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On the Way There (Article)

Weekly meditation

 July 5, 2015 - Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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Opportunity Missed
July 5, 2015 - Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house." So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, thank you for this Sunday, the day we celebrate your Resurrection. I believe that you walk with us, Lord. I believe that you come into our “synagogue” today and bring your message of salvation. I trust that you will guide me to greater light today. Thank you for coming to look for me.

Petition: Lord, help me to have a heart and will open to your message.

  1. God Can Surprise Us: Jesus was well known in Nazareth -- or so they thought. But there was something they had never seen in him: they never saw the power of God in him. He was too ordinary. Our life can seem too ordinary to us sometimes. We may not recognize the voice of God when he calls to us, when he asks for a deeper faith and commitment to him. We may not recognize him speaking through the example and words of others. We may not shake off our routine and truly listen to the Word of God. We can learn from the surprise the people of Nazareth showed at Jesus’ true identity, as it will help us to be more alert to God’s surprises.
  1. “And They Took Offense at Him”: Jesus can offend us. He came to shake up certainties about the closeness of God. God becomes uncomfortably close in Jesus. He knows all about us. He “grew up” with us: he knows our whole history, our weaknesses and our inadequacies. He expects much more of us than what we have given up to now. I need to let God challenge me every day. Only in that way can I really discover Jesus, the miracle-maker. Only in that way can I work with him to change myself and the world around me.
  1. “He was Amazed at Their Lack of Faith”: What is there in my life that I think Jesus cannot touch, cannot change? Am I willing to present it humbly to Jesus each day so that he can slowly transform me? Do I try to use my spiritual commitments to grow in faith? Do I trust in Christ? If not, I need to ask him to increase that trust. He wants to make me into a saint. He wants to change this world. He can. I simply have to put my trust in him.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, you have shown me that you can overcome any obstacle. I know that you want to show your power in me. Help me to believe in you more today. Let me show others the confidence and joy that you bring. Your power is present in my soul, Lord. Help me discover the signs of your Resurrection.

Resolution: Today I will make an extra act of charity for my family.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-07-05

Faith is All-Powerful
July 6, 2015 - Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

By Father Edward McIlmail, LC

Matthew 9:18-26

While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, "My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live." Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples. A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured." Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, "Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you." And from that hour the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official´s house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, "Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping." And they ridiculed him. When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose. And news of this spread throughout all that land.

Introductory Prayer: Jesus, you are my savior and redeemer; I believe that you want to hear from me. I approach you in confidence and offer this prayer for those who are afraid to draw near to you.

Petition: Grant me, Jesus, a deeper faith in your power to heal me and my loved ones.

  1. Awaiting Our Move: We note that the official´s faith moves Jesus to action. Remarkable! The Son of God accommodates a mere creature, due to a show of faith. So often we see problems around us and expect God to solve them without any effort on our part. God knows our problems better than we do (cf. Matthew 6:8). Yet, he sometimes doesn´t act until he sees an act of faith on our part. The official showed such faith. It was extraordinary, after all, for him to approach Jesus in front of other people and ask point-blank for a miracle. Do I have such confidence when I approach Jesus in prayer? Is my faith strong enough to ask him for something extraordinary?
  1. Touching Moment: The woman suffering hemorrhages had great faith in Jesus, too. In her case, she didn´t express it in words. Rather, she expressed it in a deed, by discreetly touching Jesus´ cloak. That kind of faith speaks volumes. It helps if our words are joined with actions. Petitions don´t always suffice. We have to act, to move, to leave our comfort zone, in order to approach Jesus. Prayer is good; prayer plus action gives God even more fertile ground to work with. How can I complement my prayer life? Can I help my pastor with a special project, for instance?
  1. Mourning Has Broken: In Our Lord´s time it was not uncommon to have professional mourners show up when someone died. Jesus´ comment that the official´s daughter was merely sleeping brought ridicule on him. Who needs mourners if the young lady is alive? We can be like professional mourners at times, resigned to the evil and death around us. We might throw up our hands and think we can hope for nothing better. We might even be tempted, like the mourners, to ignore Our Lord´s reassuring presence. We might think: "What! Me, be a saint?" Or: "Me, called to the priesthood or consecrated life?" Or: "Do you really expect us to handle another child right now?" Luckily for us, Christ is undeterred. He comes to bring us life, to lead us out of sin, to make us more generous. In a word, he comes to call us to holiness. Do I resist such a call?

Conversation with Christ: The official and the suffering woman show an admirable faith. I want to have that same kind of faith, Lord. Sometimes I feel paralyzed by my problems, so much so that I find it hard to approach you confidently. Increase my faith and sense of hope. Let me live as if I really believe that you rule the world.

Resolution: I will offer up a sacrifice (or a visit to the Blessed Sacrament or an act of charity) for a special intention.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-07-06

How Do You Feed a Hungry Heart?
July 7, 2015 -Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Matthew 9:32-38

A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus, and when the demon was driven out the mute person spoke. The crowds were amazed and said, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel." But the Pharisees said, "He drives out demons by the prince of demons." Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I bring myself into your presence knowing the zeal of your heart for souls. The glory of your heavenly Father can shape my own heart. I am confident that I can throw off all that is lukewarm and tepid in my own soul today. I desire to fulfill the mission you have given me more perfectly.

Petition: Lord, grant me the grace of a renewed zeal for you and for bringing others to you.

  1. The Prime Choice: So many of the moral predicaments men bring upon themselves are not, as some would say, the work of a “cruel” God. Christ’s will is the happiness that people relentlessly pursue at heart. Yet a battle ensues in every soul: whether or not God may enter into the way we live that life. What Christ is not permitted to touch cannot be healed or redeemed. The Pharisees freely choose to live with demons rather than to live with Christ, rather than to let him take center stage. In our battle with our weaknesses and temptations, we should be sensitive to the truth that we will be confronted with the same choice. Will we be in “control” and live with our demons, or will we surrender to Christ totally and guarantee victory over every evil in our lives?
  1. Seeing With Christ’s Eyes: If we could open our heart to see what Christ sees, we would follow everyday what he asks of us: "Beg the harvest master to send out laborers to gather his harvest" (Matthew 9:38). To be sure, we must lend a hand in the mission, but we must also pray that shepherds are not lacking in the Church. If we could see with Christ’s eyes, we would know that many are ready to fall into his arms with only the least motivation. No need for fancy discourses or rigorous apologetics. They just want someone to say, “This way,” and they will follow. We should not fear being apostles; many more are ready for what we have to say than we think are ready.
  1. Diligent Preparations: If we could see with Christ’s heart, we would not show the least pessimism as we face the culture of death or the culture of the absolute self. We would know that Christ fully satisfies people’s hunger for God in spite of their history of misery, pain or self-indulgence. Get ready: the farther people are from God, the more the signs of their need for him will show. Get ready with prayer. Prepare the emergency rooms of salvation where many patients will soon be left, for only through prayer will we be assured that doctors will be there to treat them and put them on the road to full recovery.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I know how much you love all people and manifest that love by coming to us every day at Mass. In the Eucharist I meet the one that has so loved me; in the Eucharist I will beg you to meet the needs of my heart and of countless souls by setting fire for you in the hearts of many young people, so that they generously accept a mission to souls in your name.

Resolution: I will offer one hour of adoration this week for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-07-07

Choosing an Apostle
July 8, 2015 - Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Matthew 10:1-7

Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. The names of the Twelve Apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I bring myself into your presence knowing the zeal of your heart for souls. The glory of your heavenly Father can shape my own heart. I am confident that, just as the Twelve lit the flame of their love for their mission from the furnace of your divine love, I can ignite all that is lukewarm and tepid in my own soul today. I desire to fulfill more perfectly the mission you have given me.

Petition: Lord, grant me the grace to be generous and trustful concerning your plan for me.

  1. Jesus Needs Apostles: A condition for the Kingdom to grow is that it have protagonists. Christ refuses to be a one-man show. We honor and bow before the divine choice expressed in Christ’s desire to let his victory be realized through others, beginning with the Twelve. In the Twelve we find the model of every call of Christ to build his Kingdom, to spread the faith by word and deed. If there is no response to his call, there is no Kingdom. Have I meditated on my call often? Do I see it linked to my family and to my workplace? Have I responded to it?
  1. The Calling: Many were on the mountain that day. Many were drawn to him and longed to be close to him, but only 12 received the explicit call to be Apostles. The sense of predilection is in every vocation and every mission from God. What we are chosen for in life, no one else can fulfill it. We are called by name, meaning that Christ knows us well when he calls, including all our defects and weaknesses. He did not ask the Twelve for their preferences, look at their SAT scores, or scrutinize their résumés. The choice of God, revealed in prayer, is sovereign and omnipotent in action. The Twelve cannot think there has been some mistake or some miscalculation. The voice of God, who neither deceives nor can be deceived, is speaking.
  1. A Free Response: Christ called freely, and in freedom the Twelve responded. He did not bring down angels from heaven to overwhelm them to cooperate, he merely prayed to the Father. As Lord of the harvest, he has called each one of us. Our vocation as an apostle, is not a question of our wanting to be one. It is not a question of our talents or compelling feelings for this or that, but of our faith-driven awareness of God asking and our responding. Why are we where we are now in our vocation in life? In our particular marriage? In a particular lay movement? We can never know fully, for only God knows the depths of his own wisdom. This is the first mystery of the Kingdom that touches each one of us personally: God called, he willed it, and we said “yes.” This is the only answer an apostle must seek. Anything else slows down the mission and interrupts the dialogue of love and service to the mission.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I want to affirm that all my work today is going to be my response to your call to be your disciple and a light to others in this world. I resolve never to doubt the special and perfect nature of your plan for me. May my heart always be confident and generous in responding to your voice.

Resolution: I will take the hardest part of my day and embrace it with greater joy out of love for the one who has called me.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-07-08

Go, Spread the Kingdom
July 9, 2015 -Thursday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Matthew 10:7-15

Jesus sent out the Twelve with the following instructions, “As you go, make this proclamation: ´The kingdom of heaven is at hand.´ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words -- go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of Judgment than for that town.”

Introductory Prayer: Lord, in your presence I break away from the spiritual laziness and indifference that deprives me of the fruit of this prayer which I need so much. I know my poverty, and you are immensely rich in all that I need. I am so slow to give, whereas you are prompt and total in your gifts to me. I offer you this unruly heart of mine to do all that you wish of me today.

Petition: Lord, please grant me the grace to be a better apostle today than I was yesterday.

  1. Go Out: The command is “Go.” The Kingdom cannot be spread while sitting in an easy chair. We cannot wait for the world that needs Christ to come to our door. Letting opportunities where we can serve pass by, hoping someone else will take the initiative, is simply a “no” to Christ’s command. “Go” means sensitizing our heart and eyes to those who are hungry for Christ, seeing in the faces of our family members and co-workers a hunger for his power and grace. In this culture that is sick and waning, “go” means reaching out to those who need to know Christ, so that his Kingdom will expand. We cannot take the easy route of preaching to the choir; we must reach out to those professions and fields of study that have lost all sense of the dignity of the human person – especially medicine, law, politics and education. This is what the King is asking. What is the response which I am giving to my King?
  1. “Nobody Gives What He Doesn’t Possess”: Christ’s command is to give from what we have received. If every day we make ourselves more aware of the gifts we have been given through Christ’s power, we will be better at giving Christ to others. As apostles, we go not with our own power; rather, we carry Christ’s power to heal, save and conquer evil. It is he who drives the mission, who makes the apostles a team. How often do I calculate what I can contribute to the mission based only on the strength of my human qualities? How often do I give only from what is just me, rather than from the graces I have received from the Holy Spirit? Moreover, do I measure my effectiveness solely from an individual perspective, rather than from that of the whole body of the Church, in which other apostles are locked arm-in-arm with me for the cause of Christ? God’s saving power is found where obedience and unity are, not where only natural talents, gifts and abilities are at play.
  1. Failures and Disappointments: Christ affirms that when we reach an impasse in our lives, this is, in and of itself, no sign of the lack of the authenticity of our mission. Its results are tied to the free-will choices of others, as well as to a plan where apparent barrenness is part of God’s economy of salvation. A period of few fruits in the mission can be a period of consolidation of our commitment to follow him in season and out of season. Take this time to repel all discouragement and doubt and to prove how authentic our “yes” is. A pure “yes” will seek God’s will and the mission at hand simply because he wants it, not for any easy or short-term results.

Conversation with Christ: Jesus, I wish to ignite my own zeal for your Kingdom from the furnace of divine love which burns in your heart. I offer you the promise of a soldier in combat: to be courageous, honorable, persevering, and worthy of the name I bear – “Apostle of the Kingdom of Christ.” I work aware of the fact that I have only one life to live on this earth. Not one minute must be wasted in comfort-seeking and selfishness. My heart is ready for the mission, Lord; please sustain it today with the strength of your own.

Resolution: Today I will review my daily and weekly time commitments before Christ, and I will ensure that I am using my time as fruitfully as I can to expand his Kingdom in the world.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-07-09

Divisions in the Family
July 10, 2015 - Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

By Father Edward McIlmail, LC

Matthew 10:16-23

Jesus said to his Apostles: "Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, you are the one constant in my life. You are my beginning and my end. I love you as my savior. I trust you as my closest companion. I hope in you as the one who will welcome me into eternal joy.

Petition: Grant me, Lord, a deeper union with you as the only one who will never fail me.

  1. Trust, But Not Too Much: A key paradox of Jesus was that he loved us so much that he underwent the horrors of crucifixion to redeem us and give us a chance at salvation. Yet, he also knows our weaknesses. He knows how fickle the human heart can be. "Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well" (John 2:24-25). Likewise, Christ warns us not to put too much faith in other people. Like us, everyone else has weaknesses. Our faith in them should be relative and realistic. It shouldn´t be on the same level as our faith in Christ. Do I put "too much" faith in others? Do I realize that expecting too much from them leaves me open to needless anguish?
  1. Betrayal for Siblings: Christ is the rock against which the waves of humanity crash. His demands cut to the heart of each of us, and require a personal response. How each person responds is a mystery. Some will say yes, some will say no. The division within each person can echo in divisions within families. Little wonder that kin can be our fiercest foes. Christ´s own show of steadfastness assures us that he remains more loyal than even family members. Can I accept that following Christ can cause friction with my loved ones? Can I offer up my trials for their salvation?
  1. Love Without Sacrifice: Christ never promised his followers an easy life. If he had, there would be no shortage of disciples. He knows what really makes us mature in love: sacrifice. Sacrifice purifies us, ennobles us. Love without sacrifice is a fairy tale. To love means to share in another´s pain. "When men and women demand to be autonomous and totally self-sufficient," said Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI in a speech February 9, 2008, "they run the risk of being closed in a self-reliance that … reduces them to an oppressive solitude." Similarly, if we close ourselves to God´s pleasure, we stay stuck in our littleness. Can I accept suffering for Christ as a way to break out of the cocoon of my comfort?

Conversation with Christ: Jesus, it´s not easy being your follower. Opposition can arise on all sides, even from within the family. Help me bear all this well, for love of you. Grant me the serenity to persevere in the faith. I offer my sacrifices for the salvation of those who oppose my following you.

Resolution: I will pray or make a sacrifice for a family member who is away from the faith.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-07-10

Persecution, for Heaven’s Sake
July 11, 2015 -Memorial of Saint Benedict, Abbot

By Father Edward McIlmail, LC

Matthew 10:24-33

Jesus said to his Apostles: "No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household! Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father´s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, you are the one constant in my life. You are my beginning and my end. I love you as my savior. I trust you as my closest companion. I hope in you as the one who will welcome me into eternal joy.

Petition: Grant me, Lord, the courage to face persecutions, great and small, for the faith.

  1. Forewarned is Forearmed: Jesus´ opponents called him a devil. Either ignorance or hardness of heart prevented them from seeing the good in Our Lord. Opposition to him continues to this day — only now, we receive the brunt of the attacks. Christ warns that his followers will be reviled, just as he was denounced. Hence, it´s no surprise that we are labeled "backward" for our pro-life stance, or "intolerant" because we believe in moral truths. Persecution underscores the authenticity of our faith. If we never face any opposition, we might not be living the faith well enough or publicly enough. How do I handle persecution for my faith?
  1. What is True is Always True: Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed. Here, Our Lord assures us that all will be revealed in due time. Lies and fallacies move at the speed of light, thanks to the Internet. Truth seems to travel a lot slower. The problem isn´t new. “For the time will come," St. Paul warned in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, "when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths." Whether it´s the truth about marriage or the dignity of the human embryo, the truth will emerge in the public mind, eventually. Likewise, the truth of Christ has to take root in us if we are to have joy and a sense of meaning. The unhappiest moments of life occur when we stray from Christ´s path. Which vice most needs to be weeded out of my life?
  1. Intolerable Tolerance: If we deny Christ, he will deny us at Judgment Day. That´s a sobering thought. So many times the temptation arises to muffle our faith, to give into human respect and keep silent in the face of evil. It can take many forms. We stay mum when a relative brags about moving in with her boyfriend. We say nothing when a fellow Catholic matter-of-factly defends abortion or contraception. Or we as parents fail to intervene when a child spends hours alone on the Internet. All this silence and inaction we chalk up to "tolerance." But Christ didn´t tell his disciples to "Go, be tolerant of all things." Rather, he implored: "Go and make disciples of all nations." Have I kept silent about something when I should have spoken up?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, following you isn´t easy. Attacks can come on all sides: from family, friends, the media. I almost wish Christianity was easier, but then, it wasn´t easy for you, either. So help me avoid complaining. Grant me strength to be daring for you.

Resolution: I will raise a delicate point with someone who needs to hear my Christian witness.

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015-07-11

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