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DAILY SCRIPTURE REFLECTION (Mon - Fri only)

Pondering the word with Our Lady

October 22 - St John Paul II

(For the Oct 21 reflection, please scroll down the page)

For today's Scripture readings, go here (If you happen to be in a different time zone than us, just choose the correct readings by going forward a day, or back).

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Today is the optional memorial of Pope John Paul II, a great leader of the faith in our time. The Gospel reading is as follows:

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and
eaten breakfast with them, he said to Simon Peter,
"Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?"
Simon Peter answered him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs."
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
"Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
Simon Peter answered him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
He said to him, "Tend my sheep."
He said to him the third time,
"Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
"Do you love me?" and he said to him,
"Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you."
Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep."

It is often remarked that this threefold declaration of love by Peter was Christ's way to invite him to repent of his threefold denial. It is also the case that this passage shows us, and all future generations of the Church, that the role of Peter is to look after and nurture the faithful. The successor of Peter can do this - not by his own talents or power - but because the mercy and love of Jesus is operating through him.

John Paul II was a great nurturer and protector of his flock, especially the most vulnerable, the unborn, the elderly, and the disabled. He did this by his complete rootedness in Christ. From the very beginning, in the homily of the Mass in which he was formally instituted as Pope, he called on us to have no fear and to allow Christ to be our model and anchor.

Pope John Paul II, pray for the Church today. Pray for me and my family that I will make Christ my everything, that I will look to him with confidence and joy to see what I as a human being am capable of becoming.

October 21 2021

ramatic words from Jesus in today's Gospel:

Jesus said to his disciples:
‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’'

Of course, we know that Jesus is the prince of peace and ultimately comes to bring unity between people and with God. but in the short-term, he will bring division. Why is that? Simeon said to Mary at the Presentation "A sword will pierce your soul". The fact is that we have separated ourselves from God with our sins. In order to be restored to communion with God, our sins have to be cut away from us, which is a painful business. Mary was sinless, but she suffered with her Son and with all of us in this painful process of purifying the world of its defects, idolatry, infidelity and egoism.

Never fear however! Jesus is full of zeal that we be purified and that we blaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit! He has offered himself for us and is pouring his grace into our hearts. Let us be open to it.

October 20 2021

It's one of those Gospels that many people nowadays don't want to hear. We want the cotton wool Jesus, the friendly teddy-bear God who doesn't ask anything from us, and who says "Don't worry!" whenever we mess up. God is infinitely merciful and completely obliterates our sin with his sacrifice, but he doesn't want us to live in mediocrity! When you love your child, do you want them to live a mediocre, frivolous, empty life? No, you want the best for them, and God certainly wants the best for us.

But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming”, and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.

The Lord entrusts us with much. He gives us his Son as our redeemer, and pours the Holy Spirit into our hearts, treating us as his own children. He expects us to respond, not because he needs our service, but because he desires our good and wants us to be fruitful in his Kingdom.

 

October 19 2021

It might seem that today's Gospel is talking about being prepared for the moment we die:

See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.

And it certainly is. However, it is also relevant for every day. Jesus is constantly knocking on our door and trying to enter our lives, in good times and bad, especially in moments of stress, pain and despair. If we allow God in, if we say, "Come in, Lord Jesus. Be present in my situation", then Jesus will enter. But why does he enter? In order to dominate, put down or control? No, the Gospel tells us what Jesus will do!

I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready.

Jesus comes to serve us, to nurture us, to give us life.

October 18 - St Luke

oday Jesus sends out 72 disciples to preach the Good News and heal the sick. It is easy to miss something that St Luke points out in the first line of the passage: "The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit". The disciples are not just preaching and healing; they are preparing for the coming of Christ, going to the places that he himself will soon visit.

This is something fundamental. Everything good we do in the way of spreading the Gospel is to prepare for the coming of Christ to that person. if we show kindness to a member of our family, a person that we have difficulties with, then we are preparing that person to receive Christ. If we go and chat to our lonely neighbour, we are enabling that person to receive the graces of Christ that will be coming his way today.

Notice that the text tells us to carry nothing with us. This does not mean that we do not bring a gift to our neighbour. What it means is that we ourselves are not to be reliant on anything except the Lord. We don't need devices to entertain us. We do not need comfort and luxuries. It is Christ that we are carrying. All we need is trust in him, abandonment to him, conformity to him.

 

October 15 2021

Today Jesus tells us: ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees-that is, their hypocrisy. Everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. For this reason, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places will be proclaimed on the housetops'

 

When we engage in hypocritical behaviour - pretending to be friendly with someone that we constantly speak badly about, making an outward show of being Christian whilst our private life is immoral - we should remember these words. Every single one of our hypocritical deeds will one day be made known to everyone. These words of Jesus remind us that our destiny is eternal, the things we do here below must be ordered to that eternal end or they risk being meaningless or sinful.

 

Then Jesus consoles us by saying that we don't need to worry about our wellbeing on earth anyway since our Father in heaven is caring for us in the most detailed way. Let us focus on our eternal destiny. Let us live upright and just lives, not worrying if this leads us to be less well off. God will look after our worldly needs.

October 14 2021

Jesus is still attacking the Pharisees and lawyers today. "Alas for you lawyers who have taken away the key of knowledge!
You have not gone in yourselves, and have prevented others going in who wanted to". This reflects the sentiments of St Paul in the letter to the Romans. By insisting that everyone focus on external conformity to the Law, the lawyers prevented other people from developing a right relationship with God (which requires inner attachment to him), and also failed to enter into this relationship themselves. Our challenge in reading this Gospel is that we focus on that inner dependency on God. It is good that we go to Mass and say the Rosary, but the manner in which we do these things must be driven by the heart, by utter reliance on him.

 

The Pharisees are also in trouble: "And that is why the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles; some they will slaughter and persecute, so that this generation will have to answer for every prophet’s blood that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the sanctuary”.
Yes, I tell you, this generation will have to answer for it all.’  The Pharisees looked after the tombs of the prophets but were not faithful to the teaching of the prophets. In the Church we have been given so many inspirational saints to look up to. It is not enough to venerate these saints in an external manner. We must seek to emulate them by imitating their virtues, their attachment to God, their heroic actions.

October 13 - Miracle of the Sun

On this anniversary of the great miracle at Fatima, the Gospel recounts Jesus' criticism of the Pharisees and the lawyers. As Jesus makes clear, he is is not completely against the practices of the Pharisees, but asks that they have their priorities right. The correct priority is to have a correct relationship with God and to show justice towards our neighbour. Every Israelite was asked to recite daily the Shema: “Listen, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your might.” To this, Jesus added a second commandment, to love one's neighbour as oneself. The problem with the Pharisees was that they didn't focus on God and neighbour but on external conformity to certain rules. These rules could easily be kept whilst hating one's neighbour and disregarding God.

Today, as we recall the great manifestation of God's power in Fatima, let us make him the centre by devoting time to him alone in prayer. That way, we can be confident that we are making him Lord, that our devotion is not external only. Then, may the purity and justice of our relationship with the Lord overflow into our dealings with those around us.

October 8 2021

 

Today Jesus is talking about demons and we might think this discourse doesn't have anything to do with me. Instead, these lessons are of fundamental importance for the spiritual life:

 

Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then. But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you. So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.
‘He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

Jesus makes it very clear that compromises in spiritual matters bring ruin. Today, our culture is a mish-mash of vague spiritualist ideas, blatantly materialistic fixations, and moralistic statements about equality and tolerance. What we really need is the "strong man", namely, Jesus, to overtake and defeat the mediocrity and impurity of our culture. Unless we make Jesus first and centre, then our lives will be unfruitful. We will not gather with Christ but scatter.

In the spiritual life, as Cardinal Sarah makes clear, it is "God or nothing". Today, let us turn to him in prayer, open our hearts to his word, put him first before all of our materialist aspirations for pleasure, profit or popularity. If Christ is first in our lives, then evil and impurity will be defeated within us and our lives will finally become fruitful.

 

Oct 7 - Our Lady of the Rosary

Today we use the excellent reflection from:

Reflections on the Weekday Readings 2020-2021: You have the Words of Eternal life by Martin Hogan and published by Messenger Publications  c/f www.messenger.ie/bookshop

Saint John Henry Newman was an Anglican before he became a Roman Catholic. He gave the following advice about the rosary to a recent convert to the Catholic faith whom he directed, and it probably reflects Newman’s own way of praying the rosary: “Before each mystery, set before you a picture of it, and fix your mind upon that picture, (e.g. the Annunciation, the Agony, etc.) while you say the Our Father and the 10 Hail Marys, not thinking of the words, only saying them correctly. Let the exercise be hardly more than a meditation. Perhaps this will overcome any sense of tedium”. He understood the Rosary as a meditation on the great mysteries of the life of Jesus and Mary. Speaking to a group of boys in Oscott College on one occasion, he said, ‘Now the great power of the Rosary lies in this, that it makes the Creed into a prayer; of course, the Creed is in some sense a prayer and a great act of homage to God; but the Rosary gives us the great truths of his (the Lord’s) life and death to meditate upon, and brings them nearer to our hearts. And so we contemplate all the great mysteries of his life and his birth in the manger; and so too the mysteries of his suffering and his glorified life’.

He went on to say, ‘the special virtue of the Rosary lies in the special way in which it looks at these mysteries; for with all our thoughts of him (the Lord) are mingled thoughts of his mother, and in the relations between mother and son we have set before us the Holy Family, the home in which God lived’. Cardinal Newman shows us the essence of the Rosary. It is a vocal prayer, which is often prayed out loud, but it is more fundamentally a contemplative prayer. It puts before us the great mysteries of our Lord and our Lady for our meditation and contemplation. In that sense, the Rosary is in keeping with Mary’s own way of praying.

The gospel of Luke says of Mary in relation to the words of her son, ‘His mother treasured all these things in her heart’. When we pray the Rosary we treasure in our hearts the great truths of our Lord’s life, death and resurrection and of his relationship with his mother.

Oct 6 2021

The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray:

OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN: The prayer opens with Jesus turning to his Father. Jesus' entire ministry must be understood in terms of his relationship to his Father. In fact, he comes among us to restore us to the correct view of the loving Fatherhood of God.

HALLOWED BE THY NAME: God's name is holy. In our world, we long to become famous, to have our name in lights, but God alone is worthy of praise and glory.

THY KINGDOM COME: May we all make God the king of our hearts. May we pursue right relationship with him before all worldly goals.

THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN: At Gethsemene Jesus prays, "Your will, not mine, be done". Our entire life should be an effort of conforming ourselves to God's will and forgetting our own.

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD: Let us place ourselves with trust under the providence of God for all our needs.

AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US: Jesus' ministry was directed towards the forgiveness of our sins, right up to his sacrifice of himself for the remission of our sins. We can be sure that God wishes to forgive us! Let us do likewise or we risk rejecting the forgiveness of God.

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL: Lord, you know how weak we are, yet you sometimes allow us to be tested in order for us to grow in faith and in self-abandonment to you. Do not permit us to be tested beyond our capacities to be faithful. Amen

Oct 5 - St Faustina

Today we use the excellent reflection from: Reflections on the Weekday Readings 2020-2021: You have the Words of Eternal life by Martin Hogan and published by Messenger Publications  c/f www.messenger.ie/bookshop

Saint John Henry Newman had a wonderful reputation as a preacher. In one of his sermons he comments on the passage we have just heard. In the story of Mary and Martha, he sees something of the struggle we are all engaged in, between anxiety for many things versus rest in the one thing necessary (even as we do many things). He says, that while Jesus does not discount Martha’s careful service, yet he won’t permit her to imagine that serving him is a matter of multiplying projects and services. Love of God and neighbour, he says, certainly must include these, but preceding both is the heart that first says: I love God, because he has first loved me; and I love my neighbour whom I can see for the sake of the One I cannot see. I think Newman is saying that there is something more fundamental than the doing of many things, even if it is for the Lord, and that is our loving relationship with the Lord.

Like Mary sitting at the Lord’s feet listening to him speaking, we need to open ourselves to the Lord’s personal love for us, for me, and we respond to his gift of love by loving him in return. Then out of that loving relationship with the Lord flows our active service of him. If our relationship with the Lord is what grounds us, ‘resting in the one thing necessary’, as Newman says, then our service of the Lord will be shaped by love rather than driven by anxiety or, even perhaps, resentment of others. Newman reflects on Mary’s love for Jesus ‘sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to his teaching’, and he asks the question, ‘Is our heart in that place, or is it tossed about in a whirlwind of activity?’ It is a question that is worth our while pondering.

 

Oct 4 - St Francis of Assisi

In response to the question, "Who is my neighbour?" Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. We are all called to behave in this way, to go the extra mile for others, even those that we have no natural inclination to show kindness to.

Some commentators have discerned a profound interpretation of this parable. Christ himself is the true good Samaritan. He finds humanity broken, beaten and abandoned. He cures us, washes us with the water and oil of the sacraments, binds us up, restores us to life. The Good Samaritan goes to incredible lengths to look after a complete stranger. We too have made ourselves strangers to the Lord by our sin, our pride, our egoism. But he doesn't allow this behaviour of ours become the last word. He empties himself, takes on our humanity, suffers and dies on the cross in order to show us that he unites with us in our condition and is willing to take upon himself the affliction of a humanity separated from God.

If we too are to become Good Samaritans for others, it is by uniting ourselves to him who reached out to us first and showed us the meaning of love.

Oct 1 - St Therese of Lisieux

In the first reading, we hear the prophet lament at the sins of Israel which has caused them to be sent into exile. The people refused to listen to the word of the Lord or to keep his covenant. In the context of this disaster, the psalmist makes a heartfelt plea:

Do not hold the guilt of our fathers against us.
Let your compassion hasten to meet us
for we are in the depths of distress.                                       

O God our saviour, come to our help,
come for the sake of the glory of your name.
O Lord our God, forgive us our sins;
rescue us for the sake of your name. 

In the Gospel, Jesus too is pointing out the lack of faith in the towns that he has worked miracles.

‘Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. And still, it will not go as hard with Tyre and Sidon at the Judgement as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell.

Our faith cannot be based solely on miracles, but if we have witnessed miracles and refused to repent and deepen our faith, then that is a very serious matter. Jesus is telling us here that the signs and wonders he has done are intended to lead to repentance, to deeper faith in him, to self-abandonment into God's hands instead of relying on material things.

St Therese of Lisieux, whose feast we celebrate, is our great teacher. Though she died at only 24, and apparently achieved little during her life, she lived a radical dependence on God in everyday matters, her "little way". After she died, her book was translated into dozens of languages and has reached tens of millions of peoples. She is proof that life lived for God is fruitful. St Therese, pray for us!

September 30 - 2021

In today's Gospel, Jesus sends out the twelve to drive out demons. cure the sick and proclaim the Kingdom. His instructions are simple:

He said to them,
‘Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic.
Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there.
As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave their town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.’

 

Sometimes it might seem that Jesus' last instruction is a bit harsh - if people in a town do not accept the Gospel, then shake the dust of that town off your feet. But it is important to note that this is done "as a sign to them". Jesus has not given up on them. He wants the disciples to witness to the truth and power of the Gospel by shaking the dust of the unreceiving town off their feet.

 

What kind of sign is this? Too often, the Gospel is contaminated by our culture. It is compromised by dominant vested interests. People claim to be Catholic, yet promote abortion, divorce, euthanasia, contraception. We claim that the "real" Gospel, a life of true "compassion" involves bowing to these demands that originate from egoism, from making human society in itself a greater good than a Christian society under God. As Fulton Sheen said, the brotherhood of man that does not place itself under the fatherhood of God soon degenerates into evil and tyranny.

We must announce the Gospel to our culture, and shake the dust of this culture off our feet. We cannot compromise the clear instructions of Jesus and the Church on marriage and life issues. Shaking the dust off our feet is a prophetic sign that we place ourselves under God alone, for the benefit of humanity and its eternal destiny.

 

September 29 - The Archangels

In today's Gospel, Nathaniel makes a powerful profession of faith in Jesus:

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him,
‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.‘  ‘

How do you know me?’ said Nathanael ‘

Before Philip came to call you,‘ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’

Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.‘

Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree.  You will see greater things than that.‘ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’

 

Jesus accepts Nathaniel's profession, but then says that his faith will become even deeper when he sees with his own eyes that Jesus is the Son of Man, whose domain is in the heavens, and the one to whom all the angels answer. Today, when we celebrate the Archangels, we are reminded that the true meaning of all things is to be found in their eternal aspect. Everything comes from God and is returning to God. There are powers and principalities that we do not see that are more important than the things we do see. Today, by the intercession of the Archangels, Gabriel, Michael and Raphael, may we focus our gaze on our heavenly destination.

September 28 2021

The prophet Zechariah makes the stunning prophecy that one day all the nations of the earth will seek the Lord in Jerusalem, that multitudes of people will come to the realisation that the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is the one true God.

the psalm echoes this sentiment that Mount Zion - Jerusalem - will one day be a mother to all peoples.

The Gospel is also about Jerusalem. Jesus "resolutely took the road for Jerusalem". As a result, the people of a Samaritan town refuse to welcome him, because they have an ancient animosity with the people of Jerusalem. What is all this about? The Samaritans were the remnant of the original ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel which split with the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin after the time of King Solomon. Jerusalem and its temple were in the southern kingdom. The northern kingdom didn't want its inhabitants to go to Jerusalem to make sacrifices to the Lord, so they set up their own alternative shrines in north to pagan gods. Eventually the northern kingdom was conquered and its people dispersed, with the Samaritans becoming their last vestige. They worshipped the Lord in a very contaminated sense, mixing it with the worship of false gods. They retained their suspicion and animosity towards the rival centre of worship at Jerusalem.

Jesus resolutely goes to Jerusalem because he wishes to give his life for us, and he will do so in a way that shows that he has become the new Temple, with his sacrifice becoming the New Covenant in his blood. It is very informative that the Samaritans, this people with a worship that is contaminated by pagan and profane elements, react to the fact that Christ is on his way to Jerusalem, the holiest spot on earth, the place where God will reconcile himself with all nations.

Things have not changed much in our day. There is still a war against Christ, a war against true religion. The profane and worldly influences of consumerism and materialism still refuse to accept the Christ who resolutely goes to sacrifice himself for us. Our society would prefer to kill its children out of convenience than unite itself to the Lord who wishes to give his life for each one of us. Today, let us not turn away from Jesus but unite with him in his journey to the place of sacrifice, the place of self-emptying love.

 

September 27 2021

Once again, Jesus tells us to be childlike in our reception of him and our reception of others. This is the key to entering the kingdom:

An argument started between the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus knew what thoughts were going through their minds, and he took a little child and set him by his side and then said to them,
‘Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.’

St Therese of Lisieux is our great teacher in this respect. Her "little way" is a simple and transparent means of abandoning ourselves into the arms of our heavenly Father on a day to day basis.

September 24 2021

The first reading today speaks again of the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. This new building will be one of the wonders of the world. Whenever the Old Testament speaks of the Temple of God, we reinterpret these passages in the light of the revelation of Christ. He unites himself to humanity and sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts, so that we become the place of God's presence, the very Temple of the Most High.

The Gospel reaffirms this interpretation. Jesus asks the disciples who people say that he is. The disciples reply that some say he is Elijah, John the Baptist or one of the prophets. Then Jesus asks the direct question, the question that he puts to all of us today, "Who do YOU say that I am?" Peter, the rock on which the Church is built, gives the reply that all members of the body of Christ are challenged to make their own, "You are the Christ of God".

We must look to Jesus as our only Saviour. "Christ" means "anointed", the one sent by God to redeem us. Jesus alone saves us. My career, my possessions, my profile on social media, my pleasures and entertainments - these will not bring me an ounce of life. Christ is the Temple of God. United to him, I too become a place of his dwelling.

 

September 23 2021 - St Padre Pio

Today is one of those short Gospels:

Herod the tetrarch had heard about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life.

But Herod said, ‘John? I beheaded him. So who is this I hear such reports about?’ And he was anxious to see him.

This Gospel is illuminated by the first reading from the prophet Haggai:

Reflect carefully how things have gone for you. You have sown much and harvested little; you eat but never have enough, drink but never have your fill, put on clothes but do not feel warm. The wage earner gets his wages only to put them in a purse riddled with holes. So go to the hill country, fetch wood, and rebuild the House: I shall then take pleasure in it, and be glorified there, says the Lord.

The Lord wants the people to rebuild the Temple, but people are more concerned with satisfying their own appetites, with looking after their own house, than with preparing a house for the Lord. Herod is an extreme example of someone who lives the frivolous life. He has just beheaded the greatest of the prophets, John the Baptist, on a silly whim during a birthday party. Now he is "anxious" to see Jesus, to be entertained, to have his curiosity satisfied.

The Lord wants us to seek him out, but in a profound way, not to satisfy our own appetites, not for entertainment, but to establish a proper relationship with him. The Lord wants us to rebuild the house of his presence, of authentic relationship with him. We are Temples of the Holy Spirit. By living the virtues of humility, purity, patience and generosity, we can delve into the storehouse of the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us in Baptism and Confirmation. Let us spend time with him today and construct that house.

September 22 2021

In today's Gospel, Jesus sends out the twelve to drive out demons. cure the sick and proclaim the Kingdom. His instructions are simple:

He said to them,
‘Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic.
Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there.
As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave their town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.’

 

Sometimes it might seem that Jesus' last instruction is a bit harsh - if people in a town do not accept the Gospel, shake the dust of that town off your feet. But it is important to note that this is done "as a sign to them". Jesus has not given up on them. He wants the disciples to witness to the truth and power of the Gospel by shaking the dust of the unreceiving town off their feet.

 

What kind of sign is this? Too often, the Gospel is contaminated by our culture. It is compromised by dominant vested interests. People claim to be Catholic, yet promote abortion, divorce, euthanasia, contraception. We claim that the "real" Gospel, a life of true "compassion" involves bowing to these demands that originate from egoism, from making human society in itself a greater good than a Christian society under God. As Fulton Sheen said, the brotherhood of man that does not place itself under the fatherhood of God soon degenerates into evil and tyranny.

We must announce the Gospel to our culture, and shake the dust of this culture off our feet. We cannot compromise the clear instructions of Jesus and the Church on marriage and life issues. Shaking the dust off our feet is a prophetic sign that we place ourselves under God alone, for the benefit of humanity and its eternal destiny.

 

September 21 - St Matthew

Today is the feast of St Matthew the Apostle. The Gospel is quite brief:

As Jesus was walking on from there he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me’. And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.
And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

 

Sometimes, we might think that being called by Christ is a bit like being recruited for Google, Apple or Amazon. To be given a job by a big company, they are going to evaluate your talents and qualifications, aren't they? When Jesus called his apostles, surely he picked the ones that had the best capacities to follow him, preach, make converts, right? Actually, this doesn't appear to be God's strategy at all. He does not choose the best qualified but the least qualified. Why? Because Jesus does not need our talents and qualifications. He wants our hearts and wants us to be transformed into saints by his call.

 

This is the point. A corporation recruits a person because it is looking for something from that person. Christ calls a person because he (Christ) wishes to give something precious to that person. When Jesus calls you and me, he is recreating us, making us holy, not looking for us to fulfill a job description!

The call of Matthew is a great example. Tax collectors were often corrupt and hated by the people. Jesus wanted to transform this man's life, not get a talented person into his team. Then, AFTER Matthew had been transformed and given his heart to God, then this tax collector could do great things, but it is really Christ being allowed to work through Matthew, who has now become a humble servant of the Lord.

 

September 20 2021

In today's Gospel, Jesus exhorts us not to hide the light of the Gospel that we have received. We must allow this light to illuminate others. But how do we do that? With a big show of piety, or with a load of words? Mother Teresa, in the following reflection, tells us how! Before we speak from the heart, our hearts must first be filled with God.

Listen in silence. It is because your heart is brimful of a thousand things that you are unable to hear God's voice in it. But as soon as you set about listening to God's voice in a peaceful heart, it becomes full of God. This takes many sacrifices. If we think we want to pray then we have to prepare ourselves for it. Without delay. I am only referring to the first steps towards praying but unless we carry them out with determination we shall never reach the final step, the presence of God.

    That is why our training has to be perfect from the start: we begin listening for God's voice in our heart and, in the heart's silence, God begins to speak. Then, out of the fullness of the heart there rises up what the mouth must say. That is where the connection lies. In the silence of the heart God speaks while you have only to listen. Then, once your heart has reached its plenitude because it finds itself filled with God, filled with love, filled with compassion, filled with faith, it falls to your mouth to speak.

    Bear in mind that, before speaking, you need to listen and only then, from the depths of a receptive heart, can you speak and be heard by God.

 

 

September 17 2021

In the old Testament, the people of Israel were formed from the twelve sons of Jacob. Because of their infidelity to the covenants, the twelve tribes were dispersed and sent into exile. The ten tribes of the northern kingdom were completely scattered, while the two tribes of the southern kingdom of Judah eventually returned from exile. According to many prophecies contained in Isaiah, Jeremiah and other prophets, the Lord would one day restore the twelve tribes of Israel and gather them together under the Messiah. Of course, Jesus is the fulfilment of those promises. In today's Gospel, which is very short and simple, we hear: Jesus made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments: Mary surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who provided for them out of their own resources.

It is a simple narrative, but it represents the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies of the restoration of the twelve tribes. Here is the Saviour of the world bringing the Good News of God's mercy to Israel. With him are twelve figures who will become the pillars of the Church, God's instrument of salvation which will gather together, not only the scattered twelve tribes, but all of humanity.

 

Whenever we go to Mass and receive Communion, or go to Confession, we are being gathered to the Lord by the instrument of his grace, the Church, founded on the twelve apostles, the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies. Let us appreciate this wondrous blessing and allow ourselves to be gathered by the Lord. 

 

September 16 2021

For today, we use the excellent reflection from: Reflections on the Weekday Readings 2020-2021:  You have the Words of Eternal life by Martin Hogan and published by Messenger Publications  c/f www.messenger.ie/bookshop

At the end of today’s gospel reading, Jesus says that it is the one who is forgiven little who shows little love. The woman who had broken into the meal at which Jesus was a guest had been forgiven much. She had earlier experienced God’s forgiving and unconditional love towards her through the person of Jesus. Having been forgiven much, she loved much. Her outpouring of loving gratitude to Jesus was lavish in the extreme.

In contrast, Jesus’ host, a Pharisee, had been forgiven little, in the sense that he had no awareness of his need for the forgiveness of God that Jesus had come to offer. Having been forgiven little, he loved little, denying Jesus even the ordinary rituals of hospitality, no basin of water for Jesus to wash his feet, no kiss of greeting, no anointing of his head with oil. The woman’s loving gestures more than compensated for the Pharisee’s lack of love. The story reminds us that receiving comes before giving. The woman recognized that she had received much from God through Jesus and, so, she gave much to Jesus in return. The Pharisee had received nothing from God through Jesus and, so, he gave nothing to Jesus in return.

We always come before the Lord as beggars, open to receive all those graces that only he can give, including the grace of God’s forgiveness for our sins and failings. It is in learning to receive from the Lord in our poverty, like the woman, that we are empowered to give generously in gratitude for what we have been given.

September 15 - Our Lady of Sorrows

Today's Gospel is very important for the spiritual life.

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister,Mary accepting
Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.
Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her,
Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’
Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’
And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home
.

 

The Fathers of the Church are very united in deeming this passage to signify that Mary is being given to all of us as Mother of the Church and mother to each one of us in the faith. St John is very much the model disciple. He is especially beloved by Christ and is the only apostle to stand at the foot of the cross. Thus, the model disciple is the one who makes a place for Mary in his home.

How do we make a place for Mary in our home? By asking for her intercession in all things. By saying the Rosary daily. By asking Mary to assist us in receiving Jesus well in Holy Communion, just as she received him into her womb. Above all, however, we make Mary our mother by following her in her conformity to Christ. We too are asked to stand at the foot of the cross. This involves enduring the difficulties and sufferings of each day with trust, with fidelity to Christ, with patience and love. If we do this, then the crosses of every day will be redeemed and transformed into light,

September 14 - Exaltation of the Cross

St Augustine said that the New Testament is hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New. We really see that in today's readings for the sublime feast of the Exaltation (or Triumph) of the Cross. In the first reading, the people are complaining, so God sends serpents among them. Moses is instructed to raise up a bronze serpent, and the people are healed of their bites when they gaze on the serpent. That was a difficult episode for the people of Israel to understand. How could looking upon an image of the source of your affliction heal you from that affliction?

In the Gospel, the events of the Old Testament are brought to their fulfilment. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be raised up, just as the serpent was raised up by Moses, in order for all people to be saved. Suddenly the mystery begins to make more sense. Humanity disobeyed God and followed its own way, bringing suffering and death into the world. Jesus, though God, becomes human and offers to the Father the perfect obedience that was lacking in the rest of humanity. He is humbly obedient even onto death. By his radical obedience, he says "yes" to the Father for all of humanity. His great "yes" drowns out our "no". Thus Jesus, by being raised in obedience on the cross, raises all of us towards the Father.

The cross is the symbol of the consequences of sin, which include the murder of God. But it is also the concrete sign of reconciliation because, on the cross, a man (who also happened to be God), makes a sacrifice of perfect obedience. By gazing on the cross, we gaze on the event of salvation, and, like the Israelites in the desert, we open ourselves to salvation. Does looking at the cross really save me? "Looking" does not mean a hurried or distracted glance. It involves contemplation of the God who so loved the world that he sent his only Son. It involves consideration of the fact that Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not cling to his divinity but emptied himself so that we would be filled. Truly, the episode of the serpents in the desert is fulfilled in the utter self-immolation of Christ who becomes sin for our sake that we might be saved from sin.

 

September 13 2021

In today's Gospel we see the faith of the centurion who says to Jesus, "Just say the word and my servant will be healed". In reply, Jesus says that he has rarely seen such faith, not even in Israel. My wife had a very interesting insight about this reading recently. In the Old Testament, Moses (like Abraham) is held up to as as a model of the faith of Israel. However, on one occasion, his faith is not quite what it could be. The people are complaining about the lack of water and God tells Moses to speak the word and bring water out from the rock. Instead, Moses not only speaks the word, but also strikes the rock. This striking of the rock is an expression in a lack of faith in the efficacy of the word alone. God's word is so powerful that it can do anything, without our intervention! The Lord considers this expression of a lack of faith by Moses to be so serious that it is for this reason alone that Moses is not permitted to lead the people across the Jordan into the Promised Land. It will fall to Joshua to fulfil this final task.

The centurion today actually does what Moses failed to do. He says, "Just pronounce the word and my servant will be healed". It is an expression of complete trust in the power of God's word. The Lord is speaking a word to each one of us today. He is guiding our lives by his providence. He is speaking to us in the difficult moments of today, in our struggles at work, in the family, with relationships, with financial stress. In all of these things, God's word, spoken to my heart, is present. Our response should be: "Speak to me Lord. I am listening. Just say your word to me. I will trust and be saved".