August 30, 2020 – Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!
Matthew 16: 21-27
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone wants to become my follower, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For he who wants to save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gain the whole world but forfeits his life? Or what will he give in return for his life? For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord God, I come from dust and to dust I shall return. You, however, existed before all time, and every creature takes its being from you. You formed me in my mother’s womb with infinite care, and you watch over me tenderly. I hope you will embrace my soul at my death to carry me home to heaven to be with you forever. Thank you for looking upon me and blessing me with your love. Take my love in return. I humbly offer you all that I am.
Petition: Lord, help me to become a saint by denying myself, taking up my cross and following you.
- The Purgative Way: In today’s Gospel Christ presents three ways to Christian perfection: “If anyone wants to become my follower, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” The first step, self-denial, is called “the purgative way” by some spiritual mystics. Have you ever noticed that in order to advance, a time of purging is necessary? Champion football teams have to work hard during the hot August two-times-a-day practices. The same could be said for our striving for holiness; we must be purged and purified in many ways. It is essential that we hate sin and avoid it at all costs by fighting temptation. Our sentiments, passions, memory and imagination must be placed under the rule of our faith, intellect and will. Beginning a prayer life requires effort, fight and constancy. By embracing the cross of the purification process we can advance in holiness.
- The Illuminative Way: A second step in the spiritual life can be summarized as “take up his cross.” A soul in this step has achieved a certain measure of self-control over the force of his passions, avoids any grave sins, and has deep convictions regarding the truths of our faith. Their present task is to progress in good, strengthening themselves especially in charity. They seek to adorn themselves with Christ’s virtues and to make Christ the center of their thoughts, affections and actions. These souls could be compared to an experienced mother who is raising the youngest of her children or an athlete who has the fundamentals down and is playing at peak performance. How happy and balanced our lives are when we arrive to this level in our spiritual life. Christ invites us to this level of friendship with him; all we have to do is say yes, work hard and trust in God’s grace.
- The Unitive Way: The third step in the spiritual life, the unitive way, can be described by Christ’s words: “Follow me.” Once we go through the purification of our own body and soul and are steeped in the practice of virtue, we are ready to be among the closest followers of Christ, the saints! In this level we are detached from created things, and our primary focus is on the presence of the Creator who dwells in our hearts. Love of God becomes the driving force in our life and we can say with our Lord, “I always do what pleases him” (John 8:29). Deep union with God in prayer, never resisting grace, and perfect mastery over ourselves bring us to see crosses and difficulties with great joy. So have many souls arrived to this state of heaven on earth: John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and the many unknown husbands and wives, students and scholars who have taken Christ’s call seriously and followed him above all else.
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, I ask you for the courage to continue to follow your call to holiness. Help me to know where it is you want me to become more like you, and give me the strength to form myself into the saint of which you have always dreamed. Mother Mary, I entrust my spiritual life into your maternal care.
Resolution: I will invite someone to go to Sunday Mass today, if possible.
August 31, 2020 – Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
He who Hears You, Hears Me
Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’“ And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I love you and thank you for all that you have done for me. And yet, Lord, so many times I have plea-bargained with you and made my prayer conditional on receiving what I ask for. This time, Lord, I want to be completely open –– no strings attached. In this prayer I place myself completely at your disposal, confident of your good will and grace.
Petition: Lord, I welcome you into my soul. Help me to allow you to enter and rule over the house of my soul.
- Speak Lord, Your Servant Is Listening: As curious as it seems, our openness to a message often depends quite heavily on our openness to its messenger. Have you ever rejected somebody’s advice outright only to later embrace it when it comes from a different person? Have you disregarded a light from God because he revealed it to you through a person you would not have chosen, or even imagined God would have chosen? This is the common, simple error of the Nazarenes that Christ felt he had to point out to them. What has Christ been trying to tell me recently? Through whom? Am I ready to listen to him and allow him to use whatever messenger he may choose?
- Open My Heart to Your Message: Initially, the people of Nazareth in today’s Gospel seemed quite receptive to Christ’s message, his delivery, and his authority. What they couldn’t stomach was that they believed him to be just “one of them.” He would later prove himself “too much for them.” Surely, they must have thought that he had forgotten his roots and that his Capernaum fame had gone to his head. But of course, the Nazarenes were neither the first nor the last to fall into the trap of focusing more on the messenger than on the message. This is precisely why Christ brought up the example of Naaman the Syrian, who was rewarded with a cure only after overcoming his rationalism and eating a bit of “humble pie.” (See his story in 2 Kings 5.) Has my hurt pride ever blinded me from listening to what Christ is desperately trying to tell me?
- Lord, I Trust in You: At one point in his public ministry, Christ would tell his listeners, “If you don’t believe the words that I speak, at least believe the works that I do” (cf. John 14:10-11). Why wouldn’t he at least give his own people from Nazareth the same advice and opportunity? Are a few miracles too much to waste on Nazarene soil? We must remember that faith is a gift. It is given and not bargained for or merited. On Calvary some would taunt him with a similar deal, “If you come down from the cross, then we will believe in you” (Cf. Mark 15:32). We must wonder from whom came the harder blow: from his accusers, or from “his own.” A proud demand is especially ugly and hurtful when it comes from a friend or loved one.
Conversation with Christ: Jesus, I accept your invitation to come to the house of my soul. Help me to see the areas of my life in need of cleaning. Help me to see the areas of my life which prevent you from coming – those rooms that I close to you. Help me be humble enough to let your grace set to work in me.
Resolution: I will console Christ with a total and immediate trust in him and in his plan for my life today, whatever may come.
September 1, 2020 – Tuesday of Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Christ at Home in Capernaum
Jesus then went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee. He taught them on the sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out in a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down in front of them and came out of him without doing him any harm. They were all amazed and said to one another, “What is there about his word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, you have looked with favor on me. You have seen in my soul fertile ground, and you have sown your word in hope of an abundant harvest. I hope never to let you down by not responding in faith. I allow you to lead me to the fullness of my vocation as your disciple.
Petition: Christ, may zeal for your friendship consume me so much that I remove all sin from my life.
- Great Hopes: Jesus had great plans for Capernaum –– a big city, situated by the lake on the “way of the sea,” a thoroughfare open to travelers. It was an ideal hub from which to spread the Gospel. Would anyone from such a big town have interest in his message? Christ made his home there. He exercised the greater part of his public ministry in Capernaum and graced it with more than one-third of his miracles. It was quite different than Nazareth. Christ asks us to find our Capernaum –– seeking that niche, using those talents, evangelizing that audience — where we can become the most effective apostles for him. This may demand a greater love from us, but we can see how Christ blesses this effort with his presence, teaching and healing.
- Simple Faith: Christ chooses to cure a man on the Sabbath in Capernaum and nobody raises an eyebrow! How different this is than Jerusalem! These people here have a simple faith, unconcerned about the legalities of ritualistic orthodoxy. “Here I can preach. Here I can heal. Here I can work!” Christ feels at home and welcomed. Here Christ finds vocations: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew. Here Christ finds faith even among the pagans: the centurion who asks for a cure. One can sense a special predilection of Christ toward this city. From those who have been given more, more will be expected.
- Generosity Pushed to Its Limits: Once a soul responds in generosity, Christ opportunely draws it to the fullness of its vocation. Encouraged by Capernaum’s faith, Christ asks more of it; just as he asked of the rich young man. As we see later in the Gospel, what better place than faith-filled Capernaum for Christ to reveal to the world one of his most difficult teachings: presenting himself as the Living Bread come down from heaven? In the end, the majority leave him. “Will you go away too?” The present-day ruins of Capernaum testify to the truth of Christ’s warning: “As for you, Capernaum, ‘Are you to be exalted to the skies? You shall go down to the realm of death!’ If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Sodom, it would be standing today. I assure you; it will go easier for Sodom than for you on the Day of Judgment” (Matthew 11:23-4).
Conversation with Christ: Lord, you know me and you know everything about me. Let me not become blinded by the arrogance of my own opinions and ideas. Help me to keep you always before me as the goal of my life, the pearl of great price, for which I joyfully sell all I own to possess.
Resolution: I will use one of my talents to help somebody today.
September 2, 2020 – Wednesday of Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Risen People Called to Serve
After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her. He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them. At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him. He laid his hands on each of them and cured them. And demons also came out from many, shouting, “You are the Son of God.” But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Christ. At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place. The crowds went looking for him, and when they came to him, they tried to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.” And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, thank you for coming into my house. I am honored that you wish to stop by even when I don’t call for you. I am extremely grateful for the personal attention that you give me, especially when I am ill and in need of your grace.
Petition: Lord, cure me of my spiritual ailments so I may serve you in others.
- Christ Raises Us Up: There is a certain matter-of-factness about the cure in this Gospel passage: no special words of Jesus, no words of thanks, no reaction of the people. It is as if Jesus simply and routinely entered a home and helped a very sick woman up and out of bed. Not your typical miracle that draws a lot of attention. While we hope for that long-awaited miracle in our lives, we might be overlooking one of these very ordinary cures that Christ often offers us. In the spiritual realm, it may be a good confession, receiving him in the Eucharist, spiritual guidance, or a regular examination of conscience. In the physical realm, it may be just taking good care of my health by eating or sleeping properly. We don’t need to demand a special cure. Rather we must be encouraged that Christ has directed his gaze towards us.
- He Helps Us to Our Feet: Notice how quickly everything happens in today’s Gospel. Christ helps Simon’s mother-in-law to her feet immediately. She cooperates without skepticism or words of protest. She believes in Christ. His grace is effective. The cure is complete and instantaneous. He allows us to stand up on our own and resume our duties.
- He Cures Us So That We Might Serve: We are very good about pleading to Christ for cures, yet frequently hassled when he sends us the “bill” — namely that of serving others. Simon’s mother-in-law immediately begins to serve Christ, who has put her back on her feet. She immediately forgets about herself –– her problems, how she feels, how much time her sickness has set her back –– and instead focuses on the needs of others.Jesus raises up Christians from the death of sin and calls upon them to serve. Christians are risen people whose vocation is to serve.
Conversation with Christ: Dear Lord, everybody is looking for you. You have put me back on my feet and have asked me to imitate your life of service. Help me to be generous with the life you have restored in me so that I, too, might put the interests of your Kingdom above my personal plans.
Resolution: I will earnestly ask Christ to cure me of my most dominant defect, taking one concrete step in acquiring its opposing virtue.
September 3, 2020 – Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church
The Great Navigator
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, as we begin this meditation, I feel you have stepped into my boat. I put out a short distance from shore, away from all my daily concerns, to listen to you alone. It is just you and I, and I sense that you are going to ask something of me. I am truly humbled and grateful that you would spend so much personal time with me.
Petition: Christ, help me to understand and embrace your call to holiness for me.
- Teacher: Jesus taught by the lake. We know that he taught in many other places, too: in the Temple, in synagogues, on mountains, among children. Today he had a great crowd around him by the lake. For these people, the lake was everything: water, food, transportation, an object of beauty and contemplation. Yet beneath its usually still and deep blue surface, there was a whole other world unknown to them. How appropriate that next to it, Christ, who could probe its depths, uncovered for them the many mysteries of faith and the divine plan! He can help us understand so many things that are a part of our daily lives, yet in many ways remain unfamiliar or unintelligible to us.
- Leader: It is one thing to get the curious crowds to give you a moment of their attention, but quite another to motivate people to give you their dedication and their life. Christ knew that to get someone to commit, directing an interesting story to the general public would not be enough. Personal attention was in order. Christ stepped into Peter’s boat and asked him for a favor, a simple task: “Put out a short distance from the shore.” Christ’s first tasks are usually not that hard for us to execute: simply material compliance and a little generosity. But if we let him ride with us long enough, he will eventually ask us for something that demands faith and may go against our reason or personal comfort. We want Christ to win us over for good, but how can he do so if we don’t let him take us for a ride “out into the deep?”
- Motivator: Do I get surprised when Christ does something marvelous in my life? Does astonishment seize me? Maybe I’m not surprised. Maybe I am thinking what is good or successful in me originates from myself. Proud is the person who thinks so. Proud, too, is the person who recognizes the hand of God and nevertheless responds, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Christ just performed a miracle through the obedience of a sinful man; why can’t he do it again? Why do I respond, “Leave me, Lord,” unless I’m not ready to obey? When I call my partners to come over and check it out, do I do so to allow this experience of Christ to touch others? Or do I do so to help them see how gifted I am? If I am to become a fisher of men like Peter, I, too, must purify myself from these all-too-human reactions. Don’t worry, my pettiness doesn’t faze Christ. Listen to him: “Do not be afraid. You will become…”
Conversation with Christ: So many souls are hustling through this world without knowing where they are going and without enjoying your friendship as I do. I do not know if you want to reach many or few of them through me, but I think they are many. My heart is ready, O Lord. Fill me with apostolic zeal.
Resolution: I will work on being a good and positive motivator today.
September 4, 2020 – Friday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Becoming the New You
Luke 5: 33-39
The scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same; but yours eat and drink.” Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” And he also told them a parable. “No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. Otherwise, he will tear the new and the piece from it will not match the old cloak. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins. And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’“
Introductory Prayer: Lord God, I come from dust and to dust I shall return. You, on the other hand, existed before all time, and every creature takes its being from you. You formed me in my mother’s womb with infinite care, you watch over me tenderly. I hope at my death you will embrace my soul to carry me home to heaven to be with you forever. Thank you for looking upon me and blessing me with your love. Take mine in return. I humbly offer you all that I am.
Petition: Rejuvenate my spiritual life, Lord.
- Judging by the Wrong Standards: Once again, we have Jesus at a meal, this time with Levi (Matthew) and his friends. The scribes and Pharisees have come along to scrutinize Jesus and his followers, as they were wary of his teachings which were not in accord with the legalism and formalism to which they were accustomed. Their statement here about fasting contains an implicit judgment: You and your followers are not following our traditions of fasting; therefore, you cannot be truly holy. They present it not as a question, but as a statement, an accusation. They are not open to looking at things in a new way. We, too, can be guilty of rash judgment, even with other people in the Church who do not do things the way we do. Our reference point has to be not what we are used to, but what the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, teaches and approves, be it ancient traditions or new manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church.
- For Everything There Is a Season: Jesus’ answer is simple: there is a time and place for both fasting and feasting. Some people have a special vocation to a life of unusual abnegation, but for most of us, the liturgical year provides us with a natural cycle of rejoicing and penance. At times we rejoice with the “bridegroom” – like Christmas and Easter when we celebrate the coming of Christ and his resurrection. At other times we practice more penance – as in Lent when we focus more on making reparation for the separation from the Lord caused by sin in our lives, or in Advent when we purify our hearts to receive the Lord at Christmas. Ordinary Time has its own feasts and occasions of particular significance one way or the other. The question we must ask ourselves is this: Are we living these liturgical realities, or are we neglecting them? Do the feasts and fasts of the Church affect my life, or are the liturgical seasons at best curiosities that I hardly notice?
- The New You: Then, Jesus offers all those present a challenge in the form of a parable. Both images – the cloth and the wineskins – emphasize the idea that in order to embrace his message we need to think “outside the box”. We easily get settled into a routine, becoming complacent and tepid in our faith. It’s even worse if we have habits of sin. To follow Christ and his “Good News” truly, we need to leave behind what St. Paul called the “old self” to be new creatures in Christ (Colossians 3:9-10). For the Pharisees, that would have meant leaving behind their strict formalism and judgmental attitude. For Levi and his friends, it meant abandoning their worldliness and sinful lifestyle. Making a break with our old self is difficult – the “old wine” is what we’re used to – but we have to take the step of recognizing in what our old self consists and deciding to leave that behind to embrace Christ’s message, which is always challenging, ever new.
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, help me to focus more on following you than on judging others. Show me who I am, and who you want me to be. Grant me the grace to live the life of the Church – feasts and fasts – with enthusiasm, so you can transform me into a new creature.
Resolution: I will make it a point to live today, Friday, as a memorial of the death of Our Lord by offering a small sacrifice as a penance for my sins, and I will live this coming Sunday with real joy as the celebration of his resurrection.
September 5, 2020 – Saturday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
The Heart of the Matter
Luke 6: 1-5
While Jesus was going through a field of grain on a sabbath, his disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them. Some Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you not read what David did when he and those who were with him were hungry? How he went into the house of God, took the bread of offering, which only the priests could lawfully eat, ate of it, and shared it with his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I worship you because I came from you. I long for you because you made me for yourself. I praise you as my ever-present helper. I call on you as my powerful protector. (Universal Prayer of Pope Clement XI)
Petition: Lord, purify my heart.
- The Pharisees’ Heart: Sometimes a short phrase reveals so much about what is happening inside a person’s mind and heart. One can get a glimpse into Hitler’s corrupt heart with his famous phrase: “I do not see why man should not be just as cruel as nature.” His actions were of the cruelest. Thirty years ago, when Saint John Paul II was elected pope, the simple phrase “Be not afraid” indicated the attitude he would have for the following 26 fearless years of his papacy. In this passage the Pharisees say so much about the state of their own hearts by saying so little: “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” The Pharisees are all caught up in the externals of the law and miss the big picture that Christ came to bring: complete love for God and heroic love of neighbor. As Christians we are not called to have a heart that calculates the cost, but rather one filled with unconditional love.
- A King’s Heart: Another character in this passage is King David, whom Christ hails for having chosen to feed his starving army over scrupulously following some norms of the law regarding eating. From the story of David and Goliath, we learn that David had a brave heart from his youth and that he trusted in God over his own limitations. Young David’s heart was honest and humble: King Saul was trying to kill him, yet when David had the chance to kill Saul in a cave, he relented and later made amends with Saul. David’s heart was weak when he fell in love with Uriah’s wife and then had Uriah killed. Nevertheless, David’s heart did not grow cold from this sin; rather, he repented deeply: “Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness blot out my offenses, wash away all my guilt, from my sin cleanse me” (Psalm 51). With time and patience, David formed a remarkable heart that loved God and neighbor.
- The Sacred Heart: What love the Heart of Christ shows his apostles in this passage! Imagine the scene: Christ walking through a ripe field of grain with his closest friends, laughing, joking, talking about the town they just visited, speaking of their dreams, and also snacking on the ripe harvest. Christ’s heart was so immersed with love for these men who would be the pillars of the Church and who would bring his message to the whole world. How far his thoughts were from the littleness and pettiness of the empty prescriptions of the pharisaical law! His law is the new law of love: “Behold the heart that has so loved men.” Christ looks at us the same way he looked at his apostles in the field – as friends who are called to be the pillars of the new evangelization, as apostles who are to bring his words to the end of the earth. He needs us to say “yes” to this call!
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, thank you for the unconditional love of your heart. I want to repay your love for me by loving you back with the same intensity. I know I always fall short of this, but you know my heart, and you know I want to be close to you until the day I meet you face to face in eternity.
Resolution: With a repentant heart, I will go to confession as soon as possible.
September 6, 2020 – Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Love for Lost Sheep
Father Paul Campbell, LC
Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I come to you once again in prayer. Even though I cannot see you, my faith tells me that you are present. You are ready to listen and desire to speak with me. Your presence gives me hope, because you are the all-powerful God, the creator of heaven and earth. You are the source of all that is good in my life. Nothing happens to me without your knowing and permitting it. My hope leads me to love. I want to be one with you in mind and heart, identifying myself with your will and your standards.
Petition: Lord, help me to grow in my love for the Church and for souls.
- Go to the One Who Sins Against You: Today’s text is part of a larger discussion that includes the preceding parable of the lost sheep. God wants us to love as he loves, even loving those whose sins may have directly harmed us in some way. This is hard. Sometimes we are not particularly forgiving and merciful towards those who sin. We can easily look down on them and imagine that we are much better than they, or we can become impatient that they are not like us. When someone sins against us, we have to look beyond our pain. Indeed, we have to embrace that pain in the redemptive way that Christ shows on the cross and in the Eucharist. We should not write that person off as lost, turn our back or walk away. We should go to the one who sins against us and seek in love to bring him home to the Father’s love.
- Reconcile Them to the Church: God’s love for the fallen sinner should not only be evident in our lives, but should also live in our local churches. Is our parish open and inviting to sinners, or has it become the last refuge for the saved? Does our church go and seek that lost sinner, or do we expect the lost sheep to find its own way to us? God wants us to go to the lost sinner and seek to bring him home to the Church. This means that we need to live as missionaries, as evangelists going out to the street corners and public squares, wherever the lost sinners may be. God loves them and wants to reach them through us. We are his hands and his feet; he wants to speak his words through our lips. How does God want me personally to become involved in this mission of the Church in my local parish?
- I Am in the Midst of You: As we go out to fulfill Christ’s mission toward lost sheep, he goes with us. We are not alone. He promised his disciples that he would be with them to the ends of the earth. This should give us confidence. Jesus is with us, and he is going to help transmit his love for some lost soul through us, through our words and gestures. He will give us the strength to carry on his work. There is also some benefit when we gather together with others in the Church as well. Jesus is present in the Church, where two or three are gathered in his name. We are with him to the degree we are united to the Church. As we become committed and involved in our local parish, we are closer to Jesus.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, move me to conquer my fears and complexes, my laziness and indifference, and to become engaged in the Church’s mission to save souls. Don’t let me blindly walk by the ones you love, the ones you shed your blood to redeem. Don’t let my heart harden against them, but help me to go to them with your love and forgiveness.
Resolution: I will find a way to become engaged in the Church’s mission of evangelization.