Friday, July 31, 2015
17th Friday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 13:54-58
This Gospel begins as Jesus returns to his “native place.” When he returns home, he immediately goes to the temple and begins to teach the people. Many were amazed and astonished. After all, many of them had seen Jesus grow up. Yet here he was preaching and teaching! They asked one another: “Where did he get all of this wisdom? How is he able to perform such mighty deeds?” They knew he was a simple carpenter, like his father, Joseph. And they knew his mother and all his siblings. They had great difficulty comprehending all of this!
Rather than being proud of Jesus and his intelligence and wisdom, some of his neighbors and relatives took offense at him. I wonder: were they jealous of Jesus? Did they think that Jesus thought that he was better than they were? Or were they envious of him? By their words and actions, they scorned Jesus! And thus, he was not able to work any great deeds there. Their lack of faith was too deep!
Take a moment and “put on the mind and heart of Jesus.” Imagine the emotions that must have raced through Jesus during this encounter. He was so happy to be home. Jesus loved his hometown. And he loved the people of the town. And yet, they could not accept who he had become. They wanted him to remain as he was when he lived among them. Were they jealous? Or were they intimidated by this side of Jesus? Would they not accept him as he was? Could they not love him as a neighbor and kinsman?
Do we ever shun or judge people who seem to be more than we think they should be? I assume we all do! At times, we have judged another before we are aware of judging them. At these moments, we have a choice: to continue judging them or to choose to let go of our judgment when we realize that we are judging the individual. The choice is always ours to make.
Today may we consciously and deliberately “put on the mind and heart of Jesus.” If we do so, we may find that we are more peaceful, gracious and loving! We also may be more joyful and light-hearted! And we may receive more gifts than we have given!
Thursday, July 30, 2015
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
16th Wednesday in Ordinary Time – St. Mary Magdalene - John 20:1-2, 11-18
Today we celebrate the feast of Mary Magdalene. This Gospel takes place immediately after Jesus’ death. Mary has gone to his tomb very early in the morning, while it was still dark. When Mary arrived at the tomb, the stone at the entrance to the tomb had been removed! Mary immediately ran and found Peter and the “other disciple whom Jesus loved” and told them what she had found. She believed that someone had removed Jesus’ body from the tomb! She wanted them to go back to the tomb with her.
Then Mary immediately returned to the tomb. However, John does not say that Peter and the “other disciple” followed her to the tomb. Mary stood outside the tomb weeping at the loss of her friend and mentor. She had lost him to death, now she also had “lost” his body! Then Mary bent over and peered into the tomb. To her surprise she saw two angels sitting in the tomb. One at the head and one at the foot of where Jesus’ body had been placed. The angels asked her: “Woman, why are you crying?” Mary said: “They have taken the body of my Lord and I don’t know where they have laid him!”
After Mary said this she turned and saw a man standing there! It was Jesus! However, she did not recognize him. Jesus asked her: “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Mary automatically assumed this man was the gardener. Surely he would know where Jesus’ body had been placed. She asked him to take her to the place where Jesus’ body had been laid. She needed to tend to him and bury him with reverence and love!
Jesus then quietly spoke her name: “Mary.” In that instant, Mary’s eyes and heart were opened! And in Hebrew, she reverently spoke only one word: “Rabbouni,” which means “Teacher.” Immediately Mary stepped toward Jesus. She needed to touch him and embrace him! Then she would know and believe that he truly was alive! However, after a moment, Jesus tells her: “Stop holding onto me! I have not yet ascended to my Father!” Then Jesus sends Mary as the “first disciple.” She was to share the wondrous news of Jesus’ resurrection! Mary immediately left and found the disciples. She joyfully told them: “I have seen the Lord!”
Take a moment and ask yourself: When was the last time you experienced the presence of Jesus? Perhaps it simply was a sense that Jesus was present to you? Did you cling to this experience? Did you share your experience with anyone? It is a wondrous gift to see or sense Jesus’ presence and love! At times, this gift may be a direct encounter with Jesus. At other times, we may experience Jesus as another person being attentive or loving with us! Or it may be in the beauty of a sunrise, a hug from a child, a smile from a stranger. Jesus is with us always! However, we have to have open eyes, an open mind and an open heart in every situation in our lives! Otherwise, we most likely will miss seeing Him!!
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
16th Tuesday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 12:46-50
Today’s Gospel may be a difficult reading for us to understand. While Jesus was preaching, his mother and his brothers approached him. They told some of his disciples that they wanted to talk with Jesus. The disciples went to Jesus and told him that his family had come and they wanted to speak with him.
Jesus must have surprised the disciples with his response. He immediately said: “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” I assume the disciples were taken aback by Jesus’ response. After all, his words gave the impression that his mother and his brothers were unimportant to him. It almost sounded like he had disowned them. However, Jesus was conveying a very different message to his listeners. Jesus told them that any person who does God’s will is his brother, sister and mother!
I assume that all of us wish to be considered Jesus’ brother, sister, mother or father. However, the condition for this relationship is that we have to do the “will of his heavenly Father.” The question for me is: how do I know what God’s will is for me? I have not received an official letter from God commissioning me to “go to a foreign country to be a missionary.” However, every day I interact with individuals who may need help, a listening ear, support or laughter. Perhaps God’s will for me is to be inclusive and loving with every person who crosses my path!
Today as you go about your day, I invite you to be aware of the gifts you can share with the individuals you meet. They don’t have to be big gifts. Perhaps they actually may seem insignificant to you. However, the other person may be blessed with your small but generous gift! And be attentive to the little gifts you receive today. They are a gift and blessing!
Monday, July 20, 2015
16th Monday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 12:38-42
Today the Pharisees and scribes come to Jesus and say: “We want to see a sign from you.” However, Jesus refuses to give them a sign. He tells them that it is “an evil and unfaithful generation” that needs a sign in order to believe. He then says to them: “No sign except the sign of Jonah will be given!”
How often do you (or I) ask for a sign from Jesus? Do we believe and trust in Jesus only when we receive a sign? How do we know the sign is from Jesus? I wonder if Jesus gets as aggravated with us as he was with the scribes and the Pharisees? They wanted Jesus to prove himself! Do we also need proof to believe that Jesus is who he says he is? Do we need proof to believe that Jesus is with us?
Today I invite you to ask yourself: who is Jesus to you? How deep is your belief and trust in Jesus? Do you wish to strengthen your relationship with Jesus? What are the signs or messages that we can give Jesus to let him know we desire a deeper and more personal relationship with him? Jesus is waiting for us! Will we go to him?
Sunday, July 19, 2015
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Mark 6:30-34
Today the disciples return from their mission of preaching the good news and they report to Jesus all that they had done. Jesus then invites them to “come away and rest for a while.” He realized that even though they were exhilarated by all they had accomplished on their journeys, they also were extremely weary from their traveling and from the demands of the people.
However, the quiet and rest they had hoped for was not to be. When the people realized that Jesus and his disciples were leaving in a boat, they followed them. A fairly large crowd of people actually got to their destination before Jesus and the disciples arrived. Was Jesus disappointed or upset when he saw so many people on the shore? I would imagine that he had been looking forward to some “down time” with his friends and companions.
However, Mark writes: “When he saw the number of people who were waiting for him, his heart was moved with pity for them.” Jesus knew that the people’s need was great. They were hungry for his Word and for his love! Mark writes: Jesus began to teach them many things.”
How hungry are you for Jesus’ presence and his word? Are we willing to pursue him until we “find” him? What is it we hope Jesus will teach us? Do we yearn for Jesus to heal us? Today Jesus looks at us and “his heart is moved with pity.” He will come to us and “teach us many things.” The question may be: will I be waiting for him? Will I listen to him?
Saturday, July 18, 2015
15th Saturday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 12:14-21
Today the Pharisees begin to plot against Jesus. They were so threatened by Jesus and his influence that they decided that he needed to be put to death. When Jesus realized that he was in danger, he decided to withdraw to a secluded place. However, a large number of people followed him. He healed the sick and cured them all! Jesus then asked the people not to “make him known.” He realized that this would only intensify the Pharisees’ vendetta against him. Clearly Jesus realized that his “end” was not far off.
Jesus said all of this to fulfill a prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1-4). The passage from Isaiah that Jesus quotes is a tender passage. Isaiah speaks of God’s servant as the “One” who had been chosen. This servant is “God’s beloved One” in whom God delights. And God has placed the Spirit upon his servant. The “servant” is to proclaim justice and liberty to all the Gentiles!
Today, we are the “Gentiles” to whom Jesus proclaims justice and liberty for all. When we receive this message, we also are to proclaim justice and liberty for all. And as with Jesus, our proclamation must flow from our relationship with God and from our prayer.
Today, we are the servants God has chosen. We are God’s beloved! We are God’s delight! What more could we ask for? Our world desperately needs to hear of Jesus’ love and his message. The very least we can do is to proclaim Jesus’ message with our lives, our words and our actions! The question is: will we choose to do so today?
Friday, July 17, 2015
Friday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 12:1-8
In today’s Gospel, Jesus and his disciples were walking through a field of grain. It was the Sabbath. The disciples were hungry and, without thinking, they began to pick some of the grain and then eat it. There were several Pharisees who saw the disciples do this. They immediately approached Jesus and told him that his disciples’ action was unlawful since it was the Sabbath. No work was to be done on the Sabbath. Not only were the disciples picking the grain, they also were eating grain they did not have the right to eat!
It may be helpful to know that in the time of Jesus, the farmers were encouraged to leave some wheat on the edges of fields for the poor to eat. Thus, Jesus and the disciples were not stealing grain from the farmers, rather, they were doing what was customary. Yet the Pharisees seized this opportunity to criticize Jesus.
Jesus responded to the Pharisees’ question by using the example of David from the Old Testament. When David and his companions were hungry, they went into the House of God and ate the bread offering that only the priests were allowed to eat. Jesus then asked the Pharisees: “Do you consider David’s act unlawful?” He also reminded them that at varying times throughout history, the priests of the temple had violated the Sabbath. Did the Pharisees consider these priests guilty or innocent of a crime? Jesus then states: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
Mercy is a great gift. It is a gift when we receive mercy from Jesus! However, it also is a great gift when we are gifted with mercy from another person. Do you remember a time in your life when someone was merciful or compassionate with you? They may have been kind and understanding even if you did not deserve it.
Jesus always encourages us to do what is loving, kind, and sensible. Law is important and essential; however, if we are not careful, we may make the law our god. And this is not the God that Jesus wants us to worship. For Jesus, the law of love always reigns supreme. Today, may the law of love reign in our lives!
Friday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 12:1-8
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is talking with his disciples as they were walking through a field of grain on the Sabbath. The disciples were hungry, and without thinking, they began to pick and then eat the grain. There were several Pharisees who saw the disciples do this. They immediately approached Jesus and told him that his disciples’ action was unlawful. After all, it was the Sabbath! No work was to be done on the Sabbath. (Talk about the “letter of the law!”) In addition, they were eating grain that they did not have the right to eat!
Jesus replied to their question by using the example of David from the Old Testament. After all, when David and his companions were hungry, they brazenly went into the house of God and ate the bread offering that only the priests were allowed to eat. Jesus asked them: “Did they consider David’s act unlawful?” At times, even some of the priests of the temple had violated the Sabbath! Did they consider these priests innocent? Jesus then says to them: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
In the time of Jesus, farmers were encouraged to leave some wheat on the edge of the field for the poor to eat. Thus, Jesus and the disciples were not stealing grain from the farmers. Mercy is a great gift. It is a gift when we receive mercy from Jesus but also when we are gifted with mercy from another person. Do you remember a time in your life when someone was merciful or compassionate with you? They may have been kind and understanding even when you did not “deserve” it.
Jesus always encourages us to do what is loving and sensible. Yes, law is important. However, if we are not careful, we may make the law our god. And this is not the God that Jesus wants us to worship! True, we do need laws. However, the “law of love” always reigns supreme! Today, may we let the “law of love” reign in our lives!
Thursday, July 16, 2015
15th Thursday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 11:28-30
The Gospel reading for today is a gentle, loving and tender passage. Jesus says to each of us: “Come to me! Bring your burdens, your sorrows and your pain to me. I will lift your burden from your shoulders. I will ease your pain and your sorrow!”
Then stay with me for a while and “learn from me.” If you do this every day, you will find rest, true rest. You will be peaceful, serene and joyful! Truly my “yoke is easy, and my burden light.” “Come to me!” I am here waiting for you! I will wait forever if I need to! Will you come today?
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
15th Wednesday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 11:25-27
Today we eavesdrop on Jesus as he converses with his Father and Lord. Jesus is praising the goodness and graciousness of God for revealing to the “childlike” what is “hidden” rather than the “learned.” Ask yourself: how would you describe someone who is “child-like” (in the best sense of the word)? What are some of the characteristics these individuals possess? How do they approach life? Are they enjoyable to be around?
In our world, we esteem individuals who are learned and wise. And rightly so. However, there are many different kinds of wisdom. There is “learned” wisdom that comes from many years of study and learning. And there is “street-wisdom” that we learn in our ongoing encounters with other human beings. And there is the wisdom we learn from the daily living of the mystery of life. Do we appreciate and give thanks for the wisdom we have gleaned from life?
Jesus does not want us to be childish. Jesus desires that we be “child-like.” Ask yourself: what are the qualities of children that you wish to cultivate: innocence, trust, transparency? Or perhaps it is the ability to see beauty in the world? Or is it the inner freedom to simply “be who you are” or to be playful?
Today I invite to you be “child-like,” not childish. Allow your inner child to emerge! You may find that your day will be more relaxed, enjoyable and peaceful!
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
15th Tuesday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 11:20-24
Today’s Gospel is a difficult one to read. Jesus’ instruction to his disciples is pretty disturbing Jesus denounces the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida for refusing to believe in him despite the wonders they had seen him work. Jesus tells his disciples that he has not come to bring peace. Rather he has come to bring the sword. He also says that he has come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against a mother-in-law. I wonder if he also plans to do the same for father-in-laws and son-in-laws?
Clearly Jesus is furious with the people of Bethsaida and Chorazin. After seeing the wonders he had worked in their midst, it seems that they immediately should have repented. However, they did not! They simply went on about their evil deeds. Clearly, they were not interested in changing their lifestyle nor had any fear of God!
I wonder if Jesus is ever tempted to “denounce” us for not recognizing or appreciating the wonders he is working in our lives and in our world? It is so easy to become jaded. Do we see the many wonders Jesus is working in our world and our lives? Do we even look for them? Or are we so anesthetized with our daily routine that our minds, eyes and hearts are closed to the many wonders in our world? If so, how sad that is! There is so much goodness and beauty in people and in our world. However, we need to have open eyes, minds and hearts to truly see all this goodness!
Today, I invite you to keep your eyes and your heart open and awake. If we do so, we will see many “small” miracles and great beauty! What a wondrous gift to behold! Be alert! Be attentive!
Monday, July 13, 2015
15th Monday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 10:34-11:1
Today’s Gospel may be a difficult reading to listen to for many of us. Jesus tells his disciples: “I have not come to bring peace upon earth. I come not to bring peace but the sword! He continues, saying: “I will set son against father, daughter against mother and daughter-in-law.” He also warns them: “Your enemies will be those of your household.”
Jesus then says: “Whoever loves their father or mother, son or daughter, more than me is not worthy of me.” And whoever does not “take up their cross and follow me, is not worthy of me.” He uses several more examples, ultimately telling his disciples (and us) that we are to love Jesus first and foremost! True, we will love our family and friends but Jesus, God and the Spirit are to reign in our lives!
Ask yourself: who or what reigns in your life? Today I invite you to quietly reflect on this question for 10-15 minutes. Do a basic assessment of your life. Ask God to help you see clearly the reality of your life.
What do you wish to change in your life? What is “right” in your life? What is important in your life? Who and what are you thankful for? Thank God for the many gifts and graces you have been given! Ask God to walk with you in your struggles!
God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are with us, gifting and gracing us! What more could we ask for?
Sunday, July 12, 2015
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Mark 6:7-13
Today Jesus gathers the Twelve together and sends them out to preach and teach his message. He sends them out two by two. Jesus gave them a number of instructions: take nothing (and he means nothing) for the journey. They have the clothes on their body, the sandals on their feet and a walking stick. They were not to take a second tunic with them!
He also instructed them what to do when they entered a town. Whatever house they slept in the first night, they were to stay there until they left town. If they are not welcomed in a town, they should shake off the dust of that town when they leave there. With these instructions, the 12 disciples went off and began preaching repentance. They were able to drive out demons. They anointed the sick with oil and cured many people!
We are “Jesus’ Twelve” in today’s world. We also are to travel lightly, wear simple clothes and take a “walking stick” with us. We are not to take any money, food or other clothing! However, we can wear sandals (or maybe another style of shoes). Now, can you imagine yourself doing this? When was the last time you packed a suitcase? Did you double-check to be sure you had everything in it that you would need (and perhaps more than that)?
Are we willing to travel lightly, to leave home (our secure inner space) and venture into new territories? Are we willing to travel lightly and trust that if we need help, shelter or food, we will be cared for by the generosity of others and of God?
Do we believe that with Jesus’ grace, we also may drive out the demons of fear, shame, anger or pride, for ourselves and for others? Ask yourself: how do you strive to be a disciple of Jesus in your world?
Today Jesus is sending us forth! Will we follow in Jesus’ steps and do as he did? We are called! Will we respond?
Saturday, July 11, 2015
14th Saturday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 10:24-33
Today Jesus has a litany of wise sayings. He begins by saying that “No disciple is above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.” Rather, the disciple is to become like his or her teacher and the slave to become like his or her master.
Jesus then shares many more proverbs with his disciples. He talks about light and darkness, whispering and proclaiming. He tells his disciples that there is no need to be afraid. Everything will be revealed and all secrets will be made known. Jesus also talks about the body and the soul, the value of two small sparrows and even the hairs on their heads.
Jesus is making the point that God knows everything about us, down to the number of hairs we have on our heads. God cares deeply about each of us and God always will take care of us. We do not need to be afraid, even when life is difficult. The challenge for us is that when life is painful and difficult, most of us naturally become afraid. It is not that we don’t have faith in Jesus. Rather, we simply may be overwhelmed by the challenges and difficulties in our lives. And it may seem that there is no way out!
At these times, today’s Gospel is a reading worth returning to. Jesus tells us: “Even the hairs of your head are counted! So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Today I invite you to bring any worries or anxieties you have to Jesus. Simply place your worries or your pain in his hands (figuratively) and then sit quietly with Jesus for 5-10 minutes. May Jesus bless you with deep trust and deep peace!
Friday, July 10, 2015
14th Friday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 10:16-23
Today’s Gospel has a different tone. Jesus continues his instructions to his disciples. However, he warns his disciples that as they proclaim his message, they need to be careful. They will be vulnerable, like sheep in the midst of wolves. Thus, they need to be alert and shrewd in their assessment of everyone they encounter.
Jesus also warns them that they may be arrested, scourged and taken before governors and kings for “his sake.” In these situations, they are to be strong and witness to him. He then consoles them. He tells them that they are not to worry about what to say in response to the authorities. Jesus promises that they will be given the words to say. No matter what happens to them, the Spirit will be with them and speak through them!
Can you remember a time in your life you felt persecuted for what you believed? Did you have a sense of Jesus’ presence and grace, strengthening you and instructing you how to respond to this situation? You may not have “heard” Jesus’ voice. However, you may have been amazed at your courage as you responded to the situation. Or perhaps unexpected words came from your mouth and you didn’t know where they came from.
Following Jesus is not an easy path. Following Jesus means that every day we have to consciously choose to be and do what Jesus did. At times, this may bring consequences that we do not expect. However, if we choose to deviate from this path, we have to face ourselves and Jesus!
“Following Jesus” may sound romantic. However, if we truly live as Jesus lived, we may rock some boats and make enemies just as he did. However, we always have a choice. And every morning, we have to make a choice! What is the choice we will make today? If we choose to live and act as Jesus did, we will receive abundant graces! Only we can choose!
Thursday, July 9, 2015
14th Thursday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 10:7-15
In today’s Gospel, Jesus continues his instruction to his disciples. He tells them that they should proclaim his message: “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He also empowers them to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and drive out demons.
Jesus then instructs his disciples to travel lightly. They are not to take any money or any extra clothing, sandals, etc., with them. They are to trust in the generosity of the people they will be serving. They are to trust and believe that what they need, will be provided for them. Were his disciples amazed, surprised or nervous when they heard Jesus’ instructions? After all, shouldn’t they take something along on their journey (just in case)?
If we are disciples of Jesus, he also is empowering us with the ability “to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and drive out demons.” Now take a moment and ask yourself: how am I able to heal/cure, to give life and hope and meaning to individuals who are struggling? For yourself, name two or three ways you will strive to “share life” with others today.
Jesus desires that we share the gifts and graces we receive with other individuals who are in need. Most likely the gifts and graces we have to share may seem insignificant to us: a helping hand, visiting with someone who is lonely, or perhaps smiling at someone you pass in the grocery store. Who knows: today you may be presented with the perfect opportunity to share your abundance. Be alert! Be generous with your smile, laughter and attention!
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
14th Wednesday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 10:1-7
Today, Jesus empowers his disciples. He summons them and then he gives them authority over unclean spirits. They are to drive out these spirits and cure every disease and every illness. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the disciples were in our midst today? What are the spirits we would ask them to drive out of us? What is the disease or illness we desire to be healed of?
Jesus then names his Twelve Disciples. After naming them, he immediately sends them forth. He tells them not to go into pagan territory or a Samaritan town. Rather, he instructs them to go to the ‘lost sheep’ of the house of Israel. In every town, they are to proclaim: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Imagine yourself as one of these disciples. Jesus is standing right in front of you and giving you these instructions. How do you think you would respond? Would you take Jesus’ words literally? Would you believe that you had been given the power to drive out demons and unclean spirits and to heal the afflicted? Are you anxious or fearful about this call? Or are you raring to go and ready try out your new powers?
The reality is: each of us has the ability to heal. Most likely we will not be able to heal a physical illness. However we can help heal someone’s spirit or belief in themselves. We have the power to gift another person with our care, love and attention. All of these gifts are healing gifts. And we also need to receive these gifts from others.
Today, I invite you to be mindful and give freely of the gifts that you have to share. It simply may be spending a few moments with someone who needs a bit of attention. Or perhaps it is taking the time to help a friend with a project or their cleaning. Or perhaps it is having a relaxing lunch with a friend.
I also invite you to be mindful of the gifts that others share with you. You will receive them! Today, may we be mindful of noticing the gifts we receive! May we also be grateful for the love and care of the giver!
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
14th Tuesday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 9:32-38
The focus of this Gospel is another healing story. Today a demoniac is brought to Jesus. This man also was mute. He had been unable to speak since the demon had taken possession of him. Jesus immediately drove the demon out of the man and the man once again was able to speak. All who witnessed this healing were amazed and awed. They had never seen anything like this in Israel. However, the Pharisees disagreed and criticized Jesus. They proclaimed: “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.” However, their statement did not deter the people from believing in Jesus.
Jesus then traveled on to many other villages and towns. He taught, he proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom and he healed many people of their diseases and illnesses. Many of the people that Jesus encountered were troubled and all alone. In his eyes, they were like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew writes: “Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them.”
Ask yourself: Do you have demons you hope Jesus will drive out of you? What are your demons? What is the healing that you long for? Today open your heart to Jesus’ presence and his healing power. He will come to us! It may not be a dramatic instant healing. However, he is healing us and always, he is with us! Do we trust this? I pray we do!
Monday, July 6, 2015
14th Monday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 9:18-26
Today we hear the familiar story of the official whose young daughter had died. The father approaches Jesus, kneels at his feet and tells him that his daughter had just died. The father was broken-hearted. The official begged Jesus: “Please, come and place your hand on her! Then she will live!” Jesus immediately got up and followed the official to his home.
As they were walking to the official’s house, a woman who had been afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve long years approached Jesus. Unobtrusively, she reached out and simply touched his cloak. This woman had absolute faith that if she touched Jesus’ cloak, she would be completely healed. Although the woman only touched Jesus’ cloak for a second, he immediately experienced her presence and her healing. He turned to her and said: “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you!” And immediately the woman was healed!
Jesus then continues on to the official’s house. When he arrived, there were flute players and a house full of people who were making a commotion. Immediately, Jesus tells them: “Go away! The child is not dead! She is sleeping!” Many people in the crowd ridiculed Jesus. Who did he think he was? Clearly, the child was dead!
Finally, everyone left the house except Jesus and the child’s family. Jesus simply went to the girl, took her hand, and immediately the little girl rose from the bed. Her family must have been amazed, astounded and joyful! Their daughter had been taken from them but Jesus had brought her back to life! What a wondrous gift Jesus gave to this child and her family.
Ask yourself: Is there a part of you that is dead or in the process of dying? What is the life you desire to experience once again? Do you have faith that Jesus will bring you back to life? Do you believe that once again, you also will experience hope and joy?
We recover slowly from “the hemorrhages” that disrupt our lives and our peace. Unlike the little girl, we typically are not brought back to life in an instant. Rather, this may take longer than we like. And while we are waiting and hoping to come back to life, we may feel hopeless and alone. Yet, if we trust in Jesus, he will take our hand and we will arise. More likely, the reality is that Jesus already is holding our hand. We simply are unaware of it.
Today, will we reach out to touch Jesus’ cloak? Or will someone else intercede for us and beg Jesus to bring us back to life? Or we may intercede for another person and ask Jesus to heal the one who is in pain. Truly, Jesus is with us! Jesus is healing us and bringing us back to life! Do we trust Him?
He will not fail us!
Sunday, July 5, 2015
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Mark 6:1-6a
Today Jesus is teaching in the synagogue. This is nothing unusual for Jesus. However, today Jesus is preaching in his home town of Nazareth. The people who listened to him were absolutely astonished at the depth of his preaching. They looked at one another and asked: “Where did Jesus get all this knowledge?”
They also were astonished at the amazing deeds that he had performed. They knew that Jesus was the son of a poor carpenter and Jesus also was a poor carpenter. The town’s people knew his brothers and sisters. True, they were good people. However, they were not at all learned. They were simple, hard-working people. Where had Jesus gained all of his knowledge about the Scriptures?
Another segment of the townspeople took offense at Jesus and his preaching. They were not open to seeing him as anything more than a poor carpenter from Nazareth. After all, who was he to preach to or teach them? He was not learned, even though his preaching and his teaching were profound. As a result of their skepticism and closed mindedness, Jesus was not able to perform any great deeds in Nazareth. Jesus was saddened and amazed at their lack of faith.
Ask yourself: how are you like the people of Nazareth? Are you skeptical of Jesus’ ability to teach or preach or even to heal? I imagine that you might say: “Yes, I know that Jesus is a good teacher and preacher. However, I am a bit more skeptical about his power to heal. After all, I have been asking Jesus to heal me for a very long time. And I have not been healed (at least not like I want to be healed).”
Today may be a good day to take a step back and reflect on your life. Ask yourself: What are the gifts and the goodness in your life? Who loves you and whom do you love? Do you appreciate the beauty around you: the singing of the birds, watching the flowers grow and bloom, enjoying the smile and the love of your child or grandchild? What soothes your soul and brings you peace: silence, the beauty of nature, the touch of a loved one, the sound of a peaceful wind blowing, listening to beautiful music?
All of the above are the great deeds of the Lord, simple as they may sound. Do we truly believe this? Or do we not believe? It is our choice to open our minds and hearts and cherish the abundant gifts that Jesus blesses us with. Or to always want more than the riches we already have! Our happiness depends on our choice. It is true that our lives are not perfect. However, we are abundantly blessed! Jesus is at work in our lives!
Saturday, July 4, 2015
Independence Day – John 14:23-29
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says to his disciple, Jude: “Whoever loves me will keep my word and my Father will love him and we will come and make our dwelling with him/her.” Then Jesus begins preparing his disciples for his departure. He tells them that his Father will send them the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. The Advocate will teach them everything!
Then we hear the familiar and loving words of Jesus: “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” I invite you to silently absorb his words for 2-3 minutes. Then slowly and mindfully repeat Jesus’ words 4 or 5 times. Then just be still for 2 or 3 minutes.
Did you sense or experience the peace and presence of Jesus? When we are upset, troubled or fearful Jesus may feel very far away. At these times, if we consciously breathe in his peace and his presence, we may begin to experience his presence with us. However, we need to stop and breathe in the love, the peace and the presence of Jesus for a few minutes. Jesus is always with us! However, we are not always consciously in his presence. We may need to once again deliberately place ourselves in Jesus’ presence. He will not fail us!
Friday, July 3, 2015
Feast of St. Thomas – John 20:24-29
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas. As we know, Thomas often is called St. Thomas the Doubter. Poor Thomas. He has been stuck with this nickname for centuries. Yet if we had been in Thomas’ shoes on that day of resurrection, we also might have the title “the Doubter” after our names!
As we know, Thomas was not with the Twelve when Jesus appeared to his disciples. When his friends and colleagues told him that Jesus had appeared to them, this was far too fantastic for Thomas to believe. Thomas told the disciples: “I will not believe until I see the mark of the nails, put my finger into the nail-marks and place my hand in his side.”
A week later, the disciples were gathered together in a locked room. However, Thomas was with them on this occasion. Jesus came and stood in their midst. He greeted his disciples with the simple words: “Peace be with you.” Jesus then turned to Thomas and told him: “Put your finger here in my hands. And put your hand in my side. Do not be unbelieving but believe!” Jesus was not harsh with Thomas. However, Thomas must have felt rebuked by Jesus regarding his lack of faith. Was Thomas awed, ashamed and joyful all at the same time? His Lord truly was alive and in their midst once again! Joy and wonder must have his filled heart. Thomas’s response to Jesus was filled with awe, joy and adoration! With deep love and emotion, Thomas simply cried out: “My Lord and my God!” Jesus then asked: “Do you only believe because you see me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
We all have a “Thomas” within us. And at times, it is healthy to have a bit of skepticism. Yet, we also need to be open to what we may not understand. However, if we truly trust Jesus to keep his promise that he always is with us, we can let go of our skepticism and doubt. And if we find ourselves asking Jesus for proof that he is with us, may we turn to Thomas and ask him to strengthen our trust that Jesus is always with us----even when he feels miles away. Thomas will help us believe. Thomas will bring us to Jesus!
Thursday, July 2, 2015
13th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 9:1-8
Today Jesus returns to his home town. When the townspeople heard that Jesus was home, they brought a paralytic to Jesus, carrying him on a stretcher. Clearly these people had faith in Jesus’ power to heal this man. Jesus then said to the paralytic: “Child, have courage! Your sins are forgiven!”
There were scribes amidst the townspeople. These scribes began murmuring among themselves about Jesus. They believed that Jesus was blaspheming. How dare Jesus think that he had the power to forgive sins. However, Jesus knew what they were thinking. Even though they had not spoken a word to him, Jesus could read their thoughts and their faces. Jesus also clearly felt their disapproval and negativity.
Jesus then confronted the scribes about their evil thoughts. He simply asked them: “Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to tell the man: ‘Rise up and walk?’ Jesus then spoke to the paralytic and said: “Rise, pick up your stretcher and return home.” The paralytic immediately stood up, picked up his stretcher and went to his home! Everyone was filled with awe! The people then began to glorify God, who had given such authority to men (Jesus).
Is there a scribe with us? I assume so. Do we recognize when our inner scribe is active? Do we recognize when we are murmuring? At times, does our inner scribe judge others? Do we ever criticize Jesus for what he does or perhaps for what he does not do?
We need to be mindful of our inner scribe’s voice and our tendency to judge and criticize others. If we become aware of our thoughts and criticisms, then we have the opportunity to step back and change our minds and stop our judgment or criticism. If we do this consciously for a period of time, we may come to realize that we are not judging others as frequently as we had been. Who knows: we also may find ourselves feeling freer and more at ease.
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
13th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 8:28-34
Today we have the story of two demoniacs who came out from the tombs to meet Jesus. At times, these men would be savage! Thus people who normally traveled this road would take other routes just to avoid the demoniacs. As Jesus approached, the demoniacs saw him and called out: “What do you have to do with us, Son of God?” These men were frightened of Jesus, yet they called him the “Son of God.” They believed that Jesus had come to torment them.
Jesus took pity on these men. Near the demoniacs was a herd of swine. The demons spoke to Jesus and said: “If you drive us out, send us into the swine.” In reply, Jesus spoke only two words to the demons: “Go then!” Immediately the demons went into the swine and rushed down into the sea, where they all drowned.
The men who were herding the swine ran away. They returned to town, and told everyone they met what had happened to the demoniacs and the swine. Rather than appreciating what Jesus had done for these two men, the townspeople were filled with fear. They went out to meet Jesus and begged him to leave them. Rather than being awed and amazed, the people were afraid of Jesus and his power.
Ask yourself: are you fearful of Jesus’ power? Or do you hope and pray that he will also drive out your demons? What are the demons you wish to be rid of? I assume each one of us has at least one demon that we struggle with. Or we may have more than one!
Demons are powerful. If we are not watchful, our personal demons will begin to control our lives. At these times, we need to turn to Jesus and beg him to drive out our demons and to once again set us free. We may try to manage our demons on our own. However, most often, they are too powerful for us. We need to turn to Jesus and ask him to cast out our demons or at least help us gain some control over them.
Today I invite you to take a few moments and ask yourself: What are my demons? How are they controlling my life? What is the damage they are doing to me and to the people I care about? Then take a few moments of quiet. Thoughtfully ask Jesus to drive out your demons, to heal you and to free you! Then sit quietly in Jesus’ presence for 5-10 minutes. Take in Jesus’ peace and love. Rest in him! This alone may drive out a few demons!