Daily Gospel Reflection

Prepare for Persecution
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 men, 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.” Matthew 10:16-18

Imagine yourself being a follower of Jesus at the time He was preaching. Imagine that there is much excitement about Him and great hopes that He will be the new King and is the Messiah. There would be much hope and excitement about what is to come.

But then, out of the blue, Jesus gives this sermon. He says that His followers will be persecuted and scourged and that this persecution will continue over and over. This must have made His followers stop and seriously question Jesus and wonder if it was worth following Him.

The persecution of Christians has been alive and well throughout the ages. It has happened in every time and in every culture. It continues to be alive today. So what do we do with that? How do we respond?

Many Christians can fall into the trap of thinking that Christianity is all about simply “getting along.” It’s easy to believe that if we are loving and kind then everyone will also love us. But that’s not what Jesus said.

Jesus made it clear that persecution is going to be a part of the Church and that we should not be surprised when this happens to us. We should not be surprised when those within our culture step on us and act maliciously. When this happens it is easy for us to lose faith and to lose heart. We can get discouraged and feel like turning our faith into a hidden life we live. It’s hard to live our faith openly knowing that the culture and world does not like that and won’t accept it.

The examples are all around us. All we have to do is read the secular news to be made aware of a growing hostility toward the Christian faith. For that reason, we need to heed Jesus’ words today more than ever. We need to be aware of His warning and have hope in His promise that He will be with us and will give us the words to say when we need it. More than anything, this passage calls us to hope and confidence in our loving God.

Reflect, today, on how ready and willing you are to face the hostility of the world. You should not react with similar hostility, rather, you must strive to have courage and strength to endure any and every persecution with the help, strength and wisdom of Christ.

Lord, give me strength, courage and wisdom as I live my faith in a world hostile to You. May I respond with love and mercy in the face of harshness and misunderstanding. Jesus, I trust in You.

Daily Gospel Reflection

The Cost of the Gospel
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Matthew 10:8b

What is the cost of the Gospel? Can we put a price on it? Interestingly, we should put two prices on it. The first price is how much it should cost us to receive it. The second price is how much we “charge,” so to speak, to give the Gospel.
So how much should the Gospel cost us? The answer is that it’s of infinite value. We could never afford it monetarily speaking. The Gospel is priceless.
As far as how much we should “charge” to give the Gospel to others, the answer is that it’s free. We have no right to charge or expect anything so as to give away something that we do not own. The saving message of the Gospel belongs to Christ and He offers it freely.
Let’s start with the second half of the Scripture above. “Without cost you are to give.” This tells us that we are to offer the Gospel to others free of charge. But this action of freely giving the Gospel brings with it a sort of hidden requirement. The giving of the Gospel requires that we give of ourselves. And that means we must give of ourselves freely. What’s the justification for giving everything of ourselves freely? The justification is that we have received everything “without cost.”
The simple fact is that the Gospel is all about a total free gift to us which requires a total free gift of ourselves to others. The Gospel is a person, Jesus Christ. And when He comes and lives in us freely, we must then become a total and free gift to others.
Reflect, today, on both your complete receptivity of the Gospel as well as your complete willingness to give. May your understanding and reception of this glorious gift of God transform you into a gift for others.

Lord, may my heart be open to You in a total way so that I may receive You as the Living Gospel. As I receive You, may I in turn give You to others in my very person. Amen.

Daily Gospel Reflection

Miracles and Faith

Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.  Matthew 10:1

Jesus gives His Apostles a sacred authority.  They were able to drive out demons and heal the sick.  They also won many converts to Christ by their preaching.

It’s interesting to look at this extraordinary charism the Apostles had to act miraculously.  It’s interesting because we do not see this happen that often today.  However, at the beginnings of the Church it seems that miracles were quite common.  One reason for this is that Jesus made quite a statement in the beginning to set things in motion.  The miracles He did and those of His Apostles were powerful signs of the power and presence of God.  These miracles helped the preaching of the Apostles to be more believable and bring forth many converts.  It seems that, as the Church grew, miracles in such great numbers were not as necessary for the authentication of the Word of God.  The personal lives and witness of believers eventually were sufficient to spread the Gospel without the help of numerous miracles.  Martyrdom and acts of great faith became the true signs of God’s presence.

This is helpful to understand because we see something similar in our own lives of faith and conversion.  Often times, in the beginning of our faith journey, we have many powerful experiences of God’s presence.  There may be deep consoling spiritual feelings and a clear sense that God is with us.  But over time, these feelings can start to disappear and we can wonder where they went or wonder if we have done something wrong.  There is an important spiritual lesson here.

As our faith deepens, the spiritual consolations we may receive at the beginning can often fade away because God wants us to love and serve Him out of a more purified faith and love.  We should believe and follow Him not because He makes us feel good, but because it is good and right to love and serve Him.  This can be a difficult lesson to learn but an essential one.

Reflect, today, upon how deep and sustaining your faith is.  Do you know and love God even when things are hard and when He seems far away?  Those moments, more than any, are the moments when your personal faith and conversion can grow the strongest. 

Lord, help my faith in You and my love of You to be deep, stable and strong.  Help me to rely upon that faith more than upon any external “miracles” or feelings.  Help me to love You first and foremost out of a pure love for You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Daily Gospel Reflection

Irrationality V Normaley
A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus, and when the demon was driven out the mute man 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.” Matthew 9:32-34

What a stark contrast we see in the reaction of the crowds compared to the reaction of the Pharisees. It’s actually quite a sad contrast.

The reaction of the crowds, meaning normal everyday people, was one of amazement. Their reaction reveals a simple and pure faith that accepts what it sees. What a blessing it is to have this form of faith.

The reaction of the Pharisees was one of judgment, irrationality, jealousy and harshness. Most especially, it is irrational. What would lead the Pharisees to conclude that Jesus “drives out demons by the prince of demons?” Certainly it was nothing that Jesus did that would lead them to this conclusion. Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that the Pharisees were filled with a certain jealousy and envy. And these sins led them to this ridiculous and irrational conclusion.

The lesson we should learn from this is that we must approach other people with humility and honesty rather than jealousy. By seeing those around us with humility and love, we will naturally arrive at genuine and honest conclusions about them. Humility and honest love will enable us to see the goodness of others and rejoice in that goodness. Sure, we will also be aware of sin, but humility will help us to avoid making rash and irrational judgments about others as a result of jealousy and envy.

Reflect, today, on the way you normally think and speak about others. Do you tend to be more like the crowds who saw, believed and were amazed at the good things Jesus did? Or are you more like the Pharisees who tend to fabricate and exaggerate in their conclusions. Commit yourself to the normalcy of the crowds so that you, too, can find joy and amazement in Christ.

Lord, I desire to have a simple, humble and pure faith. Help me to also see You in others in a humble way. Help me to see You and to be amazed at Your presence in the lives of those whom I encounter every day. Jesus, I trust in You.

Daily Gospel Reflection

    Trusting the Almighty

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. Matthew 9:23-26

Jesus performed many miracles. He overwhelmed the laws of nature time and time again. In this Gospel passage He overcomes death by bringing this little girl back to life. And He does it in such a way that it appears to be quite normal and easy for Him.

It’s insightful to reflect upon Jesus’ approach to the miracles He performed. Many were amazed and in shock of His miraculous power. But Jesus appears to do it as a normal part of His day. He doesn’t make a big deal about it and, in fact, He often tells people to keep His miracles quiet.

One obvious thing this reveals to us is that Jesus does have complete power over the physical world and all the laws of nature. We are reminded in this story that He is the Creator of the Universe and the source of all that is. If He can create all things by simply willing it, He can easily recreate and transform the laws of nature by His will.

Understanding the full truth of His complete authority over nature should also give us confidence in His complete authority over the spiritual world and everything that makes up our lives. He can do all things and can do all things easily.

If we can arrive at a deep faith in His almighty power, and also arrive at a clear understanding of His perfect love and perfect knowledge of us, we will be in a position to trust Him on a level we never knew possible. Why wouldn’t we completely trust Him who can do all things and loves us perfectly? Why wouldn’t we trust Him who knows everything about us and desires only our good? We should trust Him! He is worthy of that trust, and our trust will unleash His almighty power in our lives.

Reflect, today, upon two things. First, do you understand the depth of His power? Second, do you know that His love compels Him to use that power for your good? Knowing and believing these truths will change your life and allow Him to perform miracles of grace.

Lord, I do believe in Your absolute authority over all things and Your complete authority over my life. Help me to trust in You and to trust in Your love for me. Jesus, I do trust

Daily Gospel Reflection

Feast of St Thomas the Apostle

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” John 20:24-25

 

It’s easy to be critical of St. Thomas for his lack of belief reflected in his statement above.  But before you allow yourself to think poorly of him, think about how you would have responded.  This is a difficult exercise to do since we know clearly the end of the story.  We know Jesus did rise from the dead and that Thomas ultimately came to believe, crying out “My Lord and my God!”  But try to put yourself in his situation.

 

First, Thomas probably doubted, in part, out of extreme sadness and despair.  He had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah, he had dedicated the last three years of his life to following Him, and now Jesus was dead…so he thought.  This is an important point because very often in life when we encounter some difficulty, disappointment or painful situation, our faith is tested.  We are tempted to allow despair to draw us into doubt and when this happens we make decisions based more upon our hurt than upon our faith.

 

Second, Thomas was also called to deny the physical reality that he witnessed with his own eyes and believe something that was completely “impossible” from an earthly perspective.  People simply do not rise from the dead!  This simply doesn’t happen, at least from an earthly perspective alone.  And even though Thomas had seen Jesus perform such miracles before, it took much faith to believe without seeing with his own eyes.  So despair and an apparent impossibility went to the heart of Thomas’ faith and extinguished it.

 

Reflect, today, upon two lessons we can take from this passage: 1) Do not ever allow despair, disappointment or hurt to be the guide of your decisions or beliefs in life.  They are never a good guide.  2)  Do not doubt the power of God to be able to do anything and everything He chooses.  In this case, God chose to rise from the dead and so He did.  In our own lives, God can do anything He wills.  We must believe that and know that what He reveals to us in faith will come to be if we but trust in His provident care.

 

Lord, I do believe.  Help my unbelief.  When I am tempted to give in to despair or to doubt Your almighty power over all things in life, help me to turn to You and to trust in You with all my heart.  May I cry out, with St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God,” and may I do so even when I see only with the faith You put into my soul.  Amen.

 

 

Daily Gospel Reflection

When Jesus came to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him. They were so savage that no one could travel by that road. They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?” Matthew 8:28-29

This Scripture passage reveals two things: 1) Demons are ferocious; 2) Jesus has complete power over them.

First of all, we should notice that the two demoniacs “were so savage that no one could travel by that road.” That’s a very significant statement. It’s clear that the demons possessing these two men were vicious and filled those in the town with great fear. So much so that no one would even come near them. This is not a very pleasant thought, but it is reality and it is worth understanding. True, we may not encounter evil in such a direct way very often, but we do face it at times. The evil one is alive and well and is constantly striving to build his demonic kingdom here on Earth.

Think of times when evil appeared to be manifest, oppressive, malicious, calculated, etc. There are times in history when the evil one appeared to triumph in powerful ways. And there are ways that his activity is still manifest in our world today.

That brings us to the second lesson of this story. Jesus has complete authority over the demons. Interestingly, He casts them out into the herd of swine and the swine then run down the hill and die. Bizarre. The towns people are so overwhelmed they then ask Jesus to leave the town. Why would they do that? In part, the reason seems to be the fact that Jesus’ exorcism of these two men causes quite a commotion. This is because manifest evil does not depart quietly.

This is an important lesson to remember in our day and age. It’s important because the evil one appears to be making his presence known to a greater and greater degree today. And he certainly has plans to make his presence even more known in the coming years. We see this in the moral downfall of our societies, the public acceptance of immorality, the secularization of the various world cultures, the increase of terrorism, etc. There are countless ways that the evil one appears to be winning the battle.

Jesus is all-powerful and will win in the end. But the hard part is that His victory will most likely cause quite a scene and it will make many uneasy. Just as they told Him to leave their town after He freed the demoniacs, so also there are many Christians today who are all too willing to ignore the rise of the kingdom of the evil one so as to avoid any contention.

Reflect, today, if you are willing to face the “consequences,” so to speak, of confronting the kingdom of the evil one with the Kingdom of God. Are you willing to do what it takes to stand strong in a culture that is continually deteriorating? Are you willing to remain steadfast in the face of the noise of the evil one? Saying “Yes” to this will not be easy, but it will be a glorious imitation of our Lord Himself.

Lord, help me to remain strong in the face of the evil one and his kingdom of darkness. Help me to confront that kingdom with confidence, love and truth so as to bring forth Your Kingdom in its place. Amen.

Daily Gospel Reflection

Calming the Storm
They came and woke Jesus, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. Matthew 8:25-26

Imagine you were out on the sea with the Apostles. You were a fisherman and spent countless hours on the sea throughout your life. Some days the sea was exceptionally calm and other days there were big waves. But this day was unique. These waves were huge and crashing and you feared that things would not end well. So, with the others on the boat, you woke Jesus in a panic hoping that He would save you.

What would have been the best thing for the Apostles to do in this situation? Most likely, it would have been for them to allow Jesus to remain asleep. Ideally, they would have faced the fierce storm with confidence and hope. “Storms” that seem overwhelming may be rare, but we can be certain they will come. They will come and we will feel overwhelmed.

If the Apostles would not have panicked and would have allowed Jesus to sleep, they may have had to endure the storm a bit longer. But eventually it would have died down and all would have been calm.

Jesus, in His great compassion, is OK with us crying out to Him in our need as the Apostles did on the boat. He is OK with us turning to Him in our fear and seeking His help. When we do, He will be there as a parent is there for a child who wakes during the night in fear. But ideally we will face the storm with confidence and hope. We will ideally know that this too will pass and that we should simply trust and stay strong. This seems to be the most ideal lesson we can learn from this story.

Reflect, today, on how you react to hardship and problems in your life. Be they big or small, do you face them with the confidence, calm and hope that Jesus wants you to have? Life is too short to be filled with terror. Have confidence in the Lord no matter what you face each day. If He seems to be asleep, allow Him to remain asleep. He knows what He is doing and you can be certain that He will never allow you to endure more than you can handle.

Lord, whatever may come my way I trust You. I know You are always there and will never give me more than I can handle. Jesus, I do trust in You.

Daily Gospel Reflection

Feast of St Peter and Paul

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”  Matthew 16:18

Today’s Solemnity is a very appropriate occasion to reflect on this sacred mission.  Saints Peter and Paul are not only two of the greatest examples of the Church’s mission, but they are also the actual foundation upon which Christ established this mission.

First, Jesus Himself in today’s Gospel said to Peter, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.”

In this Gospel passage, “the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” are given to the first pope of the Church. St. Peter, the one entrusted with the divine headship of the Church on Earth, is given the authority to teach us all we need to know in order to attain Heaven.  It’s clear from the earliest days of the Church, that Peter passed these “Keys to the Kingdom,” this “ability to authoritatively bind and loose,” this divine gift that today is called infallibility, on to his successor, and he on to his successor and so forth until today.

St. Paul, the other Apostle we honor today, was not himself entrusted with the keys of Peter, but was called by Christ and strengthened by his ordination to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. St. Paul, with much courage, traveled throughout the Mediterranean to bring the message to all he met. In today’s Second Reading, St. Paul said of his journeys, “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear” the Gospel. And though he suffered, was beaten, imprisoned, ridiculed, misunderstood and hated by many, he was also an instrument of true freedom to many. Many people responded to his words and example, radically giving their lives over to Christ. We owe the establishment of many new Christian communities to St. Paul’s tireless efforts. When facing the opposition of the world, Paul said in today’s epistle, “I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.”

Both St. Paul and St. Peter paid for their faithfulness to their missions with their lives. The First Reading spoke of Peter’s imprisonment; the epistles reveal Paul’s hardships. In the end, both became martyrs. Martyrdom is not a bad thing if it is the Gospel for which you are martyred.

Jesus says in the Gospel, “Fear not the one who can bind your hand and foot, rather fear him who can throw you into Gehenna.” And the only one who can throw you into Gehenna is yourself because of the free choices you make. All we ultimately need to fear is wavering from the truth of the Gospel in our words and deeds.

The truth must be proclaimed in love and compassion; but love is not loving nor is compassion compassionate if the truth of the life of faith and morals is not present.

On this feast of Saints Peter and Paul, may Christ give all of us, and the entire Church, the courage, charity, and wisdom we need to continue to be the instruments that set the world free.

Lord, I thank You for the gift of Your Church and the liberating Gospel it preaches.  Help me to always be faithful to the truths You proclaim through Your Church.  And help me to be an instrument of that truth to all in need of it.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

Daily Gospel Reflection

His leprosy was cleansed immediately. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one, but go show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” Matthew 8:3b-4

An amazing miracle takes place and Jesus simply tells the one healed to “tell no one.” Why does Jesus say this?

First, we should start by reflecting upon what Jesus did. By cleansing this leper He restored this man’s entire life to him. He was living as an outcast, separated from the community; his leprosy, in a sense, took everything from him. But he had faith in Jesus and presented himself to the care and mercy of God. The result was that he was made whole and restored to full health.

Jesus often would tell those who were healed to tell no one. One reason for this was that Jesus’ acts of love and mercy were not done for His own benefit, rather, they were done out of love. Jesus loved this leper and wanted to offer Him this precious gift of healing. He did it out of compassion and, in return, only wanted the man’s gratitude. He did not need to make this a public spectacle, He only wanted the man to be grateful.

The same is true with us. We need to know that God loves us so much that He wants to lift our heavy burdens and heal our weaknesses simply because He loves us. He doesn’t do it first because it will benefit Him, rather, He does it out of love for us.

One lesson we can learn from this has to do with our own acts of love and mercy toward others. When we go out of our way to show love and compassion, are we OK with no one knowing? Too often we want to be noticed and praised. But the nature of an act of love and compassion is such that it should be done simply out of love. In fact, doing something loving and compassionate that is not noticed by anyone helps us grow in love and compassion. It purifies our intentions and enables us to love for love’s sake.

Reflect, today, on your motivation for the acts of kindness you do. Pray that you also can desire to act in hidden ways in imitation of our divine Lord.

Lord, may I grow in love of others and express that love in a pure way. May I never be motivated by a desire for vain praise. Jesus, I trust in You.