In our Gospel reading today, we begin a journey through John 6. Later in the chapter we will be reading and reflecting on the Bread of Life discourse, Jesus’ principle teaching on the Eucharist. But at the beginning of John 6, we read today about a miraculous feeding of the multitudes. Coincidence? I think not. Jesus feeds the people with natural food, then later tells them about how He will feed them (and us) with supernatural food.
A very cool story today in our first reading from Acts 5. A great teacher, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, gets up in front of the Sanhedrin and speaks about these men who are teaching in the name of Jesus. He says this, “If this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” Wise words from a wise teacher. (By the way…Saul [aka St. Paul] was a student of Gamaliel.)
Isn’t this the case with most everything in our lives? We find that if something we undertake is of human origin, meaning that we want something for ourselves, it will fail. But if it comes from God, meaning we are undertaking the task to serve Him, God will bless it. Sometimes it is very difficult to discern. There will be times when our hearts are in the right place and we truly feel like we’re serving God, but then things go south. I’m a believer that God has another plan, a better plan, when things like that happen. Remember, when God closes a door, he’ll open a window.
Father, help us to always do your will. If something is not within your will, let it fail. And help us to find the blessings in all things. Amen.
In today’s first reading from Acts 5, Peter and the Apostles were called on the carpet by the Sanhedrin for teaching in the name of Jesus. Their response? “We must obey God rather than men.” Words for us to live by.
In the Gospel reading from John 3, we see a very important thought from St. John about the gift of the Holy Spirit. He says this, “[God] does not ration his gift of the Spirit.” How do we take that?
God is always pouring out his Spirit. He doesn’t offer just a little bit to one and a truckload to another. We all have access to an abundance of the Holy Spirit. The trick is that we have to be open to it. God does not force the Spirit upon anyone. If you are willing, if you empty yourself of all the things that hinder the Spirit, the Father and the Son will fill you with the Holy Spirit – an endless supply! So the question today is, how much of the Spirit do you want?
Father, we’re open to a greater outpouring of your Spirit in our lives today. Fill us with your Spirit, that we may bless all those we encounter this day. Amen.
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In today’s first reading from Acts 5, we see the first of numerous jail breaks in the Acts of the Apostles. Seems that the authorities wanted to keep the Apostles silent, to stop them from preaching Jesus. So they kept throwing them in the pokey. But God would have none of it. So He sent an angel to fling open the doors of the prison. Did the Apostles run and hide after breaking out? No way! The very next day they went right back to the temple area to teach about Jesus.
Today’s Gospel reading begins with John 3:16. This is probably the most well-known verse in the Bible. Most people know it, and if they don’t, they surely know of it. Always reminds me of the guy with the big rainbow wig back in the 70’s who held up a sign with JOHN 3:16 at sporting events. “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
This verse has been called “the Gospel in a nutshell.” It speaks to all of humanity. But it goes much deeper than that. I want to suggest that you personalize this verse today. Read it for yourself. Like this: God so loved me that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that if I believe in him, I might not perish, but I might have eternal life. Perhaps instead of using “I”, you could insert your first name. Because, while God did send his Son for “the world,” he still would have sent Him if you were the only person in the world. That’s the Good News.
Father, thank you for sending your Son for the world…for me. Strengthen my belief, that I might not perish, but might have eternal life. Amen.
Today is the Feast of St. Mark. Mark was a cousin of Barnabas, accompanied St. Paul on his first missionary journey and later went with him to Rome. He was a disciple of St. Peter whose teaching was the basis for Mark’s Gospel. The Gospel reading today is the end of Mark’s Gospel, where Jesus tells the Apostles to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”
In the first reading from 1 Peter 5, Peter mentions Mark. This reading is filled with great wisdom, and great advice. St. Peter writes, “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.”
The Devil is prowling around. Truer words were never spoken. So many today want to discount the work of Satan. They like to say that he is just a figment of the imagination. Actually, that in and of itself is a work of Satan. If the Devil can get us to believe that he doesn’t exist, then he is way ahead of the game. Believe me, the Devil never gets tired; he is always working in overdrive. Therefore, we must never tire in our efforts to resist him. How do we do this? Just as St. Peter said, by remaining steadfast in faith.
Father, we know that we cannot resist the Devil on our own. Give us your grace that we may banish him from our lives. Amen.
Another awesome first reading today from Acts 4. After Peter and John were released, the disciples all got together and prayed, “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness.” The Scripture says “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” Yes! Let’s pray that we can do the same today, as the culture tries to shut us up.
Today’s Gospel reading is from John 3, the famous exchange between Nicodemus and Jesus where Nicodemus asks, “How can a man once grown old be born again?” Nicodemus was thinking in a physical sense, but Jesus was speaking, not about a physical rebirth, but a spiritual rebirth – baptism. Jesus clarifies for him. “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” Jesus here is clearly referring to baptism.
Have you ever been asked if you are “born again?” As Catholics, we believe that this born again experience IS baptism. But this is just the beginning of our salvation journey. At our baptism, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Evangelical Christians believe this “born again” experience is when you “accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.” In that context, then Catholics believe that you must be born again each and every day! So if you’re ever asked if you’ve been born again, perhaps a good response might be, “I’ve been born again in the waters of baptism and as St. Paul said in Philippians 2:12, I’m ‘working out my salvation with fear and trembling.’ ”
Father, we thank you for the gift of our baptism, where we are born from above through water and Spirit. Give us the grace to renew our baptismal vows every day. Amen.
Today, the second Sunday of Easter, is Divine Mercy Sunday. So, rather than do a reflection on the daily Scriptures (I’ll trust you to do that on your own!), I thought we could take just a moment to reflect on God’s mercy.
If you do a search of the Scriptures, you will find hundreds of references to the mercy of God. Think about it…if God gave humans what they truly deserve, well…there would be no humans. Hard as we try, it seems that we invariably will turn our backs on Him eventually. That’s where mercy comes in. No matter how bad we are, no matter how egregious the sin, God is always ready and willing to welcome us back. All we have to do is repent and ask.
Jesus spoke often of God’s mercy. And he told us that we must excercise our “mercy muscles.” “Be merciful, as your Father is merciful.” So, on this Divine Mercy Sunday, let us thank God for His mercy upon us, and ask that He give us the grace to share His mercy with others, especially those who are least deserving of mercy. Because after all, we fit into that category, too.
Father, thank you for your great mercy toward us. Help us to be merciful to others, especially those that we find most difficult to extend mercy to. Amen.
In Acts today, we see Peter and John before the Sanhedrin saying, “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” And in the Gospel from Mark 16, Jesus tells the Eleven to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”
Peter and John give us a great example today of holy boldness. They basically told the Sanhedrin that it was incumbent upon them to heed the words that Jesus said to them that we hear in Mark’s Gospel. So today is a good day to ask ourselves – are we, too, heeding those words of Jesus?
Too many people think that holy boldness is all about the things we say. But that can be way off base. What about standing up for the defenseless in this culture of death? Or being a friend to someone who is marginalized? Holy boldness is really just following the lead of the Holy Spirit, doing or saying what the Spirit moves you to do or say, even when it is difficult or unpopular.
Father, you have filled us with Your Spirit. Help us to boldly proclaim the Gospel today, whether we need to open our mouths or not. Amen.
In today’s reading from Acts 4, Peter and John spend the night in the clink and the next day they proclaim Jesus to the powers that be. The Scripture tells us that Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” As we should be!
In the Gospel reading from John 21, the disciples have an encounter with Jesus at the Sea of Tiberias. The boys had been out fishing all night and had caught nothing when Jesus (unbeknownst to them) told them to fish off the right side of the boat. They dragged the net ashore and found that they had caught one hundred fifty-three large fish. How do they know how many fish there were and what’s the significance of this number?
Fisherman were taxed according to the number of fish they caught. So there was probably a tax collector at the shore who made sure the fish were counted. As to the significance of the number, some of the Church Fathers have suggested that that (153) was the number of nations in the known world at the time. It signifies that Christ (symbolized by the fish) would be brought to every nation on earth. Now you know!
Father, may we bring Christ to every person we meet, and every place we go, just as the Apostles did. Amen.
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You’ve heard the old expression “Ignorance is bliss.” In the first reading today from Acts 3, St. Peter refers to the people’s ignorance. More on that in a moment. In the Gospel reading from Luke 24, we read about what happened right after the experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus makes another appearance.
Peter told the Jews that, in killing Jesus, they “acted out of ignorance.” In other words, they had not seen and/or believed and/or accepted that Jesus is the Christ. They now had to come face to face with the truth. Peter tells them to “repent, therefore, and be converted.” Now that they had been presented with the truth, it was time for a change.
I’ve done some really lousy things in my life, especially in my days when I had no faith. In looking back, I must admit that I acted out of ignorance. Trust me when I tell you that it brought me no bliss. Since I have come to understand the truth, I now have no excuse. I can no longer fall back on the excuse of ignorance. Knowing the Truth means no more excuses.
Father, thank you for taking away our ignorance. May our faith and knowledge create the change that truth demands. Amen.
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In today’s Gospel reading from Luke 24, we read the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They have an encounter with the risen Jesus, but don’t recognize Him, until “he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” What does this mean?
As Catholics, we believe that at Mass, the bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist. Today’s Gospel is assuredly a reference to this. The disciples recounted how “he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” This was not some sort of magical encounter where Jesus does his best David Copperfield impression. No, this was a Sacramental encounter where their eyes were opened to see Jesus in the Eucharist. What a moment that must have been!
Have you had that moment? Statistics say that a large percentage of Catholics see the Eucharist as a symbolic representation of Jesus. How sad! Have they read this passage of Scripture? It doesn’t say that He symbolically made Himself known to them. No! He made Himself, His presence, His being, His very self known to them in the breaking of the bread! It all seems so clear – if you have ears to hear.
Father, for those who do not believe, we ask that Jesus will make Himself known in the breaking of the bread. And for those who do believe, strengthen our faith. Amen.
To go much deeper into the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, get Gus’ hour long teaching on the Eucharist on CD or download at www.GusLloyd.com.