Monday, August 31, 2015

Reflection: Luke 4:16-30

Monday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 4:16-30

Today Jesus is in his hometown of Nazareth. It was the Sabbath day and as was his custom he went to the synagogue. When he entered the synagogue, Jesus stood up to read. He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He read this passage: “The Spirit of God is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year that is acceptable to the Lord! Then he rolled up the scroll and stated: “Today this passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Take a moment and put yourselves in the shoes of the people listening to Jesus. Remember, he was in his hometown of Nazareth. Many of these people had watched him grow up, watched him play and most likely corrected him at times. They knew Jesus very well. Since he was so familiar to them, it would have been easy for them to dismiss his words and his proclamation. However, they spoke highly of him and they were amazed at his ability to preach. Yet, they also said: “Is this man the son of Joseph, the carpenter? Where did he get all this knowledge and wisdom?”

Jesus was well aware that typically a prophet was not accepted in his home town. Yet he also desired to share his good news with the people he had known and loved from childhood. Sadly, the people did not open their minds and hearts to Jesus. He was far too different from what they expected him to be. After all, who did he think he was to come and preach to them? Did he believe he was better than they were? The townspeople became so angry with Jesus that they took him out of town, intending to hurl him off a cliff. He simply was too much for them. However, Jesus sadly yet calmly, walked through the crowd and went away.

Our initial reaction to this Gospel might be shock or dismay due to the reaction of his neighbors and friends. However, have you ever rejected Jesus because he was not who you thought he should be? Or because he did not do what you hoped he would do for you? If so, perhaps you can identify with Jesus’ neighbors. It may be easy to judge or criticize Jesus when he is not acting as we expect him to act.

Imagine the rollercoaster of emotions that Jesus must have experienced in these moments. These were the people who had watched him grow up, who supposedly knew him. He had grown up with them, played with them, eaten in their homes and worshiped with them in the temple. Yet, now they were rejecting him simply because he was acting in a way they did not expect him to act. And sadly they refused to listen to him because he had a wisdom and knowledge far beyond any individual in Nazareth. Luke writes: “He was too much for them!”

Can you identify with Jesus? Have there been times in your life when you were rejected because you were not the person a family member or friend expected you to be? I assume so. Even good people get jealous, envious and angry at times. And have there been situations in your life when you rejected another person because they were not being the person you wanted them to be? I would assume that all of us have been on both sides of this fence. Today I invite you to be mindful of your judgment of the people you encounter. It is true that judgment often is automatic and almost unconscious. However, when we become aware we are judging another, we then can choose to step back from judgment and let God be the Judge. It will not only free the other person, it also will free us!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Reflection: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Sunday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The Pharisees continue to scrutinize Jesus’ preaching and his behavior. Today they observe that some of Jesus’ disciples did not observe the purification ritual that was required before eating any meal. For the Pharisees, this gave them the perfect opportunity to once again criticize Jesus. For the Pharisees, the law always reigned supreme.

They came to Jesus and asked him: “Why don’t you and your followers observe the proper purification rites? They are eating their meal with unclean hands.” Jesus responds to them by quoting the prophet Isaiah: “This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine what are human traditions and precepts.” Then Jesus bluntly tells them: “You disregard God’s commandments and cling to human tradition.”

Jesus then proclaims to the crowd: “Listen to me and hear me! Nothing that enters a person from outside can defile that person! It is what comes from within that defiles the individual.” Jesus then names fifteen emotions and acts that defile individuals.

Today may be a good day for us to ask ourselves: At times, do we judge or critique others because they are not following the law, be that the law of God or the law of the land? I assume we do. Many of our judgments are automatic. They may be leftovers from what we were taught as a child. Judgments simply are part of our human condition. And often we may not be fully aware that we are judging another person for breaking one of the laws or rules we consider to be important. Most all of us do not like it when another person judges us. Yet at times, we automatically judge others when we may not have the complete picture. It is not our place to judge others. This is God’s work to do.

If/when you find yourself beginning to judge another today, stop, breathe, and pray. Then go on about your day. You may find your day is lighter and brighter without so much judgment!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Reflection: Mark 6:17-29

The Passion of John the Baptist — Mark 6:17-29

On this feast of the Passion of John the Baptist, Mark writes of John’s arrest, imprisonment and death. It is a horrific story and it mirrors the atrocities that we human beings continue to perpetrate on one another. John’s crime was that he bluntly told Herod that it was not lawful for him to marry Herodias, his brother’s wife. When Herodias heard this, she harbored a grudge against John and she wanted to kill him. However, she did not have the authority nor the means to do so.

Herodias was a clever and conniving woman and she devised a plan. Herod had planned a great feast for Herodias’ birthday. He had invited many esteemed guests for this grand celebration. Herodias’ daughter performed a beautiful dance that enchanted Herod and his guests. Herod was so taken by her performance that he said to the girl: “Ask of me whatever you will and I give to you, even if you ask for half of my kingdom.”

The girl went and consulted with her mother. When she asked her mother what she should ask for, her mother immediately replied: “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl returned to Herod and told him that she wanted the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod was shocked and distressed. He admired John and respected him. Yet he had made a public oath. And all of his guests had witnessed his oath. What would they think of him if he did not keep his word? Herod truly was in a bind. Finally, he gave the order to have John beheaded. And so it was. John’s head was brought back to Herod on a platter. Herod gave it to the girl and the girl gave it to Herodias. And the feast continued.

I assume that at times all of us have been in a bind. Perhaps we were asked to do something that we knew was not right. And most likely, in the future we will be in a similar situation. It is difficult to stand up and do what is right, when there is pressure from others to please them or to conform. Do we have the strength and courage to stand our ground and do what is right and just? Or do we cave in to please others or to look good?

Today may we pray for the strength and courage to live what we believe, even if others may not approve of our choices and actions. May we strive to have the integrity and courage of John the Baptist, who stood firm in his beliefs even though it ended up costing him his head!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 25:1-13

Friday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time — Matthew 25:1-13

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus tells his disciples the parable of the Ten Virgins. This is a familiar parable to most of us. The ten virgins took their lamps and went out to await the coming of the bridegroom. Jesus tells us that five of these virgins were foolish and the other five virgins were wise.

The custom in the time of Jesus was that the bridegroom typically took off to party with his friends after the wedding. Then late in the night, the groom would collect his bride and take her to his house. When the bridegroom finally appeared, the custom was for the bridesmaids to light the way to his house with lamps.

Jesus’ version is a bit different. At midnight, the virgins were awakened when the sentinel cried out: “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out and welcome him!” Immediately, all ten of the virgins went out to meet the bridegroom. However, five of the virgins had not anticipated that the bridegroom would dally (party) so long. Foolishly, the virgins had not brought any extra oil for their lamps. Thus, when the bridegroom finally arrived, their lamps no longer had any oil in them. They were dark! The other five virgins were wise and prudent women. They had planned well and brought along some extra lamp oil, just in case it was needed.

Today’s Gospel invites us to ask ourselves: Am I a wise or a foolish virgin? Or am I a bit of both depending on the circumstances? Within us, (male or female), all of us have a wise virgin (person) and also within us, we have a foolish virgin (person). Gender makes no difference. We also are waiting for the bridegroom to come to us. Do we have our lamps lit? Are we anxious and alert? Or has our oil been used up and our lamp is dark? Or have we fallen asleep?

Today Jesus will come to us, though we do not know when or how He will arrive! Are we prepared for His coming? Are we awake and alert? Or have we fallen asleep?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 24:42-51

Thursday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time — Matthew 24:42-51

Stay awake! These are Jesus’ words to us today. He tells us that we do not know the day nor the time when the Lord will come to us. Thus, each and every moment we must be awake and watchful. This may sound impossible to do. However, I think of parents who have young children. I assume their radar is always tuned into where their children are and what they are doing. It becomes second nature. I assume that all of us also have our radar tuned into the individuals in our lives who are special to us.

Today Jesus desires that we also have our radar scanning for his coming or his presence. The reality is we do not know when or how or through whom Jesus may come to us or be present to us. However, staying awake and alert is not as easy as it sounds. Perhaps though, we can enhance our radar system to be more closely attuned to Jesus’ vibes, to his presence with us. If we truly desire to be attentive to Jesus’ presence throughout our day, we can train ourselves to do so just as first- time parents attune themselves to their new baby’s presence and needs. Today attune the ear of your heart to Jesus’ presence with you!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 23:27-32

Wednesday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time — Matthew 23:27-32

Today in the Gospel, Jesus continues his diatribe about the Pharisees. He bluntly calls them hypocrites. He likens them to “whitewashed tombs” which look beautiful but deep within the tombs are nothing but bones and filth.

Place yourself in the Pharisees’ shoes. How would you react if someone accused you of the depth of hypocrisy that Jesus was accusing the Pharisees of? The Pharisees appeared to be righteous. However, Jesus accuses them of being filled with hypocrisy and evil. How dare he? Who did he think he was to make such critical and public remarks to the Pharisees? After all, they were the leaders in the temple. They were doing good, not evil.

The sad reality is that all of us have a “Pharisee” within us. I assume that most of us strive to look good. Naturally we desire to be esteemed and appreciated. We want to be competent, successful and happy. And this is natural and normal. However, we also may try to hide the vulnerable and fearful side of ourselves. We may try to hide what we consider our “bones and our filth.” We don’t want people to see this side of ourselves. We want to look happy, successful, fulfilled and satisfied.

Today Jesus is speaking to us. He realizes that we also are hypocrites at times. And he knows that we want to look good and be successful. These are natural desires and hopes. However, periodically we may need to ask ourselves: Am I being hypocritical? Am I presenting myself as good and holy, when at times I am a hypocrite? Jesus doesn’t expect us to be perfect. However, he desires that we be who we are and not pretend to be holier, happier or more satisfied than in reality we are.

Jesus simply desires that we be authentic. He wants us to be the best we can be and trust that this is enough. Can we believe and trust this? I hope so!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 23:23-26

Tuesday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time — Matthew 23:23-26

Today the opening words of the Gospel are: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” Once again Jesus does not mince any words with these supposed religious leaders. Jesus criticizes these pious men for tithing but also neglecting the essential aspects of the law: judgment, mercy and fidelity. He scathingly calls the scribes and Pharisees “blind guides” who “strain out the gnat and swallow the camel.” These words were a powerful and public denouncement of the scribes and Pharisees.

However, we may be able to identify with the scribes and Pharisees. It may be easier to live out the letter of the law of God than to delve deeper into what Jesus is calling us to. Jesus desires that we be wholehearted and loving in all our actions. Yes, we may automatically judge others. However, will we also be merciful and understanding with them? Are we faithful to what we profess? Or do we choose which parts of the law we will observe? And does our understanding of the law include compassion and love?

Today I invite you to take some time and ask yourself: how do I approach the law? Do I simply live the letter of the law? Or do I strive to live the law from a compassionate and loving stance? The letter of the law is cleaner and simpler. However, we are messy human beings and at times much more is needed than the letter of the law. The most important law is the law of love. This is the law Jesus exemplified throughout his life. Will we choose to follow in his footsteps?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Reflection: John 1:45-51

Monday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Bartholomew — John 1:45-51

On this feast of Bartholomew, the Gospel begins with Philip finding Nathanael and telling him: “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law. The prophets also wrote about this man, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” Nathanael’s response to Philip’s announcement sounds a bit prejudiced. He says to Philip: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Apparently Nazareth did not have a good reputation.

Philip persisted and said to Nathanael: “Come and see.” They left to find Jesus. Jesus saw them approaching and said: “Here is a true child of Israel. He has no guile or duplicity in him!” Nathanael came toward Jesus and asked him: “How do you know me?” Jesus told him that he had seen him under a fig tree. Nathanael was astounded at Jesus’ insight. Then Nathanael made his profession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel.” Jesus asked him: “Do you believe this simply because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? Truly, you will see much greater things! You will witness the heavens being opened and you will see angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Today if we spend some time with Jesus, we also may hear him say to us: “Here is a true child of Israel!” However, we may or may not have a heart as pure as Nathanael did. Yet we are children of God. And we are called by Jesus just as Nathanael was called. What will our response be? Will we trust Jesus and decide to follow him? Or will we waffle with fear or anxiety?

All of us have been created as a “child of God.” How do we respond to Jesus’ knowing of us? Will we decide to go on our merry way? Or will we make the same decision Nathanael made and follow Jesus? Each and every day we need to make this decision. It is easy to veer off the path if we are not vigilant. There are many temptations and commitments in our lives that may invite us to stray from the path of following Jesus. Be mindful today and every day. Jesus is calling us!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Reflection: John 6:60-69

Sunday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time — John 6:60-69

Today’s Gospel reading is a continuation of last Sunday’s reading when Jesus tells his listeners that he is “the Bread of Life.” This theme is continued today. Jesus says: “I am the living bread come down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Did the disciples and his listeners have a clue what Jesus was talking about? After all, he simply was an itinerant preacher. And yet here he is talking about being “living bread.” I wonder if they had any idea what he was referring to?

There were Jews in the crowd who also had come to hear Jesus preach. They began quarreling among themselves. They said: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus’ statement was ludicrous. Did they begin to think that Jesus was crazy? However, Jesus does not stop there. He continues on saying: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life. And I will raise him/her up on the last day.” Jesus continues on for a while and then he makes another fantastic statement: “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

As Christians, these words are very familiar to us. We understand that Jesus is not saying that we literally will eat the flesh of his body or literally drink of the blood in his body. We do understand that today we have the sacred privilege of eating the Body of Christ and drinking the Blood of Christ. What a great gift we have offered to us daily. However, I confess: it is a gift I too often take for granted. Ask yourself: do you also take this sacred privilege and gift for granted?

Today take some time to spend with Jesus. Give thanks to him for these very precious gifts he has given to us. And strive to be mindful of the preciousness of this gift when you receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Be thankful and grateful for Jesus’ boundless love for us!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 23:1-12

Saturday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time — Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus continues his diatribe on the Pharisees. He says to the people: “The scribes and Pharisees do observe the letter of the law completely.” However, Jesus then instructs the people not to follow the example of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus is angry with them. He criticizes the Pharisees for the many burdens they place on the people’s shoulders. And they do nothing to relieve the people of these burdens.

Jesus also is critical of their motivation for the good works they do. He believes that the Pharisees “do good” not to help the people but rather to be seen and applauded for their seemingly good actions. In addition, they love having the places of honor in the temple and at banquets. They wear long robes and they like having people defer to them. And they love to be called “Rabbi.” Jesus instructs his listeners: “Do not wish to be called Rabbi.” All are brothers and sisters and they are to be equals.

Jesus then says: “You have only one Father, who is in heaven.” And he adds: “You have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled and the individuals who humble themselves will be exalted.”

These words of Jesus may hit home with us. After all, don’t we also appreciate attention, compliments and even praise for the good we do? Jesus is not saying that compliments are bad. However, Jesus primarily wants us to look at our motivation for the good that we do. Jesus does want us to do good, to be helpful and caring of others. However, Jesus desires that we do this with the proper motivation: love!

How many times a day do you do something simply because it is expected? Or you do it simply because it is your duty, your job or your responsibility. Jesus desires that every act we do is done in a loving and caring manner, even the activities we prefer not to do. The reality is that almost all of the loving acts we do are pretty small: being attentive to someone who needs attention, helping a neighbor with a job, striving to be patient with your children when you really want to scream at them.

The reality is that for most of us life is mundane, repetitive and perhaps boring. I assume most of us are not typically saving someone’s life, working with inner city children or serving as a missionary in Africa. Yet, we all do good in our own way in our personal, social and professional lives. For us, these acts may seem trivial or insignificant. However, if these acts of good are done with love and care, they may be a great gift to the receiver!

Today I invite you to consciously strive to be loving in your thoughts, words and deeds. You may not only make the people you interact with feel noticed and cared about, you also may find that you experience being more loving, peaceful and cheerful. What a great gift this may be to others and to us!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 22:34-40

Friday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time — Matthew 22:34-40

Today the Pharisees decide to test Jesus. They had heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees. They gathered around Jesus, and one of the scholars of the law asked Jesus: “What is the greatest commandment in the law?” Naturally, Jesus replied: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.” Jesus affirmed that this commandment was the first and the greatest of all the commandments.

Jesus then continued and said: “The second commandment is similar: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Today Jesus is asking us to be wholehearted. He desires that we love God wholeheartedly. God should be first and foremost in our lives. However, Jesus also tells us to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” Both commandments are challenging. However, the instruction to love our neighbor as we love ourselves may be more challenging than the first commandment! This 2nd commandment often stretches us in uncomfortable ways. We don’t always like our neighbor. Our neighbor may be an individual who may have wounded us, insulted us or ignored us. And the emotion we experience with this individual most likely is far from being ‘loving.’

Yet, Jesus calls us to love each and every person we encounter: the ones we like as well as the individuals we prefer to keep our distance from. Today strive to keep Jesus’ call in your mind and heart. Consciously strive to love each and every person you encounter, no matter how you feel about them. Who knows: you may encounter an individual who consciously may be striving to love you!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 22:1-14

Thursday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time: Matthew 22:1-14

Today Jesus likens the “Kingdom of heaven” to a wedding feast given by a king for his son and his bride. The king sent his servants out to invite many guests. However, some of the guests who were invited refused to attend the feast. The king, however, was determined to have a great gathering for this special occasion. He once again sent out servants. The servants once again went out and informed other invited guests that the feast was prepared and the king wished them to come to the feast. Some of the invitees ignored the invitation, others went about their daily business and several others attacked the servants and killed them!

Naturally, the king was astounded and enraged. He immediately sent his troops to destroy the murderers and burn their city. Then the king instructed his servants to go out to the highways and by-ways and bring in all the people they encountered for the wedding feast. The king was determined to have a great feast for his son’s wedding. He would not have his son and his bride slighted. And many people came to the wedding feast.

Jesus has invited each of us to his “wedding feast.” He extends this invitation each and every day. Ask yourself: what is your response to Jesus’ invitation? Do you have an excuse why it is impossible for you to attend the feast: “I have work to do.” Or: “I have another commitment.” Or: “I am tired.”

Each and every day Jesus invites us to his “wedding feast.” It is our choice and our decision to attend or to refuse his invitation. How will you respond to Jesus’ invitation today? Be awake and alert: It may come in an unusual manner or through an individual you may not expect. Jesus will grace us through this encounter!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 20:1-16

Wednesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time: Matthew 20:1-16

Today we hear the parable of the landowner who went out at dawn to hire day laborers to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them the standard daily wage. Several hours later, the landowner saw several more workers in the marketplace. He told them: “Go to my vineyard and I will pay you a fair wage.” So they went to the vineyard. The landowner went out at noon and again at 3:00 p.m. He sent more laborers to his vineyard, promising to pay them for their work. And he did the same at 5:00 p.m.

At evening, the owner told his foreman to bring the laborers so he could pay them. However, the owner added: “begin with the last one hired and end with the first laborer who was hired.” The foreman did as the owner asked. The laborers who were hired late in the day were very surprised when they received a full day’s wage. After all, they had only worked a short amount of time. They went away very pleased. When the laborers who had been hired first thing in the morning came to receive their pay, they assumed that they would receive more than the wage they had negotiated. However, they received the same wage as all of the other workers that had been paid. These workmen were outraged. After all, they had labored all day long in the heat and they had worked many more hours than the men who were paid the same wage for only a couple of hours of work. The owner was not being fair! How dare he?

The landowner, however, stood his ground. He told them: “I am not cheating you! I am paying you the wages you agreed to. Tell me: how am I cheating you? If I decide to be generous, do I not have that right?” Jesus ends with the astounding statement: “The last shall be first and the first shall be last!”

I assume that most of us identify with the upset day laborers. Americans place a high value on fairness and fair-play. Jesus’ statement may not fit the criteria many of us may attribute to our concept of fair play. However, Jesus challenges us to step beyond our societal norms. The landowner was a generous man and he made the choice to pay each of his laborers a full day’s wage, regardless of whether they worked 8 full hours or only 30 minutes. He was fair with the workers who had worked a full day: he paid them the amount of money that they had agreed upon. He was not slighting them at all.

And as we know, these workers were jealous and they grumbled. Are we ever jealous or resentful when someone else receives a gift, acclaim or praise for an act that we don’t think they deserved nor earned? Jealousy and resentment may not affect the other person. However, it does affect us! It can eat away at us and make us miserable. When we compare ourselves to others, we may judge ourselves as above them or below them. Both judgments damage the other person as well as us. God is the one who is the Judge. Not us. Most of us have been gifted with abundant blessings. Today may we give thanks for the gifts and graces that we have and thank God — and let go of judgment, envy or jealousy. We will be happier and more peaceful!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 19:23-30

Tuesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time: Matthew 19:23-30

Today Jesus tells his disciples that it is easier for a “camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.” For many of us, this statement of Jesus sounds strange. Jesus was speaking of the narrow and low gates of the city walls which were used by travelers after dark when the public gate was locked. A normal sized person had to lower himself to enter through this gate. A camel literally had to kneel and crawl through the gate.

When Jesus uses this analogy of “a camel passing through the eye of a needle,” his listeners immediately would understand what Jesus was implying. They knew that it would be absolutely impossible for any camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Or if a camel tried to pass through a city gate that had been closed for the night, the camel would not be able to do so. The closed passage would be too narrow.

Why was Jesus so cautious about wealth? Wealth can bring many blessings and many challenges. Wealth also may create a sense of false security. Our wealth may enable us to lord it over others or to think we are better than others. Wealth has the potential to be an obstacle for having a true understanding of where the true riches in our lives lie: the individuals we love, joy, peace, our faith, God’s love and care for us and our relationship with God.

When we are comfortable and happy, God may get relegated to the background of our lives rather than the foreground. Some of us may turn to God only when we are in need. Ask yourself: when life is more positive and happy for you, do you give God the same amount of your time and attention? Do you thank God for your many blessings? Or does God seem to recede into the background?

Today ask yourself: what is the wealth in your life? And more importantly: who is the wealth in your life? Who and what are your riches? Take time to thank God for abundance of wealth in your life (even if you struggle with finances). Name and give thanks for the people who en-“rich” your life with their presence, care and love. Give thanks for the beauty of this planet, for laughter, for children, flowers and anything else that brings you joy, peace or pleasure. You (and I) are rich! Do we take this “richness,” this “wealth” for granted? I hope not!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 19:16-22

Monday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time: Matthew 19:16-22

Today we hear the account of the young man who came to Jesus asked him: “What must I do to gain eternal life?” As we know, Jesus does not answer the young man’s question. Rather Jesus says to him: “Why you do ask me? There is only One who is good.” He then tells the man that if he wants to enter eternal life, he should keep the commandments.

To his surprise, the young man told Jesus that he already was observing these laws. The young man wanted to know what else he could do. He asks Jesus: “What do I still lack?” Jesus surprised the young man with his answer. He told the man: “If you truly wish to be perfect, sell everything you own and give it to the poor. If you do this, you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.” The young man was dismayed, troubled and sad. He had many possessions. He simply could not fathom the thought of giving away all his treasures and possessions. The young man turned and sadly walked away from Jesus.

Ask yourself: how would you respond if Jesus asked you (and me) to sell all that we own and give it to the people in need? Would we have the inner freedom to dispossess ourselves of everything that we own? For most of us, this might seem impossible to do. After all, for years we have worked hard for what we have. Most likely, we are very willing to share from our abundance. But to give everything we have? That is too much to ask of us!

Yet if we truly wish to follow Jesus, he desires that we give our all to him. It may not mean dispossessing ourselves of everything we own. However, it most likely will require changes in our lives and in our priorities. These changes may be very stretching for us and require sacrifice. Are we truly willing to make difficult decisions and to change our lives and our lifestyle to follow Jesus?

Following Jesus sounds glorious and religious. However, it may not be as easy as we anticipate. Today ask yourself: what does it mean for you to follow Jesus? How has your life changed since you consciously decided to follow Jesus? How have you changed since you consciously made the decision to follow Jesus?

The reality is: following Jesus is not always an easy or strife-free path. At times, doing what Jesus would do stretches us far beyond our comfort zone. Will we gladly follow Jesus? Or will we turn away sad and dismayed because we are not willing to sell all we have, leave home and family to follow Jesus?

Today Jesus is asking you and me to follow him. How will we respond to him? Will we gladly follow him? Or will we walk away sad and disheartened? It is our choice!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Reflection: John 6:51-58

Sunday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time: John 6:51-58

Today Jesus tells his disciples: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever.” However, he doesn’t stop there. Jesus continues: “The bread that I give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Each of these statements of Jesus must have been pretty outlandish to the people of his day. Today if an individual told us that they would live forever, most likely we would consider them a bit off their rocker!

Yet Jesus then expands this analogy of flesh and blood. He tells his listeners: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” He also promises them that if they eat his flesh and drink his blood, they will have eternal life. And they will be “raised up” on the last day. Imagine how they reacted to this statement! Yet, what a wondrous promise, far-fetched though it sounds.

When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ at Eucharist, are we truly aware of whom (Jesus) we are receiving? Or are we simply going through the motions? Jesus came to earth for us. Jesus gave his life for us. And Jesus gives himself to us every time we celebrate Eucharist and receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Do we appreciate this wondrous gift? Do we give thanks to Jesus for giving his life to save us?

The miracle is that Jesus is still in our midst! He walks on this earth and is present to us. However, we have to have open eyes and an expanded heart to “see” him. Be awake today! He is in your midst!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Reflection: Luke 1:39-56

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Luke 1:39-56

The Gospel reading for this feast is a very familiar one. Mary is traveling to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. Mary had just had a visit from an unexpected and unsettling experience. She had a visitor come to her: an angel! As we know, the angel announced to Mary that she would have a child even though she was a virgin. The angel had also told her a fantastic tale. She was to have a child who would be great and he would be called “the Son of the Most High.”

Mary was confused, afraid and reeling after this encounter. She didn’t know what to make of it and she desperately needed to talk with someone she trusted: a person who would take her seriously and listen to her tale. Thus, she decided to go and visit Elizabeth. After all, Elizabeth also had had a very unusual experience: she found that she was with child even though she was far beyond the age of having children. Perhaps Elizabeth could help Mary make sense of all that was happening in her life. Mary must have been very confused and frightened. What would her parents think? What would the townspeople think when they realized that she was pregnant? Imagine the riot of emotions that were in Mary’s mind and heart!

Now, I invite you to remember a time in your life when you had an experience that was unsettling, frightening, confusing, and created difficulties for you. What was your response? What did you do? Who did you depend on? Did you go to a wise person whom you trusted? Someone you knew would listen to you and walk with you during this difficult time? Someone who could give you good advice and would support you every step of the way?

At various moments in our lives, we all will need an “Elizabeth” (who may be male or female). Take a moment to remember the “Elizabeths” in your life. Who were they? What was the impact they had on you?

Now take a few moments and give thanks for these loving and caring individuals. Ask God to bless them! And perhaps you may want to thank them in some way for being there when you needed them. And at some point, you can be an “Elizabeth” to another person!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 19:3-12

Friday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 19:3-12

Today the Pharisees come to Jesus to question him again. They ask him: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” Jesus replied to them: “Haven’t you read the Scriptures? From the beginning God made them male and female. It is for this reason that a man leaves his father and mother to join with a woman and makes her his wife. The two of them become one flesh! And what God has joined together shall not be separated.”

However, the Pharisees were not content with Jesus’ response. They asked him why Moses commanded a man to give a woman “a bill of divorce.” Jesus did not directly answer their question. Rather, he told them that Moses allowed divorce because of the “hardness of heart” that was in the people. Jesus added: “Anyone who divorces his/her spouse and marries another woman, commits adultery.” These are extremely strong and unsettling words!

As we know, in today’s world, divorce is very prevalent. In many ways we have become a throw-away society. We see junk that has been tossed into the yard of an empty house. There are houses that are dilapidated and falling apart. There is trash thrown onto the highway rather than put in a trash container. If something doesn’t work, we discard it. It is cheaper and easier to replace an item than to have it repaired.

We also may tend to do this with our personal relationships. If a marriage is not working, the couple may decide to divorce rather than go to counseling. If a friendship is “on the rocks” we may decide to walk away from it. If an individual has hurt me, I may decide to end the relationship. It would be too difficult and painful to work through it with the individual. And would I ever be able to trust them again?

In today’s world, there is a strong tendency to see commitment as good only as long as it is going well. When difficulties arise, we may be tempted to walk away rather than to stay and try to work it out. Today Jesus calls us to take our personal relationships and commitments very seriously. True, deep and loving commitment is the most precious gift we can give to another person. Yes, we will mess up and of course there will be difficulties. However, a loving and long-lasting relationship (marriage, friendship, family, church community, etc.) may be the greatest gift we receive in our lifetime.

Take a moment and think about the people in your life who have loved you, forgiven you, held you, laughed with you and celebrated precious moments with you. Can you imagine your life without them? No doubt, there also have been very difficult times in your life with these people. However, you knew that these individuals loved you and that they would support you. Today give thanks for their presence in your life. Give thanks for the many gifts and the love they have given you. And perhaps take the time to personally thank them for the gift they continue to be to you!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 18:22-19:1

Thursday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 18:22-19:1

Today Jesus continues the dialogue he began in yesterday’s Gospel reading. Peter comes to Jesus wanting some concrete answers. Peter asks Jesus: “If someone sins against me, how many times do I have to forgive them? Is seven times enough?” Jesus must have blown Peter away with his answer. He looked at Peter and says: “I say to you, not seven times but seventy times.” Wouldn’t you have loved to see the look on Peter’s face when he heard Jesus’ answer?

I assume all of us have been in Peter’s shoes, needing to forgive another person for the frustration, pain or anguish they may have caused us. And we feel “sinned against.” When someone sins against us, do we respond as Jesus calls us to do? Do we nurse a grudge? Or do we give the individual the silent treatment? Or perhaps we tend to blow up. Or do we immediately forgive the person? The reality is that we may not be able to immediately forgive the offender. Some sins against us are simply too painful, traumatic or demeaning. These sins may take decades to completely forgive.

Forgiveness is first and foremost a decision. Following the decision to forgive is the process of forgiving. Minor offenses may be forgiven more easily and immediately. However, some sins against us may take months or even years before we are able to completely forgive the person who wounded us. The first step is the biggest step: to make the choice to forgive. However, if we expect the hurt, anger and disappointment to immediately dissipate, most likely we will be deeply disappointed in ourselves as well as frustrated. Once we take this first step of deciding to forgive, we may experience more freedom, peace and joy. In this process, we not only “release” the offender, we also release ourselves!

Today examine your relationships and ask yourself: whom do I need to forgive? Am I willing to forgive? If the answer is yes, ask God to give you the grace you need to free the other person and yourself! God will grace you with an open and free heart!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 18:15-20

Wednesday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 18:15-20

In this Gospel, Jesus challenges his disciples: “If your brother or sister sins against you, you should go and talk with them about the situation.” Now ask yourself: What is your typical reaction when someone sins against you? Do you ignore them? Do you take some time to decide how you want to respond? Or do you nurse your anger or hurt? Do you retaliate in like manner?

Most of us developed and honed our personal response to being sinned against at a very young age. We didn’t even know we were developing a personal response. We may have modeled our response on how our parents responded in these types of situations. We may have learned how to manipulate others. Or we simply may have decided to keep our distance from the individuals who sinned against us (if that was an option). Or perhaps you were taught to talk with the person who had sinned against you and work it out?

Now take a moment and ask yourself: Today how do I respond when another person sins against me? Is my response different from when I was a child? Or is my reaction basically the same as when I was an 8-year old or a 14-year old? The reality is that our instinctive (and automatic) responses are developed at a very young age, perhaps even beginning while we are still in the womb. These responses become so automatic in our childhood that we may not consciously be aware of them.

Today may be a good day to ask ourselves: how do I respond when I feel sinned against by another? Do we bind another to us with our anger or resentment? Or do we “loose the other person” by striving to “let the hurt, anger or jealousy go” by talking with the individual? The gift is we can always change our automatic responses to certain situations. It typically takes a concerted effort. It is so easy to slip back into old patterns.

Ask yourself: Do you wish to change your automatic response? It is possible to do if we keep alert and mindful. However, it may take us several weeks or perhaps even months. However, if we choose to do this, then we have a conscious choice to make. We may begin to realize that we are happier and freer. In this process we not only may have freed the individual who sinned against us, we also may have freed ourselves from the pain, anger and hurt that we have been carrying.

Today, ask yourself: what is the pain, hurt and frustration that I am carrying? Am I ready to let it go? I pray you are!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14

Tuesday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14

Today the disciples approach Jesus with the question: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” The disciples received an answer they were not prepared for. Jesus called a child into their midst. Then he gave them an unexpected response to their question. Jesus tells the disciples: “If you do not become like a child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” For Jesus, it is a person who is humble in the manner of a child (open, attentive, eager and loving), that will be the “greatest” in the kingdom of heaven.

Children are a great gift to us. They have the ability to teach us all of our lives. Most adults think that children should imitate them (the adults). Yet, Jesus completely reverses this thought. We adults should strive to have the innocence, joy, frankness and unconditional love that children naturally embody. I wonder how our lives would be different if we truly would follow the example of children?

I encourage you to try this for a few days. If you don’t have any children in your neighborhood, go to a park or a playground and observe the children. Then notice: Are you happier, joyful and more relaxed rather than stressed, worried or cranky? Be attentive to the children in your lives: we can learn a great deal from them. They are wise beyond their years with the “wisdom of the ages.”

Monday, August 10, 2015

Reflection: John 12:24-26

Monday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time – John 12:24-26

The Gospel for today is the familiar passage on the grain of wheat. Jesus tells his disciples: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it simply will remain a grain. It will not produce any wheat!” The grain is essential. However, the process of being put into the ground and dying to its current state is what allows the grain to become much more than its present form. The grain has the great potential to grow, flourish, become food and nourish many people. However, if it remains in its current state, it will never produce any fruit.

Jesus then goes on to talk about human beings. In a sense, we also are a grain of wheat that has much potential to grow and produce food that will nurture other human beings. However, we also have to “die to ourselves” so that we also may bear fruit. Jesus says we have to “lose” our lives. However, the fruit we will bear in this process will be phenomenal. And we are promised eternal life!

The process of dying to anything is not easy. It often is painful, sad and bewildering. Our lives change in this process and so do we. However, Jesus promises that through our dying, we will bear fruit. However, do we trust and believe Jesus’ promise? The reality is that we “die” many times throughout our lifetime. It may be a loss of a child, letting go of a dream or being seriously ill.

Take a moment and remember a time of “dying” in your life, be that the death of a loved one, loss of a job, financial difficulties or a serious illness. After some time passed, did you realize that there were also some gifts you received during that painful time? Perhaps the family bonds were strengthened in the process. Or maybe you began to appreciate the concern and care your neighbors or co-workers expressed to you. Or perhaps this difficult experience forced you to turn to God for the grace and strength you needed and God was there for you.

The gift is that often long after the “death” and our acceptance of the loss, we may realize that new life is emerging. And thus, we can continue on with the promise of hope and joy.

Today I invite you to look back on your life. Remember the many times you have “died.” Then remember the beckoning of new life that invited you to love once again, laugh again and be joyful once again. Truly, there is life after death — even on this planet. We don’t have to wait for the “hereafter.” God gifts us with new life every day! Be attentive to it! Look for it! Expect it!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Reflection: John 6:41-51

Sunday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time – John 6:41-51

This Gospel begins with the Pharisees murmuring about Jesus. They were arguing about his statement: “I am the bread come down from heaven.” They looked at one another and said: “He is not from heaven. This man is Joseph’s and Mary’s son. How can we believe the fantastic claims he is making? Why is he saying: ‘I have come down from heaven’?” And they refused to believe him.

Finally, Jesus responded to them. He bluntly told them to stop murmuring among themselves. Jesus then said to them: “No one can come to me unless my Father draws them. If they respond to my Father’s call, I will raise them up on the last day.” Jesus also says that if a person listens to the Father and learns from Him, they will come to Him. It is understandable why the Jews were murmuring about Jesus. He does sound a bit “out of his head.”

Jesus, however, does not stop there. He then tells his listeners: “I am the bread of life. It is true that our ancestors ate manna in the desert. However, I am the living bread come down from heaven! Anyone who eats this ‘bread’ will never die.” The people listening to Jesus were scandalized! After all, who was he to make such fantastic claims? True, he was a powerful preacher but how could he be “the bread of life?” And then Jesus goes one step further and says: “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

How would you respond if you heard a person making these claims? We automatically might categorize them as a ‘nut case’ or a religious fanatic. However, we never know when, how or through what individual, Jesus may come to us. After all, Jesus is the “living” bread. He has power far beyond our imagination. The reality is: he is always with us! However, we are not always aware of his presence.

Today I invite you to be awake and alert. Jesus, our “bread from heaven,” may appear to us in strange or unusual ways. Or he may appear to us in the daily: disguised in a friend, an unexpected helping hand or in the quiet of the morning. Keep your eyes, ears, mind and heart open and alert. Don’t want to miss him! What a loss that would be!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 17:14-20

Saturday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 17:14-20

The focus of today’s Gospel is faith. A father comes to Jesus and begs him: “Have pity on my son! He is a lunatic and his life has been one of constant suffering. He falls into the fire as well as water! I begged your disciples to heal him, however, they could not cure him!”

Jesus was not at all sympathetic to the man. Rather, he says: “O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long can I endure you?” After these harsh words, Jesus then instructed the man to bring his son to him. When the boy was brought to Jesus, Jesus simply rebuked the demon. And immediately the demon came out of the boy and the boy was restored to health.

Later his disciples came to Jesus and asked him why they had been unable to cast out the demon? Jesus told them that it was because they had little faith. Then he says: “If you have faith the size of a tiny mustard seed, you will be able to move mountains! If you have faith, nothing will be impossible for you!”

Today is a good day for us to examine our faith. How strong is our faith and belief in Jesus? Do we trust that if we have faith that we will be able to move mountains? Or is our faith weak? Today I invite you to take 10-20 minutes and examine your level of faith in God, Jesus and the Spirit. If our faith is strong, then we will be strong. If our faith is weak, most likely we will have great difficulty in life. And if our faith is weak, may we ask Jesus to help us strengthen our trust in him!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 16:24-28

Friday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 16:24-28

Today Jesus speaks sobering words to his disciples. He tells them: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny themselves, take up my cross, and follow me.” He warns his disciples that anyone who wishes to save his/her life will lose it! However, anyone who is willing to lose his/her life for Jesus’ sake, will find life!

Are you (and I) willing to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus? Life typically presents us with a variety of crosses. Some of them are more difficult than others. However, it is never easy to accept a cross, be that illness, financial worries, family difficulties, depression, joblessness, etc. However, what may be helpful or detrimental to us is how we view our cross. Do we view it as a punishment from God? Or do we believe that crosses simply are part of our lives, just as joy and love are part of our human condition?

If we believe our crosses are a punishment, what is our belief system? Do we believe that God is a “punishing” God? Or do we realize that we have not made very good choices and our actions have brought consequences to our lives that we have to live with?

The reality of being human means that we will suffer, just as we will experience joy, love, peace and comfort. The gift is: when we are carrying a cross, Jesus is with us and he will help us to carry our cross. Jesus also will grace us with comfort, peace and strength as we deal with our cross.

During difficult times, it may be helpful to try to look beyond our cross. We can examine our lives and ask ourselves: who and what brings me joy, love and care? What are the gifts in my life? Even when we are carrying a very heavy cross, Jesus is with us, gifting and gracing us. However, we need to be awake and alert if we are to notice our gifts and graces.

Today I invite you to focus on the good in your life. If we do this, we may realize that there is 100 times more good in our lives than what is difficult. Today may Jesus open our minds and hearts to the many gifts we are being given!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Reflection: Mark 9:2-10

The Transfiguration of the Lord – Mark 9:2-10

Today Peter, James and John experience the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus took these three men up to the top of a mountain. When they arrived there, Jesus was transfigured before them. First, his clothing became dazzling white and then Elijah and Moses appeared and began conversing with Jesus.

After a time, Peter said to Jesus: “Rabbi, it is good that we are here!” Peter then proposed that three tents be erected: one each for Jesus, one for Elijah and one for Moses. Then a cloud cast a shadow over them and from the cloud, a voice spoke: “This is my beloved Son! Listen to him!” In that instant, Elijah and Moses disappeared and once again the disciples were alone with Jesus. Imagine what went through the disciples’ minds and hearts while all this was occurring. Did they think they were hallucinating? Or were they simply struggling to absorb and understand what they had experienced?

Jesus then instructs his disciples not to tell anyone what they had just experienced. He also told them not to speak of this incident until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. The disciples did not know what to make of Jesus’ words. They continued to ponder the meaning of the question: “what does rising from the dead” mean?

Have you ever had the experience of hearing or sensing God saying to you: “You are my beloved.” Today I invite you to sit quietly and allow God to speak those words to you. Allow yourself to absorb the reality that you truly are the beloved of God. Imagine yourself being enveloped by God’s love and care for 10 minutes or so. God’s love also has the power to also transfigure us!

After a time, thank God for this incredible gift! God appreciates a loving thank you!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 15:21-28

18th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 15:21-28

Today we experience a side of Jesus that we do not expect. Jesus and his disciples withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. As they were walking along, a Canaanite woman came to Jesus. She called out to him, begging Jesus: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is possessed and the demon is tormenting her!” However, Jesus does not even acknowledge her presence or her plea.

However, the woman does not give up. She continued to call out to them. Finally, his disciples come to Jesus and tell him to send the woman away. Jesus’ response to them was curt. He said: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel!” Then the woman came to Jesus and did him homage. She begged him: “Lord, help me.” Jesus bluntly replied: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

The woman persisted. She did him homage and once again said: “Lord, help me.” Jesus once again refused. He told the woman that he could not take food from the children of Israel and “throw it to the dogs” (for the Canaanites typically were called “dogs”). However, the woman was determined. She told Jesus: “Even dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table.” She begged him to throw a few scraps to her beloved daughter.

Jesus was amazed at her faith, her persistence and her deep love for her daughter. Jesus then tells her: “Let it be done for you as you wish.” And immediately, her daughter was healed!

What are the scraps you desire from Jesus’ table? How persistent are you with Jesus? Today may we be as persistent with Jesus as this mother was! May we trust that Jesus will not disappoint us!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 14:22-36

18th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 14:22-36

Today we have the familiar Gospel story of the storm at sea. Jesus tells his disciples to get into the boat and precede him to the other side of the sea. He wanted to dismiss the crowds who had been listening to him preach. The disciples got into the boat and Jesus went up the mountain to pray. He simply needed some quiet and space.

While the disciples were crossing to the other shore, a fierce storm came up. The boat was being severely tossed around. The disciples began to worry. The storm was more violent than they had anticipated. In the midst of this fierce storm, Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea! Naturally, the disciples thought they were seeing a ghost! After all, no human being can walk on water. They were terrified!

At that point, Jesus said: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid!” Naturally, Peter is the first one to respond. He tells Jesus: “If it truly is you, command me to come to you on the water!” Jesus simply replied: “Come!” Peter stepped out of the boat and began to walk toward Jesus! However, the waves were rough and extremely high and Peter became frightened. And at that moment, he began to sink! He immediately cried out to Jesus: “Save me!” Jesus simply reached out and took Peter’s hand and caught him. It seems that Jesus was disappointed in Peter’s lack of faith. Jesus asked him: “Why did you doubt?”

The disciples all were amazed and awed at this event. When Jesus got into their boat they did him homage and said: “Truly, you are the Son of God!” Word of this amazing event spread to the surrounding country. Many people came to Jesus. They brought to him all who were sick. They begged him to allow them to simply touch the tassel on his cloak. They believed that if they barely touched Jesus’ clothing, they would be healed. And every person who touched his clothing was healed of their infirmity!

Take a moment and become quiet and still. Then ask yourself: what is the “storm” in your life that you hope Jesus will calm? Or what is the healing that you would hope for if you could reach out and touch Jesus’ clothing? Sit with your desire for several minutes.

Now allow your longing and desire to flow toward Jesus. And trust that Jesus knows of your desire for healing. Then sit quietly for several minutes and allow peace, love and healing to flow into you from Jesus. You may not feel anything or experience a miracle! You simply need to trust that Jesus is healing you. However, the healing may not manifest itself immediately.

True healing is a process and thus it typically takes time. True, there are miracles that happen instantly. However, they are rare. Can we trust that Jesus is healing us, even if we don’t experience an immediate change? In your heart, hold Jesus’ words: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid!” Jesus will not fail us! However, we have to hold onto our belief and our trust in Jesus! May we have the grace to do so!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 14:13-21

18th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 14:13-21

Today in the Gospel, Jesus received devastating news. He heard that his beloved cousin, John, had been brutally beheaded. In the wake of this news, Jesus needed time to be alone to absorb this news and begin to grieve for his dear friend.

Jesus got into a boat and withdrew to a deserted place. However, his time for grieving was short-lived. The crowd of people followed him and arrived there before him. I wonder if Jesus was tempted to start rowing to find another place where he could be alone? However, Matthew writes “that Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for the crowd.” Jesus got out of the boat and ministered to the people. He healed all those who yearned to be “whole” again.

As evening drew near, the disciples realized that many had not brought any food to eat. They were concerned for the people but they did not know what to do. They went to Jesus and told him to send the people away to the towns where they could buy food. However, Jesus instructs his disciples to feed the crowd. His disciples immediately protested. They said: “We only have two fish and five loaves of bread! This small amount of food will never be enough for this huge crowd!”

Jesus, however, was not disturbed or worried. He told his disciples to bring the fish and the bread to him. Then he instructed the crowd of people to sit down on the grass. I wonder what the disciples were thinking as they gathered the food? Did they think Jesus was crazy? Or were they anticipating another miracle?

Jesus took the bread and the fish and he blessed them. He then gave the bread and fish to his disciples and instructed them to distribute the food to the people. They did so. And as we know, everyone was well fed and there were quite a few baskets of leftovers.

Do you ever get concerned that you may not have “enough” for what seems to be needed? It may not be enough money, energy, time, love, appreciation or ___________ (you fill in the blank). These are the times when we need to come to Jesus and ask him to supply us with what we truly need. And Jesus will give us what we need. However, it may not be exactly what we asked for. At these times, will we trust that Jesus is supplying us with “the loaves and fishes” that we need? Or will we complain because Jesus had disappointed us?

Today, may we trust Jesus to gift us with everything we need. And may we remember to thank him!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Reflection: John 6:24-35

18th Week in Ordinary Time – John 6:24-35

In today’s gospel the people are hungry to hear Jesus preach and teach. Since they could not find Jesus or his disciples, many of them got into boats and went to Capernaum to look for him. When they found him, they asked him: “When did you get here?” Why did they ask him this particular question? They had found him and wasn’t that what they had hoped for? Perhaps they did not know what else to say to Jesus.

Jesus says to them: “You are looking for me not because you saw signs and wonders. You come to me only because you ate your fill of the loaves!” Jesus then tells them not to work for “food that perishes but rather for food that will truly satisfy your (spiritual) hunger.”

Today may be a good day to take some time and ask ourselves: why do we come to Jesus? Do we have an agenda when we come to Jesus? Do we give him a laundry list of requests? Or do we come and spend time with him simply because we long to be in his presence? I pray it is the latter!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 14:1-12

17th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 14:1-12

The primary character in today’s Gospel is Herod the tetrarch. Herod had heard many stories about Jesus and he believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead. He assumed that Jesus was able to do amazing deeds because he was John the Baptist raised from the dead.

If you remember, Herod had John arrested, put in prison and ultimately put to death. He did all of this because John had criticized Herod for taking his brother’s wife as his concubine. John told Herod that this was unlawful. However, Herod did not listen. He was determined to find a way to “rid himself” of John.

The opportunity came when Herod had a birthday and a grand celebration was planned. During the celebration, Herodias’ daughter danced for Herod and his guests. Herod was so enthralled with her performance that he promised to give her anything she asked for. However, the girl did not know what to ask for. She went to her mother and consulted her. Herodias instructed her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter!

When the girl told Herod that she desired the head of John the Baptist, Herod was dismayed and distressed. However, since he had promised the girl that she could have whatever she wished, (and he had said this in the presence of many guests), he felt bound to do as the girl requested. Thus, he gave the order to have John beheaded. The servants brought John’s head to the girl on a platter. In turn, the girl took John’s head to her mother. Then John’s disciples buried John’s body and went to tell Jesus of John’s death.

Have we ever been “boxed in” and had to do something that we truly did not want to do? Something that we clearly knew was not right? I assume it was not anything nearly as serious as having someone killed to please another person! I wonder what would have happened if Herod had refused to kill John despite the fact that he had promised that he would give Herodias anything she wished for? Some of the people present may have called Herod a liar or a louse for not following through on his promise. However, I hope the majority of people present would have silently applauded and supported his decision.

How often have you told your children not to follow the crowd? Or how often have you schooled yourself not to blindly do as someone else expected you to do? At times in our lives, we do need to stand up for what we believe is right and just. And often, this is not easy. Usually there are people who may strongly disagree with us.

However, if we do as the crowd wants, we may have to live with the guilt and the shame for the rest of our lives. I wonder if for the rest of his life Herod regretted having John beheaded? He knew he had not been strong enough to do what he truly believed was right. Hopefully, he learned from this devastating experience.

Today I invite you to be mindful of your actions, choices and decisions. These all impact others, the community, as well as our own lives. Today may we make thoughtful, loving and righteous decisions. May God grace us with wisdom and insight!