Thursday, June 30, 2016

Friday, July 1, 2016

Matthew 9: 9-13

As Jesus passed by,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners came
and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
He heard this and said,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.

I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

I desire mercy, not sacrifice. What need does the righteous man have for a savior? What good is a doctor to someone who isn’t sick? There have been only four people born immaculate. The first two gave up their cleanness and the last was divine. Every other person who will ever walk this earth has been born with a stain. Any man who believes himself righteous and not in need of a savior has a cancer no doctor can cure.

Pharisees defined righteousness by having done more good deeds than bad. The better you kept to the word of the Law the better a person you were. The goal of the Pharisee was to be like Saul; “as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” Such a man was perfect in God’s eyes, as seen through their own.

Jesus didn’t come here for these mighty people. He came to save the sinner. He came to raise up the lowly. He came to be the savior to those who knew they weren’t worthy of God’s love. Mercy is the pinnacle of God’s love for us. If we were given justice who could stand before the Lord a righteous man?
Have mercy on me Lord, a sinner.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Matthew 9: 1-8

After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town.
And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
“Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”
At that, some of the scribes said to themselves,
“This man is blaspheming.”
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said,
“Why do you harbor evil thoughts?
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
But that you may know that the Son of Man
has authority on earth to forgive sins”–
he then said to the paralytic,
“Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
He rose and went home.
When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe
and glorified God who had given such authority to men.

“This man is blaspheming.” Why would the scribes say this? Because it was believed that only God could forgive sins. Jesus tells the paralytic that his sins are forgiven making a clear statement that he is God. Actions speak louder than words. The scribes believe that’s all he did, utter some useless words that no man could fulfill. So Jesus goes further and acts on his words by doing another thing that was believed only God could do. He healed the paralytic man, proving that he indeed could forgive sin.

It was believed in Jesus day that illnesses like paralysis were caused by your sins or the sins of your fathers. The man was paralyzed because of the sin in his life. The only way this paralysis could be cured was if God forgave those sins. In Jesus words he states quite clearly he is God and then he backs it up with action.

Although they were all amazed the people there still did not believe. They gave glory to God, not because they saw Jesus as God but because God chose to work a miracle through a man. Wasn’t this the son of Joseph the carpenter? Why did he warrant such favor that God would choose to work through him? Look everyone; we have a living prophet in our midst that wields the authority of the Father. They saw but they did not understand.

How much are we like these people? God works miracles around us all of the time and yet we do not believe. We have compartmentalized God to one or two hours a week on Sunday. We do not try to change our wills to that of the Father. Far too many only pay lip service to God, hedging their bets in case all this bible stuff has some truth to it. They stand up in church on Sunday and proclaim, “I believe…” without hearing the words that come forth from their mouths, in a rush to get on with their day.

Do I live each day for the Lord? Do I give him the glory, honor, and praise he is due? Of course I don’t. Very, very few of us dedicate our lives to do that to the level it is due. To God is due all glory, honor, and praise, not just what I have time to offer one day a week.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Matthew 16: 13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

On July 19, 1970 I was baptized by the Trinity Lutheran Church in Harvard, Illinois. I began Lutheran instruction at the age of three and was confirmed at fourteen. I was a member of this church for twenty-eight years. Then, like Saint Paul I underwent a conversion experience. I wasn’t knocked off a nonexistent horse by a blinding light and my conversion took a little longer than three days. Through time God revealed to me his Church, the Catholic Church, the Church instituted in this reading. Through studying and comparing theologies I came to believe for myself the claims the Catholic Church makes as being true.

This reading is rich and profound in the statements it asserts. First Jesus affirms that he is the messiah, the Son of God, come to save mankind. This is revealed not through human understanding but directly from the Father. Then Jesus appoints Simon as the head of the Church he had just instituted. He is called the Rock, the foundation the rest of the Church will be built upon. Peter’s faith at this point is still sand and he will go on to fail the Lord on several occasions but by the time Jesus ascends to heaven Peter’s faith will become the rock on which the early Church survives.

We receive Jesus’ assurance that the Church he just instituted will never fail. He never said that we will not face trial. He never said we will not have controversy, corruption, or abuses. He said that his Church will never fail. Through time, no matter how bad, corrupt, or power hungry any of the Church leadership, including popes, have been not one teaching of Christ has ever been changed by the Church. Many have made and continue to make claims that the Catholic Church makes up stuff for Catholics to follow, some going as far as to call us the devil’s church. They have closed themselves off to God’s revelation by only accepting what is written in the bible. This is similar to trying to understand the American Revolution and the ideologies of the founding fathers by limiting yourself to the reading of the Constitution of the United States. Jesus didn’t come to write a book, he came to start a Church. In fact the only time in the bible where it said Jesus wrote anything he was scrawling in the dirty and no one ever looked at what he wrote. If Jesus wanted us to get our faith solely from a book he would have handed one to the Twelve before his ascension into heaven. If the Twelve wanted us to get our faith from a book that would have been the first thing they did after Jesus left them. Instead they set about converting Jews by word of mouth, oral tradition.

Lastly we see Jesus handing his authority over to the Twelve. Everything the Father has given to me I now give to you. Jesus had thousands of disciples. He didn’t hand his authority over to all of them. He only gave authority to the twelve he selected to lead his Church. When the Twelve needed help they passed their authority on to other chosen men. This is the basis of Apostolic Succession. No one can claim this authority for them self, despite the many who have tried. Just as I cannot come to your house and demand that you open the door in the name of the FBI I can’t demand something of you in the name of Jesus if I have not been given that authority by the organization that holds that authority to begin with. The authority of Jesus resides with the Church he gave it to. Others cannot claim it out of thin air. This ultimately was the final nail in the coffin of my conversion once I understood it. Do I want to be a member of the Church Jesus started, the Church he promised would never fail, or did I want to be a member of a church some man started because he believed the Church of Christ had failed? The church of men teach the opinion of men and not the teaching Christ handed down to his Church, through his disciples, to us, through Apostolic Succession.

First accept the teachings of the Church Jesus started, then seek to understand.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Matthew 8: 23-27

As Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him.
Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea,
so that the boat was being swamped by waves;
but he was asleep.
They came and woke him, saying,
“Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?”
Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea,
and there was great calm.
The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this,
whom even the winds and the sea obey?”

As a sailor I once spent two weeks being pummeled by thirty foot waves in a Pacific Ocean typhoon. We did a constant forty degree roll with some tipping as far as fifty degrees. At that degree we were on the verge of capsizing. Much of the crew were sick and in fear for their lives. I enjoyed nature’s roller-coaster ride. The power of the sea in chaos is unimaginable. One cannot possibly understand what the disciples were going through unless they have been through it. Let us not forget that a third of the Twelve were experienced fishermen who has spent their lives on the sea. They knew better than anyone the peril they were truly in.

Then there was Jesus, sleeping calmly below decks. He knew his father’s plan and he knew that it was not yet his time to die. Was Jesus angry when the disciples woke him terrified for their lives or was he using the storm to cement their faith in him?

All of us will go through storms in this life. Some of these storms are small, some are great. Some storms are so bad that they cost us something or someone very dear to us. When you are in a storm do you put your hand firmly on the tiller and try to power your way through it? Do you shake your fist at the heavens determined to beat the chaos? Or, do you do like the disciples and call out to God for help? Where does your faith lie?

If we had perfect faith like Jesus we could sleep through any chaos knowing that God loves us and has a plan for us. We can see this type of faith in some of the saints who despite their great misery lived joy filled lives. We can read stories like the one of Claude Newman who joyfully went to his execution because he knew he was going home to be with God. This is the faith we are called to have.

We live during some very interesting times. Up is down, black is white, the unchangeable has become choice. This is truly the devil’s century. It has many people terrified. Yet, I have read the end of the book. I know that the Lord triumphs. What do I have to fear? I need not fear. I need to trust, I need to have faith. Surely the troubles of my life are nothing to someone who has the power to rebuke the seas and calm the chaos.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

Amos 2: 6-10, 13-16

Thus says the LORD:
For three crimes of Israel, and for four,
I will not revoke my word;
Because they sell the just man for silver,
and the poor man for a pair of sandals.
They trample the heads of the weak
into the dust of the earth,
and force the lowly out of the way.
Son and father go to the same prostitute,
profaning my holy name.
Upon garments taken in pledge
they recline beside any altar;
And the wine of those who have been fined
they drink in the house of their god.

Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorites before them,
who were as tall as the cedars,
and as strong as the oak trees.
I destroyed their fruit above,
and their roots beneath.
It was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt,
and who led you through the desert for forty years,
to occupy the land of the Amorites.

Beware, I will crush you into the ground
as a wagon crushes when laden with sheaves.
Flight shall perish from the swift,
and the strong man shall not retain his strength;
The warrior shall not save his life,
nor the bowman stand his ground;
The swift of foot shall not escape,
nor the horseman save his life.
And the most stouthearted of warriors
shall flee naked on that day, says the LORD.

Israel was God’s chosen people. When times were hard they were righteous. They worshiped the Lord and followed his commands. When the times were good they forgot the Lord and turned from his ways. Every time they did that they were led back into chaos and punished by God. The Prophet Amos tells us about such a time when Israel turned from God to evil ways. Through the prophet God delivered his message that he would punish Israel if they did not repent. Israel was eventually led back to captivity, their temple destroyed and they were plunged back into servitude.

We were once a nation under God. We recognized God as the creator and giver of human dignity. Our laws were based in Judeo-Christian ideals. We suffered through difficult times and came out the other side. We prospered and became the nation that could find a way to do anything. Like Israel before us we have turned from God and returned to pagan worship. No, we aren’t worshiping Ba’al or kneeling before Moloch, at least by those names. Instead we worship pleasure, money, power, and personal desire. We sacrifice to these gods. We sacrifice our children to these gods as the pagans of old sacrificed their children to Ba’al. We no longer have large families because it is easier to acquire more stuff if we don’t have the added expense of a third child. We directly sacrifice our children to abortion and contraceptive abortifacients.

We have lost the understanding of covenant. Everything has become a contract now. Everything is temporary as long as we both receive what we want. At the first sign of difficulty we make the contract null and move on. We are in a throw away culture where everyone can have everything and nothing has value. We live during an age where everything is permissible but nothing is forgivable.

God is done sending us prophets to tell us of the impending doom. He himself showed us the way to live and now it is our choice to follow him or not. Mercy will be shown to those who follow and justice will be shown to those who won’t. The choice is ours.

God has destroyed every culture that sacrificed to Ba’al. Only the current culture remains. Our day of judgment is drawing near.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Galatians 5: 1, 13-18

Brothers and sisters:
For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom
as an opportunity for the flesh;
rather, serve one another through love.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement,
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
But if you go on biting and devouring one another,
beware that you are not consumed by one another.

I say, then: live by the Spirit
and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh;
these are opposed to each other,
so that you may not do what you want.
But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

After my morning prayers and before this reflection I started the day by reading a number of blogs by gay Christians. All of them had the same basic story. They were all Christians who opposed gay marriage even though they themselves were gay. They all eventually relented to their same sex attraction and are now married. They see it as their task to change the hearts and minds of church leaders to get them to see God’s change of heart and remove the rules and doctrines against same sex marriage.

Their arguments were logical, compassionate, and honest. Taken as they are stated they make perfect sense. It is difficult to disagree with them. They make you want to change your mind. They make you want to support their cause. But it flies directly against Church teaching. It goes against everything I have come to believe is true. Questions, conflict, turmoil swirl around my brain. But, if I have learned anything I have learned that when I disagree with Church teaching I have been wrong, every single time. All I have to do is look deeply into Church teaching to understand it better. Accept first and then strive to understand. Why should this issue be any different?

Open up to today’s readings and what do I find? The first part of the reading seems to support exactly what these blog writers were trying to say. Christ set us free. Stand firm and do not submit to the yoke of slavery. You are free to love whomever your heart has a desire for. Do not submit to the yoke of Church teaching on same sex marriage. God supports you in this and by your witness you can change opinion.

Isn’t that the truth? So many Catholics stand in support of same sex marriage and demand that their Church get with the times and stop the fearful resentment of people with same sex attraction from receiving the same Sacraments as everyone else. Stop discriminating against women and allow them to be ordained deacons and priests. The old Levitical laws of the old, white, Jew were abolished by Christ who came to make all people equal.

And then we get to the second part of the reading. You will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. You may not do what you want. Desires of the flesh that go against the spirit are bad. This is at the heart of Catholic teaching. Anything that goes against the nature of God is not good. God instituted marriage as one man and one woman. Jesus affirmed this during his ministry. He didn’t change what the sacrament was. He never said that marriage is a covenant between two people who feel a strong desire for each other be they male and female or male and male or female and female. He cemented what God created. Marriage is between one man and one woman for as long as they both shall live.

But didn’t he free them from the yoke of slavery? Yes, he did but they have misunderstood exactly what that yoke of slavery really is. The yoke of slavery is not man’s law that they cannot marry. The yoke of slavery is slavery to desire. It is slavery to self. Do not use this as an opportunity for the flesh.

Every person has to walk down the road of life. On that road you will have to pass through one of two gates. The first gate is the gate of self gratification, the gate of pleasure. This gate is wide and easy to pass through. The other gate is the gate of the way of the Lord. It is the gate of self denial. It is the gate of sacrifice. This gate is narrow and difficult to pass through. Few will pass through this gate.

If you wish to follow me you have to deny yourself and pick up your cross. Those who lose their lives will save it and those who try to save their lives will lose it. Everything in Holy Scripture tells us to deny our selfish desires and search for pleasure and to live a sacrificial life according to the teaching of Jesus. Everything in the world tells us to cast off the demands of man and embrace our desires and live a pleasurable life. In the end I would rather stand with Jesus and suffer from the judgment of the world than give in to the desires of the world and suffer the judgment of Jesus.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Matthew 8: 5-17

When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”
He said to him, “I will come and cure him.”
The centurion said in reply,
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a man subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven,
but the children of the Kingdom
will be driven out into the outer darkness,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
And Jesus said to the centurion,
“You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.”
And at that very hour his servant was healed.

Jesus entered the house of Peter,
and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.
He touched her hand, the fever left her,
and she rose and waited on him.

When it was evening, they brought him many
who were possessed by demons,
and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick,
to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet:
He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.

Who among us is worthy to have the Lord dwell within us? Only say the word and he will enter your heart. Jesus has to be invited in. He will not violate our wills and he will not dwell where he is not wanted. But Jesus is the doorway into God’s royal Kingdom. If Christ dwells within us we house his royal nature. Our bodies become the castle for the King. Are we a good castle that can stand up to the worst attack or are we a shed that is blown over by the slightest breeze? If we trust in the Lord nothing can batter our walls. We have no reason to fear for we are protected by the King.

The centurion knew his place and recognized that Jesus has authority over all creation. He knew that he was not worthy of Jesus attention. Yes Jesus was willing to go and serve the centurion. Jesus is willing to serve the servant. I am God’s doulos, commonly translated as servant, properly translated as slave. Even as a slave he is willing to love me sacrificially. He is willing to dwell within me, guide me, and forgive me. What am I that the Lord should do these things for me? If he is willing to do these things for me how much more should I do them for others?

The Jesus went to Peter’s house and cured his mother-in-law. This was the reason Peter used to defend himself after denying the Lord three times on the night he was handed over.

I don’t care who you are, that’s funny. Go ahead and laugh. God created humor too. The devil hates a good, heartfelt laugh.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Isaiah 49:1-6

Hear me, O coastlands,
listen, O distant peoples.
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.
For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

I have said that I have been called by God to serve him in the role of Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. I say this as if it were something special. The word ordain means to consecrate, to set aside. I am reserved for the Lord. But this by no means makes me special. God calls every single one of us to a special purpose. There is not one person God does not have a plan for. The difference for someone who is ordained is that they have recognized this calling and have said yes to God’s invitation.

I have been called to many things by our Lord. I consider the diaconate my third official calling. My first vocation will always be my marriage to my wife. This is the greatest vocation a person can receive. It is also probably the most misunderstood vocation there is. A vocation is an invitation from God to a specific purpose. Marriage is not viewed as an invitation from God but as a rite of passage. It is something we expect our children to do. Graduate high school, go to college, get a good job, get married, and have children. This invitation is not extended to all people but we live at a time where it is viewed as a fundamental human right. An invitation is not a right, it is a privilege. The sin of Eve is to demand something God was not willing to give. Eve wanted the knowledge of good and evil. Eve wanted to be like God. People who marry without God’s invitation to do so commit the same sin. It is no wonder why so many marriages fail these days. When people decide to take what God is not obliged to give bad things happen.

My second vocation is that of father. For most this is rolled into their first vocation, to be husband AND father. For me, I am a man of a failed marriage that bore fruit. God may have united me with another woman and I am a husband AND father to our children (and step children) but I will always be an independent father to my oldest son. I have a responsibility to him that differs from my responsibility to my other children. It does not mean that I love him more or differently. It means I have additional gaps to fill that are naturally filled by the union of parents. This union cannot be filled by the marriage I have with my wife and it cannot be filled by any union his mother is in. This is the great mystery of our age where most children are products of split homes. When the unity between husband and wife fails it leaves a gap in the lives of the children that cannot be filled through other relationships.

My third vocation then becomes the diaconate. God provides for everyone. For some he gives them exactly what they need to survive. To others he gives an abundance. To the ones he provides an abundance he then provides them to others without. I have been provided an abundance of spirit to serve my fellow man. He has provided me with this abundance of spirit so that he may use me as a servant to the servant church – a deacon. Not all vocations have the same weight and this one comes third in my list. It does not come before the other two.

God knew us all before we were formed in our mother’s wombs. He had a plan for all of us before time began. He calls us all to a special vocation and gives us the gifts we need to achieve that calling. Can you hear the voice of the Lord calling you to a vocation? Do you respond to him with love in your heart or do you turn a deaf ear to his invitation?

I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Matthew 7: 21 – 29

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
Then I will declare to them solemnly,
‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

When Jesus finished these words,
the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority,
and not as their scribes.

In yesterday’s reading we were told that you know a good tree from a bad tree from its fruits and you know a good man from a bad man from the fruits of his labor or from the results of his works. Today Jesus teaches us that not everyone who accepts him as Lord will enter the Kingdom of heaven. The word used in scripture for Kingdom is basileia and is more properly understood as God’s royal nature. Not everyone who accepts the Lord will receive his royal nature, his royal inheritance. Not everyone will be considered his adopted children. Only those who do God’s will can inherit his royal nature.

The teaching goes on to tell us that just because you do something and say that it is in the name of Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. Did Jesus tell you to prophesy? Did he tell you to cast out demons? Did he ask you to do mighty deeds? Just because you can do those things does it mean that you do them with the proper authority. I can come to your house and command you to open the door in the name of the FBI but I do not have the authority of the FBI behind me. We are to do those things we are asked to do and to use the gifts we are given in a way to glorify God.

So what then does Jesus mean by saying we need to do the will of the Father? The simple answer is to follow the Great Commandment –

Love your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Love God and love your neighbor as you love God. The readings for the past week have taught us how to love one another, how to fulfill the Law. Those who live a sacrificial life are like the man who built his house on the rock. When you are willing to give yourself completely for the other there is nothing that anyone can take from you or do to you to destroy your life.If you live for yourself, live a selfish, self-centered life, you are like the man building his house in the sand. It does not take very much for your entire creation to come crumbling down.

He who tries to save his life looses it but he who loses his life for Jesus will save it. Love God and love neighbor and you will surly inherit God’s royal nature.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Matthew 7: 15-20

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but underneath are ravenous wolves.
By their fruits you will know them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Just so, every good tree bears good fruit,
and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down
and thrown into the fire.
So by their fruits you will know them.”

It would be easy to look into the world today and see false prophets, those who use religion as a profession to make themselves rich. I do not believe these are the ones this passage speaks of. Although they spread the Gospel they do not do so with malicious intent. Ravenous wolves never mean to do good.

This passage is speaking more about the ones you don’t expect. This passage speaks about all those who say you have to be part of their particular denomination if you wish to be saved. Those who say, “Join my club or burn in hell.” These are the ravenous wolves that spew untruth and demand others to believe. They are the ones who lead God’s people away from him.

Every good true bears good fruit. It doesn’t have to be the same fruit as the tree I eat from for it to be good. I am a pear guy but apples, oranges, and figs are all good too. Others may not like pears but love apples. As long as their fruit is good they come from a good tree. This is how we must see our brothers in other denominations. You don’t have to be Catholic to bear good fruit.

This passage is also a warning to me. I am called to be a holy man who leads God’s people closer to him. I do not do this for myself or for self gain. I do this solely for love of the Lord. When this becomes about me I will have become one of the wolves, a tree that bears bad fruit, ready to be cut down and placed in the fire.

Lord my God, send your Holy Spirit down upon me to inspire and guide me to always be a good and holy man who leads your people closer to you.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Matthew 7: 6, 12-14

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the Law and the Prophets.

“Enter through the narrow gate;
for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction,
and those who enter through it are many.
How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.
And those who find it are few.”

We are children of God and our goal in life is to be holy as God is holy. My faith, morals, and values are treasures to me, my pearls. If I keep company with unrighteous people and do unrighteous things my treasures will be destroyed and soon I will be living an unholy life. If I want to live a holy life I need to surround myself with holy things. The things I read, the music I listen to, the shows I watch, and even the people I let in my little circle all should be good and holy.

The way of the world is the wide gate. The way of the world leads inward, to serving the self. The wide gate is indulgent. These things lead to eternal damnation. The narrow gate is difficult because the narrow gate is one of service to others. To get through the narrow gate I must deny myself and live for the other. The narrow gate is the way of love.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, not, do on to others as they do unto you. If I am living the life God has called me to others will hate me and persecute me. I am not to respond to them in kind. If I want others to love me, to recognize my dignity, and to give me respect then that is what I must do unto everyone. As a Christian I am called to live as an example of Christ to the world. I may be the only bible someone ever reads. I need to be the best translation possible.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Monday, June 20, 2016

Matthew 7: 1-5

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
For as you judge, so will you be judged,
and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’
while the wooden beam is in your eye?
You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

Who among us is righteous enough to stand as judge of our brother? We all are sinners who fall short of the glory of God. How can one condemned man condemn another? Let he without sin cast the first stone.

This passage speaks to us of mercy. Love demands both mercy and justice but mercy is the greater of the two. Out of love God extends us his mercy for our transgressions. Only when we refuse to accept that mercy will we receive his justice.

God therefore sets before us this paradigm: Love as I have loved you. Forgive and I will forgive as you do. Mercy shall be shown unto you in the same measure you have given mercy. If I want God’s forgiveness and mercy in the fullest he is capable of giving I must forgive and extend mercy in the fullest I am able to give. Whatever lien I retain against a brother the Lord will retain against me. In this regard I become my own judge, jury, and executioner. If I bring judgment against my brother I bring judgment against myself. Am I so righteous as to believe that I have nothing to be judged against?

Hate is the most effective form of suicide. It does nothing against the person for whom the feelings are felt yet it kills the one who feels it. It doesn’t just kill the body in as much as it condemns the soul. Body and soul live so closely to one another that they share diseases. Hate that poisons the soul sickens the body. A sick body and poisoned soul leads to despair that separates one from the love of the Father.

Doctor, heal thyself. Let go of any hate you feel for another. Pray for them instead. Extend to them your mercy and ask God to send his. Liberate your soul from the self imposed prison your animosity has put you in. Mercy is the key for the soul locked in condemnation.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Luke 9: 18-24

“Once when Jesus was praying by himself,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist;
others, Elijah;
still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He scolded them
and directed them not to tell this to anyone.

He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

When I was nineteen the Lord asked me to serve him as a priest. That wasn’t the direction I wanted my life to take. How about a husband and a father I asked. So the Lord gave me what I asked for and made me a husband and a father but in a marriage that could not last. In a short time I was a divorced father on a bad road. God only let me go so far before drawing me back toward him.

Soon I was a husband again in a growing family. Slowly life started going in the direction it was meant to go. The Lord asked me to serve him again, this time as a deacon. Again, I refused, wanting to be the captain of this ship. Things in life continued to go badly. Finances, job, even my health was deteriorating. I was literally one heartbeat away from death and didn’t even know it. I relented and said yes to God’s invitation. Almost immediately my life started to turn around. I received a raise at work. Finances weren’t so tight. An angiogram discovered a heart clogged at 95% and a quintuple bypass gave me a new lease on life.

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

I tried to be the one in control of my life. The more I tried to be in control the more of my life I lost. Only when I surrendered my life to God did I start to live. Only when I started to live did I realize what life was all about. Deny myself. Do not live inward. Do not live for the self.

What does it mean to take up my cross and follow the Lord? Each of us is given crosses in our lives that we are made to carry. Challenges to living a Christ filled life. For some it is addiction. Others, same sex attraction. Anger, laziness, gluttony, vanity, slothfulness, each of us has something that keeps us from living the life we are meant to live. A road easily traveled offers the smallest reward. We have to have skin in the game. We have to show that we really love our Lord through triumphing over our crosses.

We have to show that we really love the Lord.

Do you know what the face of real love, sacrificial love looks like? Just look at Christ on his cross. That is as great as love gets. There is no deeper love than to offer yourself as a sacrifice for another. When Jesus tells us that we have to deny ourselves and take up our crosses and follow him he is telling us that we have to love one another in the same measure he loved us. We have to be willing to sacrifice ourselves as he sacrificed himself for our sake.

If Jesus had decided to save himself and come down off of the cross he would have lost his life to death. When he lost his life for the sake of love he conquered death and saved his life. If we truly believe in him and trust in his words we will also give up our lives for the sake of love and live for the other.

Then he directed the Twelve not to tell anyone he was the Christ. He had to be hated and still love for the sacrifice to have meaning. If he performed miracles in a public spectacle people would come to honor and praise him and it could be seen as if he were doing these things for their admiration instead of for their salvation. Likewise, when we serve the Lord we are to do so quietly without seeking praise or admiration. Our good works are to be anonymous. What we do in secret the Lord will reward. If we do good works for praise and adoration praise and adoration in this life will be our reward. Praise and adoration in this life fades as the flower’s bloom after the spring. The Father’s favor is eternal.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016

Matthew 6: 19-23

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.
But store up treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

“The lamp of the body is the eye.
If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light;
but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.
And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

Show me where you spend your time and money and I will show you what is god to you. Seek not the rewards of this world for they cannot go with you when you die. You have never seen a U-Haul trailer behind a hearse. Arthur Ash once said, “With what we get we can make a living. From what we give we can make a life.”  He almost got it right. From what we give we can change the world. When I give I store treasure in heaven but at the same time I make the life for another. That person will go on to make the life for another and so one. The unseen effects of one act of kindness ripples through time. Energy cannot be created or destroyed but love can multiply faster than tribbles in heat.

Once in my life I considered myself a survivalist prepper.  I tried to be prepared in the event of a natural disaster or time of emergency. I tried to keep three to six months worth of food and water on hand at all times. You see, I did not trust the Lord when he told me that he would provide. I had to be in control of my future. When Hurricane Katrina hit I packed up most of my supplies and shipped them to a friend affected by the storm. God indeed provides. He provided me to her and her neighbors during their time of need.

I still believe in being prepared but I don’t believe in hoarding supplies for my family’s safety. I simply cannot justify having a large quantity of food put away for a future event that may never happen while I have neighbors barely getting by. When we give of our treasure here on earth God returns his grace. That doesn’t seem like a very good trade to me. With my treasures I can make a living. With God’s grace I have life.

The second part of this reading today deserves its own reflection on another day.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Matthew 6: 34-34

Jesus said to his disciples:
“No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’
or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

A man cannot serve the Lord and himself. A man who serves the Lord today need not worry about tomorrow. God will prove his servant with all that he needs for today. A man only need trust, have true faith, that God will take care of him.

How often do we worry about tomorrow? How will I pay the bills? How will I get what I need? We want to be in control of our future because being in control puts our mind at rest. We don’t serve the Lord. We serve ourselves.

Instead we are called to approach the Lord as if we were little children. My two year old does not worry about what she will eat today. She has no concerns for what she will wear. She trusts completely that her mother and I will provide for all her needs. How blessed is it to be like a small child? Our heavenly father wants the same thing from his children. Do not fret, the Lord will take care of you and give you what you need.

When the master I served was myself I found that I couldn’t provide for my needs and the needs of my family. The more I worried the more things went wrong. The deeper in trouble I became. The more I tried to control the more things went astray.

Then I stopped fighting and put my trust in the Lord. Things changed almost overnight. My health improved. My finances started going in the right direction. Everything improved. Now, when faced with a difficulty, if I can maintain my trust the difficulty always gets resolved. If I try to control and resolve it does not. The Lord has done great things for me and Holy is his name.

For me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Matthew 6: 7-15

Jesus said to his disciples:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This is how you are to pray:

‘Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.’

“If you forgive others their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

This is the most dangerous prayer a Christian can ever say, yet, how many actually hear the petitions they are presenting to the Lord? We are asking the Lord to do his will on this earth and not ours. We are telling the Lord that we trust him to provide us with what we need to get through the day. We ask him not to test our faith for we shall surely fail in the way Peter did. Most importantly, we are telling the Lord to only forgive us in the same way that we forgive others.

I don’t want the Lord to forgive me in the way I forgive others. I want the Lord to forgive me despite how I forgive others. I want to hold grudges. I want to be angry. I want to hold hate in my heart. I definitely do not want to forgive anyone who has hurt me. To forgive them would allow the healing to start in me. I don’t want to heal. I don’t want to let go. I want justice. I want what is due me. I want others to suffer for what they have done. But Lord, please don’t hold me to that standard. If you demanded justice for the wrongs I have committed against you I warrant eternal damnation. I want you to love me and make me whole.

Mercy will be received in the same measure it is given. If I want God’s mercy in his fullest I have to give mercy in mine. I have to let go the hate. I cannot hold a grudge. I cannot demand justice from anyone who has injured me. I have to forgive. I have to love.

This seems like such a tall order, an impossible task. Yet, once we learn how to forgive we find exactly how liberating it really is. The ex-wife who hates the ex-husband because of his infidelity is always upset because he is a constant reminder of the pain he put her through. She wants revenge. She wants him to suffer as she had. She is the one filled with hate. He has control over her and he doesn’t have to do anything more than exist. Hate is a poison that destroys the soul. Love is the antidote. Once she learns to forgive, let go of the pain, he loses all control he has over her. Once she can turn hate into love, into genuinely wishing the best for him, she will become liberated. This is why learning to forgive is such an important thing to do.

And once we can forgive our heavenly father will do likewise and reward us with his forgiveness. He finds favor in those who love for he is love and we are called to be like him.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door,
and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to others to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”


Whom do you go to church for, God or those around you? For whom do you do good things? As a Christian I serve the Lord. I am his doulos, his slave. Everything I do I try to do for his glory and not for personal acclamation or praise. I would prefer that the recipient of my charity never know where that charity came from, only that God provided.

Jesus tells us that if we do things for selfish reasons we will obtain a selfish reward. If we do things looking for praise or admiration from those around us that will be the only reward we get, whether it is given or not. Those who live to receive praise will end up with nothing but themselves.

We are called to be agape, sacrificial love. Agape is never directed inward. Agape is always outward. The way to heaven is through the giving of self. The way to hell is selfishness. Every sin has love of self at its center. If we are truly living for the other we do not require praise or thanksgiving for what we have done. Pleasing the Father through our action is all that matters to the true Christian.

Do for the other without considering the cost. Do not keep a tab on your good works. Do not give favor on loan or with interest. Do the good you are capable of even at personal loss. This is agape. Suffering is the currency of love. Fill your spiritual bank account to the brim. God find favor in those who suffer for another’s sake and more so for those who suffer for him.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Matthew 5: 43-48

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

God created all people in his image and likeness. Dignity is God’s fingerprint on the human soul. God is perfect. God is love, agape. Jesus teaches that we should be perfect as God is perfect. We are called to be agape, sacrificial love. The Law calls for us to love our neighbor. The fulfillment of the Law calls for us to love everyone.

Have you ever given a gift to someone and had that person tell you that you shouldn’t have? If you had to give a gift it ceases to be a gift and becomes an obligation. A gift is by definition something freely given when it is not required. Love is the same way. Loving someone who deserves our love is an easy task. There is no reward in doing that which is easy. Loving someone who warrants our dislike or even our hate isn’t so easy. What loving those who warrant our hate does is liberate us.

Hate is a powerful poison that kills the soul. It is an all-consuming cancer. If you hate someone who has wronged you that person has power over you without ever doing a thing. If you can forgive that person and let go of the hate you will be liberated from their power. If you can come to love that person, to will the best for that person, you will empower yourself. That is what we are called to do for every person.

It is easy to hate a people when you don’t see the person. It is easy to ignore the homeless or the immigrant or the refugee when you can’t see past the label. Support is what is given to a group. Love is what is given to a person. We are called to love and we can only do that if we see the person first and not their label. When we look at a person the first thing we should see is God’s fingerprint on their soul, their dignity. Human nature is to view the person from the outside in. What group do they belong in? What is the color of their skin? What type of clothing are they wearing? What is the condition of those clothes? Any one of those things will stop us from looking deeper.

Jesus, the living Law fulfilled, teaches us to look at the inside first. See their dignity. See the person. Give them the love they deserve as a creation of the Lord. Respect may be earned but love is deserved. Will the best for the other. Love others as God has loved you.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one to him as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

The teaching continues on what it means to fulfill the Law. When man fell from the garden he became very animalistic in nature. The Law was given as a way to steer man back to living in a right relationship with God. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth sounds as if the Law justified vengeance and that Jesus is doing away with vengeance when he says to turn the other cheek.

Before we were given the Law man did not live with a “get even” mentality. Man had a “get ahead” mentality. If you hurt me I killed you. If you damaged one of my possessions I killed your family. It was the same type of behavior that we think of when we think of mob violence or the gangs today. The Law limited how you could respond to an offense.

Jesus fulfills the Law, that is, goes beyond the Law by teaching you can no longer get even. We are now commanded to forgive an offense and even offer up more to our offender that what he originally desired. In fulfilling the Law Jesus teaches us to love and to live for the other instead of self.

Why the gradual steps? How do you eat an elephant? God knows that man could not go from our barbaric nature to love of other in one big step. You eat an elephant one small bite over a period of time. God gave us the Law to steer us back onto the course of right relationship. Jesus fulfilled that course correction. We have been shown the way. We have been given the example. It is now up to us to embrace and live the life we have been called to.

As Morpheus said in the Matrix, “I can only show you the door. You’re the one who has to walk through it.”

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Luke 7: 36-50

A Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him,
and he entered the Pharisee's house and reclined at table.
Now there was a sinful woman in the city
who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.
Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,
she stood behind him at his feet weeping
and began to bathe his feet with her tears.
Then she wiped them with her hair,
kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself,
"If this man were a prophet,
he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him,
that she is a sinner."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"Simon, I have something to say to you."
"Tell me, teacher," he said.
"Two people were in debt to a certain creditor;
one owed five hundred day's wages and the other owed fifty.
Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both.
Which of them will love him more?"
Simon said in reply,
"The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven."
He said to him, "You have judged rightly."

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon,
"Do you see this woman?
When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet,
but she has bathed them with her tears
and wiped them with her hair.
You did not give me a kiss,
but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.
You did not anoint my head with oil,
but she anointed my feet with ointment.
So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven
because she has shown great love.
But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little."
He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
The others at table said to themselves,
"Who is this who even forgives sins?"
But he said to the woman,
"Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

The Law was given to man so that we may know how to live in right relationship with God. The Law does not save us nor does it make us holy. God does not want us to follow the Law. God wants us to love. If we love in the same way God loves us the need for the Law passes away.

The Pharisee thought himself a righteous man. He was much better than the sinful woman. If Jesus only knew how sinful this woman was he would have nothing to do with her. Of course Jesus knew. Yet, the woman approached Jesus humbly with love and he forgave her. Notice that the reading never says the woman asks for forgiveness. Jesus knew her heart and that which she longed for.

When we stand before Jesus let us approach him like the sinful woman, humble and contrite of spirit with love in our hearts, and not as the Pharisee, proud in his conceit. Let us be like Jesus as we deal with those other people see as lowly. Let us love them as he loved the sinful woman. Let us not look upon them with scorn as the Pharisee did. Let us be Christ to them.