First Reading: Genesis 19:15-29
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 26
Gospel: Matthew 8:23-27
As Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep. They came and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" He said to them, "Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?" Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. The men were amazed and said, "What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?" (Matthew 8:23-27)
In today's gospel, the disciples decide that they are enjoying being with Jesus. They are probably enjoying the attention that they are getting from the people, and they are also probably feeling pretty important just being around Him. They are also probably really enjoying his teachings and growing in their own faith lives. So up to this point, following Jesus has been a pretty good gig for these guys. When Jesus gets on the boat, they figure "why not, everything up to this point has been good." But then something happens while in the boat, a violent storm suddenly hits and all of the disciples begin freaking out and thinking that they are going to die. Jesus simply points out their lack of faith in this storm, and He immediately takes care of the situation. The disciples were amazed at this, and it was here that they really began questioning who this man was.
Our own faith journeys are much like that of the disciples. We hear about Jesus and things sound really good. We enjoy the stories and the lessons and everything seems to make sense. Then, all of a sudden, we hit a storm in our lives, something bad happens and we too begin to freak out. Sometimes we turn to Jesus and say "don't you even care that I am going through this? Sometimes we do not even turn to Him at all, and we just go back to our old ways. It is clear that our faith is never tested when things are going well, in fact this is a time when we usually take our faith and all the blessings from God for granted. But when a storm comes through our life, this is when we are truly tested. Will we be among those to ask God if He cares or not, or will we be among those to say; "God, I trust in you, let your will be done."
No one ever forces us to get in the boat with Christ, it is a choice that we all make ourselves. But if we get in the boat, let us not ever be fooled into thinking that there will not be challenges and storms along the way. We must remember to always have faith and to trust in the Lord, for He is always mindful of us.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, we praise you for all that you bless us with and all that we are. Lord, we offer this day up to you, help us to do your will this day and to be the lights in this world that we are called to be. God, we know that there will be many challenges that we will face in our lives, help us to weather these storms and to have faith in you throughout. We pray for all those who are struggling in their faith lives and for all those who do not know your love. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, apostles
First Reading: Acts 12:1-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34
Second Reading: 2 Timothy 4:6-8,17-18
Gospel: Matthew 16:13-19
Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:16-19)
Today we honor Saints Peter and Paul. Two men, both apostles growing the early church and spreading the gospel to both Jews and gentiles. While both of these men played a very important role in building the early church, and it is certain that both are with our Lord in Heaven, they are both a wonderful example of how God calls those least expected to help build His kingdom. How many of us would pick a fisherman to be the first pope of the Church? I am guessing that none of us would have, but God did, and He picked exactly the right man for the job. Peter certainly did fumble a bit in his early days of following Christ, but he never did abandon his faith, and that is what always kept him coming back. Once encountering the risen Christ and being empowered the the Holy Spirit, Peter went out and boldly proclaimed the gospel. This certainly did not lead to a luxurious and comfy lifestyle for him; in fact it lead to beatings, imprisonment, and eventually his own death by crucifixion upside down.
Saint Paul was also an unlikely candidate to build the church and spread the gospel. Here we have a Jewish tent maker from Tarsus whose sole mission is to destroy Christianity. But along the way to Damascus, Paul encounters the risen Christ and is blinded, his life was never the same. After being humbled and coming to see clearly, Paul goes forth spreading the the gospel message all over the lands. Paul would also come to be known as the apostle to the gentiles. While his Roman citizenship certainly provided some protection, Paul's life was far from easy. Paul also had his fair share of beatings, time in prison, shipwrecks, and his own martyrdom in Rome.
Peter and Paul show us that God can and does not always use the brightest or the most successful for His work. Many times He lifts up the lowly to do mighty things, or He humbles those that He calls. The fact is that we should never believe that we are too weak or not smart enough to do the work that God calls us to do. The fact is that many times we are too weak, not smart enough, or lack the necessary skills; but none of that matters if we truly believe in God and in His strength and wisdom. We must remember that with God nothing will be impossible. With God working through us we can do whatever He calls us to and go wherever He takes us. If we allow God to really transform us, as He did Peter and Paul, then there is not anything that we cannot accomplish for God's glory.
May we all seek to love God first in our lives, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. If we can all do that for the rest of our lives, and to always seek His will first, then the one day we too will be able to say "I have competed; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me..."
Saint Peter and Saint Paul, pray for us.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for this day. Lord, thank you for the example of your servants Peter and Paul. Lord, help us to come to know and do your will as they did. Help us too to be bold and to build up the church and proclaim the good news to all we encounter. Lord, we pray for all those out there who are victims of violent crimes and for all of our priests. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Genesis 17:1,9-10,15-22
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 128
Gospel: Matthew 8:1-4
When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, "Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean." He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, "I will do it. Be made clean." His leprosy was cleansed immediately. Then Jesus said to him, "See that you tell no one, but go show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them." (Matthew 8:1-4)
"MINE!" or "GIVE ME THAT!" These are classic shouts and demands that we often hear from young children. Their impulsive nature leads them to just take and demand things, instead of being patient and asking. Typically with the right instruction and modeling this behavior can go away, of course without instruction and guidance these children may turn into adults who display the same selfishness and demanding personalities of children. This kind of childish attitude is not the type of attitude that we should have as children of God.
The story of the leper today shows us the attitude and humility that we should have. The leper in today's gospel did not demand that Jesus cleanse him, he did not yell or shout and tell Jesus how much he deserved to be cleansed. This man simply recognized who Jesus was, and he said "thy will be done." The leper shows us today how we are to interact with God, how we are to pray and to know God. In our prayer lives most of us spend that time telling God what we want and all the things that He needs to do for us. In these moments we actually think that we are talking to God! Sadly, most of us are doing all the talking, and to be honest it really isn't talking ... it is demanding. We must not waste all of our time worrying, God certainly knows our needs and struggles. We must remember that He will take care of all our needs, we just need to be patient and trust in Him. This leper had probably been dealing with His disease for a long time, waiting and hoping to be healed. Then one day He comes across God Himself and there was his opportunity; but even then he did not take the attitude of a child, but instead told the Lord, "thy will be done."
Saint Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:11, "When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things." May we all be granted to grace to put aside childish things and become the men and women of God that we were created to be.
Father above we thank you for the gift of this day. Lord, we are so thankful to you for all that you give and bless us with. Lord, help us never to take you for granted and to always seek your will with thanksgiving in our hearts. Lord, help us to always trust in you and be patient in your will. Help us to put aside childish things and follow you as the men and women that you created. We pray for all our priests and their ministries, and we pray for all the faithful in our world. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Genesis 16:1-12,15-16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 106
Gospel: Matthew 7:21-29
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?' Then I will declare to them solemnly, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.' (Matthew 7:21-23)
As Christians, we are often at odds with many non-believers in the world. Often, we are fighting against the injustices and the oppression from those who would like to see the downfall of the Church. It can be very challenging to be constantly defending the faith and our way of living. This challenge is of course not the only one we face, for our greatest opponents are not just on the outside, but we sadly must deal with internal foes as well. There have always been those Christians who are devout and faithful, and then there is also the phenomenon of those who say they believe but really have no sort of relationship with God. We typically call these people who are just stagnant in their faith "Sunday Catholics" or "Cultural Christians." It is kind of sad that we even have such names for these types of people, but it is a reality that we face.
Jesus warns us today of being just "Sunday Catholics" or "Cultural Christians", we really must be active in our faith. We cannot just go around saying that we believe in God, we must go out and show it. We are not called to be people who talk a good game, but we must be willing to walk our walk as well. If you are one of the people who has lost touch with your faith , then it is time to be reactivated, pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the fire and the zeal to get back in touch with God, to begin knowing and serving Him with everything you have. If you are among the faithful who are trying to get to heaven, then it is up to you to reach out to those who just show up to mass on Sunday. Perhaps invite them to a bible study, mens/womens group, church social, etc. I know that it is not enough for us to just evangelize the people outside of the Church, we must also do a good job of evangelizing inside of the Church as well. I know that this is something that I do not always do, but after reflecting on today's word, I realize that this is every bit our responsibility as well. For we are all the body of Christ, and when one part is weak or hurting, then we are all hurting.
I remember in a talk by Father John Corapi, he said "One day you and I will either be in heaven, or in hell ... period." It is as simple as that, we all have a choice to make every day; serve God and work towards heaven, or serve yourself and work towards hell. Jesus makes it very clear today that those who serve themselves and do not know Him will not be allowed into the kingdom.
May we all strive to do God's will in our lives and to help all those He puts in our path.
Father above, we thank you for the gift of this day. Lord, help us to serve you with the strength and courage which we need. Lord, help us to be lights in this dark world, and help us to reach out and help all of our fellow brothers and sisters come to know and serve you better. Lord, we pray for all those who are stagnant in their faith and for all those who have fallen away. We pray for their fire to return by your Holy Spirit. We pray for our priests and for them to have the strength and zeal that they need in their ministries, help them to be faithful to their vows. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
First Reading: Isaiah 49:1-6
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 139
Second Reading: Acts 13:22-26
Gospel: Luke 1:57-66,80
The LORD called me from birth, from my mother's womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory. (Isaiah 49:1-3)
"What am I here for?" Most of us have certainly asked this question many times in our life. We ask this question because we all need to find our purpose in life; without it we feel a void, an emptiness that is not filled until we find out what we were created to do. If we are truly searching for our purpose in life, we need to start by first asking the creator. It is God who created us, and it was not just so we could exist, but He created each of us with a specific purpose. We must first ask God to show us our purpose, it is only by giving into His will and finding out His plan for our lives that we can begin to fill the void.
As we celebrate the birth of Saint John the Baptist today, we recognize the greatness of God and the flawlessness of His plan. The birth of Saint John the Baptist would be considered what we typically call a miracle baby. Elizabeth, his mother, was older and unable to have kids, but God's greatness and mercy truly showed through to her and her husband. When John was born, the people knew that there was something different about this child, and they knew that the hand of the Lord was with him. John the Baptist grew up "strong in spirit" and went into the dessert to prepare the way of the Lord. John the Baptist knew his purpose. He was not concerned with social status, money, power, or greatness ... only doing the will of God. Saint John the Baptist teaches us many great lessons in humility and in keeping God first in our lives.
We must never lose hope and think that we have no purpose. God has a plan for each of us, just as He did for Saint John the Baptist. The Lord has called us each from birth, we are like the arrow hidden in His quiver, waiting for the right time to be used. We must make sure that we are always trusting and patiently waiting for that time in which the Lord will use us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us that we may follow and trust in the Lord as you did.
Father above, we thank you and give you praise for this day. Help us to to seek your plan for our lives, instead of giving into our own will. Lord, we know that from the very beginning you have had a plan for each of us, help us to trust in you and the things that you have in store for us. We know that some things will be hard and difficult and we thank you for it all. Lord, we thank you and praise you for your great love and mercy. We pray for all those who are lost and who do not know your love, we pray for their conversion to the life that you offer. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Genesis 13:2,5-18
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 15
Gospel: Matthew 7:6,12-14
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:13-14)
Playing football taught me many valuable life lessons, and I certainly do remember a very important lesson that I learned during our two-a-day practices at the beginning of every season. You see, "two-a-days" were called such because we had two practices in one day; and to top it off it was usually in the month of August when it always seemed to be particularly hot and humid. These practices were always the hardest, our coaches really wanted us to prepare both physically and mentally for the upcoming season. I'll never forget that during this time, our coaches always reminded us of one thing, they always said, "If this were easy, then everybody would do it!" Each time I heard that, it really put things in perspective for me, I came to learn that this was not supposed to be easy and that it would require hard work and dedication. I also came to understand that hard work and dedication tend to pay off at the end. By persevering through the hard things, we are made stronger and ready to face adversity when it hits. Then, after all of the hard work, the sweat, the sacrifice, we can go on to receive a great victory.
Today, Jesus tells us to enter through the narrow gate. This gate is narrow and hard to get through, it is much different from the wide gate that many enter through. Entering through the narrow gate is difficult, perhaps even uncomfortable most the time. Entering into the narrow gate means following Christ, not just sometimes or part way, but completely. It means sacrificing to Him, and to surrender your life to Him. While to most of us, this seems like an impossible task, but we know that it certainly is not impossible. If we ever need reassurance and want to hear of stories of those who have entered through the narrow gate, all we must do is look to the saints. Their stories of struggles and perseverance can certainly provide us with the inspiration and motivation that we need to go towards this narrow gate.
As Jesus tells us, the narrow gate is not easy, and those who find it are few; but it is this gate that leads to life. We must remember that it will be hard, and it will take much sacrifice and dedication, and we must also remember that if it were easy, then everybody would do it.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord Jesus, you are our life and our salvation, help us to follow you no matter where it leads. We trust in you God, and in your plan for us. Help us to surrender the things of this world, so that we might enter the narrow gate to which we are called. Lord, we pray for all those who are lost, that they might find their way through you. We also pray for all of our priests, may they be strengthened for their ministries. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Genesis 12:1-9
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 33
Gospel: Matthew 7:1-5
"Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove that splinter from your eye,' while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:1-5)
I don't know about you, but I find that in our lives things like judgement and criticism are things that tend to have a one way streak. When it comes judging and criticizing each other, we are very good and usually are willing to offer this "advice" for free. It is however, a whole different story when it comes to us receiving judgement and criticism. When it comes to judgement and criticism, we can only seem to dish it out, we cannot take it. We only seem to want to tell people what is wrong with them, instead of someone pointing out what is wrong with us. Which leads us to this question, why are we so willing to judge and label people? I would say that we are so willing because of our own insecurities. We must remember however, that we are not called to judge one another, but rather love one another.
Christ provides us with an important warning in today's gospel. We must be very careful how we judge, for how we judge, we will also be judged. Christ tells us, "the measure with which we measure will be measured out to us." All of us are quick to notice the "splinter" in our neighbors eye, but we are not so quick to notice our own flaws, bad habits, and even sins.
There is certainly nothing wrong with pointing out what someone is doing wrong, especially if it can really help the person, but there are certainly right wrong ways of doing this. We also must examine our motive in correcting someone. If our motive in correcting someone is to hurt them or to make them feel small, then we certainly still have a "log in our eye" and we cannot help the other person. But, if we are motivated out of love and to actually help the person and provide them with constructive criticism , then we have removed the "log from our eye" and can see clearly to help.
Today, let us choose to love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us all "measure with the measure which we would want measured out to us." If we must give feedback to someone, let us make sure that it is constructive and out of love. Remember, we are not called to judge one another, but rather to love one another as Christ loves us.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, help us to love as you love us. Fill our hearts with you, so that we may go out in this world and be the lights that we are called to be. Lord, you know what is best for us, and we trust you with all our heart. Lord, we pray for all those who seek to hurt and condemn with their words and actions, may they be brought to your truth and understand what it means to love. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Solemnity of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
First Reading: Hosea 11:1,3-4,8-9
Responsorial Psalm: Isaiah 12
Second Reading: Ephesians 3:8-12,14-19
Gospel: John 19:31-37
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:14-19)
In today's second reading, Saint Paul's words speak of Christ dwelling in our hearts. His hope is that we are strengthened with the power of the Holy Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. After reading this, I think that we should all be asking for Saint Paul's prayers that this may happen to each of us. I know that my heart is not always full of Christ, sometimes I let my own desires or selfish attitude take over my heart; but if instead of letting the things of this world into our hearts, we instead let Christ in, our lives and this world would be significantly changed. Imagine if the love of Christ was in our hearts, how much better we would love God, ourselves, and all those around us. If Christ dwelt in our hearts, then we would be as Saint Paul says, "rooted and grounded in love." I pray that each of us finds this sure footing and is grounded in love.
One way in which we can have Christ in our hearts and to be grounded in love (as we are called to be), is through a devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. I encourage each of us to begin a devotion to the Most Sacred Heart, and through this may we all be filled with the fullness of God.
Prayer to the wounded heart of Jesus
O my Most Loving and Gentle Jesus, I desire with all the affections of my heart, that all beings created and uncreated, should praise Thee, honor Thee and glorify Thee eternally for that sacred wound wherewith Thy divine side was rent.
I deposit, enclose, conceal in that wound and in that opening in Thy Heart, my heart and all my feelings, thoughts, desires, intentions and all the faculties of my soul.
I entreat Thee, by the precious Blood and Water that flowed from Thy Most Loving Heart, to take entire possession of me, that Thou may guide me in all things.
Consume me in the burning fire of thy holy Love, so that I may be so absorbed and transformed into Thee that I may no longer be but one with Thee. Amen.
First Reading: 2 Corinthians 11:1-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 111
Gospel: Matthew 6:7-15
"If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions." (Matthew 6:14-15)
I recently read a story about a boy, who as a baby was injected with the HIV infected blood by his father who sought to hurt the boy. The boy did develop AIDS, and to this day is still dealing with the physical and emotional aspects of this disease. But this boy, Brryan Jackson, has now graduated high school and is using his story to inspire others. Although Brryan has AIDS, he is on the journey of healing, because he is being healed emotionally and spiritually, Brryan has chosen to forgive his father for what he did to him. This beautiful act of forgiveness is one that we all can certainly learn a lot from. This boy will never be the same, he will not be able to experience many things in life, and he will always be discriminated against from a public who does not understand this disease. This is all because of someone else, who in their own selfishness and hate decided to harm and try to take away many things in this boy's life. But no matter what disease Brryan or any of us get, one things that can never be taken away is our faith, and from this faith, we have to power to forgive others who do us wrong.
Jesus tells us today that if we forgive others, then we too will be forgiven; but if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven. We must always remember that we are human, and we all have made so many mistakes in our lives. We all need to be thankful for the mercy that God offers us, and for His willingness to forgive; but if we are not willing to forgive how can we expect to be forgiven? Many times people say things like, "what that person did to me was so awful, I will never be able to forgive them." The truth about statements like this is that it isn't that someone can't forgive, it is that they do not want to forgive. After reading a story like Brryan Jackson's, and his willingness to forgive; we should never say that we can't forgive, because this boy shows us that it is possible even in the worst situations.
If we truly want to be forgiven of all our mistakes, then we too need to forgive as this boy has done. It is possible, but we need to be willing to surrender our pride, and choose to love instead of hate. If you are harboring any negative thoughts or finding it difficult to forgive, then ask Christ today to soften your heart, and to give you the grace to be able to forgive out of love.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
First Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 112
Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Brothers and sisters, consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Cor. 9:6-8)
In today's first reading, Saint Paul tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. So, it seems as though God is not only delighted when we offer ourselves to Him, but also when we choose to be generous with the things that He has blessed us with; and when we choose to give support to the church and others. I truly pray that all of us take this message of giving to heart. It is always so frustrating to see updates in our parish bulletins that we are just barely making our budget. Our parish is in a rather prosperous and higher socioeconomic area, and it is just so sad to see the luxurious lifestyles that people are living, but also that our parish still has to struggle to make it's budget. It truly shows the priority of many of those in the parish. Now I am not saying that I have sold everything and have given it to the church, but I do know that tithing is a priority in our family, and God willing it will always be. But, I like most people can always do better.
Saint Paul not only tells us that God loves a generous giver, but also that those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly, and those who sow bountifully will also reap bountifully. Today is a great day to examine how much we are giving to God. Not just financially, but also with our time and talents. Yes, giving is not always easy, and it is especially difficult in these tough economic times. However, we must remember that "God is able to make every grace abundant for you so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work." We must not worry too much about giving too much, for we must remember that God will always provide the things that we need. He is always there and He is always taking care of us.
Today, let us examine ourselves and ask ourselves if we are truly giving all that we can to God. May the Holy Spirit lead us to where we are needed and where we can help; and may we all begin to sow bountifully.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for this day. We pray that we can continue to trust in you Lord, and to follow your ways. Lord, may we not think of ourselves in our giving but only of you and of others. Lord, true love is not selfish, and we pray that our hearts can be open to loving you and seeking your will. We pray for all those who are storing up their riches on this earth, may they begin to understand that true happiness comes rather from storing up riches in heaven. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 98
Gospel: Matthew 5:38-42
"You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow."
Imagine there you are, listening to Jesus preach on the mountain. Listening to the new moses, telling us how to live out God's commandments. You are there hanging on every word, and just knowing in your heart that what you are hearing is truth; even though it is so radically different than anything you have heard taught before. So there you are, when all of a sudden you hear Jesus say that we should offer no resistance to one who is evil; and if someone strikes us on our right cheek that we are to offer them the other as well? I imagine that the reaction that most of us would have would be "You want me to do what!?!?" Most of us have a lot of trouble understanding this passage, not because it is difficult, but because it is so against what most of us were taught growing up. It is very against what our world teaches as well.
When I was a boy, I was always told that if someone hits me or starts anything that I have every right to go about slugging them back. There were certainly many times that I did get into fights because of this way of thinking. Not only was I taught this, but it was reinforced by my peers. If you didn't fight back, your pride and reputation were also at stake. Everyone would think that you were just a wimp, and that you were weak. In our world that is driven by competition, and where power and strength are highly sought after, it is no wonder we are so resistant to this teaching. If we were to see someone be struck on one cheek and then offer another, we would immediately think that they are weak and not strong enough to fight back. I am certainly not just talking in physical terms either, I am also speaking in intellectual, emotional, and spiritual terms as well. We are very reactive people, and because of this when someone seeks to do us harm, our first reaction is usually not to let them get away with it but to react; either physically or verbally. When we do react are we not also seeking to inflict pain and damage as well in response?
Jesus, always mindful of our nature, once again calls us to something higher. He shows us that true strength and true power are not found in those who have the best "left hooks," or those who can make the wittiest comebacks. True power and strength is found in those who follow the Lord, in those who can control their actions and emotions and seek to love instead of hurt. I know that it takes far more strength to choose to love someone who hurts you than it does to react to them. Choosing to love someone is by far such a much greater act of justice. It is by far a higher calling, and a way of acting with the mind of Christ. We must continue to put on the mind of Christ, to act as He did and to love instead of hate. This world teaches us that when we are put down, that we need to seek revenge and put down that person back. But Christ tells us rather to love, and to offer our other cheek. To be strong, to go above what is called of us and to truly be the lights in this world.
May we all seek to act with the heart and mind of Christ, rather than the heart and mind of men.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, we are so weak, yet your strength is unlimited. Lord, help us to be strong when faced with adversity. Help us to love without limits as you do. Lord, your was are perfect, while our ways are so flawed; help us to be the people that we are all called to be. We thank you for our lives, and for your great sacrifice for us. Help us to not waste our time here on earth but to let your light shine through us. We thank you for all that we are and all that we have. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:7-15
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 116
Gospel: Matthew 5:27-32
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Cor. 4:7-11)
Logic ... In today's world, this word is held up pretty high. When confronted with a difficult situation we will often say, "let's think about this logically." Or we will often let logic and reason guide our decisions. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with being logical, or using logic as a guide. Sometimes being logical about something also means being prudent. While it is not bad to use logic, we must also remember that as people of faith, there is not always room for logic, and that it doesn't always lead us to the truth.
In today's first reading, Saint Paul reminds of what it takes to have faith and why we have faith. He talks about how this world may beat us down, persecute us, and even make us completely confused; but even through all this we are not alone, we are not destroyed, we are not constrained, and we are not driven to despair. Things will happen that there is not good logical explanation for, but still we trust and believe. Even though to a strictly logical person, going through pain and hardships may be attributed to chance or coincidence, we certainly know better. We do not know the exact reasons why we go through pain and hardships, all we know is that there are times when we will share the sufferings of our savior. We will need to take up our crosses and and march forward by grace. When we do this, all glory will be given to God; for as Saint Paul says, we are "always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body."
Being Christian is certainly not always associated with being logical. But that is okay, we do not always need to be logical, we just need to believe and be willing to follow.
To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise. (Psalm 116)
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, while things in our life may not always make since, we know that you are there and always providing for us. Lord, the rest of the world does not understand you, let us not be tied to this world that rejects you, but rather be a part of your body where we are called to. Lord, you are our God, and we are your people, help us to follow you no matter where you lead. Lord, help us to be people of faith, rather than people of logic. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 2 Corinthians 3:4-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 99
Gospel: Matthew 5:17-19
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-19)
It seems as though in today's world, many people are drawn to the "bad boy" or "rebellious" image. Some how many people associate being cool with breaking the rules. While part of us may desire this, is this what we really want, a world of rebels? How many of us want a rebel as a spouse? As a child? As a parent? As a teacher? As a political leader? In reality we do not want to be close to those who consistently break the rules and are unstable; we want someone who we can depend on, someone who doesn't ignore the rules but rather follows them. Many times we get messages from the culture that says we should want to be an individual and to be a rebel, but this is not what we are called to be. We are sons and daughters of God, and as good sons and daughters we need to follow the rules that were given to us.
The fact is that God gave us the ten commandments because we need rules, we need a set of criteria to go by that says "Hey, here is how you need to live." Without the rules, one does not have the compass that one needs to know how to live, and how to make correct and moral decisions. Jesus came not to abolish the commandments, but to fulfill them. When Jesus came and preached, He showed us that the commandments were not a minimum standard that we all need to meet to get into heaven, but rather the rules by which we should begin to build our life around. We are not just called to love our neighbor, but to love all those around us. We are not just called to avoid acts of adultery, but to not even look at a man or woman lustfully.
The commandments should not be looked at as a set of rules that are meant to bind and tie us down. They are not meant to inhibit us from living, but rather the commandments allow us to experience freedom on this earth. Freedom from sin that ties and binds us to this world. By following the commandments we are able to live, and live free. By following these rules, we will not only experience freedom on earth, but an eternal life in heaven.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, we thank you for giving us your commandments, give us the strength and courage to follow your rules no matter what. Lord, we know that you seek to give us life, and to experience it more fully, helps us to always be thankful for your great love and mercy. Lord, we pray for all those who are oppressed and bound to this earth, may they experience your truth and the freedom that only comes with knowing you. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:18-22
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 119
Gospel: Matthew 5:13-16
Jesus said to his disciples: "You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father." (Matthew 5:13-16)
A few years ago I remember watching Emeril on the food network. Aside from his "BAMS!" and "kicking it up a notch" after every commercial, he talked a good amount in his show about spices and seasonings. He discussed the shelf life for spices that many of us keep in our cabinets for many years. His point was that after so much time, the spices and seasonings are no longer at their peak performance and are no longer as good as they once were. His suggestion of what to do with them was throw them out and get new spices. This makes sense, because what can you do with a spice or seasoning that does not add the desired taste to the dish you are preparing? It is not going to be good for anything else, so you might as well get rid of it.
After reading today's gospel, I wonder if Emeril ever came across this passage as inspiration for that particular show. Jesus knew that salt, like any other spice or seasoning, once it loses it's flavor is useless. It is no longer good for anything else, and must be done away with. The characteristic trait of salt and other seasonings is the particular taste and benefit that it adds to the dish. We too like salt are made, and used for a purpose. If, however, we lose our flavor and no longer contribute or add anything, then we are not serving our purpose, we essentially have lost our "flavor."
Today's gospel warns us today of losing our "flavor" and of hiding "under a basket." We are called to be the salt of the world, adding the right flavor to this world. We are called to be the lights of the world, allowing the light of Christ to shine through us and allowing others to be lead to Him. We are called to share the good news, do good works, and to give all glory to God. By the power of the Holy Spirit, may we all keep our flavor, and be the lights of the world that we are all called to be.
Come, Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and make the fire of your love burn within them. Send forth your spirit and there shall be another creation. And you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, you have instructed the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit. Grant that through the same Holy Spirit we may always be truly wise and rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:1-7
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3-10)
In today's gospel reading we hear the teachings of our savior, known as the beatitudes. These beautfiful, yet very radical teachings, show us the character traits that are truly important for us to possess and demonstrate. Our world does not teach that those who are poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, and persecuted are blessed in any sort of way. In fact our world will typically teach that these types of people are unsuccessful, boring, weak, lazy, are just sad excuses for people. If our world had its own version of beatitudes, the list might look something like this: blessed are those who are arrogant, flamboyant, rich and successful, unforgiving, lustful and indulging, rioters, and popular. Our world certainly teaches character traits and virtues that are very opposite to what our Lord teaches.
The teaching of the beatitudes was as radical in Jesus' day as it is in ours. The beatitudes are the ways in which we should live if we want to make it to heaven. We are not called to a luxurios and lavish lifestyle, and we are not called to live out all our desires and fantasies; we are called to live a life for and with Christ. A life that will be hard and will go against the culture of today. But if we seek to live out the teachings of our Lord, to be among the clean of heart, the meek, and the merciful; then we can truly be blessed with an eternity in paradise with our Lord.
I pray that we all seek to know and understand the beatitudes more, and to let these traits and ways of living manifest in our lives. May we all strive to be among the blessed.
Father above, we thank you for the gift of this day. Lord, we thank you and give you all praise and glory in our lives. Lord, give us the strength and courage to live out your beatitudes and to seek nothing more than your will. Lord, you know what is best for us and we trust in you. We pray for all those in need of conversion and that all political leaders can come to values life at all stages. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Memorial of Saint Boniface, bishop and martyr
First Reading: Tobit 11:5-17
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 146
Gospel: Mark 12:35-37
"Blessed be God, and praised be his great name, and blessed be all his holy angels. May his holy name be praised throughout all the ages, Because it was he who scourged me, and it is he who has had mercy on me. Behold, I now see my son Tobiah!" (Tobit 11:14-15)
In today's first reading we see Tobit regaining his vision, and then praising God for the gift of receiving his sight back. It is only right that Tobit give credit to God who made him well again, but from his blindness Tobit learned that while it was God who "scourged" him, it was also God who had mercy on him. Tobit learned an important lesson from the Lord that day, one of which we should all do well to learn.
Each of us will go through trials, difficult times, and lows in our lives. This does not mean that God has abandoned us, but only that He is working. When we emerge from these times, we must be thankful to God for the hardship and for the healing that comes with it. If we never experienced hardship or challenges, then we would never grow. It is easier to have faith when everything is going right, but when things go wrong then our faith is challenged. It is from the lows that we are raised up, and made well again. The martyrs, like Saint Boniface, knew this all too well, why else would they be willing to give up their lives up for their faith? Because they knew that while even being persecuted and killed, they would be lifted up into heaven. They were not concerned about preserving their lives; their only concern was sacrificing for the sake of the kingdom.
May the Lord increase our faith, so that we too might give Him all the thanks and glory for our own "scourges" as well as the great mercy He gives us every day.
Saint Boniface, pray for us.
Father above, we thank you for the gift of this day. Lord we thank you for all the trials and challenges in our lives of which we have grown. Lord, let us never doubt that you are with us and always working in our lives. Lord, you are our Lord and the giver of life, may we find ourselves fully alive in you. Lord, send us your spirit so that we may be strong in our faith and courageous in our hearts and be willing to sacrifice all for the sake of your kingdom. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Tobit 6:10-11, 7:1, 9:17, 8:4-9
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 128
Gospel: Mark 12:28-34
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:28-31)
Jesus tells the scribe today that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and that the second is to love our neighbor as our self. Upon reading this gospel we should be asking ourselves, "is this how I love?" Are these commandments the ones of which I am living my life?
This first commandment deal with how we relate to God. Are we really giving all that we have to Him? What does it even mean to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? Well, since we are human beings, we have four main components that make us specifically human; physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. Jesus, being both fully God and fully human, understood these four dimensions all too well. By having four areas that make us up, this commandment is telling us to love God with everything that we have. We are to hold nothing back, we are to give our lives completely to God. We are to love Him with our bodies, with our intelligence, with our heart and our feelings, and our own soul. God is the one who created us, He knows how we are and how we work, He doesn't want us to hold anything back from Him at all. God wants us to be alive and thriving in all aspects of our lives, and the only way to do that is to give all of ourselves to Him and surrender all that we have and all that we are.
We must also remember that we are not simply called to love God, but we are also called to love our neighbor as ourselves. This means that no matter what those close to us may do or say, we are still called to love them as ourselves. It is these two commandments which our Lord says are the greatest, we would do well to listen and follow both of them. While they are certainly not easy, following both of these commandments can lead to a freedom on this earth and an eternity in heaven with our Father.
May we all love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and our neighbor as ourselves.
Father above, we thank you and give you praise for this day. Lord, help increase our faith, help us to follow you and to surrender all that we have and all that we are to you. Lord, we praise you for your love and mercy to us, we pray that we would cling to you instead of the things of this world. Lord, we know that you lead us to you and an eternity of life in heaven, help us not to stray from that plan. We pray for all those who are ill, all those who are in need of your mercy. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga, martyr, and his companions, martyrs
First Reading: Tobit 3:1-11, 16-17
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 25
Gospel: Mark 12:18-17
At that very time, the prayer of these two suppliants was heard in the glorious presence of Almighty God. So Raphael was sent to heal them both: to remove the cataracts from Tobit's eyes, so that he might again see God's sunlight; and to marry Raguel's daughter Sarah to Tobit's son Tobiah, and then drive the wicked demon Asmodeus from her. (Tobit 3:16-17)
From the first reading we see two people going through a very difficult time in their lives. Tobit, a devout and faithful Jew, was blinded by cataracts; and Sarah has tried to marry seven times with each husband dying due to a demon. In their great sorrow, each of them turn their prayers to the Lord and ask for His help. While they did not know it, their prayers were heard and God had sent one of his angels to help Tobit and Sarah in their struggles.
Like Sarah and Tobit, we too face very trying times and times where we have just lost all hope and want to give up. But in these times we cannot give up, on both God and ourselves. We must continue to turn to God and pray to Him, as Tobit ad Sarah had done. While we may want God to just clap His hands and make everything right at that instant, it does not work like that. God works in the time that is necessary; sometimes this is quickly, and sometimes this happens slowly. The important thing that we must remember is that we have a God who loves us deeply and who does hear our prayers. He will take care of us and all of our needs. Even when it does not seem like it, He is there working.
In today's reading, we see that Tobit, in his despair wishes for the Lord to take his life. While the Lord did hear his prayers, God had something much better in store for Him. God does not want to take away life, He wants to give it. While it is certainly hard and trying to follow God, we must always trust that He will answer our prayers, perhaps not the way we wanted or thought they should be answered, but He will answer them the way in which is best for us.
We must always remember that God hears all of our prayers. He has a great plan for both you and me, may we always trust in His perfect plan. May the Lord's will be done in all of our lives!
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, we praise you for all your love and mercy. Lord forgive us for all the times in our lives when we did not acknowledge your great works in our life, and did not give you the thanks and glory for your mighty deeds. Lord, we know you seek to give us all new life, may we follow you more closely until that day. We pray for all those who are spiritually dead, may they find your truth and may their hearts long for you. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Tobit 2:9-14
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 112
Gospel: Mark 12:13-17
Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent to Jesus to ensnare him in his speech. They came and said to him, "Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone's opinion. You do not regard a person's status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?" Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, "Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at." They brought one to him and he said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" They replied to him, "Caesar's." So Jesus said to them, "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." They were utterly amazed at him. (Mark 12:13-17)
"Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." Well, I hope that everyone filed and paid their taxes this year, because according to this passage it looks as if there is no getting around that. In this wonderful gospel reading where Jesus dishes up a slice of humble pie for the pharisees and Herodians; Jesus reminds us of something very important, priorities. He is telling that it is okay to live in this world and to take care of our responsibilities, but we cannot live of this world and we cannot let it be the only thing that we are concerned with.
God must have number one priority in our life, and we must be giving to Him what belongs to Him; and that is us. Is God taking top priority in your life? When you tithe money, do you give 10% or do you give to your own wants first? Is the first thing you do in the morning is drop to your knees in prayer or proceed to enjoy your coffee and breakfast? Are Sundays filled with rest and God's work, or is it filled with work and a "to do list?" We are all certainly guilty of this, and the fact is that we can all do a better job in our faith lives and in putting God first. Gospels like this remind us that God needs to be first, and with all that He has given us, He is deserving of our whole lives.
Remember, it is okay to be responsible and to give to the world what belongs to it, but in doing so we cannot let God be second or third, He must be first and we must always be seeking to do His will all the time.
Father above we thank you for the gift of this day. Lord we praise you for all that you freely give to us; we thank you for your love and mercy; may we also be loving and merciful to others as you are to us. Lord, help us to seek you first and to not seek our own interests. Help us to live in this world and not of it. Lord we seek to do your will first and foremost; grant us the faith and courage to follow you with all that we are. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Memorial of Saint Justin, martyr
First Reading: Tobit 1:3, 2:1-8
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 112
Gospel: Mark 12:1-12
What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come, put the tenants to death, and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture passage:
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?" (Mark 12:9-11)
In today's gospel we read the parable of the selfish and greedy tenants. These tenants were meant to take care of the vineyard while the owner was away. When the Owner sent his servants to the vineyard to collect His produce, the tenants beat him, and then they proceeded to beat and kill anyone else that the owner sent. Then the owner sent His beloved son, whom He thought for sure they would respect. But once again, greed seized their hearts, and they killed the beloved son thinking that they would then be able to inherit the vineyard.
These tenants did not think about what the consequences of their actions would be, they only thought of their of their own wants and desires. Greed has this way of making us only concerned about ourselves and of the things that we want. If we let this greed consume our hearts, then there is nothing we won't do to get what we want, even lie, murder or steal. This parable illustrates how far we can fall when we let greed consume us. Allowing greed into our hearts turns us away from God, causing us to give in to sin more and more. Giving into greed really says, "let my will be done." When we allow our hearts to be ruled by greed then we reject God, just as the priests and scribes that Jesus addressed this parable to had done.
The good news that we have and which Jesus showed us is that greed can be conquered. It can be conquered through acts of charity and sacrifice. Jesus did not show any self-interest or own personal wants when He went to the cross. If was are to truly follow Christ and live our life for Him and others then we must be willing to sacrifice as He did. For all believers and followers, there is not room for greed in our hearts. May we be among the blessed to receive the inheritance that Jesus offers to us.
Father above, we thank you and praise for this day. Lord Jesus, help to purify our hearts and to not let in the sins and greed of this world. Lord, help us to choose love and sacrifice over our own self-interest. We know that you are love, and we pray for you to increase your love in us so that we may go out and be lights in this world. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.