Thursday, July 30, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 13:47-53

17th Thursday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 13:47-53

Today Jesus uses another analogy for “The Kingdom of heaven.” He uses an example from his experience as a fisherman. Since quite a few of his disciples also were fishermen, they would be more likely to understand his message.

He tells his disciples that the Kingdom of heaven is like a net that is thrown into the sea. Naturally the net collects a variety of species of fish. When the net is full, they haul it ashore. However, a net typically collects more than fish. Often the net would also collect a variety of other objects or other species of sea life that was not useful for their purposes. Thus, when they brought the net ashore, they had to separate what was good and edible from what was not useful. Naturally they threw aside what they could not use.

He then tells his disciples: “the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous.” And the wicked will be thrown into a fiery furnace! There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Today is a good day to ask ourselves: Are we one of the righteous ones? Or are we one of the wicked ones? I assume that we may be a bit of both. We may move from one end of the spectrum to the other, depending on what is happening in our lives. However, when we become aware that we are in a wicked or unproductive space, we need to consciously choose to move toward our righteous space!

Today I invite you to be aware and alert! Forgive yourself if you are in your wicked space for a time today! Then consciously move into a more peaceful and loving stance. What do you experience in this process? Hopefully, you will like the difference!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Reflection: John 11:19-27

17th Wednesday in Ordinary Time: Memorial of St. Martha – John 11:19-27

Today’s Gospel reading focuses on the death of Lazarus, and its impact on his sisters, Martha and Mary, and also Jesus. Lazarus, Martha and Mary were a “second family” to Jesus. Jesus spent time with them, he laughed with them, he relaxed with them and he loved each of them. Thus, when Lazarus died, Martha, Mary and Jesus all were devastated.

Jesus was not present when Lazarus died. When he received word of Lazarus’ death, he went to the house. Martha went out to meet him while Mary stayed in the house. When Martha saw Jesus, she immediately reprimanded him. She bluntly told him that if he had been there, Lazarus would not have died. She continued by saying: “Even now, I know if you pray to God, God will give you what you ask for.” Naturally, she hoped that Jesus would ask God to bring Lazarus back to life!

Jesus simply replied to her request saying: “You know your brother will rise on the last day.” However, Martha wanted Jesus to bring Lazarus back to life now! She knew he had the power to do so. She had seen him work many miracles. She desperately was hoping for one more miracle!

Jesus then says: “I am the resurrection and the life; anyone who believes in me, even if they die, will live! And anyone who lives and believes in me will never die!” Then Jesus asks Martha: “Do you truly believe this?” Then Martha makes a simple, yet profound profession of faith. She says: “Yes, Lord! I have come to know and believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God!”

Have we made our profession of faith? Have we ever said to Jesus: “I have come to know and believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Today may be a good opportunity to make our profession of faith once again! However, don’t let it be a hollow profession of faith. May it come from the depths of your heart!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 13:36-43

17th Tuesday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 13:36-43

In today’s Gospel reading, the disciples ask Jesus to explain the parable of the weeds in the field. Jesus tells his disciples that the Son of Man (Jesus) sows only good seed in the fields (in the world). The good seed is the children of the world. They are fruitful!

Then Jesus tells his disciples that the weeds in the field are the children of the Evil One. The enemy who sows the weeds is the Devil! Naturally the “weeds” are the “children of the Evil One.” The Devil, the enemy, is the one who sows the weeds. When it is harvest time, the weeds will be cut down, collected and burned.

Jesus then speaks of the end of time. He tells his disciples that the Son of Man will send angels, and they will collect all of the “weeds” (sinners and evil doers) in his Kingdom. They will be cast into a hot, fiery furnace. However, the righteous will “shine like the sun” in the presence of God! What is the message that we are to glean from this reading? It is not a very inviting reading! However, this reading may prompt us to pause and reflect on our lives. I invite you to do so for five-ten minutes.

Now ask yourself: In my daily life, am I sowing weeds or wheat? What are the areas of my life where there appears to be more weeds than wheat? What do I want to do to change that?

I seriously doubt that any of us are striving to produce poor fruit. However, the weeds often begin to grow in seemingly innocuous ways. They are almost invisible at first. Weeds have a way of encroaching in every area of our lives if we are not mindful and alert.

Today I invite you to sit and reflect on this image of the “weeds and the wheat.” Then identify the weeds in your life. How deep are these weeds rooted? Do you wish to uproot them and allow the good seed to grow?

Then, identify the areas of your life that you have protected or sheltered from the weeds. What is the life and growth you experience in productive areas of your life? What have you learned that might enable you to get your weeds in your life under control?

Then talk with Jesus! Ask him to help you root out the “weeds” in your life. Jesus will not fail you!

Then thank Jesus for the productive areas of your life. These are gift and grace! Celebrate these gifts!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 13:31-35

17th Monday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 13:31-35

Today Jesus gives us the parable of the mustard seed. He tells his disciples (and us) that the Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. If you are a gardener, you know how tiny the mustard seeds are. Yet, as this tiny seed grows it matures into one of the largest of all plants! This plant not only provides mustard, it typically becomes the home for many species of birds.

Jesus then tells the disciples another parable. This parable is about the Kingdom of heaven. For the Kingdom of heaven, he uses the analogy of a woman who took yeast and mixed it with three measures of flour. As the yeast worked in the flour, eventually the whole batch of flour was leavened.

In these parables, Jesus is telling us how he, God and the Spirit work within us. However, the first step is having the seed sown within us and allowing it to grow and become leaven within us. Thus, we first have to hear and accept Jesus’ words and teachings. Then we have to take his words to heart!

Jesus’ presence in our lives is dynamic. However, we have to be open to his word and his action in our lives. Mixing three measures of flour with all the other ingredients to make bread takes time, energy and skill. Bread making truly is an art. The ingredients must be measured out, the dough has to be mixed and then kneaded for quite a while. Then it is shaped, put into pans and baked at a fairly high temperature. If the bread maker is not skilled, the bread may be doughy, tough or the texture or taste may not be pleasing.

Jesus is the master bread baker. He has this process down to a fine art. However, we have to be willing participants in this process. First, we have to place ourselves in Jesus’ hands. At times, we also have to trust that even when we are being “kneaded” more than we think we can manage, we have to believe that this kneading will ensure a favorable and tasty outcome for us and for the people in our lives.

Today give thanks for the “mustard seed” and the “bread” that you are. You have the potential for greatness! Trust the master baker! He will not fail you!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Reflection: John 6:1-15

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time – John 6:1-15

Today Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee. However, a very large crowd followed him. They had witnessed the signs and healings that he had done for many people who were ill. And they hoped to see more wonders and healings.

When they arrived at the other side, Jesus and his disciples went up a mountain. However, Jesus looked down and saw that a great crowd of people had followed him. They had traveled quite a distance and Jesus knew that they would be hungry. However, there was no food available on the mountain.

Jesus asked Philip: “Do you have any idea where we can get enough food for all these people?” Philip tartly replied: “Two hundred days’ wages would not be enough money to pay for the amount of food this crowd would require.” Then Andrew spoke up. He told Jesus that a young boy in the crowd had five barley loaves and two fish. However, this would feed only a few people.

Jesus then tells the people sit down. He takes the loaves and the fish and gives thanks to God! Then Jesus instructs his disciples to distribute the bread and fish to the people. The disciples must have thought Jesus was crazy! Clearly the small portions of bread and fish would never feed all the people! However, as we know, there was abundance of food. Everyone had their fill and they had twelve baskets of leftovers! Where did all this food come from? Did Jesus simply multiply the food that the people had brought? Or was it that the people freely shared all that they had brought and thus, they had sufficient food for all the people?

At times in our lives, we also may feel that we do not have sufficient food. It may be that we believe that we do not have enough energy, money, time, talent or ??? (you fill in the blank)! At these times, it may be helpful to recall this Gospel passage! Jesus always gifts us with what we need. Truly we can trust his promise! It may not be what we thought it would be or perhaps what we hoped for. However, if we are open and trusting, Jesus will grace and bless us with what we truly need, even though it may not be what we asked for. Can we be content with this gift? I pray we will!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 20:20-28

16th Saturday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 20:20-28

Today we hear the familiar story of a mother who had two sons. The mother approaches Jesus and gives him homage. Jesus then asks her what she desires. She immediately tells him: “Command that my sons will sit one at your right and the other on your left hand in your Kingdom!” Jesus must have shocked! He had received many strange requests. However, this woman was much bolder than anyone else who had ever approached him.

Jesus responds that she truly does not know what she is asking. Most likely, the mother believed that her request would bring her sons power, fame and fortune. However, Jesus knew his kingdom was radically different from what she thought it was. Being part of his kingdom would mean that her sons would have to suffer. He tells the woman: “Truly, you don’t know what you are asking.” He asks if her sons truly were ready to drink from the cup that he would drink from. Her sons told him that they were ready to do so. Jesus then told them that it was not his place to decide who would sit at his right and left hand. His Father would make that decision.

The disciples were extremely angry and upset with the brothers. After all, they all had been with Jesus for a long time. And perhaps they also were hoping that they would be the ones who would sit at Jesus’ right or left hand. Jesus then warns his disciples of the danger of desiring power. Power often corrupts the individuals who wield the power!

Jesus tells his disciples that it should be radically different with them. Rather than desiring to wield power, they are to serve one another. He instructs them that this will make them “great.” They are to follow his example: to serve others, not to be served by others.

There is almost an innate desire within human beings for acclaim, recognition and appreciation. All of these gifts are proper and good in moderation. However, individuals who received abundant acclaim or praise also might be tempted to develop a big ego. Jesus desires that his disciples be humble. Humility does not mean groveling or demeaning yourself. Humility comes from the word, humus. Humus is an organic component of soil that is derived from decomposed plant and animal remains and animal excrement. To us, this may sound gross. However, humus adds many nutrients to the soil, aids water retention and also makes the soil more workable.

Our humility may develop as we experience the reality that we are far from perfect. As we acknowledge this, we can be angry or we can use our difficult and painful experiences to “add nutrients to our inner soil.” Thus this rich “inner soil” may enable us to become more fruitful in our lives. If we truly are humble, we will serve others, share our resources and be content. We will not need to be the “first.” Nor will we need “acclaim.”

Humility does not ask us to demean ourselves. Humility requires that we simply be who we are and share who we are with the people in our lives. God has gifted us! Jesus invites us to generously share our gifts, love and attention with others! However, he desires that we do this in a simple, unobtrusive way!

When we share our gifts and love in this manner, truly we are walking in Jesus’ footsteps! We could not ask for more!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 13:18-23

16th Wednesday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 13:18-23

Today we hear the familiar parable of “the sower and the seed.” Jesus tells his disciples that the “seed sown on the path” is anyone who hears the Word of the Kingdom. However, if they do not understand this “Word,” the “Evil One” comes and steals the seed from the person’s heart!

Jesus then speaks about the “seed sown in rocky ground.” This is a person who joyfully takes “the word to heart.” However, after some time has passed, the person may have forgotten the word or grown weary. Perhaps, the seed was not rooted well and thus, it begins to wilt. Thus, when trials or difficulties come because of the “word,” the person typically reverts to his/her former life.

Jesus then uses the analogy of thorns (riches). This individual hears the word. However, when anxiety or the lure of riches disturb him/her, the desire for the seed is choked to death by these “thorns.” Thus, the seed is unable to bear any fruit.

Then Jesus speaks of the “seed sown in good soil.” This seed is the individual who not only “hears the word” but this is a person who also understands the “word.” These individuals open their hearts to the seed and allow the seed to grow within them. These individuals will bear much fruit!

Now ask yourself: which “seed” experience do you identify with? Take a few moments and thoughtfully examine your life.

What did you learn about yourself? Perhaps you realized that you have a triple personality, that you have all three people inside of you! I assume that we react in all three ways at various times and in different situations. Do we want to strengthen our dedication to “hear the word” and also to “understand the word?” If so, what will help you in this endeavor: more prayer time, meeting with a spiritual director, or consciously connecting with God or Jesus throughout our day?

Today I invite you to nurture the “seed” that is within you. As this seed opens within, allow the roots to delve deep into your heart! You will bear abundant, wholesome and tasty fruit! God’s grace is with you!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 13:10-17

16th Wednesday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 13:10-17

This Gospel reading begins with the disciples asking Jesus: “Why do you use parables when you are teaching?” Jesus basically says to them: “The people do not understand what you understand! You have been granted the privilege of knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom. This is a great gift you have been given. The individuals who hunger for God’s Word need to be instructed about these mysteries!” Then Jesus adds: “To anyone who has knowledge, more knowledge will be given. And anyone who does not have knowledge will lose any knowledge s/he has.”

Ask yourself: which person do you identify with: the one with knowledge or the person without knowledge? Now ask yourself: what is the knowledge you have gleaned about the “mysteries of the Kingdom?” What more do you desire to learn? Do you truly understand Jesus’ message and promise? Or do you have closed eyes, ears and heart?

As human beings, we begin to understand by what we learn through our eyes, ears and minds. However, deep understanding truly only comes from our hearts. The heart is the seat of wisdom and love. Today I invite you to consciously open your heart to the “mysteries of the Kingdom.” Be attentive to what you notice, the emotions you experience or the people you interact with. Jesus is present in all your interactions! However, we often are not aware of his presence! Today be awake and aware! If you stay “awake,” you may receive a great gift!