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Weekly meditation

 October 26, 2014. Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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Putting God First
October 26, 2014. Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "´You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.´ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ´You shall love your neighbor as yourself.´ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you with a faith that never seeks to test you. I trust in you, hoping to learn to accept and follow your will, even when it does not make sense to the way that I see things. May my love for you and those around me be similar to the love you have shown me.

Petition: Lord, give me the strength to put you first in my life and others second.

1. Putting God First: Jesus gives a twofold response to the question about which of the commandments is the greatest. He first turns to Deuteronomy 6:15: “You shall love the Lord your God …” This was familiar to the Jews, for they recited this passage in prayer (called the “Shema”) several times a day and wrote it on all their doorposts. For us, as well as for the Jews, it is a constant reminder that God must be first in our life. As our creator and redeemer, God has an absolute claim on us. We owe him everything. Everything we have is a gift from him. Too often we shelve God, ignoring him until a convenient moment arises or it suits our mood. Putting God first means setting aside the best part of our day for prayer to him and seeking to live his will at every moment out of love for him.

2. Becoming “Other-Centered”: Jesus next turns to the commandment found in Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor …” He combines the two commandments in such a way that one cannot be fulfilled without the other. There can be no love of God without loving other human persons, made in his image. Nor can love of neighbor exist without a pure and purifying love for God. Love for neighbor requires putting others ahead of ourselves. Self-love and self-absorption lead only to loneliness and isolation. Being “other-centered” is the key to our happiness and fulfillment. To love others means to seek their true good, to serve them out of love for the Lord. We need to come out of ourselves and look beyond the narrow interests of our egoism and self-love. The more we love authentically, the more fulfilled our life will become.

3. Praying for Those Who Harm Us: It is not easy to break out of selfish habits. Because of sin, we have the tendency to inflate self-interest in a disordered way. This is not good. We need to ask for the power of grace to purify our hearts and give us the interior strength to put others ahead of ourselves. God is ready to give us this grace, but he wants us to ask for it. Difficult circumstances and relationships need to be faced by prayer and sacrifice. We need to pray even for those who harm us and to ask God to give us the grace and strength to love them as God loves them. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14).

Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to put you first in my life. So many times I find myself putting other things ahead of you. I make time for the things I want to do, but I find little time to pray. I find time to talk to my friends, but little time to speak with you. I need strength from you to love you. Help me also to see and love others as you do.

Resolution: I will pray during the day for someone who bothers me and seek to put their good before my own.

By Father Paul Campbell, LC

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2014-10-26

Jesus Blows me Out of my Comfort Zone – Again!
October 27, 2014. Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 13:10-17

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, "Woman, you are set free of your infirmity." He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, "There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day." The Lord said to him in reply, "Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?" When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you with a faith that never seeks to test you. I trust in you, hoping to learn to accept and follow your will, even when it does not make sense to the way that I see things. May my love for you and those around me be similar to the love you have shown to me.   

Petition: Lord, protect me from spiritual old age.

1. Jesus Is Showing his Messiah Credentials Again: Jesus’ opponents were desperate. They didn’t want to believe that he was the Messiah, and they especially didn’t want anyone else to think he was the Messiah. But there was the pesky problem of his miracles. They knew that when God sent someone to speak for him, he usually performed signs through the person so that people would believe in him. The sign was proof that the person (Jesus in this case) was sent by God. Jesus was doing plenty of miracles, which most people were taking as the sign that he was sent by God. What could Jesus’ opponents do? They could only try to discredit the miracles any way possible.

2. You Can Do a Lot More than You Think on the Sabbath: This miracle was done on the Sabbath. The head of the synagogue had a problem with that. Didn’t God himself rest on the sixth day? Oughtn’t we to do the same? How does this Jesus heal on the Sabbath if he is truly from God? In fact, there were many exceptions to the rules about the Sabbath. In another place, Jesus himself says that the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). Certainly, the observance of the Sabbath was always subject to the practice of charity, that it was always permissible to break the Sabbath rest in the case when needed to do some necessary act of charity for another. Jesus mentions situations when for practical reasons (necessary farm chores, like watering animals) work can be done without breaking the Sabbath rest.

3. Lord, Please Let me Keep my Mediocrity: And so, there is really nothing to the objection. The head of the synagogue does not want to believe because what Jesus says and does seems threatening to him. If Jesus is the Messiah, he foresees having to change his life, and he does not want to do that. He may not even realize that this is his real objection, but it is. We can be this way, too. We don’t want to accept something Jesus teaches us through his Church because it would mean that we have to change our lives, and we don’t want to. We are comfortable the way we are. If we had to do what Jesus asks, it would take us out of our comfort zone. Sometimes it is mere fear of something different. Jesus always is offering us something different, but we don’t want it. We want to stay in our rut. We have surrounded ourselves with limited horizons and are afraid to stretch them.

Conversation with Christ: Dear Jesus, help me to accept you fully. If I am rejecting you or your teaching without realizing it, show me. Help me to overcome my attempt to construct my own little universe in which I am God. If I have grown old spiritually, renew my youth and help me break through my restricted, shrunken horizons that exclude you.

Resolution: Where in my life have I settled into spiritual routine and old age? Do I habitually skip some prayer I should be saying, telling myself it isn’t that important? I will make an extra effort to pray it today. Is there some other aspect of my spiritual or moral life that I have removed to make life “more comfortable” for me? Time to start doing it again!

By Father James Swanson, LC

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2014-10-27

Faithful to Our Lord
October 28, 2014. Feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles.

Luke 6:12-16

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are my Creator and Redeemer. I hope in your goodness and mercy. I love you from the depths of my heart. I place this time of meditation in your hands. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to grow in love for your holy will.

Petition: Help me, Lord, to persevere, like the Apostles.

1. Impossible Cases: Saint Jude is known as the patron of impossible cases. He was a relative of Our Lord himself and wrote one of the letters in the New Testament. The fact that he is the patron of impossible cases means, of course, that nothing is impossible with God. What is that one “impossible” thing for me right now? What spiritual mountain do I think is too high to climb? Is it really so “impossible” or do I just need to trust more and work harder?

2. Zeal for the Right Kingdom: Saint Simon was called a Zealot. Zealots were a group of people known for politically agitating the Roman occupiers. If Simon belonged to that group, then he certainly had a steep learning curve to absorb Jesus’ message about the true, spiritual Kingdom of God. The fact that he’s listed among the Apostles means that Christ recognized his ability to change. Perhaps Saint Simon could be a patron saint for attitude change -- then his being teamed up with Saint Jude makes perfect sense. Getting over our own petty attachments and ways of seeing things can seem like a fairly “impossible case” in itself. But the Apostles are proof that Christ is more powerful than our defects, as long as we have the effective desire to follow him.

3. Supporting Roles: When we think of the apostles, Simon and Jude are never the first ones we name. However, not everyone needs to be a headliner to be a rock-solid contributor. That’s who Simon and Jude were: men loyal to Christ and who persevered in the mission that he entrusted to them. We don’t need to be stars, just faithful!

Conversation with Christ: Lord, you didn’t pick superstars of this world to be your Apostles, but they became something infinitely greater: saints. Help me to believe in the power of your grace to transform me and make me holy!

Resolution: I will be humble and supportive today in the “supporting roles” that I have.

By Father Steven Reilly, LC

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2014-10-28

Up Against the Narrow Gate
October 29, 2014. Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 13:22-30

Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?" He answered them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ´Lord, open the door for us.´ He will say to you in reply, ´I do not know where you are from.´ And you will say, ´We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.´ Then he will say to you, ´I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!´ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you with a faith that never seeks to test you. I trust in you, hoping to learn to accept and follow your will, even when it does not make sense to the way that I see things. May my love for you and those around me be similar to the love you have shown to me.

Petition: Lord, grant me the humility and sincerity to enter by the narrow gate.

1. A Scary Question: This is a scary question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus doesn’t answer the question directly. Instead, he gives some advice. It almost looks like Jesus is avoiding the question, as if the answer is too discouraging. He tries to be encouraging instead, but at the same time underlines the difficulty of success. “Strive” he says, “to enter by the narrow gate.” Strive is the key word, since apparently, many are going to try to enter and fail, because the gate is so narrow.

2. A Disturbing Reply: The words that many will try to enter and fail are troubling. What percentage? How many? Nowadays, we like exact statistics. Jesus doesn’t say, but we get the impression that it will be more than a few. The possibility of failure is very real. Who will fail? Probably, people who don’t take him seriously; people who don’t try hard enough; people who love something more than they love Jesus. In other word, lots of people will fail…

3. My Christian Credentials May Not Be as Solid as I Think They Are: He goes on to say that many who think they are doing enough are going to be surprised to find they didn’t do enough. They think their Christian credentials are solid, but they will be found wanting. They will tell Jesus that they ate and drank with him, that they received communion every Sunday. They will witness to how many times they heard him preach in their streets, how much they contributed to the collection, but that will not be enough. Yet others who did not seem so good in life will be entering the Kingdom before them. Which group will I be in? Jesus is warning me that just because I feel I am doing enough for him doesn’t mean I am going to be in the group to be saved. I need to follow him with as much sincerity and honesty as I am capable of, doing his will and not my own.

Conversation with Christ: Dear Jesus, your words are troubling to me. I see how often I fail in what I know I should be doing for you. I see that I cannot reliably guide myself in this matter. Send your Holy Spirit to help me open my eyes to see if I am falling short before it is too late. Help me to enter by the narrow gate.

Resolution: Today I will examine my conscience very honestly to see if I am saying ‘no’ to Jesus in any aspect of my life and to see if I am letting myself get too comfortable in any aspect of my life, since comfort, especially in the spiritual life, is a sign that I am not “striving to enter by the narrow gate.”

By Father James Swanson, LC

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2014-10-29

God Desires to Draw Us to Himself
October 30, 2014. Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 13:31-35

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, ´Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.´ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ´Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.´"

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you with a faith that never seeks to test you. I trust in you, hoping to learn to accept and follow your will, even when it does not make sense to the way that I see things. May my love for you and those around me be similar to the love you have shown to me.

Petition: Lord, I want to be convinced of your personal love for me.

1. Persevering in the Mission: Jesus encounters opposition on his journey to Jerusalem. Pharisees come to warn him of Herod. Jesus is undeterred. He knows that the Father’s will is for him to go to Jerusalem and surrender his life on the cross. He doesn’t hide or seek to escape from his Father’s will. He knows that the cross lies ahead of him, but he also knows that death and the cross are not the end. Beyond death is the Resurrection: “On the third day I finish my work.” Christ’s example should give us confidence to move forward in the face of our own difficulties and struggles. We should turn to him because he knows how to persevere in the mission. And since he wants to be involved in our life, he will accompany us on our journey. He is always with us ready to give us the help of his grace and the strength of his hand.

2. A Heart Open to Others: Jesus wept for Jerusalem. His heart was not closed to others. He was not absorbed in himself or his own problems. He freely offered his life for others. Others rejected him, but he never rejected them. He was not bitter towards those who would make him suffer. He loved, and he never ceases to love. As a hen gathers her young under her wings, so does God long to draw all men and women to himself. We need to let God draw us to himself.

3. Pray for Those Who Persecute You: Jesus sets an example for us to follow. Our hearts should not be closed. We need to be open to the needs of those around us, even those who may attack the Church and persecute us. Jesus loved his enemies. He prayed for those who persecuted him. He blessed those who cursed him. He sought only their good, and he sacrificed himself for them. He shows us the way to live an authentically Christian life. To be faithful to him, we need to reach out in love even to those people who don’t think and act like us.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to follow your inspirations always. Often there is good that I want to do, but I hesitate and draw back. Help me to keep giving even when I’m tired and worn out.  Teach me that you are always with me and that I am never alone.

Resolution: I will be open to what a family member or colleague at work might need, and I will seek to offer my help.

Father Paul Campbell, LC

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2014-10-30

You Are Being Watched
October 31, 2014. Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 14: 1-6

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking, "Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?" But they kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him. Then he said to them, "Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?" But they were unable to answer his question.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you with a faith that never seeks to test you. I trust in you, hoping to learn to accept and follow your will, even when it does not make sense to the way that I see things. May my love for you and those around me be similar to the love you have shown to me.

Petition: Lord, may I be a witness to you in the face of a world that often does not care.

1. And They Watched Him: The Lord knows the thoughts of these men. With his question, he makes public their foolishness: God blesses on the seventh day, while they prevent good works on that day. It would seem that a day that does not allow the doing of good works is accursed. Let us be sure always to seek the will of God in our lives, so that we might use every minute of every day for the glory of God.

2. They Kept Silent: The man with dropsy does not ask to be healed, perhaps out of fear of the watching Pharisees, yet Christ knows what he desires in his heart. Jesus is not concerned that this good work might scandalize the Pharisees; he is concerned about doing good. The Pharisees keep silent because they know that Jesus will give this man something they don’t have – their hearts have become closed to the man. We need to desire good for everyone. A sign that our hearts are becoming hardened to Our Lord, perhaps like the Pharisees, is when we begrudge the good that befalls others or even wish others harm. When we are mindful that we are beggars before God, it’s much easier to be merciful with others.

3. Keep Your Eyes on Christ: In this Gospel passage, both the Pharisees and the man suffering from dropsy are looking at Christ. The Pharisees look at Christ with skepticism that will not be overcome by any miracle; the suffering man looks at Christ with the eyes of his heart. This man desires something that only Christ can give him, and Christ will not be outdone in generosity. We don’t know what becomes of this man. We can only imagine the great testimony he gives to all about Christ and how he cured him, even under the scrutiny of the Pharisees. As Pope Saint John Paul II told us so many times, “Do not be afraid!”

Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to see with the eyes of faith all that you do in my life, especially when I don’t understand why you are doing it. Help me to witness to others all that you have done for me and my family. May I never take for granted the graces that you give me.

Resolution: I will say a prayer today for someone I know who has not opened his heart to Christ because of lack of faith or skepticism. Through my prayers and example, may I once again try to bring Christ into that person’s heart.

By Father Patrick Langan, LC

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2014-10-31

Winning the Only Contest that Matters
November 1, 2014. Solemnity of All Saints

Matthew 5:1-12a

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you with a faith that never seeks to test you. I trust in you, hoping to learn to accept and follow your will, even when it does not make sense to the way that I see things. I love you, and I want to love you and those around me with a love similar to the love you have shown to me.

Petition: Lord, help me accept sacrifices and overcome difficulties in order to gain heaven.

1. The Beatitudes Don’t Make Sense: As we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints’ Day, the Church calls us to contemplate the promises Jesus makes to all those who follow him. At first, they don’t seem very attractive. Jesus lists a whole series of things that most people would probably avoid. They would see them as interfering with their wants and desires, Yet, Jesus says that we will be blessed if we have them in our lives. The word in the original Greek is makarios, which means “happy”. This doesn’t make sense. I am supposed to be happy when I am poor, mourning, meek, lacking righteousness, merciful, clean-hearted, a peacemaker, persecuted and insulted? That’s not what I see on TV, in the movies, on the Internet. It’s not what many of the people I know would recommend. So what is Jesus’ big idea telling me this? Is he out to make me miserable?

2. Sacrificing for Worldly Glory: We can see that the whole picture isn’t gloomy. Jesus says that if we accept these difficult things, there will be rewards. And the rewards sound pretty good. In fact, they sound great: the Kingdom of Heaven, comfort, inheriting the land, satisfaction in seeing righteousness done, receiving mercy, seeing God, being a child of God, a great reward in heaven. Who wouldn’t want these things? Don’t people work a lot harder for a lot less? Don’t athletes train for years, giving up all kinds of pleasures, submitting themselves to intense suffering at times only for a brief moment of glory in some competition? Don’t businessmen work long hours, giving up pleasures and making immense sacrifices just to make a few more dollars? Isn’t what Jesus offers us much better than any of that? Better than a gold medal or even a million dollars?

3. But I Am Not Interested in Heavenly Things: Anything worth having is worth making sacrifices for, and the more it is worth, the greater sacrifices we should be willing to make for it. Perhaps a gold medal is worth the sacrifices the athlete makes to win it. Perhaps a million dollars are worth the sacrifices that a businessman makes to gain them. If heaven is really all it is supposed to be, isn’t it worth all the sacrifices Jesus mentions here – and more? If people are willing to make such great sacrifices to gain things they cannot keep, shouldn’t I be willing to make even greater sacrifices to gain the eternal happiness of heaven? Of course, many people with the talent to do great things in this world never do them because they just aren’t that interested or motivated. Is that why I don’t do more to gain heaven? Just not that interested? What will it take to motivate me to really desire what Jesus offers?

Conversation with Christ: Dear Jesus, I don’t do much to make the Beatitudes come to life in me. Help me to give heaven its full value. Help me to desire it more each day. Help me to meditate on what heaven will be like so I will love it more and more and be willing to do anything – whatever it takes – to get there and help many others arrive as well.

Resolution: I will spend at least five minutes today imagining what heaven will be like so as to increase my desire for heaven and enable me to make the sacrifices necessary to get there. Jesus is setting up a mansion there for me. He is going to put everything that he can in it to please me and make me happy.  

Father James Swanson, LC

 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2014-11-01

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