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Category Archives: :60 Reflections

Natural and Spiritual

For the first reading today, we’re back in 1 Corinthians 2. St. Paul speaks much of the Spirit of God here. More in a moment. In the Gospel reading from Luke 4, we see the word “authority” twice. Jesus “spoke with authority” and “With authority and power he commands the unclean spirits.” Jesus was given all authority by the Father. Does He have authority over your life today?

“We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God.” St. Paul talks today about the difference in thinking between “the natural man” and “the one who is spiritual.” There is a basic disconnect between the two. As people of the Spirit, we realize that there is a much broader picture than those who are of the world only can see.

Unfortunately, more and more people are “natural” today. They’re all about science and believe that if something can’t be “proven” through natural means, then it cannot be. As spiritual people, we see something greater than ourselves, and even the world in which we exist. Everything in the universe is not just happenstance. This always reminds me of the old axiom: we’re not physical beings on a spiritual journey, we’re spiritual beings on a physical journey. And when this physical journey is over, we will live on forever. The question is where…

Father, help us to see beyond the physical. Strengthen our spiritual sight, that we may see through the eyes of eternity. Amen.

Today’s Readings

Our Labor

Happy Labor Day! I hope you are taking a day of R&R today. I’d like to share some thoughts about our labor today.

In these difficult economic times, many people are worried. Those who are unemployed are worried about whether they will find work again. The underemployed worry about making enough to make ends meet. And those with jobs are worried about when the rug may be pulled out from under them. All seemingly legitimate concerns. Until we remember that God has got it all under control. Read Matthew 6: 31-34 to get the picture.

For many, work is life. We find our identity in our work. But we must remember that work is merely a part of the big picture. Important, yes. But it should not be all-consuming. Our work must be dedicated to Christ. No matter what we do for a living, we should always do what we do to glorify God. Because jobs will come and go, but we will be with God forever.

Father, we thank you for the gift of work. We offer up to you all those who are unemployed or underemployed. Help us all to remember to glorify You in our work. Amen.

Today’s Readings

An Obstacle to God

Jesus had just told Peter that He would give him the keys to the kingdom. Immediately after that, Jesus begins to talk about how He would be handed over, killed and rise on the third day. This kind of talk didn’t sit well with Peter.

In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 16, Peter says, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” Jesus says to Peter in reply, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.”

Have you ever asked if maybe you were an obstacle to God? Have there ever been instances in your life where you defied, or blocked someone else of doing God’s will. Unfortunately, I think there are many times when I may be an obstacle to God. When those times arise, I ask simply that God push me out of the way so that His glory can shine through.

Father, forgive us for when we are an obstacle to you. May we never again block your will, in our own lives and in the lives of others. Amen.

Today’s Readings

Shame

You have been given great gifts and talents. You need to use them to build up the Kingdom of God. This is a lesson we get from today’s Gospel reading in Matthew 25, the parable of the talents. How are you investing your talents?

In the first reading today from 1 Corinthians 1, we hear more from St. Paul about strength and weakness, wisdom and foolishness, and shame. “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong…”

Shame is an interesting thing. Isn’t it interesting that God would use shame? Some will say shame is a bad thing – completely unnecessary. Not so. Now, we mustn’t wallow in shame and allow it to rule us. But shame can often be a good thing. When it is a motivator for positive change, and when we use it for that and then let it go, shame can be a force for good. When “the strong of the world” are ashamed by how they mistreat the weak, good can come of it.

Father, though it is difficult, we ask you to shame us for the things for which we should be ashamed. May we use it for positive change in our lives, and then let it go. Amen.

Today’s Readings

Fools for Christ

Today the Church celebrates the Passion of Saint John the Baptist. The Gospel reading from Mark 6 tells the story of how John was beheaded. It is a tragic tale, but one that we can learn from – the truth will cost us everything.

Our first reading today is from 1 Corinthians 1 where St. Paul talks about foolishness and wisdom.”The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Jesus dying on the cross…foolishness. To my sensibilities now, that seems like such blasphemy. But I can remember a time in my life when I really thought that way. Jesus? Ah, just a fairy tale! No one really believes that stuff. Christianity? Why, that’s just a crutch for weak people! Those are direct quotes from me!

Of course, now I know better. But, believe you me, more and more people these days share my opinions of old. They see Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, as irrelevant. The world has molded their thinking so much that they see us as a bunch of wacked-out fools. So how do we reach them? I think we need to be foolish enough to show them love and, by our example, let them know that this whole Christian thing ain’t so bad! Give it a try…maybe you can be a happy fool like me!

Father, help us to be fools for Christ today. Help us to reach out to those who believe that the message of the cross is foolishness, and to show them the power of God. Amen.

Today’s Readings

Great Sinner, Great Saint

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Augustine. I want to go outside of our regular format today and talk about this great saint. By the way, we see much of our first reading played out in the life of St. Augustine. Read it and see if you agree.

Augustine was a man of the world. He was given immense gifts by God. He was a brilliant thinker and a skilled orator. From an early age he knew that he wanted to practice law and use his oratory skills in front of the court. After leaving home, he rose rapidly in the world and made a name for himself. But he wanted nothing to do with religion. His mother, Monica (whose feast we celebrated yesterday), prayed relentlessly for the conversion of her son. Eventually, God answered her prayers. Augustine became a bishop and one of the greatest minds in the history of the Church. From great sinner to great saint – something we should all aspire to.

I’ll end today’s reflection with some sound advice from St. Augustine. From Sermon 265, 3-4: My brothers and sisters, believe firmly what you believe – that Christ will return. What does it matter when? Prepare yourself for His coming. Live as though He were coming today, and you will not fear His coming.

Father, we thank you for the witness of St. Augustine. May we sinners follow in his footsteps to sainthood. Amen.

Today’s Readings

No Free Ride

In the first reading today from 2 Thessalonians 3, St. Paul talks about the importance of work. More on that in a moment. In the Gospel reading from Matthew 23, Jesus continues to pronounce woes on the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus pulled no punches with these characters. “On the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.”

St. Paul was not someone who was looking for a free ride. In fact, quite the opposite. He writes about this in 2 Thessalonians. “In toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you…We wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us.” St. Paul acknowledges that this did not have to be the case. As a laborer in God’s vineyard, he had a right to expect that the people would care for his needs. But he would have no part of that. And he expected all to follow his example.

“We instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” St. Paul was all about taking care of the poor and infirm, the widow and the orphan. But he had no patience for the freeloader. Those of us who are able should first thank God, then set our hand to the plow and work hard, both in the temporal and spiritual realms. So what are you waiting for? Get to work!!

Today’s Readings

Weightier Things

Many people reject the Catholic Church because of the teaching that divine revelation consists of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. They say that Jesus condemned tradition. St. Paul has something else to say, as we see in today’s first reading from 2 Thessalonians 2.

In the Gospel reading from Matthew 23, we hear Jesus calling the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites again. He says to them, “You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgement and mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.”

Sound familiar? It should, if you’ve been listening to Pope Francis at all. This message has been a hallmark of his papacy. Some have criticized this Pope for not hammering the topics of abortion, same-sex marriage, etc. Pope Francis does not suggest that those teachings be thrown out, or that we stop talking about them. He is simply saying that there are weightier things (like love, compassion and mercy) that need to be brought out first.

Father, teach us to speak of love and compassion and mercy, without neglecting other important issues. Help us to find the proper balance each time we speak. Amen.

Today’s Readings

Hypocrites

For the first reading today we begin 2 Thessalonians. St. Paul compliments the people for their “endurance and faith in all your persecutions and the afflictions you endure.” Wouldn’t it be great if people could say that of us?

In the Gospel reading today from Matthew 23, Jesus has some harsh words for the scribes and Pharisees, calling them hypocrites (among other choice things.) Here is the definition of the word from dictionary.com:

hypocrite
noun
1.a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially person whose actions belie stated beliefs.
2.a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.

I feel pretty confident in saying that none of us would like to think that those definitions fit us. But then we have to face reality. I believe there is at least a modicum of hypocrisy in all of us. Many will use that as an excuse not to go to church. “Oh, I won’t go to that church. It’s full of hypocrites!” I love how my old friend Zig Ziglar used to respond to that. He would say, “Don’t let that stop you! There’s always room for one more!”

Father, rid us of our hypocrisy. May the person we profess to be, be the person that we are. Amen.

Today’s Readings

The Gates of Hell

In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 16, we see the famous exchange between Peter and Jesus. It is one that Catholics especially should be familiar with, since it helps us to understand the office of the papacy, and Peter’s role as leader of the Church.

Jesus says, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” Other translations render “netherworld” as “Hades” or “hell.” (There is a subtle difference between the two, but you get the picture.)

I think most people recognize that the Church is under attack. While much of the negative publicity of late has been because of the sins of some of Her members, Satan never misses an opportunity to undermine Holy Mother Church. Sometimes it can feel as though Satan is winning. While he may prevail in a skirmish or two, in the end the battle belongs to the Lord. We must always remember and hang our hats on that.

Father, help us to always remember that the gates of hell will never prevail against your church. When all else crumbles, your church will remain. May we always remain with Her. Amen.

Today’s Readings