ongoing motivation for you to seek Him out? And if you cannot point to any such experience, beg our Lord to give you an interior drive to desire more of Him and to be fed by His holy Word and divine presence.
My miraculous Lord, I know that You desire my complete attention in life. And I know that I am often distracted by many things that compete with You. Give me the grace I need to become so amazed by You and by Your action in my life that I fervently seek You out so as to be continually nourished by Your holy Word and divine presence in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Thursday, September 2, 2021
A Personal Encounter
Thursday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Luke 5:8
Consider carefully this very moving action of Simon Peter. Jesus had just begun His public ministry, healing Simon’s mother-in-law as one of His first miracles. After that, Simon witnessed Jesus heal many other sick people and cast out many demons. And then, shortly after these initial miracles, Jesus got into the boat of Simon, directed him to “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” As soon as Simon obeyed, he caught so many fish that they needed a second boat to come and help them. The response of Simon to this additional miracle is recorded above.
Three things take place in this passage. First, “Simon Peter saw this…” And though he saw this, literally with his eyes, we should see his “seeing” as something even deeper. Simon Peter saw not just the best day of fishing he had ever had. He saw God’s grace at work through Jesus and was deeply moved interiorly by what he saw. Jesus used that which was one of the most central parts of Simon Peter’s life (fishing) to manifest His divine power. In a sense, Jesus brought this lesson home to Simon, using fishing as the source of His lesson.
Secondly, Simon’s response was perfect. By encountering this divine miracle, Simon immediately was aware of his sin. Though we do not know what Simon’s sin was, it is clear that this encounter with our Lord led him to immediately call to mind whatever he was guilty of. Perhaps he had struggled with some ongoing habitual sin for years, or perhaps he had done something of a grave nature that still haunted him. But all we know is that Simon’s encounter with this very powerful and personal miracle moved him to an awareness of his sin.
Thirdly, Simon falls at the knees of Jesus and tells the Lord to depart from him. And though Jesus’ mercy is so great that Jesus would never depart from him, Simon is not only aware of the fact that he is unworthy to be in Jesus’ presence, but he also manifests this conviction through his humble action of repentance.
What does Jesus do? He said, “Do not be afraid…” And when these new disciples arrived at shore, “they left everything and followed him.”
Each one of us must encounter our Lord in this same way. We must see Jesus. We must be deeply attentive to Him. We must recognize His presence, hear His voice and see His action in our life. If this is done well and through faith, then our personal encounter with our Lord will shine light on the sin we need to repent of. This is not so that we remain in guilt and shame; rather, it is so that we can also humble ourselves before Jesus and acknowledge we are not worthy of Him. When this humble admission is done well, we can be assured that Jesus will also say to us, “Do not be afraid.” His consoling words to us must then be responded to with the same choice made by Simon and the others. We must be ready and willing to leave everything behind so as to follow Him.
Reflect, today, upon this image of Simon Peter on his knees before Jesus. See his humility and honesty. See his sincerity and interior awareness. And see his understanding of the divine power of Jesus before him. Pray that you, too, will see our Lord, experience your sin, humble yourself before Him and hear Him call you to radically and completely follow after Him wherever He leads.
My consoling Lord, You manifested Your almighty power to Simon Peter through his ordinary daily activity. You allowed him to see Your divine power at work. Help me to see You at work in my life also, dear Lord. And as I see You, help me to humble myself before You, acknowledging my unworthiness. As I do, I pray that I also hear You say to me “Do not be afraid,” so that I can get up and follow You wherever You lead. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday, September 3, 2021
Courage to Change
Friday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
“Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins. And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” Luke 5:37–39
This short parable comes at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He just called Levi, the tax collector, to become one of His disciples, and then Levi invited Jesus to dine at his home with other tax collectors and sinners. When the scribes and Pharisees saw this, they objected and challenged our Lord. In response, Jesus tells this parable as a way of explaining that He came to call everyone to change and to experience a new transformation of their life.
The “new wine” spoken of in this parable is the grace poured forth from the Cross. Remember that blood and water sprung forth from His side as He hung upon the Cross. This has been symbolically understood as the grace and mercy given to us from the Cross, which is transmitted today through the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. Baptism transforms us into a new creation, and, as a new creation in Christ, we must desire the new wine of the Most Holy Eucharist so as to be daily transformed by our Lord.
Many of the Church Fathers point out that the “old wine” that many prefer is a reference to those who wanted to continue living according to the old law. This is especially true of the scribes and Pharisees to whom Jesus was speaking this parable. Jesus was bringing them a new teaching and preparing them for a new grace. But they rejected it, preferring the old life they were living.
One thing this tells us is that if we are to receive this new wine of the grace of God, we must be ready and willing to abandon our old selves and become new. Change can be hard. Even as evangelized Christians who are already living in the grace of Christ, we will be continually called to a deeper and deeper change in our lives. Too often we can easily become complacent and content with the life we are living. When that happens, it will hinder our Lord from pouring the new wine of His grace into our souls in ongoing superabundance.
How do you deal with change in life? If you want to grow in holiness, you can be certain that change is the only constant in life. We must become new creations each and every day, growing, being more fully transformed, changing our ways, giving up the old and embracing that which is ever new. This requires a certain amount of courage as we come face-to-face with the daily need to be changed by grace. It means daily death to our old self and daily becoming a new creation in God.
Reflect, today, upon the courage it takes to change. What is it in your life that you may be afraid to change? What “old wine” do you prefer over the “new wine” of God’s grace? What old habits or attachments do you have that our Lord wants you to let go of? Face the changes God wants for you with courage and trust, and You will indeed become more fully the new creation in Christ you are meant to be.
My most merciful Lord, I know You call me to continual change in my life. Please give me the courage I need to face all that I need to detach from in life and all that hinders me from becoming the glorious new creation You have called me to become. Pour forth Your abundant grace into my life, dear Lord, making me into Your new and glorious creation in grace. Jesus, I trust in You.
Saturday, September 4, 2021
The Divine Law of Our Lord
Saturday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
“The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.” Luke 6:5
This short yet powerful statement by Jesus was spoken in response to the Pharisees who questioned Jesus as to why His disciples were apparently doing what was unlawful on the sabbath. They were walking through a field of grain, picking grain as they walked, and eating it for nourishment on their journey from one town to another.
This challenge from the Pharisees highlights their scrupulous approach to the moral law. Recall the Third Commandment given through Moses: “Remember the sabbath day—keep it holy. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God. You shall not do any work…” (Exodus 20:8–10). From this Commandment, the Pharisees had developed a complex commentary which went into great detail about what kind of work was forbidden on the Sabbath in their view. One such regulation was to pick and mill grain. Thus, they judged that this was what the disciples were doing and were, therefore, violating the Third Commandment.
The laws of God, as they are given by God, must be followed perfectly. His divine Law refreshes us, enlivens us and enables us to live in union with Him. The Pharisees, however, deeply struggled with a need to control the lives of the people through their human interpretation of the divine Law. By saying that “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath,” Jesus made it clear that this scrupulous interpretation of the Third Commandment taught by the Pharisees did not align with the truths of that divine Law.
One lesson to learn from this encounter is that each one of us can easily fall into a similar trap. It’s easy to replace God’s true Law with our perception of faith and morality. We are weak human beings, and there are many things that affect our thinking and our convictions in life. Emotions, habits, family relationships, friendships, media and so many other things affect us in powerful ways. Sometimes for good and sometimes for ill. We can easily arrive at certain judgments of faith and morality that are slightly erroneous, being based on subtle errors. As a result, we can easily begin to get off track in our thinking and convictions and, over time, can find that we have deviated far from the truths of God. When this happens, it can be difficult to humbly admit it and change our convictions.
Reflect, today, upon the humble truth that Jesus and Jesus alone is Lord of the divine Law. This means that we must perpetually remain open to changing our opinions when we hear our Lord speak to us. Ponder any way in which you have become overly attached to your own opinions. If they bring forth peace, joy, charity and the like, then they are most likely in union with God. If they are burdensome, a cause of confusion, contention or frustration, then you may need to step back and humbly reexamine the convictions you hold, so that He Who is Lord of all will be able to speak His divine Law to you more clearly.
Lord of all Truth, You and You alone are the guide of my life. You and You alone are the Truth. Help me to be humble, dear Lord, so that I can recognize any error in my convictions and turn to You and Your divine Law as the one and only guide for my life. Jesus, I trust in You.