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Called to Be Servants (Article)

Weekly meditation

 August 2, 2015. Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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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 never thirst."

 

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 to you.

 

Petition: Lord, help me not to look for signs, but to rest in your love.


  1. 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?



  1. 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?



  1. 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 own body.


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.

Resolution: I 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.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-08-02

Feed Them Yourselves!
August 3, 2015. Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time


Matthew 14:13-21


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.

Petition: Lord Jesus, increase my faith.


  1. 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?



  1. 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.



  1. 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 great fruit.


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.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-08-03

Mission Impossible?
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 zone today.


  1. 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.



  1. 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.



  1. 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.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-08-04

Daring Doggedness
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 my ways.

Petition: Lord, fill my heart with gratitude and trust even when those I love suffer.


  1. 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 the Lord.



  1. 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.



  1. Our 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.

Resolution: I will thank the Lord repeatedly throughout the day.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-08-05

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 them.

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 my all.

Petition: Lord, detach my heart from the world, and allow me to live for love of you.


  1. 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 saving mankind.



  1. 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.



  1. 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.

Resolution: I will make a generous decision to overcome some area of selfishness in a relationship today.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-08-06

Selling Your Soul
August 7, 2015. Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time


Father Jason Brooks, LC

Matthew 16:24-28

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.


  1. 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.



  1. 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.



  1. 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” (James 2:14-17).


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]).

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-08-07

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 ways.

Petition: Lord, give me the grace to trust you.


  1. Never 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.



  1. 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.



  1. 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 ways.


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.

Resolution: Today when I go to prayer, I will look back on the road traveled thus far and be grateful.


 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-08-08

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