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Weekly meditation

 September 28, 2014. Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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A New Mentality
September 28, 2014. Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 21: 28-32

"What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ´Son, go and work in the vineyard today.´ He answered, ´I will not´; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ´I am on my way, sir´; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

Introductory Prayer: In you, Lord, I find all my joy and happiness. How could I offend you by chasing after fleeting success and lifeless trophies? I believe in you because you are truth itself. I hope in you because you are faithful to your promises. I love you because you have loved me first. I am a sinner; nevertheless, you have given me so many blessings. I humbly thank you.

Petition: Lord, help me to follow you, regardless of circumstances and times.

1. A Higher Authority: Jesus is in Jerusalem, exchanging words with the Pharisees. They have tried to trap our Lord by asking him from where he gets his authority. Our Lord, in his wit, turns it back to them. He asks them a question which brings them to accuse themselves of lacking fidelity to God. Jesus is looking for faith. Faith is the attitude that searches for an authority in life higher than one’s own. When God calls us to live his will, we should in faith accept it and live it. Even if it seems inconvenient or uncomfortable to us, we should not look for ways to live outside it. It is very important that we bypass inauthentic outlooks on life.

2. Christ’s Mentality: If we are to understand this Gospel passage, we must make an effort to rid ourselves of the “modern mentality”. In the modern mentality, we do whatever we please as long as we don’t step on anyone else’s toes. Jesus proposes a different mentality. Jesus suggests that we not only listen to, but also do the will of God in our lives. Neither son in this parable was perfectly in tune with Christ’s suggestion, but at least one of the sons came to his senses and repented for his stubbornness of heart.

3. An Apparent Defeat: Many of us reading through this scene would congratulate Jesus for putting down his enemies and winning the debate. We would toss confetti at the Lord for his wisdom and knowledge in getting out of this predicament. This, though, wasn’t the case. Jesus felt it as a loss. He did not care about appearing better than the others. He left this encounter saddened because he truly desired that the Pharisees believe him and accept his saving message. We ought not to try to shine over our foes. Instead we should work hard to help them see the light.

Conversation with Christ: With even a little of your charity, I could certainly be a son of two “yeses.” Help me to say “yes” when you ask me something and also to do it immediately – without hesitating for even a moment. Lord, may your will be done!

Resolution: This week, when the alarm goes off early to start my day, I will make an effort to be diligent and punctual for love of God’s will.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2014-09-28

Angelic Company
September 29, 2014. Feast of Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel and Saint Raphael, archangels

John 1: 47-51

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him." Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this." And he said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I approach this time of prayer earnestly. I believe that you have called me to be faithful and loving in your service. I thank you along with Mary, the saints and the holy angels for the marvelous works of creation. I will humbly try to reflect your greatness to all I meet today by honestly fulfilling my duty.

Petition: Lord, help me be an instrument of your peace and love.

1. Honesty Is the Best Policy: Once as Jesus spent the whole night in prayer, he searched for apostles that would be honest and sincere. Jesus took a liking to Nathanael when he discovered an Israelite without guile in his heart. Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him. It seems that Jesus admired this angelic trait in men. As soon as he saw Philip bringing Nathanael forward to meet him, Jesus immediately noticed the virtue Nathanael lived. If I want to be highly thought of by Jesus, then I need to be sincere in mind and heart.

2. The Holy Angels: The Church venerates today the holy service of three of the archangels. They stand out for their honest love for God’s most holy will. With such fidelity, St. Gabriel faithfully delivered the most important messages of human history to Zacharias and Mary. St. Michael wrestled with Lucifer and cast him out of heaven. St. Raphael came to the aid of Tobias in the Old Testament. In these angels there isn’t any duplicity of heart. God asks them a favor and they truly fulfill it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to implement our talents and gifts toward a service of this nature? Wouldn’t it be great to be honest instruments of God’s infinite love like these three archangels?

3. The Lord’s Gaze: Jesus looks into the heart and doesn’t judge by appearances. Christ’s gaze penetrated Nathanael on this occasion. Jesus penetrates the motives of my heart even though they are kept hidden from the others. Jesus is the first one to know if I am true to the faith I have received. If I am faithful to the dictates of my conscience and obey God’s lead, in private or in public, then I have nothing to hide and nothing to lose. If on the other hand, I am dwindling in my surrender to Christ by boredom and monotony, then it is about time I sought renewal. Christ needs me! How many are dying and fading away because they lack Christ and his love? I, in turn, have been graced by many special spiritual favors! Jesus gazes into my eyes and dreams of my fidelity and love.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, thank you for the example of these three archangels and of the holy apostles. The holy apostles ended up shedding their blood for you and the holy angels aid us on our journey towards you. Lord, seeing so many lacking the faith, I resolve to be your tireless instrument, like them, so that many may come to praise you for all eternity.

Resolution: I will visit the Eucharist (if this is impossible, then kneel before the crucifix) and repeat confidently, Lord I wish to be your instrument – help me!

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2014-09-29

The Real Fight until the End

The Real Fight until the End

When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

Introductory Prayer: In you, Lord, I find all my joy and happiness. How could I offend you by chasing after fleeting success and lifeless trophies? I believe in you because you are truth itself. I hope in you because you are faithful to your promises. I love you because you have loved me first. I am a sinner; nevertheless, you have given me so many blessings. I humbly thank you.

Petition: Lord Jesus, make me meek and humble of heart.

1. An Unpopular Strategy: military term: “resolutely”. Nevertheless, even though he was engaged in fierce combat, Jesus didn’t show it in a way the world understood. Our Lord approached his battle in Jerusalem like a sheep being led to the slaughter. His strategy was humility. Humility was the atomic bomb that he would drop on Satan’s designs and plans. He thus undid the pride and arrogance of Lucifer.

2. A Lesson in Humility: St. John the Evangelist is an active participant in this passage. He himself knew that Jesus’ purpose was to wage war (see 1 John 3:8), and he and his brother dreamed of being well-decorated in Jesus’ battalion. They sought places at his right and left hand in the Kingdom (see Mark 10:35-37), and now they seek to use their rank as apostles to bring down revenge on their opponents. Jesus rebuked them, redefining for them the idea of kingship in his reign. They learned quickly that the weapons of attack were kindness, gentleness, charity and humility.

3. Mission Oriented: In military standards, a commander-in-chief might have considered the incident in Samaria a defeat. Christ was uprooted from their presence, so humanly speaking, he lost. This however, is not the case. Had Jesus complained or retaliated against the fanaticism of the Samaritans, that would have been a defeat. Instead, the Gospel tells us: “They journeyed to another village.” Simple as that! Christ won victory because he didn’t waste time on fickle, whimsical and capricious expectations; rather as a true soldier, he forgave, forgot and continued to the next town.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, allow me to understand the bumps and bruises of your “boot camp.” It is hard to understand why life is so taxing for my weak nature, but I know that we are at war with the forces of evil. Seeing you die for this war and winning it gives me greater courage to commit my bit to the war effort. Help me to prefer the virtue of humility over my pride.

Resolution: Today, I will be to the one who does an everyday chore in my house. I will make the coffee for all or wash the dishes to demonstrate to the Lord (and myself) that I can be humble.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2014-09-30

Costly Christ
October 1, 2014. Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Luke 9: 57-62

As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, "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." And to another he said, "Follow me." But he replied, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father." But he answered him, "Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God." And another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home." To him Jesus said, "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God."

Introductory Prayer: In you, Lord, I find all my joy and happiness. How could I offend you by chasing after fleeting success and lifeless trophies? I believe in you because you are truth itself. I hope in you because you are faithful to your promises. I love you because you have loved me first. I am a sinner; nevertheless, you have given me so many blessings. I humbly thank you.

Petition: Let me willingly accept the cost of following in your footsteps.

1. Hidden Expenses: A would-be disciple of Jesus´ boasts that he will follow Our Lord anywhere, whatever the sacrifice. Jesus´ response makes us wonder whether the fellow understood what he would be getting into. Following Christ is demanding — and not always glamorous. We might dream of doing great things for Christ, but then find the day-to-day struggle distasteful ("the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head"). Unglamorous challenges take many forms. A new wife might discover to her chagrin that her husband can´t handle finances. Or a parent with high hopes learns that a child has a learning disability that will limit her ability to excel. Or a husband takes a higher-paying job to support his family, only to find his new boss is a tyrant. Or a teen suffers ridicule at public school for her modest clothes. All these trials can be the cost of following Christ. What price am I willing to pay?

2. Family Ties: Christ tries to dissuade another would-be follower from "burying his father." The man was probably settling his father´s estate and getting too involved in family finances. Our Lord wanted him to cut with all that, immediately, and get on with the work of the Kingdom. Too often money matters distract us from doing what Christ wants. No wonder St. Paul warns, "The love of money is the root of all evils" (1 Timothy 6:10). Is money holding me back in my relationship with Christ? Am I working longer hours than I need to, just for the sake of money?

3. Long Good-bye: The moment of decision had arrived. But instead of joining Jesus´ camp, the would-be disciple felt the tug of family ties. As followers of Christ, we have to be willing to make a fundamental option for Christ — an option that by necessity excludes other paths. Does this sound hard? It should sound familiar. Think of the young woman who says yes to a proposal of marriage. She does so assuming that her beloved has long broken off other romantic relationships. Or take the student who decides to go out for the soccer team at school. He rules out spending hours of practice on the basketball court. By extension, if we want to follow Christ, why do we fritter away hours in activities that have nothing to do with our faith or the Church? Are there things I need to weed out of my life?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me focus my energies better on you and what you are asking of me. Let me not be distracted by activities or material possessions or even relationships that aren´t helping my spiritual life.

Resolution: I will weed out one thing from my life that doesn´t fit in with my state as a Christian. It could be a Web site, a subscription to a publication, an immodest piece of clothing, a relationship.

By Father Edward McIlmail, LC

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2014-10-01

Heavenly Helpers
October 2, 2014. Feast of the Guardian Angels

Matthew 18: 1-5, 10

The disciples approached Jesus and said, "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?" He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father."

Introductory Prayer: Father in heaven, thank you for giving me another day to grow in love for you, another day to move ahead in my spiritual life, another day to pray for the souls closest to me. I want only to please you during this brief time of prayer.

Petition: Lord, grant me the grace of childlike simplicity.

1. Turning the Tables: The disciples are curious about the Kingdom of Heaven, and their curiosity has a tinge of self-interest. They want to know how to get ahead in the Kingdom. Their very question belies a misunderstanding of Christ. The Kingdom, among other things, is reflected in the Church on earth. And the Church, being universal, is a kind of family that takes in all mankind. If ever we ask, “Who is the greatest in our family?” we can be sure that it is the wrong kind of question. The more appropriate question is: “How can I be a better member of the family? How can I be a better husband? A better wife? A better son or daughter or brother or sister?” That is the question Christ wants us to ask ourselves.

2. Child´s Play: We must not think that Christ had a naive notion of children as little angels who never do wrong. So why does Christ hold up children as models for the rest of us? In part, it is their simplicity, their tendency to trust. They might not understand why a parent tells them something, but they likely will accept it because they realize it comes from someone who loves them. The spiritual life requires that same kind of trust. We might not understand completely why God asks us to do something, but if there´s a basic trust and openness to him, it is easier to follow his commands. Many people, unfortunately, squander what should be the most productive years of their lives because they doubt God and his Church. They complicate things, only to find years later the wisdom of what Our Lord was trying to tell them. By then, their faults can be forgiven, but not undone. Once a vase is broken, it can be fixed but it will never be the same as if it had never broken. Am I saying no to God because of a lack of trust?

3. Angelic Aid: Prayers to guardian angels used to be popular with Catholics. It is fitting that we pray to them, because each of us has one. "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life," writes St. Basil (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 336). Our angel reflects God´s loving providence for our welfare and protection. The world is a moral minefield, waiting for us to make the wrong step. Our angel helps us make it through this valley of tears. Do I ever think to pray to my angel?

Conversation with Christ: The simplicity of children can make me look foolish by comparison. I believe in you and trust you, Lord. Help me to translate that trust into serenity and simplicity. Let me accept the crosses of daily life with calmness, seeing your loving designs behind them.

Resolution: I will say “yes” to the next difficult thing someone asks of me, so long as it is something morally good.

By Father Edward McIlmail, LC

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2014-10-02

Payback Time
October 3, 2014. Friday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 10: 13-16

Jesus said to them, "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And as for you, Capernaum, ´Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.´" Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me . And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are with me as I begin this prayer. I trust in your kindness and love. You know my weaknesses because you saw them all during the agony you underwent for me on Good Friday. Let me stay as close to you in this prayer as your Mother did to you at the foot of the cross. Accept this as the expression of my love for you.

Petition: Lord, help me to never take your gifts for granted. Help me to appreciate them and use them to the best of my ability, for your glory.

1. The Privileged Few: Today we see another side of Jesus in the Gospel. Often we see him as the miracle worker, curing the sick, raising the dead. But now we see the flipside of these miracles: Christ demands a response from the people who have witnessed them. It´s not enough that people stare in wonderment at Our Lord´s mighty deeds. Those deeds, among other things, prove his divine origin and the truthfulness of his message. Part of that message demands repentance and conversion. Closer to our own day we can think of the tens of millions of people who personally saw Pope Saint John Paul II in his many public appearances. How many of those people actually changed their lives after the encounter? How have I responded to God´s grace and favor in my life? Have I taken God´s graces for granted?

2. The Not-so-Blessed: God in his mysterious design seems to favor some souls with gifts not given to others. Here, Jesus acknowledges that Tyre and Sidon – pagan towns – would have responded better to his miracles than did Chorazin and Capernaum. That begs the question: Why didn´t Jesus perform more miracles in those Gentile towns? Alas, ours is not the place to question the wisdom of God. Suffice it to say that Christ gives some of us more than he gives others, and he expects to see a return on his investment. It´s not enough that we keep our faith untarnished and sitting on a shelf, hidden from the world. No. The gift of faith should prompt us to strive for holiness, for continual conversion of heart, and for zeal to build the Church. Does faith impact my life like that?

3. Domino Effect: Christ´s authority includes his ability to delegate it. To the Church, he gives the power to bind and to loose. "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained" (John 20:23). Moreover, Number 891 of the Catechism observes that "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys […] infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful -- who confirms his brethren in the faith -- he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals." When we follow the Holy Father´s teaching, we honor the One who gave him authority. And Our Lord´s authority extends in other areas: to parents over their dependent children, to government officials who oversee the common good, etc. Do I respect the legitimate authority of those around me? Do I understand that obedience to legitimate authority is a form of obedience to God himself?

Conversation with Christ: Jesus, help me see that your obedience to Pilate on Good Friday was part of your obedience to your loving Father in heaven. Let me understand that obedience to legitimate authority is a means of growth in humility and holiness.

Resolution: I will carry out one request that a legitimate authority (a boss, a parent, etc.) has been asking of me… and do it with joy.

By Father Edward McIlmail, LC

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2014-10-03

Better Than Success
October 4, 2014. Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi

Luke 10: 17-24

The seventy-two disciples returned rejoicing, and said, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name." Jesus said, "I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power ´to tread upon serpents´ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven." At that very moment he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him." Turning to the disciples in private he said, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it."

Introductory Prayer: Jesus, I approach you in prayer, knowing that these are some of the most important moments of the day. This time I spend with you helps put the rest of the day in perspective and gives me a sense of my total dependence on you. With childlike simplicity I trust in your loving providence. Though I am unworthy to be in your presence, I at least want to offer you my best effort during this prayer, seeking only to please you.

Petition: Let me see, Holy Spirit, that the most important thing in life is to reach heaven, and to act as if I really believe that.

1. Name-dropping: The disciples marvel at the power of Jesus´ name, even before demons. Such is the great power of Christ in the world. "There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved" (Acts 4:12). Christ, as the Messiah who came to redeem us, is in a league by himself. Thus, all authentic devotion, be it to Mary, be it to a favorite patron saint, only has sense insofar as it leads us to Christ. He is and remains the best model for us. As Vatican II teaches, Christ "fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear" (Gaudium et Spes, 22). Is there anyone I put ahead of Christ in my life?

2. The Ledger: Jesus seems to shrug off the victories over Satan. What he deems more important for his disciples is that their names are written in heaven. Indeed, Christianity is about more than just defeating the devil. Ours is an eminently positive faith, designed to help us grow in our love for God and in our imitation of the virtues of Christ. As an exercise in love, it is open-ended, always inviting us to do more for others and for Christ. Love knows no limits, so we shouldn´t think that we "have arrived." Do I understand that I´m called to love and to imitate Christ till the last moment of life?

3. Model Son: Love drives Christ, specifically love for his heavenly Father. The realization that he does his Father´s will impels Christ to undergo hardships, tiredness, hunger and rejection. But he won´t be deterred. As a young man in love, Christ seems to have an endless reserve of energy for the sake of his Beloved. It is his secret source of strength, so to speak. Thus he teaches us a deep truth of human nature. "Man cannot live without love," wrote Pope Saint John Paul II in his first encyclical. "He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him." If ever we feel burned out by the world, we should ask ourselves, “How much do I love others? Do I gladly sacrifice myself for others? Do I seek the good of others first?”

Conversation with Christ: My faith is first and foremost a relationship with you, Lord. It requires a constant response of love on my part. Help me be generous in responding to your inspirations toward love.

Resolution: I will show thanks for my faith by doing an extra act of charity today.

By Father Edward McIlmail, LC

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2014-10-04

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