In the Gospel reading today from Matthew 5, Jesus says to His disciples, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Wow. That’s a tall order, no? And maybe this is an issue that you struggle with. I know that I do. Perfectionism.
Perfection is something that is pretty much impossible to achieve, isn’t it? Especially when we’re talking about the perfection of God. Sorry, Jesus…great thought, but I just can’t pull that one off.
But wait. In Luke’s version of this saying, a different word is used. Luke 6:36 renders it this way: “Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.” Hmm…perfect; merciful. Two different things altogether, right? Maybe not so much. See, we tend to think of perfection as being without defect or flaw. That’s a place we’ll never get. But maybe Jesus equates perfection with mercy. And mercy is something that sounds like it could be a bit more within reach, doesn’t it? Something to think about.
Father, you know that, apart from your grace, we can never be perfect. Teach us to be merciful, that we might grow in perfection today. Amen.
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In the Gospel reading from Mark 9, we read the story of the Transfiguration. Upon seeing Jesus in His glory, along with Moses and Elijah, Peter says, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Peter was having a moment, and he wanted to “pitch camp”; he wanted to stay in that place.
I hope that we have shared that same moment and sentiment as Peter. It often happens on a retreat. We have a moment with Jesus, and, if we could, we would just like to freeze time and stay there forever. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. When we have those profound encounters with Christ, we must savor the moment. But then we have to go back into the world. Hopefully, that moment, that encounter will change us forever. Then we can share Jesus with the world.
Father, as we encounter the transfigured Lord, may we be changed, and bring the message of His glory into the lives of others. Amen.
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In our Gospel reading today from Mark 8, Jesus asks the question, “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” So many today are striving for riches, potentially at the cost of their souls. Sure doesn’t sound like a fair trade-off to me. If you do a cost/benefit analysis and find that the cost is losing your soul, hopefully you will see that the cost is far too high to offset any benefits that may be gained while here on the planet. Because eternity is a lot longer than the time we’ll be spending here.
In the first reading today from Genesis 11, we read about the Tower of Babel. It’s an interesting story. The people of earth all spoke the same language and decided to build a tower that reached to the sky. God didn’t take kindly to this, so he confused their language so that they could no longer communicate with each other. He also scattered them all over the world. So, what’s the moral of this story?
I think the reason that God was so upset was that the people said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves.” In other words, the tower was to glorify themselves. They weren’t thinking of God at all. It was all about them. This should be a great lesson for us. When all we’re looking to do is make a name for ourselves, to glorify ourselves, it will not end well. We should be doing all we do for the glory of God.
Father, forgive us for the many times when we want to glorify ourselves. Help us to remember that in all things we should glorify You. Amen.
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Whenever you see a rainbow, it should remind you of God. Why? Check out today’s first reading from Genesis 9 to find out. In the Gospel reading from Mark 8, Jesus asks the disciples who people say that He is. He then asks, “But who do you say that I am?” After Peter replies, “You are the Christ,” the two of them have an interesting exchange.
Jesus begins speaking about how he would suffer, be killed and rise after three days. Peter rebukes Him. At this, Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Ouch.
This begs the question for us: how do we know if we’re thinking as God does? I think our human frailties often prevent us from this. But as we deepen our relationship with God through prayer, reading Scripture and learning about and participating in the Sacramental life, we’ll get better at it. After all, you can’t think like someone you don’t know.
Father, help us to grow ever closer to you, that we might think more like you. Amen.
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Did you know that Noah was over 600 years old at the time of the Great Flood? We see this in today’s first reading from Genesis 8. After the flood, God promises Noah, “Never again will I doom the earth because of man since the desires of man’s heart are evil from the start; nor will I ever again strike down all living beings, as I have done.” Phew! It’s good to be alive post-Flood, huh? In our Gospel reading from Mark 8, Jesus appears to need a mulligan in healing a blind man.
Jesus lays hands on a blind man. The blind man, though, can only make out shapes. So Jesus lays his hands on the man’s eyes a second time. This time his sight is fully restored. Why didn’t the man get healed on the first try? Well, I think there are two things we can draw from this. The first is that Jesus wants to heal us completely, and He will do whatever it takes to make sure that that happens. Even if it means using a mulligan.
The second thing is more about us. Sometimes we need to be healed in stages. Perhaps we are not ready for the total healing. Much like an alcoholic or drug addict must be weaned off the drug. Now, I don’t know if this was the case for the blind man in today’s Gospel story. But I do know that this is often the case with me. I probably wouldn’t know how to act if the healing came all at once. Perhaps God knows that if it happened that way, I would take Him for granted. Whatever the case may be, God, in His wisdom, knows how and when and how much to heal us.
Father, like the blind man, we beg you to heal us. If we’re not ready for the whole package, then give us that which we can handle. We trust that you’ll finish the job in your time. Amen.
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In today’s first reading from Genesis, God instructs Noah what he needs to do to save himself, his family and all the animals from the flood. Man had become so wicked that God decided it was time to start all over again.
In the Gospel reading from Mark 8, Jesus once again seems a bit exasperated with His disciples. He says to them, “Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?” And He finishes with, “Do you still not understand?”
My heart goes out to the disciples in this moment. Jesus was obviously frustrated that they didn’t “get it.” Oh, how He must feel the same about me on a regular basis. What don’t you understand about forgive? Is “love thy neighbor” so tough to get? Do you still not understand? Unfortunately, the answer is far too often no. Be patient with me, Lord. I’m a little slow on the uptake, but I’m trying!
Father, forgive our ignorance. Give us a greater understanding of your ways and your desires for us today. Amen.
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In today’s first reading, we see the story of the world’s first murder. Cain killed his brother Abel because God looked favorably on Abel’s offering and Cain became resentful and jealous.
Before Cain committed this horrific act, the LORD says something to him that we must all hear. “Why are you so resentful and crestfallen? If you do well, you can hold up your head; bit if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.”
Sin is a demon lurking at the door. It has been thus since the fall, this much is true. But the more important part is what the LORD says after. “You can be his master.” We can master sin! How? By relying more and more on the grace and strength God provides. By drawing closer to Christ every day. The great saints have proven this. And what are we but saints in training? By saying yes to God more and no to Satan more, we will spend less time opening that door at which the demon is always lurking. Slam it shut!
Father, help us to truly master sin by opening ourselves more and more to your grace and strength, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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We’re back in that pesky old Sermon on the Mount for today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 5. Today we hear Jesus teaching about the Sixth Commandment – You shall not commit adultery. Here’s what He says.
“You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Given this, don’t you think it’s possible that the Sixth Commandment is the most broken of all the commandments?
In our sex-saturated, pornography-filled culture, the objectification of others as mere sex objects has become so commonplace that we may not even realize it any more. We see it every day, but have become so desensitized to it that it probably escapes our view. But ask any priest what the most common thing they hear in the confessional today is, and I’ll bet dollars to donuts it has to do with pornography and, though many don’t think of it in Jesus’ terms, adultery. We need to begin looking at others as the child of God that they are. When we view others through the eyes of Jesus, adultery will no longer be an issue. We will see them not as objects of our own sexual gratification, but as sisters and brothers who need God’s love and grace just as much as we do.
Father, forgive us for the many times each day we commit adultery. Help us to see others through your eyes, and truly want what is best for them. Amen.
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In today’s Gospel reading from Mark 8, we read about a miracle. Jesus feeds four thousand people with seven loaves and a few fish. And after everyone had eaten their fill, they picked up the fragments left over and got seven baskets full. Now that’s love!
In the first reading today from Genesis 3, God discovers that the man and the woman figured out that they were naked, and they were ashamed. God knew that they had eaten of the fruit which He had forbidden them to eat. The man says, “The woman gave it to me!” And the woman says, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.” This always reminds me of the old Flip Wilson sketch where he says, “The devil made me do it!” (A reference that probably few people will get!)
While in a sense the woman was correct, she and the man, were trying to stick the blame on someone else. “It’s not my fault!” From the beginning, they refused to take responsibility for their own actions. But God would not give them a pass. He banished them from the garden, and death entered the world. Isn’t this kind of part of the human condition? It is much easier to point a finger at someone else than to admit that we messed up. But when it comes right down to it, it wasn’t the devil that ate the fruit. We can always exercise our free will to say NO to Satan. Trouble is, we don’t do that often enough. When we do sin, let’s stop pointing fingers. Perhaps it’s time to man up and admit our wrongdoing and take our medicine.
Father, forgive us for the many times we want to assign blame to someone else for our wrongdoing. Help us to take responsibility for our actions. Amen.
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In the Gospel reading today from Mark 7, Jesus heals a deaf man with a speech impediment. “And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.” Let us pray today that God will open our ears to hear the truth, and that that hearing will result in us speaking the truth.
In the first reading today from Genesis 3, we’re back in the garden. The serpent (Satan) comes and whispers sweet nothings into the ears of the woman. He plants seeds of doubt and dissent in her mind, telling her that God was duping her. “No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.” In essence, the serpent convinced her that she didn’t need to be obedient to God; she could become her own god!
Doesn’ t that have a familiar ring to it? I suppose it should. Because that same old trick that the devil used on Eve is the same old trick that he tries to use on us. The sad part is that far too often, it works. We don’t need God! We don’t need someone telling us what to do! We don’t need the Church! We can make up our own minds! Hand me that piece of fruit! At its core, Satan introduced pride into the world. When we think we’re smarter than God, it ain’t gonna end well. Reminds me of the old truism: Pride cometh before the fall.
Father, forgive us for those times when we, too, fall for the oldest trick in the devil’s playbook: pride. Teach us to be obedient to you always. Amen.
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