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The Spirit’s Witness (Article)

Weekly meditation

 May 24, 2015. Pentecost Sunday
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The Power of the Spirit
May 24, 2015. Pentecost Sunday

John 20: 19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."

Introductory Prayer: Today, Lord, we celebrate the gift of your Holy Spirit to the Church, which you won for us through your patient suffering on the cross. I believe and trust in his power to make me a better apostle of your Kingdom, to bring fervor where I have grown tepid, to instill detachment where I have become too indulgent, and to perfect the innocence of my baptism, which leaves my soul more pure and worthy to serve and honor you each day.

Petition: Come Holy Spirit, fill my heart with your grace and enkindle in me the fire of your love.

  1. The Doors Were Locked: What is it that makes a disciple of Christ stop cold in the path of conversion and commitment? Cloaked underneath our spiritual inertia and lack of zeal are not so much our personal defects or our lack of human virtue as blindness to the dynamic power of the Crucified and Risen Lord. We can leave our self-made prisons only by opening our hearts to a faith in Christ that is total: total trust (in spite of the confusion of the present and uncertainty of the future), total hope (by breaking away from having to see the ideal in ourselves before we will act), and total divine confidence (in setting aside the sins of others and our personal failures that keep us stuck in myopic visions of life). Christ comes through bolted doors again today to ask us to unlock them with a real experience of the Risen Lord in the power of the Spirit.
  1. Peace Be With You: It is vital to examine our “peace” and see if it truly speaks of the peace of the Upper Room. Substitute “satisfaction” for the word “peace,” and see where our hearts have tried to find consolation this past week. Then substitute the word “fulfillment.” This is the peace that Christ brings through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Some passing satisfactions are part of life, and we can be grateful for them. When we seek them for their own sake, however, we can easily drown out the life of the Spirit, who comes to bring us deep peace and fulfillment in life. Pentecost must convince us above all about prayer and the order of life that permit us to have constant contact with sources of grace and divine inspiration.
  1. Receive the Holy Spirit: In the sacrament of penance, we are forgiven our sins through the action of the Holy Spirit, who makes the actions of Christ present through the priest. We believe that mercy founds hope and change in our soul. Why, then, do we not believe that this same grace from the Holy Spirit can make us heroic saints, victorious in trial, patient in difficult relationships and more effective as apostles? Christ assures us that his power will never leave us, so we have no reason to “slip into neutral” after a few bad incidents in our life. Rather, the Holy Spirit’s goal moves us from mercy to transformation into Christ, permitting us spiritually to carry and reveal his wounds to an unbelieving world.
Conversation with Christ: Oh, Jesus, I will trust more in the power of your Holy Spirit to change me than in my own efforts. I will depend on you in that face-to-face encounter I need to have with you every day. Let the sources of divine grace become my true food, and may I move away from feeding my soul on passing pleasures and vain ambitions. Resolution: This week, I will write down daily all the lights and inspirations of the Holy Spirit I receive, and I will try to act on them with promptness, confidence and generosity.
 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-05-24

The Price Is Right and the Choice Is Yours
May 25, 2015. Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Mark 10: 17-27

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother." He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, "Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God."

Introductory Prayer: Once again, Lord, I come to you to pray. Even though I cannot see you, I trust that you are present and want very much to instruct me in your teachings. In the same way you demonstrate your love for me by spending this time with me, I want to express my love for you by dedicating this time to you with a spirit of faith, confidence and attention. Here I am, Lord, to listen to you and respond with love.

Petition: Lord, help me to be detached from the goods of this world so I can follow you more closely.

  1. God Is Good: The rich young man recognized Christ’s goodness. He kneels down before him knowing that Jesus possesses something that he does not have. What is it? The spirit of unconditional love. Christ leads us out of ourselves and asks us to trust him more. And so, Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI encourages us, “I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life” (Homily, April 24, 2005).
  1. Looking at the Good Side of Things: It is easy to dwell on the cost of something. The young man’s face falls because he looks more at the cost than at the reward. The price is something that he would feel now, while the reward is something that will come later. How often in life do we experience this truth! The world we live in seeks instant gratification without wanting to pay the price. Rather than concentrating on the cost, we should focus on the benefits promised by God. We will discover that the cost is small and the benefits last forever. Do I have spiritual endurance? Am I am able to wait for the Lord and patiently invest in eternal goods now?
  1. Detachment: Saint Paul tells us that nothing can outweigh the knowledge of Christ Jesus. But in this man’s case, he had allowed something else to outweigh Christ. Comfort, security and material things beat the invitation of Christ to be perfect. Attachments lead to sadness; there is no room for God in a heart that is already full of the things of this world. Only detachment leads to true joy. God gives himself to the one who seeks him without any strings attached.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, help me to live a life of freedom. Help me to recognize your goodness. May my faith always see the good side of things, seeing all in my life as an opportunity to love you. I want to be attached to you and detached completely from my sinfulness.

Resolution: I will pick one thing that I can detach myself from today.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-05-25

The Rewards of Self Denial
May 26, 2015. Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, Priest

Mark 10:28-31

Peter began to say to Jesus, "We have given up everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first."

Introductory Prayer: Once again, Lord, I come to you to pray. Even though I cannot see you, I trust that you are present and want very much to instruct me in your teachings. In the same way that you demonstrate your love for me by spending this time with me, I want to express my love for you by dedicating this time to you with a spirit of faith, confidence and attention. Here I am, Lord, to listen to you and respond with love.

Petition: Lord, help me to have a pure intention in my acts of self-denial.

  1. Peter’s Question: At first glance Peter seems to be selfish, as if he were saying, “We have given up everything, now what’s in it for us?” His question is not prompted by selfishness, but rather is a response to Jesus’ previous statement that it is very hard for a rich man to enter heaven. In light of the difficulty of riches, Peter wants to know what the chances of entering the kingdom of God will be for someone who has given up everything to follow Christ. How detached from material possessions must we be in order to be assured a place in heaven? Jesus does not give us a concrete answer to this question, but he does tell us that those who have given up everything will not only receive a reward of eternal life in the age to come, but also ample reward in this life.
  1. The Real Motivation: Reward is not given only to those who simply give things up, but rather to those who give things up for the sake of Christ and for love of the Gospel. Sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice — or for that matter, sacrifice for a selfish reason — is worth nothing in God’s eyes. Sacrifice has value only when it is done for the sake of Christ and his Gospel, for love. Our intention in self-denial must be to glorify Christ or to witness to the Gospel message. Is this the real motivation of my self-denial?
  1. Eternal Life: The reward for our self-denial begins in this life and has its culmination in the life to come. The difference between one and the other is that in this life there are also persecutions. In this life we enjoy both the love of Christ and suffering persecutions for his sake. This life is a life of purification of our love, purification of our intentions. By proving our love now, we will enjoy life with Christ for all eternity.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, you know how attached I am to myself, my possessions and my comforts. Help me to give up what I need to give up — out of love for you and your Gospel, not out of love for myself or what I might get out of it. Help me not to be afraid to deny myself for the sake of drawing nearer to you.

Resolution: I will give up something that keeps me from drawing closer to God.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-05-26

On Sitting and Serving
May 27, 2015. Wednesday of the Eighth Week of Ordinary Time

By Father John Doyle, LC

Mark 10:32-45

The disciples were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the Twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again." James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." And he said to them, "What is it you want me to do for you?" And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They replied, "We are able." Then Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared." When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many.

Introductory Prayer: Once again, Lord, I come to you to pray. Even though I cannot see you, I trust that you are present and very much want to instruct me in your teachings. In the same way that you demonstrate your love for me by spending this time with me, I want to express my love for you by dedicating this time to you with a spirit of faith, confidence and attention. Here I am, Lord, to listen to you and respond with love.

Petition: Lord, help me imitate your example of loving service.

  1. Jesus Sets His Face Toward Jerusalem: Jesus is walking ahead of his disciples, firm and determined. A few of those following him are growing uneasy, but James and John seem not to grasp the seriousness of the situation. Jesus is accompanied, but in a certain sense, he is alone. Again and again he has tried to explain to his followers that his mission will lead him to be rejected and mocked and eventually to suffer the cruelest of deaths. But they seem incapable of grasping the message; from their vantage point, none of this makes any sense. At times we, too, hear Christ’s words about taking up our cross daily and losing our life for his sake, and we are either terrified at the prospect or its meaning eludes us. Jesus, however, continues inviting us to follow in his footsteps and carry our daily crosses with our eyes fixed on our heavenly home, the New Jerusalem.
  1. The Ambitions of James and John: James and John were hand-picked disciples of the Lord. Jesus had often allowed them to accompany him when he went off alone to pray. They both felt a deep affection for Our Lord, and so it is not surprising that they wished to be near him when he entered into his glory. Jesus doesn’t reproach them for their petition even though it comes at a moment when his heart is burdened with deeper concerns. Rather, Jesus invites them to reflect on the consequences of their request. To be on Jesus’ right and left in his glory means to pass through a similar trial as the one he must soon undergo –– they would have to be situated on his right and left on the day he is lifted up on the cross. Jesus also invites us to “seek the things above” and place our ambitions on heavenly sights and not earthly glory. If our love for Jesus is true, then it must withstand the test of trial and suffering.
  1. The True Meaning of Authority: Most of us prefer to command than obey. Ambition quickly leads to rivalry and bitter feelings, as happened to the twelve apostles. Jesus quickly intervenes and gives us a valuable lesson on the meaning of authority, a lesson to be taken to heart. Authority of any kind has only one purpose: service. Do I view the authority that I have been given as a service? Am I more concerned about being obeyed –– immediately and exactly –– than about setting an example for others? How can I be more like Jesus in exercising my authority? Do I realize this is a specific way of picking up my cross and following after Jesus?

Conversation with Christ: Jesus, help me to be zealous for the things of above. Do not allow my heart to be ambitious but rather be meek and gentle like yours.

Resolution: I will seek to serve others no matter who they are.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-05-27

Proclaiming God´s Merciful Love
May 28, 2015. Thursday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

By Father Eamonn Shelly, LC

Mark 10: 46-52

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Introductory Prayer: Once again, Lord, I come to you to pray. Even though I cannot see you, I trust that you are present and very much want to instruct me in your teachings. In the same way that you demonstrate your love for me by spending this time with me, I want to express my love for you, by dedicating this time to you with a spirit of faith, confidence and attention. Here I am, Lord, to listen to you and respond with love.

Petition: Lord, grant me to be a courageous witness of you and your Kingdom.

  1. Attentive Listening: We need to hear Christ telling us in our hearts to go and preach with our lives. We spend so much time thinking about ourselves and so little time thinking about Jesus and his Kingdom. Through baptism he has called us not just to know about our faith, but to act on it and share it with others. The blind beggar was attentive to Jesus passing by; this attentiveness was the first step to his cure.
  1. Fearless Proclamation: Christ wants us to be as St. Paul was: bold in preaching and defending the truth. He wants us to overcome human respect. Many times we catch ourselves being influenced by what others think and say, and we are incapable of being ourselves. The world tries to intimidate us by laughing at us and making us look ridiculous. What they really want to do is just force us to live our faith in a private manner without bearing witness to Christ and the truth. At those times we should be like Bartimaeus—crying out even more loudly, standing up for what is right, and sticking by it at all times. It’s going to cost us, but then again, didn’t it cost Christ his life to stand up for the truth?
  1. Restoration of Sight: Blind Bartimaeus’ life would never again be the same. He was completely transformed by Christ interiorly—even his physical ailment was cured. He could see again. “To see” means to understand our life and all it entails from God’s perspective. “To see” means that we are happy fulfilling God’s will for us, no matter what God is asking of us.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, I ask you to help me to see the great things you are doing in my life. Help me to see the moments of the cross as true opportunities to grow in my personal relationship with you.

Resolution: I will use Jesus Christ’s name and example in a conversation I have with someone today.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-05-28

Jesus and the Fig Tree
May 29, 2015. Friday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

By Father John Doyle, LC

Mark 11:11-26

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard it. Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the Temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the Temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the Temple. He was teaching and saying, "Is it not written, ´My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations´? But you have made it a den of robbers." And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered." Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ´Be taken up and thrown into the sea,´ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses."

Introductory Prayer: Once again, Lord, I come to you to pray. Even though I cannot see you, I trust that you are present and want very much to instruct me in your teachings. In the same way you demonstrate your love me by spending this time with me, I want to express my love for you by dedicating this time with you in a spirit of faith, confidence and attention. Here I am, Lord, to listen to you and respond with love.

Petition: Lord Jesus help me to learn how to unite prayer and action.

  1. Jesus and the Fig Tree: We witness Jesus withering a barren fig tree right down to its roots even though he knows that it is not the time for harvesting figs. Jesus never worked a miracle for himself, so we know it was not a punishment for not satisfying his hunger. This event immediately precedes his entering the Temple at Jerusalem where he expects to find people “busy about his Father’s affairs.” Instead he finds them occupied in worldly activity, and often fraudulent and unjust activity at that. The fruits of honesty and uprightness that Jesus expects to find are simply not there; so in a sense the fig tree symbolizes Jerusalem. Am I honest in my dealings with others? Do I realize that the Lord expects me to bear fruit? Do I invest my time well, in both prayer and action, to this end?
  1. All in a Day’s Work: This Gospel passage would make for a good documentary on a day in the life of Christ. He starts out early from Bethany to Jerusalem, he enters the Temple, faces the wrath of those there as he cleanses it, and then teaches for the rest of the day before returning to Bethany late in the evening. The very next day he begins his ministry again by teaching on the importance of faith in prayer. Jesus did not waste a second of his day; rather, he went about fulfilling his Father’s will. Still, Jesus was not a busybody. He did not generally meddle in others’ affairs, but he certainly was not about to allow worldly activity of a dishonest nature in his Father’s house. And so he throws the dishonest merchants out of Temple. Do I use my time well? Does that include the time I dedicate to prayer? Do I always act respectfully in God’s house where my Eucharistic Lord dwells?
  1. Praying with Faith: Prayer and action are intimately tied together. Jesus was right in driving the moneychangers and animals from the Temple. Certainly we’re not supposed to busy ourselves with worldly affairs while we’re in church. But it’s very proper to bring our worries and concerns, our joys, successes and failures to Christ in prayer. It’s good for us to ask Our Lord his viewpoint about our concerns and ask for his grace to continue on. And when we do set aside time specifically for prayer to encounter Christ, then we find the strength and desire to spread his message to others. It’s through prayer that we’re filled with apostolic zeal. When we dedicate our day to loving service of God, our day itself becomes a prayer. Is my prayer the source of interior strength, and is my action a loving prayer?

Conversation with Christ: My Jesus, you ask much of me, but you are always at my side assisting me with your grace and presence. Help me to use my time wisely on behalf of your Kingdom.

Resolution: I will program in five extra minutes of prayer today for the sake of serving Christ better.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-05-29

From Heaven or Earth?
May 30, 2015. Saturday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

By Father John Doyle, LC

Mark 11:27-33

Jesus and his disciples returned once more to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the Temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, "By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?" Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me." They argued with one another, "If we say, ´From heaven,´ he will say, ´Why then did you not believe him?´ But shall we say, ´Of human origin´?” - they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

Introductory Prayer: Once again, Lord, I come to you to pray. Even though I cannot see you, I trust that you are present and want very much to instruct me in your teachings. In the same way you demonstrate your love for me by spending this time with me, I want to express my love for you by dedicating this time to you with a spirit of faith, confidence and attention. Here I am, Lord, to listen to you and respond with love.

Petition: Jesus, grant me true sincerity and uprightness of life.

  1. The Day After: It was the day after Jesus had caused an uproar in the Temple at Jerusalem, the like of which had not been seen for a long time. Jesus had overturned the moneychangers’ tables and driven out the animals. Anyone else would surely have landed in prison, but this was Christ, and his hour had not yet come. Still the chief priests and scribes are looking for an explanation –– or better an excuse –– to accuse Jesus. He shrewdly answers their inquiry with a question that they cannot answer for fear of revealing their insincerity before the crowds. How this insincerity on the part of the scribes and Pharisees offended Our Lord! He would not speak to them plainly because their purpose was to twist his words. Do I detest insincerity as well? Do I find traces of dishonesty in my own life? Am I more concerned about what others think or about what Christ thinks?
  1. Why Did You Not Believe in Him? Jesus did not say these words, but they knew he could have. Their troubled consciences were aware it would have been a fitting accusation. Why had they not believed in the precursor of the Lord? Was it not for the same reasons that they would not believe in the Lord himself? John the Baptist had called them on their insincerity. They went to receive his baptism of repentance, but they did not really mean to amend their lives. Would Jesus have to reproach me for any insincerity? Do I ever go to receive the sacrament of penance without a real desire to change my life? Or do I avoid confession altogether because I really don’t see anything in my behavior that needs to change?
  1. We Do Not Know: This is certainly not the first or the last time that ignorance is pleaded to avoid the consequences of the truth, but this kind of ignorance is clearly culpable. The speakers were not uneducated men, but rather the leaders of God’s people, responsible for guiding them along the way of God’s covenant. While it was generally accepted that John the Baptist had been a great prophet who stirred sinners to repentance with his preaching and example of austerity, the Jewish authorities were unwilling to accept that anyone besides themselves could claim any authority in God’s name. Truly they did know, but they were unwilling to accept the truth. Do I ever lean on ignorance in plowing forward with some action that I’m not sure is quite right?
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, at times I know what your will for me is, but it costs me greatly to put it into practice. Sometimes I am too worried about what others think and say, or I am afraid of the consequences. Grant me a spirit of sincerity and strength always to accept and follow your will. Resolution: I will arrive a little early to Mass tomorrow in order to spend a few quiet moments with Our Lord asking for the grace of always being sincere and upright in my actions.
 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-05-30

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