From the Beginning…
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
“But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Mark 10:6–9
Those three words, “From the beginning,” are key words for our day and age. It is important for people of faith to recognize not only the supernatural gifts God has given us but also the natural gifts. The supernatural gifts are all those gifts given us by the Cross of Christ. His life, death and Resurrection poured forth upon us grace from Heaven and made holiness, salvation and Heaven possible. But there is a whole other order of “gift” that God gave us that we often take for granted. That’s the gift of nature.
Creation itself, the order of the Universe, our humanity and the natural design of God are all gifts. Science can do much to discover the secrets and mysteries of the natural world, but ultimately a full understanding of even the natural world is mysterious, deep and awe-inspiring.
One aspect of the natural world God gave us is our sexuality. “God made them male and female…” This natural design is part of the glorious wisdom of the Creator and must be understood, loved and respected fully. Being “male and female” is something that is quite obvious and naturally understood. Within each person are certain attributes, desires, tendencies, etc., that go hand in hand with being either male or female.
In many ways, the uniqueness and complementarity of the sexes have been challenged and even disregarded at times, especially in our day and age. But deep down we all understand that being male or female is part of who we are. It makes up our very identity as a person and brings with it many blessings. Femininity and masculinity, at times, also can become distorted and confused. But in essence, these attributes of our personhood cannot be discarded or denied. In fact, embracing who we are in our nature is nothing more than being honest and enables us to continue down the road of true natural integrity.
Reflect, today, upon the many ways that being “male and female” are natural blessings from God. Reflect, also, upon the ways that these natural gifts are challenged and undermined in our world today. Embrace who you are, embrace who God made you to be, and let that natural gift from God flourish in your life.
Lord, I thank You for Your countless gifts. Thank You for the gift of grace won by Your Cross, and thank You also for the gift of nature and for the way You made me. Help me to embrace my full identity in accord with Your design and, in that embrace, help me to continue to discover my very dignity. Jesus, I trust in You.
Monday, October 4, 2021
Openness to the Gospel
Monday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke 10:25
The question is very good. We should all seek to understand, with all our hearts, what we must do to inherit eternal life. Of course the problem is that this scholar of the law did not ask this question with sincerity and openness. Rather, he asked Jesus this question to test our Lord. This scholar, as well as other scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and elders, was envious of Jesus and sought to find fault with Him. This scholar appeared to be concerned that Jesus was teaching contrary to the Law of Moses. But what does our Lord do? He says nothing more than to put the question back to the scholar, asking him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” The scholar answers correctly, according to the Law of Moses, and Jesus responds to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” Thus, the test was passed.
What’s interesting and helpful to ponder in this exchange is the way Jesus responds to this scholar. Because Jesus knew the scholar’s heart, and because He knew that this scholar was not asking with humility and openness, Jesus responded with great prudence, inviting the scholar of the law himself to answer his own question. Though we are not able to read another’s heart in the way our Lord did, we should learn a lesson from Him on how to respond to others who have as their goal to trick, trap, test, and twist our words if they disagree with us. This is especially important in matters of faith and morality. If you are striving to live the Gospel with all your heart and you encounter the “testing” of others as a result of the holy life you are striving for, ponder Jesus’ actions here. Too often, when another challenges us or tests us, we become defensive and even offended. As a result, we can enter into arguments back and forth that bear little or no fruit. Jesus did not argue. He did not allow this test to trip Him up. Rather, He only offered responses that could not be doubted. Jesus knew that this scholar was not interested in the deepest spiritual truths. He was only interested in finding fault. Therefore, the deeper and fuller Gospel message could not be offered.
We should also learn from this passage the importance of coming to Jesus with an open heart, sincerely seeking the deepest spiritual answers to life. We ought never test Jesus. Instead, in humility, we must believe that He is the source of all truth and that He has every answer in life that we seek.
Reflect, today, upon two things. First, reflect upon how completely open you are to all that Jesus has to say. If you were to ask our Lord this question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?,” what would Jesus say to you? Would He only be able to offer you general answers in the form of questions? Or would Jesus see the open and sincere nature of your heart and be able to speak in great depth and detail to you? Second, reflect upon anyone with whom you constantly have to defend yourself for the practice of your faith. If this is your experience, perhaps reexamine your approach, realizing that the deepest pearls of your faith should only be shared with those who are sincerely open and are seeking to embrace them with all their heart.
My deep and wise Lord, You and You alone have every answer to life. You and You alone can reveal to me all that I need to know in life so as to achieve holiness and fulfillment. Please open my heart so that I can come to You with humility and sincerity, open to all that You wish to reveal to me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Fidelity to Daily Prayer
Tuesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Luke 10:40–42
In many ways, this statement of our Lord summarizes the most important and central message of the Gospel. We are all called to choose “the better part” every day.
Jesus was close friends with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He frequently visited their home, which was only a short distance from Jerusalem. On this occasion, when Jesus was visiting their home, one of these siblings, Mary, had placed herself at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him and conversing with Him. Martha was busy with the important details of hospitality and appeared to be upset with Mary, so she confronted Jesus, asking Him to tell Mary to help her. But in so doing, she was also unknowingly trying to dissuade Mary from the most important purpose of her life.
As Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, she gave us an example of the most important focus we must have in life. Though our days will be filled with many necessary duties, such as cooking, cleaning, working, entertainment, and caring for others, we must never forget that which we were made for and that which we will be doing for all eternity: adoration of our glorious God.
Consider all that occupies your day. Though most of what you do may be important, do you daily take time out to adore our Lord, listen to Him and glorify Him through your prayer? We can often make time for many other important duties in life, as well as those that are not so important. We may spend hours on chores, immerse ourselves in movies, devote whole evenings to reading, fulfill our duties in the workplace, but only devote a minute or two each day, if even that, to silent prayer and adoration of our God!
What would happen to your life if you chose “the better part” for a full hour every day? What if you decided that the first hour of your day would be dedicated to an imitation of Mary in the Gospel passage and that you would do nothing but adore Jesus through silent prayer and meditation? At first, you may think of the many other tasks you could be doing at that moment. You may decide that you do not have the time for extended prayer every day. But is that true? Perhaps you are actually being Martha to yourself, saying to yourself that you should do more important things with your time and that Jesus will understand if you do not spend time with Him alone in adoration and prayer every day. If that is you, then be very attentive to this Gospel passage. In many ways, Jesus deeply desires to say this about you. He wants to say of you that you have chosen the better part for an extended period of time every day and that this will not be taken from you.
Reflect, today, upon that which is most important in life. Dispel excuses and temptations to simply fulfill all the other important duties of life, neglecting that which is most important. Reflect upon the simple truth that Jesus does want you to devote much time to Him every day for silent prayer and adoration. Do not give into excuses and distractions. Commit yourself to remain at the feet of Jesus, adoring Him, listening to Him and loving Him. If you do, you will find that your life is more ordered and that the time you spend in prayer bears more good fruit than every other important duty you fulfill every day.
My inviting Lord, I do believe that adoration of You in silent and devout prayer is the most important duty I have to fulfill every day. May I never be deterred from adoring You every day, devoting as much time as You desire to silent and loving prayer. May I discover this gift of prayer, dear Lord, and sit at Your feet with Mary and with all the glorious saints. Jesus, I trust in You.
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
The Perfect Prayer
Wednesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1
What a great prayer for us to pray also, “Lord, teach us to pray…” Jesus’ response to this disciple was to present him with the “Our Father” prayer. Of this prayer, Saint Andre Bessette said, “When you say the Our Father, God’s ear is next to your lips.” The great mystical Doctor of the Church Saint Teresa of Ávila gave this advice while praying the Lord’s Prayer: “Much more is accomplished by a single word of the Our Father said, now and then, from our heart, than by the whole prayer repeated many times in haste and without attention.” And Saint Thérèse of Lisieux said that the “Our Father” prayer was one of the prayers she prayed when she felt so spiritually barren that she could not summon up a single worthwhile thought.
At the Holy Mass, when the priest invites the people of God to pray the “Our Father,” he says, in part, that this prayer is one that “…we dare to say.” This is an interesting statement which especially reveals the childlike boldness we are called to have as we pray this prayer sincerely from the heart. It is exceptionally bold to call God our “Father.”
Chapter 11 of My Catholic Worship, which offers a teaching on this perfect prayer, states the following about this boldness:
Each Christian is to see the Father as my Father. We must see ourselves as God’s children and approach Him with the confidence of a child. A child with a loving parent is not afraid of that parent. Rather, children have the greatest trust that their parents love them no matter what. Even when they sin, children know they are still loved. This must be our fundamental starting point for all prayer. We must start with an understanding that God loves us no matter what. With this understanding of God, we will have all the confidence we need to call on Him.
Since many of us are very familiar with this ideal prayer taught to us by our Lord Himself, there is a temptation to pray this prayer in a somewhat rote way. We can easily fail to say it from the depths of our hearts, making each word our own, offered with the utmost confidence to our loving Father in Heaven.
How do you pray the Lord’s Prayer? Do you pray it out of habit, failing to fully comprehend and mean the words you pray? Most likely this is the case for many.
Reflect, today, upon this most holy prayer given to us by the Son of God Himself. He is the author of this perfect prayer, so we should use it as the foundation of all of our prayer. Try to follow the advice of Saint Teresa of Ávila quoted above. Take each word of that prayer and pray it slowly, intentionally and with love. Begin by acknowledging God as your Father. Ponder the infinite care He has for you as a perfect father would. See Him in a real, intimate, and personal way. This perfect prayer begins by acknowledging Who God is and then continues with seven perfect petitions. After praying the introduction to this prayer, pick one of the seven petitions to meditate upon so that the richness of this prayer will have a transformative effect upon your soul.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Jesus, I trust in You.
Thursday, October 7, 2021
Praying with Fervor and Detachment
Thursday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him…’” Luke 11:5–6
Unless your friend were truly a very close friend, you may hesitate in waking them and their family at midnight to ask to borrow some food. And even if it were a very close friend, you would probably hesitate for fear of disturbing them. But in this parable, the “friend” is God. Jesus just finished giving His disciples the “Our Father” prayer, and now He adds this parable as a way of expressing the great confidence and determination with which we must pray to the Father. The parable concludes by stating that even if the person in bed does not get up to meet the request, they will do so “because of his persistence.” And though God always is attentive to our prayer, our persistence is an essential quality we must have.
When we pray to God with persistence, never doubting the goodness and generosity of God, God will pour forth upon us everything that is good. Of course, if our prayer is for something that is selfish or not in accord with the will of God, then all the begging in the world will not be effective. But when we pray as the “Our Father” prayer teaches us, then we can be certain that our fidelity to that prayer, prayed with the utmost trust and persistence, will effect the good gifts of the will of God in our lives.
One of the seven petitions of the “Our Father” prayer is “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” This is a truly beautiful petition that requires not only ongoing persistence but also detachment from our preference in life. To pray that “God’s” will be done and that “His” Kingdom come is a way of also saying that you surrender all of your preferences to God. You come to God acknowledging that your will may not be God’s will. Thus, this petition expresses detachment in a powerful way.
Reflect, today, upon the importance of praying with the utmost fervor and persistence to God. Reflect, also, upon the importance of doing so with detachment. What does God want of you? What is His holy will for your life? Seek that will and that will alone with all your heart and you will discover that His will truly will come to be in your life.
My perfect Lord, Your will and Your will alone is what I want and seek. I seek it with all the powers of my soul. Help me to grow in confidence in You and Your goodness. May I trust in You and believe with all my heart that You truly will bring forth Your holy will in my life if I only persist in prayer and trust. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday, October 8, 2021
Friday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Luke 11:23
These words are embedded within several powerful teachings of Jesus, but, in many ways, this single sentence can stand alone as an important Christian truth. Specifically, it tells us that we cannot be neutral in our position regarding Jesus and all that He has taught us. This is an important message in the world today.
Today, there seems to be a growing secular value that we might call “neutrality.” We are told by many in the world that we must accept any morality, any lifestyle, any choice that others make. And though it is true that we must always love and accept every person and treat them with the utmost dignity and respect, it is not true that we should be neutral to the choices and secular values that some choose to live and express. Sadly, when we do speak the full truth, especially the many moral truths our Lord has revealed, we are often labeled as judgmental. But this is not the truth.
This quote above from today’s Gospel makes it clear that we cannot remain indifferent to the teachings of our Lord and still remain in His good graces. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that the opposite is true. He says that if we are not with Him, meaning, if we do not accept all that He has revealed, then we are, in fact, against Him. Being neutral on matters of faith and morality is not actually being neutral at all. It’s a choice that some make that has the clear effect of separating them from Jesus.
For example, regarding matters of faith, if someone were to say, “I do not believe in the Eucharist,” then they are, in fact, rejecting God. And though it is not our duty to be their judge, it is our duty to acknowledge that they have expressed a belief contrary to the truth. They are in error, and if they persist in this error, then they do separate themselves from God. That’s what Jesus is saying.
The same is true regarding morality. There are many examples in the moral life that are becoming more and more blatant in their opposition to our Lord’s teaching. Thus, we must remind ourselves that when we reject a moral teaching given to us by our Lord, we reject Jesus Himself.
Jesus goes even further when He says that “whoever does not gather with me scatters.” In other words, it’s not enough to simply personally believe all that Jesus taught, we must also teach it to others. If we do not and if we, instead, offer a false form of “acceptance” of another’s error, then we are actually working against Jesus. We all have a moral duty to actively promote the truths of the Gospel given to us by our Lord.
Reflect, today, upon how fully you are “with” our Lord and “gather” with Him. Do you fully accept all that He has taught and also seek to gather many others for the Kingdom of God? If you do not see yourself actively believing in and participating in the mission of our Lord, then heed these words of Jesus and allow them to gently but firmly challenge you, so that you will more fully work to build up God’s Kingdom in your own heart and in the world all around you.
My glorious King, You desire to build up Your Kingdom in my life and, through me, in the lives of others. Give me the grace and courage I need to fully accept all that You have taught me and to actively become an instrument of Your grace and truth in the world. May I be with You in all things, dear Lord, and gather many into Your loving arms of grace. Jesus, I trust in You.
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Living a Truly Blessed Life
Saturday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Luke 11:27–28
This short Gospel reading reveals much about what makes one “blessed” in life. Specifically, Jesus considers those truly blessed who do two things: “hear the word of God” and then “observe it.” Though this seems quite obvious at first read, it is often harder than it seems.
The first step to a blessed life is hearing the Word of God. To “hear” implies that we do much more than become familiar with the Gospels. Hearing means we are not only aware of all that our Lord has revealed, it also means that we have truly internalized it, understanding all that our Lord requires of us.
Have you heard our Lord? It’s important to understand that the Gospel is alive. In other words, becoming familiar with the Word of God is not the same as reading some ancient book of lessons. Rather, hearing the Word of God means we hear a Person: the Son of God, speaking to us and guiding us each step of our lives. God’s Word is something that must speak to us every moment of every day, inspiring us to do this and avoid that. It is accomplished through a lifelong habit of prayerful communion with our Lord through which we are attentive to His voice always.
Hearing the very Person of the Son of God, the Word made flesh, necessarily implies that we also observe all that He speaks to us. In fact, failure to follow His continuous and gentle command to love will result in us being unable to clearly hear Him at all. We will become confused and will easily become directed by the many other voices in our world, unable to discern the glorious path chosen for us by our Lord.
Reflect, today, upon whether or not you struggle in any way with both hearing and observing the voice of God. If this is your struggle, then recommit yourself to a time of humble and wholehearted discovery. Tell our Lord that you are sorry for not being attentive to Him and set yourself on a mission to seek and find Him. Reject the confusion and anxiety of life, reject the many other voices of “wisdom” within our world, and listen for His gentle but clear voice. He is always speaking. He is always calling you. He is always present. Open the eyes of your soul and give Him your full attention. And when you sense Him speaking to you, respond with the utmost generosity and obedience. Doing so will result in you discovering what it means to be truly blessed by our Lord.
My blessed Lord, You are glorious beyond all things, and You invite me and all Your creatures to share in Your very life. Give me the grace I need to turn from the confusion and deceptions of life so that I will hear only You and respond only to Your voice. I commit myself to Your holy will, dear Lord. As I do, please bestow upon me every blessing You desire to give. Jesus, I trust in You.