Calling Out for Mercy! November 18, 2019

Monday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul or Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne

He kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!”  Luke 18:39c

Good for him!  Here was a blind beggar who was treated poorly by many.  He was treated as if he were no good and a sinner.  When he began to call out for mercy from Jesus, he was told to be silent by those around him.  But what did the blind man do?  Did he give in to their oppression and ridicule?  Certainly not.  Instead, “He kept calling out all the more!”  And Jesus took notice of his faith and healed him.

There is a great lesson from this man’s life for us all.  There are many things we will encounter in life that get us down, discourage us and tempt us to despair.  There are many things that are oppressive to us and difficult for us to deal with.  So what should we do?  Should we give in to the struggle and then retreat into a hole of self-pity?

This blind man gives us the perfect witness of what we should do.  When we feel oppressed, discouraged, frustrated, misunderstood, or the like, we need to use this as an opportunity to turn to Jesus with even greater passion and courage calling upon His mercy.

Difficulties in life can have one of two effects on us.  Either they beat us down or they make us stronger.  The way they make us stronger is by fostering within our souls an even greater trust in and dependence upon the mercy of God.

Reflect, today, upon that which tempts you the most toward discouragement.  What is it that feels oppressive to you and difficult to deal with.  Use that struggle as an opportunity to cry out with even more passion and zeal for the mercy and grace of God.

Lord, in my weakness and struggle, help me to turn to You with even more passion.  Help me to rely upon You all the more in times of distress and frustration in life.  May the wickedness and harshness of this world only strengthen my resolve to turn to You in all things.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saints of the Day – Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul or Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne

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Discernment November 17, 2019

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings for Today

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious – Memorial

“See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’  Do not follow them!”  Luke 21:8

What an interesting line.  What does this mean?  Who are the “many” that Jesus speaks of?  Are they in our midst today?

It may not be helpful to try to point to this or that person or to this or that group of people in reference to the “many” who will come in Jesus’ name falsely.  But it is helpful to speak to some general and guiding principles.

First, Jesus uses the word “deceived.”  There will be many false prophets who will have the ability to deceive.  They will portray themselves as messengers of the truth and dispensers of the will of God.  Their words will be convincing and many will follow.

This tells us that not everyone “speaking in the name of God” is in fact speaking in the “name of God.”  And even if many others are following, and they are very convincing, this is not proof that the person is a true prophet of the Lord.

How do we discern when someone is speaking from the heart of Jesus?  Ultimately, this can only be done through a state of prayer.  Being in a “state of prayer” means that our hearts are attuned to God’s voice.  When God speaks through this or that person and our hearts are tuned into Him, we will simply know His voice as it is spoken through this or that person.

Conversely, when we are living in a state of true prayer and then someone speaks a false and deceiving message, something will not sit well with us.  There will be a sense in the depths of our souls that something is not right.  It will be a spiritual sense and this is a result of the healthy working of our conscience.  There are external guides such as the revealed teaching of the Church and the counsel of other good Christians, but in the end we must allow God to speak within our consciences and follow His voice in this holy sanctuary.

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you daily seek out and hear God speaking to you in the depths of your conscience.  Listen closely and attentively.  Learn His voice and seek to hear Him speak through other people.  And when the voice of others is in opposition to the voice speaking within your soul, remain faithful to God speaking within you.  It is there, more than any other place, that He will lead you.

Lord, give me the grace to know and hear Your voice.  I choose You above all things and desire to know You more clearly.  May I follow You now and always in my life and may I never be deceived by the many false prophets of our day and age.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

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Saint of the Day – Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious

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Faith November 16, 2019

Saturday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Margaret of Scotland or Saint Gertrude the Great, Virgin – Optional Memorial

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  Luke 18:8b

This is a good and interesting question that Jesus poses.  He poses it to each one of us and asks us to answer it in a personal way.  The answer is contingent upon whether or not we each have faith in our hearts.

So what is your answer to Jesus?  Presumably the answer is “Yes.”  But it’s not just a yes or no answer.  It’s hopefully a “yes” that continually grows in depth and certitude.

What is faith?  Faith is a response from each one of us to God speaking in our hearts.  In order to have faith we must first listen to God speak.  We must let Him reveal Himself to us within the depths of our conscience.  And when He does this, we manifest faith by responding to all that He reveals.  We enter into a belief in His Word spoken to us and it is this act of believing that changes us and forms faith within us.

Faith is not just believing.  It’s believing in what God speaks to us.  It’s the belief in His very Word and in His very Person.  Interestingly, when we do enter into the gift of faith, we grow in a certainty about God and all He says to a radical degree.  That certainty is what God is looking for in our life and will be the answer to His question above.

Reflect, today, upon how authentic and how certain your faith is.  Reflect upon Jesus asking you this question.  Will He find faith in your heart?  Let your “Yes” to Him grow and commit yourself to a deeper embrace of all that He reveals to you each and every day.  Don’t be afraid to seek out His voice so that you can say “Yes” to all He reveals.

Lord, I desire to grow in faith.  I desire to grow in my love and in my knowledge of You.  May faith be alive in my life and may You find that faith as a precious gift I offer to You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Margaret of Scotland or Saint Gertrude the Great, Virgin

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Abandonment to God November 15, 2019

Friday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor – Optional Memorial

“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.”  Luke 17:33

Jesus never fails to say things that cause us to stop and think.  This phrase from today’s Gospel is one of those things.  He presents us with an apparent paradox.  Trying to save your life will be the cause of you losing it, but losing your life will be the way you save it.  What does this mean?

This statement especially goes to the heart of trust and surrender.  Basically, if we try to direct our lives and our future by our own effort, things will not work out.  By calling us to “lose” our life, Jesus is telling us that we must abandon ourselves to Him.  We must allow Him to be the one who directs all things and guides us into His most holy will.  This is the only way to save our life.  We save it by letting go of our own will and letting God take over.

This level of trust and surrender is very difficult at first.  It’s difficult to come to the level of complete trust in God.  But if we can do just that, we will be amazed at the fact that God’s ways and plan for our life is far better than we could ever come up with on our own.  His wisdom is beyond compare and His solution to all our concerns and problems is perfect.

Reflect, today, upon how ready and willing you are to give complete control of your life to our merciful God.  Do you trust Him enough to let Him take complete control?  Make this act of faith in the most sincere way that you can and watch as He begins to preserve you and help you flourish in a way that only God can do.

Lord, I give You my life, my cares, my concerns and my future.  I trust You in all things.  I surrender all.  Help me to trust You more each day and to turn to You in complete abandonment.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Jesus is King November 14, 2019

Thursday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus said in reply, “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”  Luke 17:20-21

The Kingdom of God is among you!  What does that mean?  Where is the Kingdom of God and how is it that it’s among us?

The Kingdom of God can be spoken of in two ways.  At the final coming of Christ, at the end of time, His Kingdom will be permanent and visible to all.  He will destroy all sin and evil and all will be made new.  He will reign eternally and charity will govern every mind and heart.  What a joyful gift to anticipate with much hope!

But this passage especially refers to the Kingdom of God that is already in our midst.  What is that Kingdom?  It’s the Kingdom present by grace living in our hearts and present to us in countless ways every day.

First, Jesus longs to reign in our hearts and rule our lives.  The key question is this: Do I let Him take control?  He is not the sort of King who imposes Himself in a dictatorial way.  He does not exercise His authority and demand we obey.  Of course this will happen in the end, when Jesus returns, but for now His invitation is just that, an invitation.  He invites us to give Him Kingship of our lives.  He invites us to let Him take full control.  If we do that, He will issue commands to us which are commands of love.  They are decrees that draw us into truth and beauty.  They refresh us and renew us.

Second, Jesus’ presence is all around us.  His Kingdom is present every time charity is present.  His Kingdom is present every time grace is at work.  It’s so easy for us to be overwhelmed by the evils of this world and to miss the presence of God.  God is alive in countless ways all around us.  We must always strive to see this presence, be inspired by it and love it.

Reflect, today, upon the presence of the Kingdom of God present among you.  Do you see it in your heart?  Do you daily invite Jesus to rule your life?  Do you acknowledge Him as your Lord?  And do you see the ways He comes to you through your daily circumstances or in others and in your daily situations?  Seek Him out constantly and this will bring joy to your heart.

Lord, I invite You, today, to come reign in my heart.  I give You complete control of my life.  You are my Lord and my King.  I love You and want to live in accord with Your perfect and holy will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Christian Service November 12, 2019

Tuesday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

Saint Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr – Memorial

“When you have done all you have been commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”  Luke 17:10b

This is a hard phrase to say and it is even harder to truly mean when said.

Imagine the context in which this attitude toward Christian service must be spoken and lived.  For example, imagine a mother who spends the day cleaning and then preparing the family meal.  At the end of the day, it is certainly nice to be recognized for her hard work and to be thanked for it.  Of course, when the family is grateful and acknowledges this loving service, this gratitude is healthy and is nothing other than an act of love.  It is good to be grateful and to express it.  But this passage is not so much about the fact that we must strive to be grateful for the love and service of others, rather, it’s about our own motivation for service.  Do you serve so as to be thanked?  Or do you provide service because it is good and right to serve?

Jesus makes it clear that our Christian service to others, be it in the family or in some other context, must be primarily motivated by a certain duty of service.  We must serve out of love regardless of the receptivity or acknowledgment of others.

Imagine, then, if you spent your day in some service and that service was done out of your love of others.  Then imagine that no one expressed gratitude for your work.  Should that change your commitment to service?  Should the reaction, or lack of reaction, of others deter you from serving as God wants you to serve?  Certainly not.  We must serve and fulfill our Christian duty simply because it is the right thing to do and because it is what God wants of us.

Reflect, today, upon your motivation for loving service to others.  Try to speak these words of the Gospel within the context of your life.  It may be hard at first, but if you can serve with the mind that you are an “unprofitable servant” and that you have done nothing more than what you were “obliged to do,” then you will find that your charity takes on a whole new depth.

Lord, help me to serve freely and wholeheartedly out of love for You and others.  Help me to give of myself regardless of the reaction of others and to find satisfaction in this act of love alone.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr

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Forgiving…Seven Times a Day November 11, 2019

Monday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop – Memorial

“Be on your guard!  If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’  you should forgive him.”  Luke 17:3-4

Complete forgiveness can be very difficult at times.  This is especially the case when the same person sins against you “seven times in one day” as Jesus says.

But Jesus’ words should be taken to heart.  He was not being idealistic; rather, He was being very realistic.  Forgiveness must be given, over and over and over again.  We cannot hesitate in offering it, especially to those who sincerely repent.

One of the first things we should notice from this passage is that when someone sins against us, we should rebuke him.  The rebuke is not to be an act focused on revenge; rather, it must be done so as to invite repentance.  This is the only reason for the rebuke of another.  If we have a sense that someone who sins against us may be open to change, then we must offer them a rebuke of love.  And when they accept it and seek our forgiveness, we must offer it.

But, as mentioned, this can especially be difficult when the sin is committed over and over again.  It can become wearying and discouraging.  And when a sin is committed over and over again, it’s easy to become sceptical about the authentic sorrow of the one seeking forgiveness.

But none of that should be our concern.  Our only concern should be to hear those words, “I’m sorry.”  This is the command of Jesus.  When one says these words, we must forgive and do so immediately.

This Scripture also reveals to us the importance of expressing our sorrow to those whom we hurt.  It’s dangerous to simply presume that another will forgive.  There is great power in actually saying to another, “Please forgive me, I’m sorry for my sin.”  Though these words may be difficult to say, they are words of great healing.

Reflect, today, upon the act of asking for forgiveness and offering it to another.  We are all given numerous opportunities every day to forgive and seek forgiveness.  Do not hesitate in doing so and you will be grateful you did.

Lord, I am truly sorry for the many sins I have committed against You.  Please forgive me.  When I am obstinate, please offer me a rebuke of love.  When I need to ask forgiveness of another, please give me the courage to do so.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop

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The Dead Will Rise November 10, 2019

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings for Today

Saint Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor—Memorial

“That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord,’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”  Luke 20:37-38

As we draw close to the end of this Church year, our readings begin to focus more clearly upon the final things to come.  The following is an excerpt from My Catholic Faith!, Chapter 5, regarding the resurrection of the dead:

The third and final coming is when Jesus returns to Earth in splendor and glory.  It will be “the end of the world as we know it.”  It will be a time when His permanent Kingdom is established.  There is much to say about this moment in history and it is actually quite fascinating to reflect upon.

Before you read on, open the Catechism of the Catholic Church and read paragraphs #671-677.

Wow!  That’s good stuff!  It almost reads as a deeply intriguing futuristic science fiction mystery novel.  The only difference is that it’s all true, it’s all glorious, and it’s all beyond any mystery we will ever be able to comprehend until it actually takes place.  And it will take place at one definitive moment in time to come!

So what does this all mean?  It means that Jesus will be returning in all His splendor and glory.  He will physically return to Earth one day radiant and glorious.  We will see Him, and the world as we currently know it will come to an end.  At that moment in time God will establish His permanent Kingdom and both Heaven and Earth will be united as one.  It will be “a new Heaven and a new Earth” (Revelation 21:1).  The former Heaven and Earth will pass away and the new order will be established.

But that’s not all!  At that moment in time all the dead shall rise.  That’s right, all people who have ever died will rise.  This means that everybody who has been “laid to rest” in a cemetery or elsewhere will be brought back to life, given a new glorified body, and that body will be rejoined to his or her soul.

The Catechism also states:

When he comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his works and according to his acceptance or refusal of grace. (#682)

This is a fascinating thought, and a bit scary, too!  It means that all that is hidden will come to light.  This can be good or bad depending upon what is hidden.  The thought should both fill us with a bit of holy fear, and it should also fill us with a holy joy.  The holy fear is actually a gift from God to help us eliminate any secret and hidden sin we have now or have struggled with in the past.  Since it will in fact all come to light one day, we might as well deal with it now so that our sin is no more.  If we do, even our sin is turned into virtue and grace.  And then, at the end of time, that grace and virtue is what will be made manifest.  This manifestation of our virtue will be the cause of holy joy not only for us but also for others to whom it is manifested.

We will be judged, then, based on what is there within our conscience.  It will no longer just be exterior.  We will not be able to put on a good face and pretend we are someone we are not.  The full truth will come out and will be made manifest for all to see in accord with God’s plan.

Another thing to note is that at the Final Judgment even those who are in Hell will rise.  Why?  Because as humans we are meant to eternally be united with our bodies.  We are, in essence, body and soul.  So even the dead will receive their bodies back.  But sadly, they will then suffer eternally not only spiritually but also physically.  What this actually entails we do not know.  But it will be a real pain of loss.  Loss of God and loss in that the body and soul will not be able to share in life with God.  This can seem harsh and unfair but we should remind ourselves that God is perfectly just and perfectly loving and however this eternal loss and eternal suffering is lived, it is right and just.

What will this new life look like for those who share in the Resurrection to new life?  It will be life with God, physically and spiritually, as well as life with each other.  The Book of Revelation speaks symbolically of this new life as a city where God is on the throne in the center of the city.  Light shines forth from Him so there is no need for the sun or moon.  The streets are gold.  The gates filled with precious stones.  And so much more.  This symbolic language should not be taken literally, rather, it should be seen as imagery that helps us understand the beauty, splendor, and magnificence of the life that awaits us.  It’s the new Heavens and new Earth.  I can’t wait!

Lord, may I always be ready to greet You when You come.  I thank You for Your perfect promise of raising all from the dead and bringing forth new life.  Use me to gather many into this future and glorious Kingdom, dear Lord.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Righteous Anger Saturday, November 9, 2019

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

Readings for Today

Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”  John 2:13b-16

Wow, Jesus was angry.  He drove the money-changers from the temple with a whip and overturned their tables as He rebuked them.  That must have been quite a scene.

What’s key, here, is that we must understand what sort of “anger” Jesus had.  Normally when we speak of anger we mean a passion that is out of control and, in fact, controls us.  It’s the loss of control and is a sin.  But this is not the anger Jesus had.

Obviously, Jesus was perfect in every way, so we must be very careful not to equate His anger with our normal experience of anger.  Yes, it was a passion for Him, but it was different from what we normally experience.  His anger was an anger that resulted from His perfect love.

In Jesus’ case, it was love for the sinner and His desire for their repentance that drove His passion.  His anger was directed at the sin they were engrossed in and He willfully and intentionally attacked the evil He saw.  Yes, this may have been shocking to those who witnessed it, but it was, in that situation, the most effective way for Him to call them to repentance.

At times we will find that we also must be angered by sin.  But be careful!  It’s very easy for us to use this example of Jesus to justify losing control of ourselves and entering into the sin of anger.  Righteous anger, as Jesus manifested, will always leave one with a sense of peace and love for those who are rebuked.  There will also be an immediate willingness to forgive when true contrition is perceived.

Reflect, today, upon the righteous anger God may want to put into your heart at times.  Again, be careful to discern it correctly.  Do not allow yourself to be deceived by this passion.  Rather, allow the love of God for others to be the driving force and allow a holy hatred for sin to direct you to act in a holy and just way.

Lord, help me to cultivate in my heart the holy and righteous anger that You desire I have.  Help me to discern between what is sinful and what is righteous.  May this passion and all my passion always be directed at achieving Your holy will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Further Reading – Dedication of the Lateran Basilica—Feast

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Worldly or Heavenly Success? Friday, November 8, 2019

Friday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

All Saints for Today

“For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light.”  Luke 16:8b

This line comes at the conclusion of the parable of the Dishonest Steward.  Jesus told this parable as a way of highlighting the fact that the “children of the world” are indeed successful in their manipulation of worldly things, whereas the “children of light” are not as shrewd when it comes to worldly things.  So what does this tell us?

It certainly does not tell us that we should enter into a worldly life striving to live by worldly standards and working toward worldly goals.  In fact, by acknowledging this fact about the worldly, Jesus is presenting us with a strong contrast as to how we should think and act.  We are called to be the children of light.  Therefore, we should not be surprised at all if we are not as successful in worldly things as others are who are immersed in the secular culture.

This is especially true when we look at the numerous “successes” of those who are fully immersed in the world and the values of the world.  Some are successful in obtaining great wealth, power or prestige by being shrewd in things of this age.  We see this in pop culture especially.  Take, for example, the entertainment industry.  There are many who are quite successful and popular in the eyes of the world and we can tend to have a certain envy of them.  Compare that to those who are filled with virtue, humility and goodness.  We often find that they go unnoticed.

So what should we do?  We should use this parable to remind ourselves that all that matters, in the end, is what God thinks.  How does God see us and the effort we give in living a holy life?  As children of the light, we must work only for that which is eternal, not for that which is worldly and passing.  God will provide for our worldly needs if we put our trust in Him.  We may not become huge successes in accord with worldly standards, but we will obtain greatness in regard to all that truly matters and all that is eternal.

Reflect, today, upon your priorities in life.  Are you focused on building up riches that are eternal?  Or do you continually find yourself caught up in the manipulations and shrewdness that has as a goal only worldly success?  Strive for that which is eternal and you will be eternally grateful.

Lord, help me to keep my eyes on Heaven.  Help me to be one who is wise in the ways of grace, mercy and goodness.  When I am tempted to live only for this world, help me to see what is of true value and stay focused on that alone.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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