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Glimpsing the Depths of Jesus
By Father James Swanson, LC
John 6: 24-35
When the crowd saw
that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves
got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said
to him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus answered
them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you
are looking for me not because you saw signs but
because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not
work for food that perishes but for the food that
endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will
give you. For on him the Father, God, has set
his seal." So they said to him, "What can we
do to accomplish the works of God?" Jesus answered and
said to them, "This is the work of God, that
you believe in the one he sent.” The crowd said
to Jesus, "What sign can you do, that we may
see and believe in you? What can you do? Our
ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
He gave them bread from heaven to eat.´" So Jesus
said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, it
was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my
Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the
bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world." So they said to
him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to
them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to
me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will
Introductory Prayer: Jesus, I believe that you are present
in my life. You know all of my thoughts, desires,
intentions and deeds. Yet you love me anyway. Thank you
for the supreme gift of yourself to us in the
Eucharist, where we can truly encounter you: body, blood, soul
and divinity. I trust in your love and abandon myself
Petition: Lord, help me not to look for signs,
but to rest in your love.
- What Have You Done
for Me Lately? The crowd asks Jesus for a sign,
and this is strange. Isn’t this the same crowd that
he fed the day before with five loaves and two
fish (cf. John 6:1-14)? Didn’t they say at the time,
“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to
come into the world.” (John 6:14)? Didn’t Jesus have to
escape from them since they wanted to make him king
(cf. John 6:15)? Sometimes, I’m the same way. There is
an abundance of things that Jesus has done for me.
At the moment they happen, I receive them with joy.
Perhaps I am grateful, but more often than not, I
don’t give Jesus enough credit. And even if I do
thank him, on the following day (sometimes even sooner), I
seem to have forgotten. And I go on asking more
favors. Maybe I have the attitude that he never does
anything for me. How can I be so dense to
not grasp all the signs of love that he shows
me every day?
- The Crowd Is Condemned by the
Very Psalm They Quote to Jesus: The crowd quotes Scripture
to Jesus, trying to get him to multiply more loaves:
“He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” (Psalm 78:24)
They are looking for their own material benefit and want
him to do a miracle that will feed them every
day, like the manna in the desert that fed their
forefathers for forty years. Yet their own words condemn them.
Psalm 78 is about the hard-heartedness of their forefathers in
the desert in spite of the manna and other signs
the Lord worked for them: “And they ate and were
well filled, for he gave them what they craved…. In
spite of all this they still sinned; they did not
believe in his wonders” (Psalm 78:29, 32). Doesn’t Jesus deal
with me at least as well as he did with
the Israelites in the wilderness? Hasn’t he always been on
hand to help me?
- Jesus Always Gives Us Better
Than What We Ask For: They are asking for more
ordinary bread. Jesus promises them something better – bread to
feed the spirit. He starts by talking about ordinary things
and then elevates the conversation to more spiritual things. We
are well aware how much we need certain everyday things,
like bread. Jesus is trying to help us see we
need something to feed us spiritually just as much –
if not more. The crowd ate yesterday and was satisfied
yesterday. Today, they are hungry again, and come again to
Jesus hoping to be given something like manna that will
feed them every day so they won’t have to worry
about ordinary hunger again. Jesus goes beyond that and speaks
to them of a bread that is coming, a bread
that will feed them spiritually so that they will never
have to hunger spiritually again. He gives them something far
better than what they ask for: the bread of his
Conversation with Christ: Dear Jesus, so often I see
things only from my own selfish perspective. I think very
materialistically, not glimpsing all that is happening on the supernatural
level, especially the supernatural gifts you give me every day.
Help me to be more spiritual and less selfish. Help
me to trust in your goodness and loving guidance.
will find a way to visit Jesus in the Eucharist
today. If it is really impossible, I will make a
spiritual communion, asking Jesus to come into my heart even
though I cannot receive him in this moment and asking
him to increase my faith, hope and love in him.
Feed Them Yourselves!
August 3, 2015. Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a
boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard
of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart
was moved with pity for them, and he cured their
sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and
said, "This is a deserted place and it is already
late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to
the villages and buy food for themselves." Jesus said to
them, "There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves." But they said to him,
"Five loaves and two fish are all we have here."
Then he said, "Bring them here to me," and he
ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking
the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up
to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and
gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them
to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and
they picked up the fragments left over-- twelve wicker baskets
full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not
counting women and children.
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I believe you
want me to have faith in you, faith that hearkens
to your words without any second guessing. I hope in
your words, not relying solely on my own strength or
reasoning. I love you. You continue to astonish me by
showing me that your ways are not my ways.
Jesus, increase my faith.
- When Our Efforts Bear Little Fruit:
Our mission is to extend Christ’s Kingdom in society. Each
one of us must do so according to his or
her state in life. At times, however, it may seem
that our efforts are not bringing about the desired results.
We love Christ so much, and yet so many of
our family, friends and acquaintances do not know or love
him at all. We love our country and wish that
all our fellow countrymen would discover for themselves the beauty
of our Catholic faith. We know that in this faith
lie all the answers to the fundamental questions and aspirations
of the human heart. We work hard, we brainstorm initiatives,
we join with others, we strive to do our best,
and yet, it sometimes seems that others are not hearing
Christ’s message. What is wrong? What more can we do?
- Feed Them Yourselves: Our Lord tells the apostles to
feed the multitude. How could they possibly feed 5,000 men,
not to mention women and children? They had only five
loaves and two fish. Surely this was a parable, they
thought. They were too focused on how little they could
do; they did not see beyond their own weakness. What
went through their heads when he told them to sit
the people down in groups? What did they say in
that moment? We don’t know. We do know, however, that
they listened to Christ. They did what they were told.
They did not go about complaining that it was pointless.
And so, in their act of obedience they actually began
to feed the people themselves.
- What Is Impossible for
Man Is Possible for God: Our Lord multiplied the loaves
of bread and the fish by his divine power. Interestingly,
he fed the people through the Twelve. The apostles, despite
their weakness, were the vessels who distributed the multiplied bread
and fish to the people. Christ can do great things
in us as well, if we let him. In the
face of the challenges of the New Evangelization, if we
bring our weakness and limitations to Christ and are ready
to do as he asks, then we, too, shall bear
Conversation with Christ: Once again, Lord, you show us
your goodness and kindness. The apostles turned to yand poured
out their hearts. And you answered their prayers, giving them
fruits beyond all measure. Lord, I want to pray as
they prayed. I want to do what you ask as
they did, in faith and love.
Resolution: I will ask for
the grace to serve as Christ’s vessel of evangelization, striving
not to allow difficulties to cause me to lose heart.
August 4, 2015. Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest
Matthew 14: 22-36
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat
and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed
the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the
mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he
was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles
offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the
wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the
night, he came toward them, walking on the sea. When
the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were
terrified. "It is a ghost," they said, and they cried
out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, "Take
courage, it is I; do not be afraid." Peter said
to him in reply, "Lord, if it is you, command
me to come to you on the water." He said,
"Come." Peter got out of the boat and began to
walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw
how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning
to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus
stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to
him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
"Truly, you are the Son of God." After making the
crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the men
of that place recognized him, they sent word to all
the surrounding country. People brought to him all those who
were sick and begged him that they might touch only
the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched
it were healed.
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I believe you want
me to have faith in you, faith that hearkens to
your words without any second guessing. I hope in your
words, not relying solely on my own strength or reasoning.
I love you. You continue to astonish me by showing
me that your ways are not my ways.
Petition: Lord, may
my prayer lead me to step out from my comfort
- Loneliness and Prayer: Jesus dismissed the crowds and
went up on the mountain by himself to pray. He
was willing to leave the comfort of others’ company to
be alone with God. Being in silence without others may
lead briefly to a certain loneliness and interior emptiness. We
may feel the impulse to seek out others – anything
– to anesthetize us from the pain of being alone.
If this is the case, we need to persevere in
prayer. This suffering from silence can turn into joy and
peace. But we must remain with God and learn to
enjoy his presence in quiet prayer.
- Fear of Prayer:
"Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." Peter
said to him in reply, "Lord, if it is you,
command me to come to you on the water." At
times our fear of silent prayer can be stronger than
Peter’s fear of Jesus on the water. We are so
used to the company of others, of keeping busy, of
being needed, of “zoning out”, that we fear relinquishing these
comforts even for a short time of prayer. We must
be willing to give up these common comforts, at least
temporarily, if we will learn to pray. We must empty
ourselves to be filled by Christ, to trust and rely
on his strength.
- A Firm Resolve: “After they got
into the boat, the wind died down.” Once we “get
into the boat,” that is, once we resolve to embrace
silent, focused prayer, our fears die down like the wind.
We have to make a firm decision to dive full
force into our prayer, overcoming inertia of every stripe, if
we wish to experience the freedom, peace and joy of
true prayer. Ask the Lord for that grace and be
generous as you begin.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, you know the
sluggishness I experience as I set out to pray. You
know how I am tempted to put it off and
just do something else. Give me the faith and courage
to launch into the deep – to begin to pray
with all my heart.
Resolution: I will make a firm resolve
to pray intensely today.
August 5, 2015. Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 15: 21-28
At that time Jesus withdrew to the region
of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of
that district came and called out, "Have pity on me,
Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a
demon." But he did not say a word in answer
to her. His disciples came and asked him, "Send her
away, for she keeps calling out after us." He said
in reply, "I was sent only to the lost sheep
of the house of Israel." But the woman came and
did him homage, saying, "Lord, help me." He said in
reply, "It is not right to take the food of
the children and throw it to the dogs." She said,
"Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that
fall from the table of their masters." Then Jesus said
to her in reply, "O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish." And
her daughter was healed from that hour.
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus,
I believe you want me to have faith in you,
faith that hearkens to your words without any second guessing.
I hope in your words, not relying solely on my
own strength or reasoning. I love you. You continue to
astonish me by showing me that your ways are not
Petition: Lord, fill my heart with gratitude and trust
even when those I love suffer.
- My daughter… “My daughter
is tormented by a demon.” Sufferings of strangers stir our
compassion. But when a son or daughter suffers, anguish can
reach fever pitch. Imagine the agony of the mother in
this Gospel passage. Imagine the near-physical pain she felt in
the depths of her heart. However, her love nourished her
hope and propelled her to seek out Christ. When those
we love suffer, we need the same wisdom to seek
- Unfathomed Dimensions: Only a mother or father
knows the depths of his or her love for a
child: “Words cannot express.…” We truly understand love when it
involves people we know and love. Contemplate the passion of
our Lord Jesus Christ. Imagine the false accusations, scourging, humiliations
and the crucifixion. Now imagine your own son or daughter,
or mom or dad or loved one, suffering the same
fate. Christ’s passion takes on a new dimension.
Title to God’s Grace: "Please, Lord, for even the dogs
eat the scraps that fall from the table of their
masters." Faith and humility move Christ’s heart. How easily we
adopt a spoiled-child mentality, believing that we deserve more. “The
earth doesn’t owe you a living,” a sage once said.
“It was here before you.” How much happier we are
when we acknowledge our littleness and unworthiness, when we recognize
our status as creatures of God who gives us life,
breath and every beat of our heart. All we possess
is a gift of his creative love. How happy we
are when we are grateful and let him know this
a thousand times a day.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, I will
praise and thank you a thousand times and in a
thousand ways for all you do for me. Even sufferings,
I know, come from your hand for my greater good,
although I may not always perceive the good at that
moment. Give me the gratitude, faith and trust to accept
my cross and rejoice in your creative love for me.
I will thank the Lord repeatedly throughout the day.
Love’s Labor Transfigured
August 6, 2015. Transfiguration of the Lord
Mark 9: 2-10
Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John,
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became
dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach
them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and
they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus
in reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents: one for you, one for
Moses, and one for Elijah." He hardly knew what to
say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting
a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice,
"This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." Suddenly, looking
around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with
As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged
them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the
dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what
rising from the dead meant.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in
your wondrous shining glory, although this is hidden from my
eyes. I hope in the peace and everlasting joy of
the world to come, for this world is a valley
of tears. I love you, even though I am not
always able to discern the love in your intentions when
you permit me to suffer. You are my God and
Petition: Lord, detach my heart from the world, and
allow me to live for love of you.
- The Great
Exodus: Jesus was conversing with Moses and Elijah about his
exodus: the liberation of mankind from the slavery to sin.
He was not speaking about the miracles he would perform,
the comforts or beauty of this world, or the ambitions
he might hold. He was not concerned with the opportunities
he might have to use his talents, to achieve great
things, to win esteem from others, to make a name
for himself, or to rest and relax. Jesus was not
speaking about any of these things. His only desire was
his exodus – his suffering and death and departure from
this world to glorify his Father, fulfilling his will by
- The Promised Land: Our hearts can love
and be attached to many things: ambitions, desires, hopes, esteem,
comfort, getting things done, using our talents, self-fulfillment. Our Lord
chose to subordinate all these possibilities to the love of
his Father. This is what it means to follow Christ
and be “detached” from the world: to be ready to
give up any of these goods for love of Christ,
should he require us to do so. We must be
so in love with Christ that we esteem him more
than all of these other loves. This is the true
Promised Land and true liberation from the slavery of egoism.
The fruits of dying to self in this way are
joy, peace, love and eternal life.
- Rising from a
Seed: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground
and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat” (John
12:24). All of our loves have to be purified, dying
like seeds in the ground, because all of our loves
have a strong elements of self-centeredness embedded in them. It
is this self-centeredness that must be uprooted and die. If
we analyze what we love we will see that this
is true. A wife who loves her husband may experience
a self-centered aspect of her love that causes her to
seek to control him. A father who loves his son
might punish him out of his anger instead of for
the son’s greater good. The self-centered element of our love
impoverishes and tarnishes it, causing us, in reality, to love
much less than we are capable of loving.
Conversation with Christ:
Lord, free my heart from every selfish aspect of my
love. Help me make that generous step of “dying to
self” in this way. Help me to understand that this
will always lead to true freedom and joy in my
heart and to a greater capacity of true self-giving.
will make a generous decision to overcome some area of
selfishness in a relationship today.
Selling Your Soul
August 7, 2015. Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Father Jason Brooks, LC
Then Jesus said to his disciples,
"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take
up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to
save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his
life for my sake will find it. What profit would
there be for one to gain the whole world and
forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange
for his life? For the Son of Man will come
with his angels in his Father´s glory, and then he
will repay everyone according to his conduct. Amen, I say
to you, there are some standing here who will not
taste death until they see the Son of Man coming
in his Kingdom."
Introductory Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to seek
the things that are above. Help me to seek the
things that last forever, so that all the things that
I do may give you glory and help my brothers
and sisters to grow closer to you, who live and
reign with Christ, your Son, in the unity of the
Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
Petition: Father, give me
the courage to take up my cross and follow in
the footsteps of your Son.
- Friends of the Cross: There
are many Christians that are willing to be friends with
Jesus in good times. However, there are very few Christians
that are true friends of Jesus, who embrace the cross
at all times, even in the bad. Of course, it
is never easy to be a friend of the cross,
but who wants to be a fair-weather fan of Jesus
and his Gospel? Our Christian lives are a constant battle.
We should never forget that. We all are tempted to
escape from the reality of our situation from time to
time. Nevertheless, whoever perseveres until the end will be saved
and have a fruitful life. We can’t expect to have
a glorious eternity full of celebration and joy if we
don’t shed some blood, sweat and tears here on earth
for the sake of Christ and the good of our
brothers and sisters.
- Money Can’t Buy You Love: “What
profit would there be for one to gain the whole
world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give
in exchange for his life?” In other words, Jesus is
saying that it doesn’t matter how much money you make,
or what kind of car you drive, or what kind
of clothes you wear, or what kind of degree you
have. You might spend your whole life trying to earn
millions of dollars and amass all sorts of luxuries and
securities, but you will have done all this in vain.
You will have missed out on the true meaning of
life and the true treasure of love. Don’t make the
mistake of constantly trying to make life easier and more
comfortable for yourself. You will only end up being hopelessly
miserable and extremely lonely.
- Paybacks Are Tough: “For the
Son of Man will come with his angels in his
Father´s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to
his conduct.” It is clear that Jesus will not let
us into heaven just because we say we believe in
him. He also makes this clear in other teachings throughout
the Gospels. Faith alone is not sufficient to be saved.
Even Satan and his devils believe — and shudder (cf.
James 2:19). Let us reflect on the words of Saint
James for further insight: “What good is it, my brothers
and sisters, if you say you have faith but do
not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother
or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one
of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm
and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply
their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So
faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead”
Conversation with Christ: I pledge allegiance to the cross
and to the holy, Catholic Church; and to the Kingdom
for which it stands: One Body in Jesus Christ, everlasting
life, with forgiveness and freedom from sin.
Resolution: I will perform
some corporal work of mercy today. (“The corporal works of
mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless,
clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying
the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor
is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it
is also a work of justice pleasing to God” [Catechism
of the Catholic Church, 2447]).
Turn to Jesus
August 8, 2015. Memorial of Saint Dominic, Priest
Matthew 17: 14-20
A man came up to Jesus, knelt
down before him, and said, "Lord, have pity on my
son, for he is a lunatic and suffers severely; often
he falls into fire, and often into water. I brought
him to your disciples, but they could not cure him."
Jesus said in reply, "O faithless and perverse generation, how
long will I be with you? How long will I
endure you? Bring him here to me." Jesus rebuked him
and the demon came out of him, and from that
hour the boy was cured. Then the disciples approached Jesus
in private and said, "Why could we not drive it
out?" He said to them, "Because of your little faith.
Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the
size of a mustard seed, you will say to this
mountain, ´Move from here to there,´ and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you."
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I
believe you want me to have faith in you, faith
that hearkens to your words without any second guessing. I
hope in your words, not relying solely on my own
strength or reasoning. I love you. You continue to astonish
me by showing me that your ways are not my
Petition: Lord, give me the grace to trust you.
a Dull Moment: Just before this event, the apostles were
with Christ at the Transfiguration. Have you ever come out
of a retreat on fire to change the world, and
then the unexpected cross comes your way – a negative
comment, a temptation you have not had before, a tragedy
in the family? You were in the clouds surrounded by
God’s glory, and then you came crashing down to the
reality of this world. Let the moments of glory be
your strength to face and persevere through all the challenges
that lie ahead. We have to be strong. We have
to keep moving ahead even though we seem to have
bullets flying by our heads, as do soldiers in war.
We have to have faith.
- Genuine Faith: The apostles
go out and think they can cure people, but they
forget the secret ingredient – faith. It is not the
apostles who are doing the work; it is God working
through them. Could it be that they had forgotten this
fact and fell into presumption? How often do we have
a great time at prayer, only to walk out the
door and return to our self-centeredness? We have no power
aside from Christ. Put your faith into action. Make sure
your actions are done with Christ and through Christ.
Looking Back: Let’s move forward to the time when Peter
looked back on all these occurrences and realized how patient
our Lord had been with him. He also saw Christ’s
merciful love to all people. Do I find daily nourishment
in seeing how patient and merciful our Lord is? Do
I often lose my cool and get anxious simply because
I do not know how to deal with others’ faults
or with people who clash with me? Is it tough
for me when people do not see the obvious? Am
I short tempered with others, not dealing well with their
shortcomings and failures? Turn to Christ. Look at him, see
his simple smile and recall how long he waited for
you to look him in the eyes and change your
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, you always had your hand
stretched out to me, but often I used my hands
for my own endeavors. Take me by the hand now,
and lead me where you want me to go.
when I go to prayer, I will look back on
the road traveled thus far and be grateful.
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