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Category Archives: 60 Reflections

On Caesar

In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 22, we hear a famous saying of Jesus. He is asked whether it is lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar. His reply: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

We live in very divisive times, and lots of people have a problem with our president. There will always be a segment of the population that has a problem with whomever resides in the White House. The first reading today from Isaiah 45 gives some insight into leaders and rulers; in Jesus’ time, Caesar.

The LORD says of Cyrus, king at the time, “I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you know me not. It is I who arm you, though you know me not…I am the LORD, there is no other.” In other words, God ordained that Cyrus would be king. (He was a “secular” king, not a king of Israel or Judah.) Same with Caesar, same with other rulers. While these leaders and rulers are not always good, God is always at work. Let’s allow God to work on our hearts, that we may pray for whatever “Caesar” is in power. In the end, all power, like everything else, belongs to God anyway.

Father, help us to always remember that no matter who is in power here on earth, ultimately all  power rests in you. Amen.

Today’s Readings

 

The Spirit Speaks

We’re back in Romans 4 for the first reading today. Paul continues to talk about faith and again uses the model of faith as an example, Abraham. In the Gospel reading from Luke 12, Jesus speaks of the importance of standing up for him. “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.”

Jesus also speaks to the disciples about allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through them. He speaks of this in reference to when the disciples are hauled before synagogues and rulers and authorities. “For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.” I believe that we can extend this saying of Jesus out into every other area of our lives.

Have you ever said just the right thing at just the right moment? For me, it seems to be a very rare happening. But every now and again, just the right words for the moment pop out. When that does happen, I often look back and marvel. Wow! How did that happen? And then I realize that it wasn’t me at all. It was the Holy Spirit speaking through me. When we pause for a moment and ask, the Holy Spirit will come through. Come through for us, and come through us.

Father, teach us to always be open to allowing the Spirit to speak through us. Help us to get out of the way and let the Spirit work. Amen.

Today’s Readings

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What You’re Worth

In today’s first reading from Romans 4, St. Paul talks about the importance of faith. He points to Abraham as the example of faith. “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Yes, faith is of the utmost importance. Without it, we have nothing.

In the Gospel reading today from Luke 12, Jesus talks about your worth. “Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” On the surface that may not seem like much solace. Gee, Lord…I’m worth more than many sparrows…thanks alot. What Jesus is saying is that your worth is inestimable.

Many people struggle with their self-worth. I’m sure that God is saddened by this. If only we could see ourselves the way God sees us! Think of it this way: think of the time in your life where you had the most love you could possibly have for another person. The birth of a child. Your wedding. A time when you loved someone so much you thought you were going to burst. Now imagine that love, and multiply it by a gajillion. That would be only a tiny fraction of how God feels about you! If we could only get a hold of that, it would change us forever. Smile…God loves you that much!!

Father, you know that we so often struggle with our self-worth. Help us to get a glimpse of just how much you love us; and help us to share that love with others. Amen.

Today’s Readings

Justification

In the Gospel reading today from Luke 11, Jesus continues to pronounce woes on the scholars of the law. These are some pretty scathing remarks. “Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.”

Today’s first reading from Romans 3 contains passages that have been somewhat controversial among believers. One in particular has to do with justification. St. Paul writes, “For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” Some Christians take that to mean that the moment one professes faith in Christ Jesus he is justified, or made right in the sight of God, and that his eternal salvation is secured forever; from then on his works have no bearing. But what were these “works of the law?” St. Paul is referring to the 600+ Levitical laws that Jews were required to follow, many of them having to do with ritual cleansing and other exterior actions. St. Paul was making the point that these exterior actions were worthless apart from faith in Christ Jesus. Without faith in Christ Jesus, no amount of “works of the law” mattered.

We are called to good works. The Scriptures are very clear on that. But it is not these good works that will get us into heaven. It is our faith in Christ Jesus. St. James says that “faith without works is dead.” So we think of faith and works not as being mutually exclusive. It is not an either/or proposition. It is both/and. We accept the gift of faith, which leads us to good works in joy and gratitude for the victory won for us by Christ Jesus.

Father, we know that we can never work our way into heaven. We thank you for the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, and put all our faith in Him. May that faith show through our good works each day. Amen.

Today’s Readings

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Feast of St. Luke

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist. St. Luke is the author of two books of the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles. In fact, Acts may be considered a “sequel” to Luke’s Gospel, as that story picks up right where Luke ends.

St. Luke is the only author of all the New Testament writers of a Gentile background. This gives him a bit of a unique perspective on things. Luke was a traveling companion of St. Paul, as we see in today’s first reading from 2 Timothy 4. At the time that Paul wrote this letter, all of his other companions had ditched on him. He writes, “Luke is the only one with me.” Luke was a physician, a learned man.

In his Gospel, Luke paints Jesus as a champion of the poor and downtrodden. Luke’s Gospel includes many mentions and stories about women that are not mentioned elsewhere. Perhaps this is partly a function of his Gentile upbringing. Whatever the case, we thank God today for St. Luke, for giving us an account of the life of Jesus and the early Church. St. Luke is the patron saint of artists, physicians, surgeons, students and butchers.

Father, we thank you for the sure testimony of St. Luke. Through his intercession, may we all come to know you better. Amen.

Today’s Readings

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Not Ashamed of the Gospel

One of the things that I admire most about St. Paul (there are many) is his boldness. And the first line of today’s first reading really sums things up. “I am not ashamed of the Gospel.” More on that in a moment. In the Gospel reading from Luke 11, Jesus derides the Pharisees for being so bent on outward expressions of piety, when inside they are “filled with plunder and evil.” Ouch again!

We know that when St. Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel,” he meant it. It showed through in his life, in his writings, in his actions. We can all use St. Paul as an example of this in our lives. It begs the question…how does this verse play out in our lives? It reminds me of the old question: If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Sometimes, for me, the answer would probably be no.

There are many ways that this notion of not being ashamed of the Gospel can play out in our lives. But one in particular comes to mind for me. When engaging with people, even in causal conversation, do we talk about our faith? What about outward expressions of faith, such as saying grace in a restaurant? Do you share ways that God has blessed your life? There are so many ways that we can show that we are not ashamed of the Gospel. How will you show it today?

Father, help us to live our lives as though we are not ashamed of the Gospel. Give us the strength and courage to share our faith in any situation. Amen.

Today’s Readings

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The Signs are Everywhere

In the first reading today we begin a journey through St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. St. Paul greets the believers in Rome with this – “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” My sentiments exactly.

In the Gospel reading from Luke 11, Jesus says to the crowd, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” What was the sign of Jonah? One coming to preach repentance. Unfortunately, it is a sign that most choose to ignore. Jesus ends with, “There is something greater than Jonah here.” Jesus is more than just a prophet, more than just a preacher. He is the Son of God. Here’s your sign…

Have you ever asked God for a sign? I think we all have at some time. When we’re just not sure if God is there; when we don’t know which way to turn. “God, give me a sign!!” I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking God for a sign. The problem comes in when we ask God for something specific of our own making. Let me give you an example: “God, if you turn this glass of water into wine, then I’ll do what you ask of me. That will be my sign.” (By the way, that one’s already been done.) I believe God gives us signs all the time. The question is, are we being attentive? Are we open to the many ways God communicates with us? Ask the Holy Spirit today to open your eyes to see the signs all around you.

Father, open our eyes, our hearts, our minds that we may see the many signs and signals you give us today to lead us along the right path. Amen.

Today’s Readings

 

The Wedding Garment

In the Gospel reading from Matthew 22, Jesus tells a parable about a king who gives a wedding feast for his son. When the servants went out to summon the invited guests, they refused to come. Some even beat and killed the servants. So the king has servants go out and invite people off the street. Everyone is invited. But someone comes in not dressed in a wedding garment. So the king has him thrown out into the darkness, “where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

The story is first about how the Jews are the first invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb. But they refuse, indeed, beat and kill the messengers. Then the story becomes about how we are all invited to the feast. But if we keep our dirty old clothes on, e.g., refuse to change into the wedding garment, it will not end well for us. We must take off the old and put on the new to enter into the Kingdom. But of course, we’re not talking about clothes here. We’re talking about setting aside the old self with our old selfish ways and putting on Christ. So…are you ready to change?

Father, we thank you for the invitation to the wedding feast! Help us to remember that we must do away with the old and put on the new. Help us to be “dressed properly” to enter into the Kingdom. Amen.

Today’s Readings

 

Blessed

God will take care of His people. That is His promise, His covenant. It is one that will last forever. In today’s first reading from Joel 4, we hear this from the Lord. “But Judah shall abide forever, and Jerusalem for all generations.” No matter how bad things had gotten for His children, in the end, they could be assured that everything would turn out all right.

We have a very short Gospel passage today, only two short verses from Luke 11. A woman cries out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” Jesus replies, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Hmm…looks like this might be a case of Jesus discounting his mom. But of course, Jesus would never do that. (Remember that whole commandment thing.)

Jesus continually tried to open people’s eyes to God’s will. He emphasized again and again the importance of hearing God’s word and putting it into practice. There would only ever be one woman who bore Jesus and nursed Him at the breast. Jesus was not discounting that Mary was, indeed, blessed. But He wanted people to know that that was not the only way to be blessed. Being blessed is something that is available to all!

Father, help us to hear your word and observe it. For when we do, we are truly blessed. Amen.

Today’s Readings

Satan’s Persistence

Jesus spoke often about Satan and demons. He spent no small amount of His time driving out demons. In today’s Gospel reading from Luke 11, Jesus drives out a demon and is accused of driving out demons by the power of Beelzebul.

After debunking that theory, Jesus goes on to talk about how after an unclean spirit goes out of someone, “it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked that itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”

Satan is quite persistent. We can certainly have victory over Satan and evil. When we do, that is no time to rest on our laurels. Satan doesn’t like defeat. And when we do win victories over him, he simply redoubles his efforts. If there’s one thing Satan is not, it’s a quitter. These are the times we must be wary and diligent. Because if we give in, we’re likely to end up worse than before. Never let down your guard!

Father, help us to continually fight against Satan. We always call upon you and the heavenly host to help us in our struggle with evil. Amen.

Today’s Readings

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