First Reading: Amos 5:14-15, 21-24
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 50
Gospel: Matthew 8:28-34
When Jesus came to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him. They were so savage that no one could travel by that road. They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?” Some distance away a herd of many swine was feeding. The demons pleaded with him, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go then!” They came out and entered the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea where they drowned. The swineherds ran away, and when they came to the town they reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district. (Mt 8:28-34)
Whenever I read this gospel passage, I can't help but ask myself what exactly was it that made the people ask Jesus to leave? Was just the pure shock of what happened? Did they misunderstand His intentions? Perhaps the swineherds misinterpreted their story which caused fear among the people. Or perhaps it was just fear of the unknown that caused them to ask Jesus to leave. And we can be sure that since He was asked to leave, that He did. This is important, because this illustrates the point that God never forces Himself upon us, He will always meet us where we are at, but it is always our choice whether we run from Him or embrace Him.
I think another thing that gospel passage illustrates is fear of the Lord. We all should have a fear of the Lord, but not an unhealthy one like the people in today's gospel. They had such a fear that their only solution was to drive Him away. This kind of fear does not allow for a the close personal relationship that God wants us to have with Him. The kind of fear that we should have with God is a healthy one. One that helps us recognize who He is and who we are. A fear that help us be obedient to our Creator at all times, not just when it is convenient. I also believe that the thing that we should fear the most is not being with God, now and after death. That is one of my biggest fears, I do not want to spend eternity anywhere other than heaven. This fear is not something that should hold us back, but rather drive us to know and love God, and to follow Him where ever He leads.
Let us always remember that fear of the Lord is not a bad thing as long as it is healthy and not misguided. As it says in the book of Proverbs: "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with in our lives and for all you provide us with. Lord, help us to have a healthy fear and to never doubt or stray away from you. Lord, we love you and thank you for your love. We pray for wisdom and understanding, may we grow in faith and virtue. We pray for all of our priests and religious, that they may be strengthened in their ministries and in their vows. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Solemnity of Saints Peter and 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
I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Tim. 4:6-8, 17-18)
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, apostles of the Church. But what exactly is it that makes these two men so special? One thing is that what we see from the readings today is that both of the came to the realization of who God is and who they are. They both realized that Jesus is the king of kings and the Lord of Lords. He is our Lord and redeemer, and we are each called to pick up our crosses daily and follow Him. What is interesting is that both of these men had a very rocky start with Christ. Peter was just a fisherman who followed Christ when it was convenient. Paul was a devout Jew who sought to persecute the early Church. I guess that you could say that both of them came a long way in their lives.
Even though they both had rough starts, they both had strong finishes. Both fought opposition, persecution, ailments, ridicule, imprisonment, and eventually martyrdom. But both saw their struggles as a blessing, not a curse. Both had , as Saint Paul put it, "competed well ... finished the race ... [and] kept the faith." This is the lesson that we can learn from each of these men. Even though we might get off to rocky starts in our own life, it is never too late to turn things around and turn towards the Lord. We are all in this race of life, and we are each called to compete well and finish the race. For it is by finishing the race well that we each receive the great reward of heaven.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us!
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, you are our Lord, help us to build our lives on your solid foundation. Lord, thank you for your great love and mercy, help us to go out into this world and show this same great love and mercy. Lord, we pray for all the persecuted, may they find their strength and comfort in you. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, Bishop and Martryr
First Reading: Amos 2:6-10, 13-16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 50
Gospel: Matthew 8:18-22
When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other shore. A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” (Mt 8:18-22)
In the movie "A Few Good Men", there is the infamous court scene where Tom Cruise's character has Jack Nicholson's character on the stand and he is demanding "the truth." Then Jack Nicholson's character says the great line, "You can't handle the truth!" This very popular line could probably be said to many Catholics today.
Many times in the Christian faith we want to downplay the challenges and difficulties that come about from living a life devoted to Christ. We prefer to hear the good stories of how Jesus is our friend, how he heals, and the miracles that he works. While it is important to realize that God wants us to know Him, and that He is capable of all things; we cannot only look at God as a nice guy who gives us things. We need to realize the truth ... that He is our Lord, our Creator, and our Redeemer; the man whose life, death and resurrection opened a door that had previously been shut by mankind. Although many of us have trouble handling the truth, we must realize that it is not something meant to inhibit us, but rather to set us free.
In today's gospel, Jesus does what He has, and always does ... He tells it like it is. I am sure that as is the case today, many of His disciples had trouble with His teachings. From today's gospel we learn two important truths. One is that if we follow Christ, it will not be a life of comfort; "foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head." The second truth that we learn is that God asks us to put Him first. This means that we seek to follow Him and Him alone. He is meant to be the most important person in our lives, even more so than our spouses, children, family and friends.
When it comes to these truths, we can honestly say that they are hard teachings, and many of us have trouble handling this truth. But it is important to remember that it is the truth that sets us free. God's ways are meant to get us to heaven and to help us live the life that we were created to live. We each have a choice in this life, we can run from the truth or we can embrace it.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with and for all that you do. Lord, help us to embrace your truth, which is meant to bring us life, not to take away. Lord, you are such a good and loving God, help us to follow you no matter what, for you always have our best interests in mind. Lord, we love you and praise you. We pray for all those who have fallen away from the Church, may they be led back home to your glorious truth. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 2 Kings: 25:1-12
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 137
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.” (Mt 8:1-4)
Why does God allow someone to have such a terrible disease like leprosy? In the gospel today, we read about Jesus' healing of a man with leprosy, but the question is why was this man living with the awful disease in the first place? Many ask the question, how can a loving God allow such terrible illnesses and diseases? Why do some people battle cancer and go through chemotherapy only to still lose the battle? Why do some people go through life only having mild physical afflictions, while others overcome serious disabilities? While we know that it was because of the fall that pain and death came into this world, but the truth is that we will never fully understand why God allows pain and suffering in this world. Although we will never fully understand it, I do think that there have been some pretty sound explanations for why God allows suffering in our lives. I once heard Fr. John Corapi talk about suffering, and I think that his explanation is the best that I have heard so far. He says, "God allows suffering so that a greater good can come out of it, and if you don't believe that then just look at the crucifix."
I think that Fr. Corapi is very wise in his teaching on suffering, I think that today's gospel is a great illustration of this. In today's gospel, we see that Jesus heals a leper. But a very important thing that we also see is that the leper never demands, but only submits to the will of Christ. In this instance, the good that came out of this man's leprosy was that he went deeper into his faith of God. He had real faith, and humbled himself before God, and because of this Jesus worked a miracle and completely cured him of his leprosy. Now this is not just an instance of physical healing, but of spiritual healing as well. This man with leprosy was at one of the lowest points in his life, and instead of cursing God, he submitted to Him. By curing his physical ailment, Jesus also had an impact on his spirit as well, and while we never hear of what became of this leper, my bet is that his life is forever changed and that he spend the rest of his life following Christ.
God allows suffering so that a greater good may come out of it. Jesus was not afraid to show us this with His life, death and resurrection. As His disciples, we cannot believe that we will be free of suffering in our lives, but the one thing that we can control is our attitude and how we look at the suffering that we go through. Many of us are burdened by physical or emotional suffering, but what we must remember is that Christ's promise to us is that if we will persevere with Him in this life, then there will be a great reward for us ... eternal life with no more pain and suffering, only love.
Father above, we thank you for this day. Thank you for our lives and for all that we have. Lord, you have blessed us so much in our lives, help us to never take any of this for granted. Lord, we know that we are each called to carry crosses, help us to rely and trust in you during these difficult times. We pray for all those who are battling physical and emotional difficulties, may they see their suffering as a blessing, rather than a curse. 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
Second Reading: Acts 13:22-26
Gospel: Luke 1:57-66, 80
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel. (Lk 1:57-66, 80)
If you have ever played chess or have seen it played, you know that the game is all about placement. Where you place your pieces and how you go after your opponent are important things in this game. Just randomly moving your pieces without a strategy is not the wisest or best way to go about winning. It is important to think about where your pieces are, how you want to use them, where you want them to be, how you will attack, and how you will defend. It is certainly a game of strategy and of placement.
I don't know if God is a chess player or not, but I do know that He knows all about strategy and placement. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. John the Baptist is one of the many examples of God's perfect placement. He called John to go before Jesus and preach a baptism of repentance. So why send John ahead, why not just Jesus? Why it could of been just Jesus preaching this baptism of repentance, it was not God's plan. God knew that it would be better to place someone before Christ to help prepare the way. John built up anticipation and hope that the Messiah was coming very soon, and would be revealed to the people at any moment. John came first to help not only prepare for the ministry of Jesus, but also to prepare the hearts of the people.
Today's celebration of the birth of John the Baptist reminds us of two important things. One is that in order to first encounter Christ, we must first humble ourselves, admit that we sin and do wrong and acknowledge that we need Him. John came into this world to proclaim the Savior, to give people hope, and to help people recognize their faults and their need of Christ. The second thing that we are reminded of is that each of us has been placed here for a purpose. We are the "hidden double edged sword", the "arrows in the quiver" and the Lord has great plans for each of us. Maybe we realize our purpose and calling now, and we know that we are where God has placed us. Perhaps we are not sure of our purpose and calling, if this is the case then do not worry, because God is just waiting until you are in the right place to begin revealing His plan to you. We must always have patience and trust in God's plan for us, just as John the Baptist did.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with. Help us to make this day all about you, and to live for you and let your light shine through us to the rest of the world. Lord, you are our God and we are your people, help us to never forget that. We pray for all those who have fallen away from the Church, may they be brought back home. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 2 Kings 22:8-13, 23:1-3
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm
Gospel: Matthew 7:15-20
Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.” (Mt. 7:15-20)
By their fruits you will know them. This statement begs the question, what kind of fruits are your life producing? Today's gospel is pretty straightforward, the "good trees" bear good fruits, while the "bad trees" bear bad fruit. Reading this gospel passage should make us all look inside ourselves and at our own lives. What do our lives say about us? What kinds of fruits are being produced by how we live our life? Are we striving to follow God's will and to love Him first? Are we striving to sacrifice daily and carry our cross in this life? Are we seeking to help others before ourselves? Are we trying to produce good fruit?
Think about your life, what fruit are you producing? If you are not producing good fruit, what can you do to change that? Remember, it is never too late to turn towards God and follow Him. In the first reading today, the king realized after hearing the book of the law that he and all of Judah were not following God's way and that their lives were not producing good fruit. So they turned back to God and made a promise to Him that they were no longer going to follow their ways, but rather His. We must always remember that it is never too late to give ourselves to Christ and to let our lives begin to produce good fruit.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with in this life and for all that you give. Lord, help our lives be a reflection of you, help others to see you through our works and our lives. Lord, we are here by you and for you, help us to never forget that. We pray for all those in need of conversion, and for all those who have fallen away from the Church. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 2 Kings 19:9-11,14-21,31-35,36
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 48
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.”
During each summer most of us attend at least one high school graduation party. A time to celebrate the accomplishment of these students. It is the ending of one chapter and the beginning of a new one. When at these parties I always like to ask what are their plans for the summer and the fall. Many will say that they are going off to college, others plan on working for a while first, and still many others are not even sure where they are going or what they are going to do. The reality is that most people do not go off to get a college degree. According to the census bureau, only about 35% of Americans have an Associates Degree or higher (only 27.4% have a Bachelors Degree or higher). There are many reasons why people do not go off to college and get a degree. Many times money presents a challenge, and many people are not sure of how to make college work with limited resources. Now I am not saying that a college education is the end all be all, but I do think that having an education to achieve your goals is important. The number one reason why I think that most of our population does not seek out higher education opportunities is because it is hard. It is a narrow gate that not many pass through. Most of the opportunities in this life that are really worthwhile are typically the hardest and the ones that are the least sought after.
The reality is that like our example of getting a college degree, our faith is a hard thing. In fact it is one of the hardest things, because it requires so much of us. It involves dying to ourselves, seeking God's will above our own, humility, willingness to be a servant, and love. These are not easy things, and they are certainly not things that the majority of people seek out. But what most people fail to keep in mind that living by following God's path, although it is a hard path to follow, is the path that leads to life. God wants us to live a full life here on earth and in heaven. We have a choice, we can choose our own way, which most people do choose their way which only leads to destruction; or we can choose God's way which leads to life.
The gate truly is narrow, and most people will not choose this hard and difficult way; but we must always remember that it is the path that is the most worth it.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, we praise you and thank you for all that you give and all that you do. Lord, thank you for our lives, help us to always choose your way instead of our own paths. Lord, we know that your way, although it is not easy, is filled with many blessings. We do not want to seek out our own life, but rather lose it so that we may gain life. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 2 Kings 17:5-8, 13-15, 18
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 60
Gospel: Matthew 7:1-5
Jesus said to his disciples: “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.” (Mt 7:1-5)
Here is an easy multiple choice question for everyone: What is our basic purpose in life?
a) To label everyone we meet
b) To judge our brothers and sisters
c) To tell other people all the things that they are doing wrong
d) To love and be loved
If you picked Answer D (which I hope you all did), then you picked correctly. When we look at a question like this, the answer is clear and we certainly know it in our heads; we are here to love and to be loved. To love and to be loved is the basic purpose which we all share in this life. We know in our heads that we are not here to judge; however, while we know this in our heads, the way in which we live our life may say the exact opposite.
It is always easier to go through life telling others what is wrong with them, labeling and judging them. As people, we have become very good at it, in fact we have become so good that sometimes we spend most of our time judging instead of loving. Jesus warns us of this in today's gospel. He uses the extreme example of recognizing the wooden beam in our own eye, before we try and remove the splinter from our brother's eye. While this example may seem silly to us, it is certainly a great analogy of what we each try and do in our own lives. Many of us ignore our own faults and shortcomings, (and believe me we all have them) and look to what is wrong with other people instead of what is going on in our own life. But the question is how can we judge if we cannot see correctly? Jesus tells us that we must first remove the wooden beam from our own eye before we can remove the splinter from someone else's eye. This involves recognizing that we fall short, asking for forgiveness, and humbling ourselves before God. Once we get to this point we can help others, and we will see clearly because we are not trying to help someone out of judgement, but rather out of love.
Today, let us reflect on the words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: "If you judge people, you have not time to love them."
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with and for all that you do. Lord, help us to remove the wooden beam from our own eye, and not to judge others but to love them as you do. Lord, you are so good to us, much more than we deserve, help us to spend the rest of our days on this earth serving you and doing your perfect will. Lord, we love you and thank you for the gift of our lives. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 132
Gospel: Matthew 6:19-23
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
When I was younger, I collected two things: baseball/football cards and comics. I had binders full of baseball/football cards, I had some of my favorite players at the time along with complete sets of a certain year. I also collected comic books, I had all sorts of different superhero comics: Batman, Spider-man, X-Men, etc. I would always get lost in the stories of heroism and good versus evil. During my youth, much the money that I earned doing chores and various jobs, got spent on comics and baseball/football cards. While there is certainly nothing wrong with having collections, we must watch how much of our time, energy and devotion we give to collections.
In today's gospel, Jesus warns us of storing up treasures for ourselves, or in other words watch out of things that we are collecting. Our goal is to store up treasure in heaven, not on earth. Earthly treasures take many forms; money, wealth, power, cars, houses, anything that takes our time and attention away from God can be considered a earthly treasure. We must watch what each of us is spending our time gathering up for ourselves, because as Jesus said, "where your treasure is, there also will your heart be." If your heart isn't with the Lord, how can you gain eternal life? The Lord gives us complete and total love, all that He asks for in return is the same kind of total self-giving love, not holding anything back.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with having collections or from trying to earn a nice living; but we must always keep in mind if the earthly treasures are taking away from our heavenly treasures. If so, it might be time to cut out those things which take us away from the Lord.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with and for all that you give. Lord, help us to see that all we really need is you, and that anything else on this earth is simply a want, rather than a need. Lord, help us to persevere in this life and to only seek out your will. We pray for all of our priests, that they may be strengthened in their ministries and in their vows. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Sirach 48:1-14
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 97
Gospel: Matthew 6:7-15
Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This is how you are to pray:
‘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.’
“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.”
How many times have you been at mass or praying a rosary and when you pray the Our Father prayer you just kind of recite it and don't even think about what it is that you are saying. It seems that many times when we recite this special prayer our brain and mouth kind of go into autopilot. We do this because sometimes when we recite a prayer like the Our Father so much we begin to make a big mistake; we start saying it, instead of praying it. When we just say the prayer, it has no meaning, our mouth is just kind of saying the words while our brain is taking a rest. But when we pray the Our Father, we do something much more, we talk to God, we think about the words of the prayer that Jesus gave us so long ago and how this prayer gives us clarity in our lives about who God is and what it is that we are to do.
So how do we go about praying the Our Father instead of just saying it? The first thing that we should do is ask for help. Ask the Holy Spirit for focus whenever you are praying. This means clearing your mind of any and all distractions, and just simply focus on the words and what they mean. Another thing to do is to take some time and read these words, think about what it is they are saying and what do they mean to you. Like I said above, the Our Father prayer is truly a special prayer that really does tell us so much about who God is in our lives and the most important things that we should do in our life. Another thing that we should remember is to never give up. There will certainly be times when we get distracted and don't pray as we should, but it is important to not give up. We must use each moment to get closer to God, and if one moment is unsuccessful, then we look forward and move on to the next moment.
The Our Father is meant to bring us closer to God and to give us clarity in our life. The next time that you say this prayer, do not let this opportunity pass you by.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one. Amen.
First Reading: 2 Kings 2:1, 6-14
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 31
Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18)
Braggers ... we all know them and have met them. People who just seem to want to boast about all the good things that they do and how great that they are. Along with the braggers, we also have very vain people; those who only look to their own greatness and often want everyone else to see that greatness. Those who are vain and those who are braggers typically care about one opinion in their lives, the opinion of others.
As Christians, we are called to not worry about the opinion of others, we are only called to worry about the opinion of God. It is God that we were made for and it is God who we should be seeking to please. Can a human being give us abundant life? Can a human being decide where we will spend our eternity? Can a human being love us unconditionally without ever holding back? No, only God can do these things to their fullest. That is why Jesus tells us today in the gospels that when we give alms, pray, and fast that we should keep these things to ourselves; because we should be focusing on God's opinion, not the public's.
May we all be granted the strength and the courage to seek His will over our own. May we only focus on and worry about the only opinion that matters ... God's.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for the blessing of our lives. Lord, help us to shake off the opinions of the world and to only seek your favor. Lord, we were made for you, help us to live our lives for you and your glory. Lord, you are our God and we are your people, may our lives and our actions always reflect this. We pray for all of our priests and religious, may they be strengthened in their ministries and in their vows. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 1 Kings 21:17-29
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 51
Gospel: Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:43-48)
Today's gospel is at the heart of what we are here on earth for ... to love and be loved. We are called to love everyone, not matter who they are or what they have done. Usually when we hear talk about loving everyone, a wall immediately goes up, and there is someone that has done us wrong that pops up in our mind. We begin thinking things like, "okay, I can work on loving everyone else, except that person." The reality is that there are people who have done some serious wrong in our lives, and it is there people who are truly the hardest to forgive and love. But think about this, doesn't God love each one of us no matter what? Doesn't He forgive all the times that we have ignored Him, cursed Him, done wrong to others? Doesn't He wait for us patiently and embrace us when we call? Isn't He the only one who can love us as we really desire? No, it is not easy to love those who do not love you, or those who have done you wrong. Love is never easy, but it is the only choice that we truly find peace and joy from, and it is the only choice that is worth it in the end.
Today, reflect on those in your life who have done you wrong. What is it that you can do to love them? Could you let them know how they hurt you and forgive them? Could you do a good act of service for them? Could you pray for them?
Our main purpose in this life is to love and be loved; and we should let nothing get in the way of this important mission.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with, thank you for all that you give to us. Lord, help us to love as you call us to. Help us to love without holding back, just as you do for us. Lord, by ourselves we fall short, but with your help we can accomplish anything. We pray for all those who have done us wrong, help us to find the strength to forgive. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 1 Kings 21:1-16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 5
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. (Mt 5:38-42)
I have worked with youth for many years, and as someone who has worked with kids of all ages and in a variety of settings, there is one issue that I always have to deal with; and that is fighting. I have broken up and talked with kids about more fights than I can remember. What is interesting is that in almost all of the cases when I asked one of the kids why they decided to kit or kick the other person back I get the response: "my mom/dad told me that if anyone ever hits me that I need to hit them back." Most of us have probably been told this same exact thing when we were younger, I know that was certainly the case for me. And who can really blame parents for doing this? At the core of these instructions, is a good intention; parents do not want anyone hurting their children, and they realize that they cannot always be around to protect them, so they want them to retaliate and protect themselves. But while this may be a good intention, the intention does not make up for a wrong action.
It seems as though many people live by the old law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Many people who are wronged want to wrong that person (or someone else back). It is our deep desire for justice that drives us to act this way, and to even instruct our children to act this way. But the question that we must all ask ourselves is are we really seeking justice, or is it revenge? Jesus had very clear instructions about what we should do if someone strikes us or does us wrong, and the answer is not to retaliate and seek revenge. When someone strikes us on one cheek, we are to offer the other. To most people this would seem like the person is being soft, and not strong, but it is the person who can control their anger and their fists that are really the strongest. Fighting back is easy, anyone can do it, it takes a courage and a strong will to love the person instead of striking them back.
Justice is an important virtue, and we are all deserving of justice; but we must remember that this virtue is secondary to the most important virtue of all ... love. Justice can only be accomplished through the path of love. If it is placed first, then it is not justice we are seeking, but rather vengeance.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with and for all that you give to us. Lord, help us to love as we are called to. Help us to seek your way and to follow you know matter how hard. Lord, send us your spirit, so that we can have the courage to follow you no matter what may come our way. Help us to persevere in this life and to lead others to your love and truth. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 1 Kings 18:20-39
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 16
Gospel: Matthew 5:17-19
Elijah appealed to all the people and said, “How long will you straddle the issue? If the LORD is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” The people, however, did not answer him. So Elijah said to the people, “I am the only surviving prophet of the LORD, and there are four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. Give us two young bulls. Let them choose one, cut it into pieces, and place it on the wood, but start no fire. I shall prepare the other and place it on the wood, but shall start no fire. You shall call on your gods, and I will call on the LORD. The God who answers with fire is God.” All the people answered, “Agreed!” Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one young bull and prepare it first, for there are more of you. Call upon your gods, but do not start the fire.” Taking the young bull that was turned over to them, they prepared it and called on Baal from morning to noon, saying, “Answer us, Baal!” But there was no sound, and no one answering. And they hopped around the altar they had prepared. When it was noon, Elijah taunted them: “Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating, or may have retired, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” They called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until blood gushed over them. Noon passed and they remained in a prophetic state until the time for offering sacrifice. But there was not a sound; no one answered, and no one was listening. (1 Kings 18:21-29)
In today's first reading, we see a show down between God's prophet Elijah, and the prophets of the false god baal. This is one of my favorite stories of Elijah, not only does it show some great biblical smack talk going on (when Elijah is taunting them), but it is also an awesome demonstration to the people that God is the one true God, and the only one to be worshipped. Now the reality is that the people should not have needed this reminder, but sadly it had come to this that the people were wishy washy in their faith, and many had turned to the false god baal.
At the beginning of today's first reading, the prophet Elijah asks the ancient Israelites a question that many people should ask themselves today: "How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow Him; if Baal, follow Him." It is really that simple, if the Lord is our God then we should follow Him, if we are letting something else rule our lives then follow that. Not that I am advocating following worldly things, but the reality is that we cannot be "on the fence" when it comes to God. There are many people who are on the fence and are trying to be both for God and for themselves. These are the people who are wishy washy about God and their faith, they might go through some of the motions like attending mass, occasional prayer when something is wrong; but their heart is not fully with the Lord. They are not exactly "all in", they are simply on the fence and are "straddling the issue."
When it comes to serving God, middle of the road does not work. We cannot be on the fence when it comes to God. We are called to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, not just part of it.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for our lives and for the many gifts you have given to us. Lord, help us not to be on the fence but to follow you with all that we are. Help us to have courage and to persevere in this life. Lord, you are our good merciful God, we are your people, help us to show it all times. We pray for all of those who are one the fence, may they come to fully embrace your loving and merciful ways. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 1 Kings 17:1-6
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 121
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:
“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.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mt. 5:1-12)
Poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, persecuted ... are these typical things that people strive for in the world? Are these traits highly regarded among people today? We know that they are not, in fact the world tell us to strive for the opposite; be strong, do what you want to do, love only yourself and think of yourself, go with the flow, don't be different, etc. The beatitudes that Jesus taught His disciples are just as relevant today as they were when Jesus first spoke those words in His sermon on the mount. While the world tells us that these traits are not important and make us weak, we know that it is by striving for these traits that we can live a full life and get to heaven. This is what we should strive for, no matter what anyone else thinks, says or does.
Now, Jesus knows that these are not the most popular traits in the world, and in fact they are certainly not easy to strive for either. That is why He follow up talking about the beatitudes by warning us that by following His ways others will insult and persecute us. And what should our reaction be to this? We should rejoice! Now, I know what you are thinking, "rejoice" ... be happy over being insulted and persecuted? It doesn't seem logical, but the reality is that even though we are going to go through some pretty tough times because of our faith, we should rejoice because we have a great reward in heaven waiting for those who are willing to abandon worldly ways, pick up their cross and follow Christ.
Jesus told us that they also persecuted the prophets, and as we know many Christians throughout history and even today are persecuted because of their faith. Christ does not promise us that this will be easy, we only have the promise that it will be worth it in the end.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have given us in our life. Thank you for our lives, help us to not seek out the world, but rather seek your will and your ways. Lord, you are so faithful to us, help us remain close and faithful to you. Lord, send us your Spirit so that we may receive the gift of courage to continue to persevere and fight the good fight. We pray for all of our priests, that they may be strengthened in their ministries. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga, martyr, and his companions, martyrs
First Reading: 2 Timothy 2:8-15
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 25
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.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Mk 12:28-34)
Simplicity, couldn't we all use more of this in our lives? It seems as though we let our lives get so complicated that we lose sight of our basic purpose. Thankfully for us, the Lord keeps His ways simple. In today's gospel reading, we see that there is really only one thing that we need to do: Love the Lord God with all of our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Everything that we do in our lives should stem from this basic truth, we are called to love. It is really that simple.
We were made to love and to be loved, that is why we are here. Love, should be the basis for all that we do and all that we strive for. While our goal of loving God and others is a very simple instruction, it is not always the easiest. The fact is that we let things get in the way, we let sin and our own desires become speed bumps and detours away from love. We complicated things in our lives by moving away from this simple principle and by gravitating towards our own will. We need to always keep our main focus in mind and this simple principle of love at the forefront of our mind at all times. It is only by centering our lives around God and others that we truly find ourselves.
Love is the answer, love is our simple calling. While it is not always the easiest, it is always the most worth it.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you bless us with and for all that we are. Lord, you give us one simple instruction, and that is to love. Help us to truly love in our lives and to not only think of ourselves but rather to give our lives to you and others. Lord, you have sacrificed so much for us, help us to sacrifice for you and your glory. Help us to persevere in this life so that one day we can be with you in heaven. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 2 Timothy 1:1-3, 6-12
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 123
Gospel: Mark 12:18-27
For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. (2 Tim. 1:6-8)
Do you remember the old hefty garbage bag commercials? They would always begin by showing a hefty trash bag and showing how much it held and how strong it was, all while shouting "hefty, hefty, hefty!" Then they would flash to a cheap trash bag that would rip and tear and all the trash would fall out, all while saying the phrase "wimpy, wimpy, wimpy." These were great commercials that basically tried to show how a hefty bag was the best and strongest out there, and that any other garbage bag was just not up the the task, it was "wimpy."
In today's first reading, Paul is addressing Timothy, and making a similar comparison between two different types of spirits, a spirit of cowardice and the spirit of God, which bring us power and love and self control. One is associated with the world, while the other comes from above. When looking at these two spirits, it is easy to compare and see which one is "hefty, hefty, hefty" and which one is "wimpy, wimpy, wimpy." We should each be asking for God to send His Spirit on us, for it is through the Spirit that we can live our lives as God intended. We must remember that it is a Spirit that will give us the power to have courage and persevere in this life; to love God and others as we should; and the power of self control which helps us to avoid sin and temptation.
When thinking about the Spirit of God versus the spirit of the world, it is a no brainer which one we should seek. "Hefty, hefty, hefty!"
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with in this life and for all that you give to us. Lord, send us your Spirit so that we may live as you call us to. Help us to sacrifice and to strain in this life, all for your glory. Lord, you are our God and we are your people, help us to never forget this. We pray for all victims of abuse, and for peace in our world. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 1 Peter 3:12-15, 17-18
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 90
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. (Mk 12:13-17)
In today's Gospel, we read of yet another plot to catch Jesus in His words. Little do they know that Jesus is God who only speaks the truth and His words have a way of silencing those who even ask the most loaded questions. While the Pharisees and Herodians intentions were not the best, their question is actually a good one. Should we pay our taxes? Jesus answers with a yes, it is okay to pay taxes, to "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar." Though it is okay, and a responsibility of each of us to pay our taxes, we must not forget the other part of what Jesus says, and that is "and to God what belongs to God." This means that even though we should be responsible and pay our taxes, we cannot and should not ever forget to give to God what belongs to Him.
One way that we can give to God is by tithing. Having to pay taxes, having a high mortgage and insurance, or needing a new car is no reason not to tithe. We should each strive to give 10% of what we make to the Church, but if that is not possible, then we should try to give all that we have. Like the Gospel account of the poor widow who gave everything that she had into the treasury (see Mark 12:41-44); we too are also called to give all that we can to God. After all it is all His and all because of Him that we have what we have in the first place!
While God is certainly pleased with the sacrifices and generosity that we give through tithing, this is not the only area that we should be striving to give in. We can also give to God through our time and prayers. God, who always makes time for us is deserving of our time. Many of us simply try to work God into our day and to fit in a few prayers hear and there. The reality is that we should be working our lives around God and around prayer. Our Creator loves us so much, and really wants to help us live the best life possible. It would be in our best interest to spend time with Him each and every day. The days when we are stressed and really pressed for time, we should spend even more time with Him.
God loves us more than we deserve, and regardless He waits for us ready to pour out His love and mercy. Let us never take this for granted, and always seek to give to God what belongs to Him ... and that is us.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with in this life and for all that you do. Lord, help us to live for you and to make this life into what you will for us. Lord, we are your children, help us to be obedient to you and to serve only you in our life. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.